Yukoners will go to the polls in a territorial election on October 11, the Tuesday after the Thanksgiving long weekend, following Premier Darrell Pasloski’s decision to drop the writ today.
Pasloski made the announcement at a Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce luncheon – the same venue used by his predecessor Dennis Fentie to call the 2006 vote.
Pasloski hit on the Yukon Party’s old refrains. He asserted the past nine years of government, and not sky-high metal prices, are responsible for the territory’s booming economy and surplus of jobs.
And he cautioned opposition parties would ruin all of this if they returned to power. Yukoners face a question, said Pasloski: “Do they want to see a Yukon economy continue to grow and progress, or do they want a change in direction? A change in direction means going sideways or backwards.”
Pasloski also emphasized his cozy relationship with Ottawa, as a past Conservative candidate, by highlighting two federal announcements made in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged that the territory would continue to receive a special top-up fund for health care, worth $16 million over two years.
And Harper has committed to giving the Yukon a better devolution deal, which would result in the territory being able to keep up to $41 million in mining royalties. Presently, the territory can only keep $3 million.
Following Pasloski’s speech, NDP Leader Liz Hanson rose to ask when the Yukon would begin collecting hardrock royalties.
Currently, it receives none. That’s because Capstone’s Minto mine is on the Selkirk First Nation’s land, so royalties flow to that government’s coffers. And mines on Crown land – Alexco’s Bellekeno and Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine – haven’t been open long enough to post a profit.
Pasloski dodged the question.
“I’m not a miner,” he said, changing the subject to how the territorial government today rakes in more than $1 billion annually.
He didn’t mention that four-fifths of this flows from Ottawa.
Speaking to reporters later, Pasloski declined requests he take a position on whether the territory should act on a plan to protect four-fifths of the Peel Watershed in northeast Yukon.
The Liberals, NDP and Greens all support the plan. But the Yukon Party has studiously avoided the subject, seeing little gain in weighing into the divisive fight being waged by miners and conservationists.
Pasloski asserted “all the land is protected” in the Yukon, thanks to existing environmental regulations, and that the Peel’s fate is too “complicated” to reduce to a number during an election campaign.
Hanson accused Pasloski of carrying on government in the same fashion as former premier Fentie, who became to be viewed as a bully after his heavy-handed handling of several scandals.
“I heard a lot of the same promises and the same language as the previous premier,” said Hanson.
Yukon’s new devolution deal will be “the emperor’s new clothes,” signifying little unless the territory considers keeping a bigger share of mining profits, she said.
Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell touted his party as representing “stability” and “balance” at a news conference later that afternoon.
He dwelled on the Yukon Party’s investments in asset-backed commercial paper and its talks with ATCO to privatize Yukon Energy. And Mitchell accused the Yukon Party government of creating the current housing shortage in Whitehorse through lack of proper planning.
He also dismissed the Yukon Party’s claim that it played a key role in creating today’s mining economy.
Pasloski “didn’t invent” today’s soaring metal prices, said Mitchell.