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Premier offers little on federal budget

Premier Darrell Pasloski praised the federal government this week for renewing the mineral exploration tax credit in its 2016 budget.

Premier Darrell Pasloski praised the federal government this week for renewing the mineral exploration tax credit in its 2016 budget.

Pasloski also seemed keen to take credit for the decision in a brief statement he issued on Wednesday.

“I am pleased to see that the Government of Canada responded positively to my letter emphasizing the importance of the mineral exploration tax credit and have continued it for another year,” he said in the statement.

While it’s true that Pasloski did send a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging him to renew the credit earlier this month, it’s unclear whether that letter had any bearing on the federal government’s decision.

Trudeau had offered praise for the credit before last year’s election, saying that his party supports “this important tax measure to encourage increased investment in the mining industry.”

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell also said he supported the credit during his election campaign.

Pasloski offered few thoughts on the rest of the budget. “The devil is in the details when assessing a budget,” he said, echoing a comment made by Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson earlier this week.

The premier said he will comment more fully on the federal budget when he tables the territorial budget this spring. Today he announced the sitting would start April 7.

The Yukon Chamber of Commerce, however, had more to say on the issue.

“Most of the budget is, in our view, focused on good things,” said Peter Turner, the chamber’s president. “The concern I guess that we’ve got is that there are infrastructure needs here in the Yukon that don’t seem to be being addressed.”

The budget contained few specific references to the Yukon. Turner pointed out that infrastructure projects that the Yukon government has been prioritizing, like the paving of Dawson City’s airport runway and the construction of new mining roads, were not mentioned in the budget.

But he acknowledged that those projects might be eligible for funding under the broader infrastructure programs included in the budget, like the Building Canada fund.

He also said the $50 million announced for Destination Canada to market the country as a tourism destination “is potentially very positive for the Yukon.”

Turner said the extension of employment insurance benefits by five weeks, or by up to 20 weeks for long-tenured workers, may also help Yukoners.

“We are in a slow economy here at the moment, so it will certainly be impactful for people up here whose EI benefits are running out,” he said.

But he was less enthusiastic about the increase to the Northern Residents Deduction to a maximum of $22 a day, up from $16.50.

He said the cost of living in Whitehorse isn’t vastly higher than that of Vancouver or Edmonton.

“I think that when you’re in a place like Old Crow ... those are welcome and significant benefits,” he said. “It’s nice to have, but does it markedly move the needle on the economy up here? I would say probably in Whitehorse and most of Yukon, no.”

Turner said he was also looking to see how federal money would be invested to meet the needs of First Nations. He noted that many of the First Nations funding commitments have been earmarked for use on reserve, which means Yukon First Nations won’t be eligible.

The federal budget includes $2.6 billion for First Nations education, $554 million for housing, $270 million for health care and $2.24 billion for green infrastructure - all for needs on reserve.

However, the budget also allocates $40 million for the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The Yukon recently held a regional roundtable and a family gathering for the families of missing and murdered indigenous women in the territory.

Kristina Craig, coordinator of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, said she was “very supportive” of the $8 million announced for affordable housing in the Yukon, though she hopes it’s “just a start.”

“It’s been 25 years of not having much of a federal investment in housing,” she said. “It’s good news, but it’s certainly not going to solve it for us. It’s a good start, I guess.”

Contact Maura Forrest at