Ranj Pillai speaks to reporters in the cabinet office on Oct. 25, 2022. The premier has distributed mandate letters to his cabinet ministers. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Ranj Pillai speaks to reporters in the cabinet office on Oct. 25, 2022. The premier has distributed mandate letters to his cabinet ministers. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Reconciliation, health, climate change take priority in Yukon premier’s mandate letters to ministers

Premier Ranj Pillai has sent out latest round of mandate letters

The premier’s recently distributed 2023 mandate letters highlight reconciliation, health and climate change.

In the letters, Premier Ranj Pillai has outlined each cabinet minister’s responsibilities for implementing the government’s plan.

On March 2, the cabinet ministers received their mandate letters from the premier as the territory is in the “recovery phase” of the COVID-19 pandemic amid climate and substance use health emergencies.

“Our government remained steadfast in our responsibility to balance the health and wellbeing of Yukoners with the need to keep our economy going. In doing so, the Yukon’s economy has remained strong, and our population has continued to grow,” reads Pillai’s mandate letter.

“Going forward, our cabinet will make decisions to implement policies that ensure the private sector is supported — you are the backbone of our community and vital to growing a strong, resilient economy for the benefit of all Yukoners.”

Much like his predecessor’s 2021 mandate letters, the latest mandate letters rely on the guidance of Our Clean Future and Putting People First, the government’s roadmaps on the environment and the health system respectively, as well as Yukon’s missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit+ people strategy.

The letters cite the renewed Liberal-NDP confidence and supply agreement for allowing the “team to lead the territory through these challenging times.”

Pillai’s letter indicates that he will set up a Yukon Arctic Security Advisory Council. The topic of Arctic security and sovereignty is timely following North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) shooting down an unidentified aerial object over the Yukon on Feb. 11.

His letter also references expediting the development of the territory’s critical minerals, establishing a made-in-Yukon carbon credit program and creating a business navigation system.

Pillai will also investigate the feasibility of rail in the Yukon and ensure the Port of Skagway stays an export option for the Yukon mining industry.

Ways of increasing the housing stock to address increased demand are also laid out in Pillai’s letter.

As deputy premier, the letter to Jeanie McLean indicates McLean will represent the government as premier and provide guidance when the premier is not available.

As minister of Education, McLean will set out to “reimagine” inclusive and special education, as well as finalize the development of a student outcome strategy to address long-standing gaps in outcomes for First Nations students, rural students and students with diverse learning needs.

Minister of Environment Nils Clarke is to “champion” governments’ response to climate change by continuing to execute the actions outlined in Our Clean Future. His letter points to supporting the increased production of local food products and increased demand for Yukon meat products by increasing local government procurement opportunities. Clarke will also complete the establishment of McIntyre Creek Park and begin implementing the new wetlands policy.

As minister of Highways and Public Works, Clarke will finish the Dempster fibre project — a backup telecommunications line — and work to advance projects supported through the Yukon resource gateway program.

The letter to Attorney General and Minister of Justice Tracy-Anne McPhee outlines expanding the Yukon’s Sexualized Assault Response Team to communities outside of Whitehorse and building on the community safety planning program to ensure consistent funding to planning across the Yukon and explore how this approach might apply to urban neighbourhoods in Whitehorse.

As minister of Health and Social Services, McPhee will focus on advancing legislation required to create an “integrated health authority” and respond to the government-declared substance use health emergency. McPhee will work on connecting every Yukoner to primary care, amid a doctor shortage, and complete the construction of a mental wellness unit at the Whitehorse General Hospital in partnership with the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

The letter to Minister of Community Services Richard Mostyn states he will work with the City of Whitehorse on transit and active transportation. A big part of his role involves dealing with climate change, including increasing Yukon communities’ resilience to wildland fires by focusing on prevention strategies and communicating the importance of emergency preparedness.

Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources John Streicker’s letter indicates he will move forward the development of successor resource legislation and work on implementing Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy and consider other “Yukon solutions to expediting the development of the Yukon’s critical mineral inventory.”

As minister of Tourism and Culture, Streicker will continue carrying out the Yukon Tourism Development Strategy. Streicker will also look at expanding visitor infrastructure including a new convention centre located in Whitehorse.

As part of his work as the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation, Streicker is to implement the 10-year renewable electricity plan and continue putting money into renewable projects with First Nations and communities. He will also move the Atlin hydro project forward.

As the minister responsible for the French Language Services Directorate, Streicker will support the implementation of the bilingual health centre and Francophone immigration.

Minister of Finance Sandy Silver issued the last round of mandate letters when he was premier. Now he is the recipient of a letter.

In his letter, Silver will maintain “strong” working relationships with the federal government and research potential models to create a made-in-Yukon carbon credit program, as well as identify financial tools regarding the rental housing market.

As the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, Silver is in charge of negotiating a new collective agreement with the Yukon Employees’ Union.

Contact Dana Hatherly at dana.hatherly@yukon-news.com