Royalty deal nothing to celebrate: NDP

The territory's new deal with Ottawa to keep more money from things like mining and forestry isn't anything to get too excited about, says Liz Hanson.

The territory’s new deal with Ottawa to keep more money from things like mining and forestry isn’t anything to get too excited about, says Liz Hanson.

“A bigger share of nothing is still nothing,” the leader of the Opposition said Wednesday.

It’s a phrase Yukoners have heard her say before. Hanson first used it during the election campaign last fall, and she repeated it multiple times during the spring sitting when the premier and his party hinted at this coming agreement.

But the deal doesn’t mean anything until the territory has a real discussion about what they want the mining companies to pay, said Hanson.

The New Democrat wants mining companies to pay royalties sooner. Currently, companies don’t need to pay royalties until they turn a profit.

The territory may portray mining as its biggest industry, but the liquor board now creates more government revenue than the resource sector, said Hanson.

“The Chamber of Mines talks about how there was $400 million of mineral production in the territory last year – well that’s not reflected in an increased royalty flow to the territory,” she said. “It’s our land and our investments we, as citizens, are asked to make in terms of roads, hydro electricity and everything else to ensure the taxation regimes, geological surveys, all the stuff that goes to facilitate the extraction of the resources from our lands.

“We think Yukoners should be first in line as wealth is created and there should be a more equitable way of sharing it.”

Hanson admits that Yukoners benefit from the jobs and contracts created by the mining and exploration industries, but she said that the first few years a mine operates – before the company declares a profit – represent a real gap in benefits for Yukoners.

Once a mining company’s shareholders start seeing a return, Yukoners should as well, said Hanson.

More royalties are on the way, assured Brad Cathers, minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, after the agreement was signed on Tuesday.

He listed companies like Victoria Gold, Alexco and Selwyn as all having plausible proposals for future mines.

Without the new deal, “we would have that significantly missed opportunity to ensure that Yukon citizens and the Yukon government are receiving a direct benefit for every project that occurs,” he said.

The new deal allows the territory to keep up to $6 million in resource revenues, up from $3 million. The agreement also allows the territory to later switch to a formula that lets it keep half of all royalties, with the remainder going to Ottawa.

The territory hasn’t yet reached its old, $3 million cap.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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