Housing, fair resource royalties, the Peel, trust and public health care – with no new fees – are the Yukon NDP’s top five commitments, in that order.
To deliver on these, and other promises in the platform, the party predicts an increase of $10 million in government spending, said Hanson, who was flanked by nine candidates as she launched the party’s plan at the Yukon Arts Centre.
But that won’t be new money.
There would be no personal tax increases, the party has promised.
The $10 million would be found within the existing territorial budget.
“We’re looking at reallocating the existing $1-billion budget to address the issues of housing, and health and social services and the planning framework for land-use planning,” said Hanson.
But it isn’t clear what programs that money will be diverted from, just yet.
On the first day in office, Hanson would establish an independent commission, tasked with conducting a detailed analysis of the territory’s current financial situation. It would be obligated to report back in 30 days.
And based on that, a New Democrat government would deliver its promises, said Hanson.
And if the money isn’t there, promises will be postponed with complete transparency, she added.
“I have no confidence, quite frankly, in the financial state of this territory,” said Hanson. “We’ve been misled for the past three years in particular, for the past eight years overall. We want to make sure that we’ve got the money in place.”
And general trust in the government, overall, will be bolstered if the NDP is elected, thanks to numerous changes in self-applied red tape.
Most notably, lobbyists will have to register and face regulations that include a code of conduct and penalties for violations. The ombudsman and access to information and protection of privacy commissioner will become full-time positions. The Human Rights Commission and the Child and Youth Advocate will report directly to the legislature, instead of a government minister, to help support their arm’s-length independence. And finally the restriction on the number of hours the legislative assembly sits will be lifted, to ensure that all important issues are given fair attention, instead of being shelved before any public discussion takes place, said Hanson.
None of these things are new ideas, rather, by doing all this, the NDP would simply bring the Yukon on par with national – and maybe even some international standards, Hanson said.
“Government is designed to provide services,” she said. “It is for us. I think in Sweden, their access to information laws are basically the inverse to what we do. They have a handful of criteria that applies to government secrecy – you can keep material or information away from the public if it meets this handful of criteria. The rest of it’s supposed to be open. Now I’m sure they’ve had challenges over the years, but this is something they’ve had in place since the 1700s. So it’s a whole different concept.
“It’s in our interest, as government and as citizens, to make sure we have the best practices of access to information.”
Minding the miners
Environment Department officials are not being respected, said NDP Leader Liz Hanson.
She made the remark while promising to expedite land-use planning and to bolster environmental monitoring.
She repeated it after the environmental forum, when the party released its environment platform.
To back the remark up, she cited decisions to transfer the responsibility for water monitoring at mine sites to the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources from the Department of Environment over the last few years.
At the time, the Fentie/Pasloski government defended the decision as a simple solution to create a more efficient process.
But it should be regarded as a potential to “blur the lines,” said Hanson.
“I think that we need to rethink some of that,” she said, noting her team would work co-operatively with industry to find a happy compromise.
“We have a separate Department of Environment with a separate minister accountable, through the Environment Act, to make sure that environmental standards are maintained so that we’ve got that quality assurance.”
But apart from changing things back to the way they used to be done, the NDP would like to introduce a few new approaches to the environment.
They would pass a green energy act, said Hanson.
It would merge conservation and renewable energy by outlining standards and targets for greenhouse gas emissions. And it would support sustainable power production for the public sector, she said.
The act would not be established without public discussion, Hanson assured, adding the party would not support independent power production programs like BC did, but it might consider a carbon tax.
In its first term, a newly elected NDP government would also consult with First Nations and the general public about a Species at Risk Act.
“I’ve asked the minister numerous times,” she said. “I’m told there is a draft, but it’s never been brought forward.”
And existing legislation, like the Wildlife Act, must be updated to reflect land-claim agreements, said Hanson.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at firstname.lastname@example.org