The wool is pulled over employers’ eyes

ELECTION 2006 NOTEBOOK It’s no secret that Yukon employers are going to start paying more for workers’ compensation.

ELECTION 2006 NOTEBOOK

It’s no secret that Yukon employers are going to start paying more for workers’ compensation.

But broadcasting that kind of news doesn’t help a party seeking re-election on an economy-based campaign.

This summer, the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board announced it would cut subsidies to employers, who pay into the self-sustaining system on a sliding scale.

Questions about the 2007 rates were to be answered at the board’s annual information meeting on Tuesday.

Now, that’s off the table.

The announcement on the compensation board website changed overnight Thursday.

Tuesday’s meeting will now recap policy and programming from 2005.

“We’re not ready,” said board chair Craig Tuton, who is also the Yukon Party campaign manager.

Discussing the 2007 employer rates was never intended to be part of Tuesday’s discussion, said Tuton on Friday.

“Haven’t got a clue,” said Tuton when asked why the rate discussion was erased from the agenda.

“I didn’t say to put it on the agenda.”

Tuton confirmed the subsidies are coming off.

So some employers will pay more — not a good thing to tell your core business support during a re-election campaign.

“That’s your opinion,” said Tuton. “I already told you my opinion — we’re not ready yet.”

The board will now discuss employer rates sometime after the election.

Not about the money

The Yukon Party won’t lowball child-care costs the way the Liberals have done, said Premier Dennis Fentie.

“The Yukon Party, in demonstrating its leadership, is not going to just pull figures out of the air as the Liberals have recently done with their two-point-something million investment into day care to deal with the crisis,” Fentie said Friday as he released his party’s child-care plan.

On Tuesday, the Liberals announced a $2.8 million commitment to improve child care by boosting the direct operating grant by 25 per cent, eliminating taxes on federal child-care payments and making child-care subsidies more readily available by raising the qualifying threshold.

“The Liberal investment would fall far short, far short, of the required investment in day care needed in the Yukon Territory,” said Fentie.

Instead, the Yukon Party will increase the availability of child-care spaces for kids of all ages, including those younger than 18 months.

It will cut child-care rates that parents pay, increase financial support and reduce “disincentives” — that is, taxes — for working families.

How much will it cost?

Fentie won’t say.

“It’s clear the Liberal approach has forgotten children that are 18 months and younger; it has forgotten communities like Carmacks and Dawson City and Watson Lake and other places,” said Fentie.

“There a number of other needs out there, especially in rural Yukon, that have to be addressed.

“Our approach is all inclusive. It will not leave communities, First Nations and others out, and it will focus on moms and dads and children.”

For example, the government has been working with the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation on putting a child-care facility in Carmacks’ new Tantalus School, said Fentie.

How much would it cost?

Fentie won’t say.

During its mandate the Yukon Party increased the annual direct operating grant for day homes and child-care centres by $900,000, or 40 per cent, said Fentie.

At last count, 972 kids each received a $5,462 investment, making Yukon the second-best funded jurisdiction in Canada, he said.

Overall, the Yukon party increased child-care spending by $5.3 million annually, said Fentie.

“Our objective is to provide the best possible day care system in the Yukon for those that need it.” (GM)

What about John?

The tie between labour and the NDP is no secret.

For example, the Canada Labour Congress gave $40,000 to the NDP campaign in 2002, and the NDP is currently renting the Yukon Employees Union hall for its campaign headquarters, albeit at market price.

What’s more, Yukon Federation of Labour president Alex Furlong and other executive members are open in their support of the NDP.

And the labour-issues campaign Furlong announced Tuesday reads like an NDP crib sheet.

The campaign literature decries public-private partnerships, lobbies for increasing the minimum wage and seeks an end to party-hopping among disgruntled MLAs.

It’s all part of a union-sponsored $40,000 awareness campaign designed to motivate the 8,000 union members.

The federation has never mounted such a campaign, said Furlong.

“You may ask why we are doing this,” he said in a speech on Tuesday.

“To a certain extent, we were forced to by the way the present government has handled issues over the past four years.”

He listed eight “workers’ concerns,” including delays in workplace health and safety regulations, bungled staff relations at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and “the mistreatment of huge numbers of public employees through the computer-misuse investigation.”

But the so-called porn probe bullet is a misfire.

It can’t avoid wounding New Democrat John Edzerza.

Edzerza was the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission in 2003 when it decided to delve into computer use by 543 unionized government employees.

The union intervened and agreed to binding arbitration. Ninety-six employees were disciplined for having inappropriate material stored in their work computers. Four were fired.

Fast forward three years, and Edzerza is running for re-election under the NDP banner.

Furlong did not hesitate to lay responsibility for the scandal at Fentie’s feet, not Edzerza’s.

“I wouldn’t have expected (Edzerza) to stop the investigation,” said Furlong.

“Leadership comes from the top. The top in the government today is Mr. Fentie. He was the premier.

“He had every opportunity to stop this investigation, to stop the abuse of public servants, and he chose not to.”

Edzerza could have influenced Fentie, but that’s all he could have done, said Furlong.

“He certainly bears some responsibility, but I think he has wised up and made the right choice in the party he is running for.” (GM)