John Streicker, minister of community services, speaks during a press conference in Whitehorse on April 2. Streicker announced the government is extending its state of emergency on Sept. 9. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon government extends state of emergency for second time

Unemployment is now at eight per cent, the highest in two years

The Yukon government is extending the state of emergency again, community services minister John Streicker said during the COVID-19 weekly update on Sept. 9.

“I want to be clear that extending the state of emergency does not indicate any change in the risk of COVID to Yukoners. And it may be canceled at any time. However, as long as the pandemic continues to pose a risk to the health, safety and livelihoods of Yukoners, we may continue to extend it until other options become available,” Streicker said.

The extension will allow the ministerial orders issued under Civil Emergency Measures Act to remain active and for quarantine measures to remain enforceable. Without an extension, the measures would come to an end Sept. 10.

“The orders we have issued are not intended to be permanent. They’re introduced as temporary measures to support Yukoners and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic,” he said.

Asked if the government will consider changes to legislation, rather than continuing the state of emergency, Streicker said “there are definitely things that need to be improved” in the act but the current focus is dealing with the pandemic.

Although border restrictions will remain the same, five ministerial orders are being rescinded or being allowed to expire.

The property tax relief order is ending as the extended deadline has passed, the self-isolation exception for traditional practises is no longer necessary, virtual witnessing for legal documents will also end and drivers who need to present a medical exam will again be required to do so.

Streicker also noted that the deputy minister was granted power to amend government contracts, but that will also end.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley encouraged Yukoners to keep up the safe six, including hand-washing practises.

“I don’t sense that there is a deliberate disagreement or discomfort with our measures, I do see a general relaxing from time to time. I do think that we need to take every opportunity to stay attuned to the risk. It really is all about managing the risk,” he said.

“It comes down to, act like we have COVID among us,” Hanley said.

The territory’s updated unemployment numbers for August from the Bureau of Statistics suggest that the territory’s labour force has shrunk by approximately 700 jobs, with unemployment rising from 900 in February to 1,700 in August. The unemployment rate for August is just under eight per cent, the highest since August 2018. The unemployment rate in February was just over four per cent.

“I understand that our levels of unemployment have gone up here in the Yukon. Absolutely. But when I look at those unemployment levels, compared to the rest of Canada, we’re still in a better position generally,” Streicker said.

The average unemployment rate across Canada is 10.2 per cent.

Streicker said the government will be looking at individual industries to promote economic recovery, including infrastructure and land development.

“I think the recovery plan is coming soon,” he said.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

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