Yukon’s economy took a hit in 2013

Yukon's economy fared worse in 2013 than every other jurisdiction in Canada, according to the most recent Statistics Canada numbers. The territory's gross domestic product fell by 0.9 per cent.

Yukon’s economy fared worse in 2013 than every other jurisdiction in Canada, according to the most recent Statistics Canada numbers.

The territory’s gross domestic product fell by 0.9 per cent. New Brunswick was the only other jurisdiction to show a decline in 2013.

Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, said he was not surprised.

“We’ve seen declines in retail sales and wholesale sales. We’ve seen declines in the labour markets, and of course we’ve seen the mines not in operation, with Minto laying off and Alexco closing down because of these commodity prices. When things like that happen, it has a huge impact.”

While the Yukon government can’t do anything about commodity prices, getting along with First Nations could go a long way to turning things around, he said.

“If the permitting processes come into play with the consultation and co-operation between government, First Nations and industry, then I think we’re really positioned well,” said Karp.

The government has faced several lawsuits from First Nations over resource disputes in recent years.

A staking ban currently covers all of the Ross River area, about 13 per cent of the territory, because of the Yukon government’s failure to reach an agreement with the Ross River Dena Council over which parts of that territory should be withdrawn from staking.

Yukon’s GDP forecast for 2014 has been downgraded twice in the last year.

In October 2013 Yukon’s economists predicted 8.8 per cent GDP growth for 2014. That figure fell to 3.3 per cent in February and again to 1.7 per cent in July of this year.

In the legislature this week both opposition parties questioned the Yukon Party on its economic record.

Economic Development Minister Currie Dixon said that the government’s increased spending in the construction industry should help lift Yukon out of this slump.

“While the mining industry is important, and it is important that we continue to take measures to improve the viability of the mining industry in Yukon, it’s also important that we recognize the value of the construction industry,” he said.

“That is why, earlier this year, we brought forward the largest capital budget in the history of Yukon. We have increased our overall spending considerably and the evidence is all around us when you look around Whitehorse. You see the construction going on at F.H. Collins; you see the construction going on at the Whitehorse Rapids dam facility for the backup generators; and you see all the construction going up at the Whitehorse waterfront with regard to seniors housing being constructed there.”

NDP Leader Liz Hanson said spending on construction won’t help if it’s not done properly.

“Now that the economy is bottoming out, this government intends to spend its way out of the economic crunch. Large construction projects can be good stimulants for economic growth and job creation when they are done correctly,” she said.

“According to the minister’s own numbers, only 33 jobs have been created by the F.H. Collins construction so far, despite over $25 million allocated to this project for this fiscal year.”

Dixon said that the government’s spending has been responsible.

“In combination with the largest capital budget in Yukon’s history, we continue to have a very large surplus as well. What this means is that we are spending and we are increasing our spending, but we are doing so responsibly while maintaining a strong public finance for Yukon taxpayers.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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