Yukon Premier Sandy Silver after the announcement of the 2018-19 budget at legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Sandy Silver doesn’t let the details get in the way of a good photo op

How hard is it for the government to answer a simple question? Very, apparently

Sandy Silver’s government will be supporting the Challenge Disability Resource Group’s badly-needed affordable housing complex proposed for downtown Whitehorse. That much we’ve known for a week.

After that, the specifics remain up in the air.

“Can he tell us how much money is in this year’s budget for the Challenge housing project?” asked Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers in the house March 8.

You might expect the premier to answer with a number. No.

“We are working actively right now with Challenge, and we are very excited with the commitment to support Challenge and make this project extremely successful,” the premier said, going on for another 109 words that don’t contain any figure, but at least offer that the government is working on finalizing an agreement with Challenge.

Silver did manage, on his second attempt, to inform the public that the government will spend $6 million on the project. Maybe? Or it might be $6.6 million. The premier also left open the possibility the amount could be less than $6 million. Who can say? And anyway, it’s unkind for Cathers to ask for specifics that aren’t in the premier’s briefing book.

Except that Silver made a big show last week of handing over some new work boots to Challenge executive director Jillian Hardie, in a stage-managed twist on the tradition of the finance minister’s new budget day shoes.

“With our housing money in the 2018/19 budget we look forward to supporting their cornerstone project,” whoever runs Silver’s Twitter account tweeted.

Given how much Silver ballyhooed his own initiative, it’s reasonable for the public to expect the premier to have a grasp of basic facts about the project. One would assume that one of his well-paid advisors would have whispered a figure in the premier’s ear at some point.

But as it turns out, the emperor has no shoes. There is in fact no line item money for Challenge in the 2018-19 budget. The government instead promised some nebulous form of “support” for Challenge’s worthwhile project.

One spokesperson with Health and Social Services initially told the News there was no money for the project in the budget. Then she said she couldn’t rule out money for the project in the budget.

Then cabinet spokesperson Sunny Patch told us there was “support” for the project in the budget but could not provide a specific dollar figure. She did say the government will find the money somewhere in the budget.

Which line item exactly? Ha ha ha. Who knows. Numerous well-educated and well-paid adults, who are responsible for this sort of thing, either don’t know or won’t say. Neither is acceptable.

We could go on. If Challenge does indeed get $6 million — or $6.6 million, again, it’s really rude to keep asking for specifics about this — what does that do to the territory’s projected $4.5 million deficit? Will the deficit increase? Or will the government cut spending elsewhere?

The government’s own budget documents lay out $6 million for affordable housing for the entire territory. Is the government spending all of its affordable housing money on Challenge? It’s very unfair to ask such rude questions, when our government is clearly providing such visionary leadership going forward.

Moreover, the deadline to close the land deal is March 26, something Silver mentioned in the house. Perhaps Challenge would like to know soon how much of the $7-million price tag it will have to raise elsewhere? If the premier knows this is important, why not just say publicly how much his government plans to contribute?

None of this is Challenge’s fault. The building, located on Main Street, will bring nearly 50 new housing units, 42 of them affordable, onto the market. That’s good for residents in search of housing, the construction industry and downtown retailers. The government should fund this project.

This is public money. The government should be able to clearly answer basic questions about it in under a week.

Contact Chris Windeyer at editor@yukon-news.com

Sandy SilverYukon legislative assemblyYukon politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Members of the RCMP’s traffic services team examine police markers on Range Road after a six-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle near the Takhini Arena in Whitehorse on Oct. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Six-year-old hit by vehicle near Takhini Arena

Police were called to the scene around 12:15 p.m. on Oct. 25

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. Two new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Watson Lake over the weekend. The cases are connected to three others in the community previously announced by officials on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two additional COVID-19 cases in Watson Lake bring total up to five

Individuals with symptoms and connections to the three other cases were tested over the weekend

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

Teagan Wiebe, left, and Amie Wiebe pose for a photo with props during The Guild’s haunted house dress rehearsal on Oct. 23. The Heart of Riverdale Community Centre will be hosting its second annual Halloween haunted house on Oct. 30 and 31, with this year’s theme being a plague. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Plague-themed haunted house to take over Heart of Riverdale for Halloween

A plague will be descending upon the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre… Continue reading

Indigenous lobster boats head from the harbour in Saulnierville, N.S. on Oct. 21. Elected officials in the Yukon, including all 19 members of the legislature, are backing the right of Mi’kmaq fishers on the East Coast to launch a moderate livelihood fishery. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)
Yukon legislature passes motion to support Mi’kmaw fishery

“It’s not easy, but it’s also necessary for us to have these very difficult conversations”

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

asdf
COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Most Read