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Yukonomist: The Liberal and Green election platforms for the Yukon

Last week we looked at the NDP and Conservative election platforms and what they meant for the Yukon . This week, it’s the Liberals and Greens.

Last week we looked at the NDP and Conservative election platforms and what they meant for the Yukon. This week, it’s the Liberals and Greens.

We’ll focus on campaign promises specific to the Yukon and the North. All the parties have broader national commitments that will affect Yukoners, and these are well covered by national media. I recommend that you flip through the details before you vote, or visit one of the media websites that compare the platforms such as Bloomberg or Macleans.

The Liberal platform is entitled “Forward. For Everyone.” It runs to 82 pages and has 191 commitments or reminders of policies implemented since the Liberals took office in 2015. It mentions the Yukon once, in a table of the provinces and territories with a comparison of childcare costs under the Liberal plan versus the Conservative one. The North is mentioned 21 times.

The platform highlights some of the past commitments to the North, such as $5.4 billion in COVID-19 support for Indigenous and Northern communities and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program.

Looking forward, the document commits to faster deployment of high-speed internet and wireless in Northern Canada, including a promise to reallocate wireless spectrum to local providers if the big phone companies don’t use it in a timely fashion.

The Liberals also commit to invest in Aboriginal Head Start programs for Indigenous youth in Northern communities. It also proposes an Indigenous Urban, Rural, and Northern Housing strategy with Indigenous partners. This would be funded with $300 million across the country.

Long-term care for Indigenous people is another priority in the document, which commits to creating an Indigenous Long-term and Continuing Care Framework to serve Indigenous residents in Northern communities.

The party also commits to reform the Nutrition North program, which supports affordable food in Old Crow (and other communities in Nunavut and the NWT).

The platform doesn’t mention Yukon self-government in particular, but has an eight-page section entitled “Moving Forward on Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.” This includes a range of new commitments, including some of those mentioned above, around the legacy of residential schools, constructing a permanent headquarters for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the wellbeing of Indigenous children, clean water, housing, health care and other priorities.

The party also promises to “work with the United States to modernize NORAD, including by upgrading the North Warning System” in order to “deter and defeat threats to North America.” The North Warning System sites in the Yukon are aging, and the platform mentions new technologies around surveillance and monitoring in the Arctic.

Overall, the Liberal platform is expected to cost an extra $16 billion per year nationally above current government plans, on average over the next five years.

The slogan on the front of the Green Party platform is “Be Daring,” a theme the party leader mentions repeatedly in her cover letter as she calls on Canadians to strike out in newer, greener directions. With no glossy photos, its 101 pages are all political comment and commitments. It doesn’t mention the Yukon, and mentions the North eight times.

It laments how previous governments “muzzled scientists and cut funding” for northern science on climate change. The Greens promise more research funding for things such as the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory.

The party says it supports “funding for community infrastructure development, regional sustainability projects, northern research, northern culture and other regional socioeconomic activities.”

It describes the current government’s investments in northern agriculture as “very limited” and calls for higher food security in northern communities and more localized food systems rather than industrial agriculture.

The Greens call for predictable, long-term infrastructure funding for rural and Northern communities, promising at least $250 million per year starting in 2028-29. They also promise an Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy.

On Indigenous issues, the Greens refer specifically to First Nations in the territories, calling for immediate implementation of the “land claims agreements already negotiated and languishing for lack of funding.” The six page chapter devoted to reconciliation includes other commitments on education, cultural revitalization, health and other issues.

Similar to the NDP commitment on cancelled Greyhound bus routes, the Greens call for Via Rail to be expanded to include bus services for a national transportation network.

On NORAD, instead of updating the North Warning System as the Liberals and Conservatives suggest, the Greens call for Canada to assess its membership in NORAD altogether.

Most of the Green platform is not costed, so we don’t know the total financial impact of the northern and national initiatives.

That concludes our brief tour of the Yukon-specific bits of the platforms of the parties running candidates in the Yukon. Stay tuned for further Yukon News election coverage between now and the election. And don’t forget that it’s easy to vote early during this pandemic election so you can skip the lines on election day - the Elections Canada office is already open in the Elks Lodge on 4th Avenue.

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He is a Ma Murray award-winner for best columnist and received the bronze for Outstanding Columnist in the 2019 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards.