Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Currie Dixon was elected as leader of the Yukon Party last May.

He previously served as the MLA for Copperbelt North from 2011 to 2016. He was sworn into cabinet as the Minister of Environment and Economic Development, later picking up the Community Services and Public Service Commission files in 2015. At 26, he was the youngest cabinet minister in Yukon history.

In 2016, Dixon opted not to run for the Yukon Party again in favour of working in the private sector and spending time with family. In 2018, he began working as the Director of Business Development for ALX Exploration, a Whitehorse-based mining supplier.

Prior to his election in 2011, Dixon worked as a senior policy advisor to the premier. Dixon holds a masters degree in political science with a specialization in First Nations governance and economic development from the University of Northern British Columbia. He was born and raised in Whitehorse and is raising his two children in the city.

“I think I’ve got the right skills to lead the territory,” Dixon said. “I think that I’ve been able to build a team of folks that are both experienced and have the history and ability to lead the government, as well as a bunch of new faces bringing new ideas and fresh approaches.”

Dixon lauded the Yukon Party’s history in governance, noting the party has some “really strong foundational pieces” regarding support for the economy, hunting and fishing.

“I think there are a few areas where I do want to see the party break some new trail in our commitment to things like childcare and mental health, and improving our response to climate change,” he said.

The leader hopes this election period has offered Yukoners a “new look” at the Yukon Party.

Housing has been one of the biggest sticking points in this election. Dixon is presenting a plan to get more land out to market. He suggested the government needs to collaborate with the City of Whitehorse to plan beyond Whistle Bend, and with the First Nations to develop land in communities.

“I think we can work closely to find mutually beneficial partnerships,” he said. “There’s a really important role for the private sector — I think we can do more to allow for the private sector development of land.”

Regarding health care, Dixon said his government would take a second look at the Putting People First report, which included 76 recommendations for a health and social service overhaul.

“It was a comprehensive report that came up with really strong recommendations, but there are some aspects of it that we have some concerns about,” Dixon said. “There’s a number of recommendations that would call for fairly dramatic overhauls of our health care system, and before we make sweeping commitments, we at least need to understand the costing.”

Dixon also plans to address climate change in the territory with funding to encourage energy retrofitting. He is generally supportive of the previous government’s plan to add charging stations and fleets of electric vehicles to public transportation, though he called the goal of 6,000 vehicles “a bit ambitious.”

“I think we need to be a little more realistic about how we approach that,” he said.

Education is another significant point in Dixon’s platform, with First Nation student outcomes top of mind for the leader. He wants to collaborate with the Yukon First Nations Education Directorate, explore an Indigenous academy and preserve First Nations languages.

“Overall, we need to do a better job of supporting kids,” Dixon said.

The Yukon Party remains aligned with a familiar aspect of previous platforms — support for the economy and small business. Dixon said his government would offer a “suite of changes” to ensure continued support for businesses struggling through the pandemic.

“Beyond the pandemic, though, we need to look to the future and find ways to support the recovery of the economy,” Dixon said. “The mining sector is going to be an important driver of the private sector economy going forward. We need to ensure that we have supports in place to encourage investment in the mining industry.”

Dixon said the Yukon also needs to diversify its economy and limit red tape.

“We think that there’s opportunity in the tech and innovation sector to grow,” Dixon said. “Our plan is to get government out of the way of business, and allow the private sector to thrive.”

The Yukon Party’s platform, condensed

The Yukon Party’s platform is based on three main pillars: recovering the economy, supporting young families and growing safe communities.

“All three of those pillars are built on a foundation of good governance — and that’s really important to me, I think Yukoners are looking for a government that can provide some clear leadership and direction,” said Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon.

Economic recovery

The party’s platform pledges to support businesses through to the end of the pandemic, cut red tape and create new private sector opportunities.

It will extend business relief programs for one year and streamline those programs; introduce a “small business lens” to government regulations and a “one-for-one rule” to manage regulatory burdens.

The party promises to enhance the tourism fund for businesses and streamline mining regulations to improve certainty for exploration companies.

Other promises include:

  • Fully privatizing cannabis;
  • Maintaining the current “free entry” mineral rights system;
  • Encouraging expanded restaurant patios and “on-street” activities;
  • Revising the elk management plan;
  • Delaying implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy;
  • Bidding for the 2027 Canada Winter Games.

Energy and climate change

The Yukon Party plans to freeze power rates for two years and stabilize the Yukon Energy Corp.’s budget. There are also plans to build an LNG energy generation facility to replace the currently rented diesel generators.

The party also pledges to continue with the 10-year renewable electricity plan and to partner with First Nations on energy projects. It will enlist the federal government’s help to meet a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Exploring hydrogen as an energy source and extending the Yukon electrical grid in Watson Lake are also included.

The party also promises loan programs and low-interest financing for:

  • Retrofitting municipal and First Nations government buildings;
  • Retrofitting residential homes;
  • Installing biomass heating systems in commercial and institutional buildings;
  • Installing smart electric heating devices in residential, commercial and institutional buildings.

Education and childcare

The Yukon Party has promised a Universal Child Benefit of $500 per child, per month, paid directly to parents up to age five. Children aged six to 10 will receive $100 per month.

The Yukon Party pledges to expand public school education, which would include technology education promoting computer literacy and coding; broadening experiential learning programs like MAD; and establishing a trades program for high school students.

The Yukon Party’s goal is to see an 80 per cent graduation rate within 10 years for First Nations students. The party plans to collaborate with First Nations government and the Education Directorate; develop a student outcome strategy and implement the Auditor General’s 2019 education recommendations.

The party also pledges to:

  • Enhance wages for early childhood educators, as planned;
  • Enhance in-school mental health support;
  • Continue regulating midwifery;
  • Replace Ross River School.

Healthcare

The Yukon Party promises to revisit the Putting People First report and develop cost estimates for the report’s 76 recommendations before prioritizing short-, medium- and long-term deliverables.

The party also made several pledges regarding mental health, including increasing community supports; psychology services and telehealth. The party also promises to build a new Secure Medical Unit at the Whitehorse General Hospital and fund an on-the-land mental health and substance treatment centre.

The party also promises to:

  • Review operations at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter;
  • Create a more cohesive system of collaboration between non-government organizations;
  • Launch a Wait Time Reduction Strategy at Yukon hospitals;
  • Provide better support preventing hospital staff burn-out;
  • Support seniors by implementing the Aging in Place Action Plan.

Housing

The party plans to re-introduce the first-time home buyer program and develop affordable housing with the Yukon First Nations development corporations.

It will also explore increasing housing in communities with tax incentives, grant programs and a review of mortgage availability.

The party will make developing land a priority by working with First Nations, releasing land for private sector development and creating a first-time land buyer program.

The rest

  • Other points in the party’s platform include promises to:
  • Allow more Yukon government employees to work from rural communities;
  • Create a new campground and reverse camping fee increases;
  • Restore the 25 per cent funding cut to the Yukon Fish and Game Association;
  • Commit $1 million to combatting sexual assault and supporting survivors;
  • Cap political contributions and require all political donations to be public.

The platform can be viewed in its entirety on the party’s website.

Visit the Yukon News to also view the Liberal’s and the NDP’s leader and platform profiles.

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com

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