From left to right: Party leaders Kate White, Sandy Silver and Currie Dixon in the CBC studio in Whitehorse on April 8. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

From left to right: Party leaders Kate White, Sandy Silver and Currie Dixon in the CBC studio in Whitehorse on April 8. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Parties promote pandemic records, housing plans and addiction strategies in leaders’ debate

The CBC All Leaders debate was moderated by Dave White

The CBC leaders’ debate held April 8 offered a last chance for each of the party leaders to promote their vision to Yukon voters.

CBC host Dave White moderated the relatively friendly debate between NDP Leader Kate White, Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon and Liberal Leader Sandy Silver. The debate was aired during the AirPlay show from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. A recording of the debate is available online.

Pandemic response

The first 30 minutes of the debate focused on the pandemic response. Silver leaned hard on the government’s success in bringing more-than-per-capita vaccines to the territories.

When that supply was slowed down unexpectedly, Silver said “they fought even harder” to secure them.

“I know that people are looking for certainty. Nobody wants to be done with COVID more than myself,” he said. “But again, nobody has a crystal ball.”

Currie Dixon said Yukoners “could be forgiven” for some frustration with the current situation. He said there has been “mixed messaging” and criticized quick decisions on issues such as students returning to school and an election call.

“We want to sit down immediately with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and chart out a path forward,” he said.

Both Dixon and White said they support the vaccine effort and would work with the Chief Medical Officer of Health if they formed a government.

Silver challenged both other leaders to reject protests against masks and restrictions. Dixon said he is “a huge proponent of people getting vaccinated” and said that those who are unsure about vaccination should reach out to health professionals.

“COVID-19 fatigue is a real thing,” White said. “Absolutely I don’t support anti-mask and anti-vaccine protests. Because really, it’s not about the individual. It’s about us as a collective.”

Addictions and wellness

Dixon said the pandemic has exacerbated mental wellness and addiction issues in the territory. He suggested supports need to be expanded and the federal government, territorial government and First Nations governments could partner to create an on-the-land treatment centre.

“Agree, more needs to be done, and we look forward to tackling it,” he said.

Silver committed to a wet shelter and safe supply program to help support people in the territory with addictions.

“This is impacting so many Yukoners and so safe supply will save lives,” Silver said. “This has been tried, tested and true as far as the medical community and yes I agree with Dr. Hanley’s view on that.”

White questioned why the Liberals haven’t implemented safe supply in the last four years.

“I’ve been asking about it, with many others, for many years,” she said. “Addiction is a health issue, it’s not a justice issue. To have this commitment here now is good, but we’ve lost more than 30 people. It feels like it’s too late. It’s such a loss.”

Housing

Housing has been a major election topic across the territory. During the debate, candidates faced questions about what they would do to make housing more affordable and to make land lotteries fairer.

White said her party has proposed bold new ideas to combat housing affordability, including a cap on annual rent increases, the establishment of a housing authority that would keep some housing stock below-market prices and supporting more private rental developments.

“It has not become more affordable in the last 10 years,” she said.

The Yukon Party is proposing a closer relationship with municipal governments to develop a variety of types of land. Dixon said there could also be more support to encourage first-time homebuyers, settlement land construction and rent support programs.

“From our perspective, the issue is a lack of available land. It’s driving up pricing for new builds and for existing houses as well,” Dixon said.

Silver said the Liberal government made progress with a large land lottery during the past government, a land trust and said the party has plans to bring 1,000 new lots online over the next five years.

“It’s a booming economy, people want to live here and we need to have housing for everybody,” Silver said.

The leaders were also asked other questions including loss of services in Keno City, liquor licensing, mining royalties and music festival funding. The debate ended with each of the party leaders being asked what they liked in each other’s platforms.

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

Election 2021

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