The Yukon government says it's waiting for studies to be completed, before moving ahead with plans to pave the Dawson City airport runway.
But the government "remains firm in its commitment" to pave the runway, Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn said Tuesday, a day after appearing to hedge on that promise.
The issue was raised in the legislature on Monday, when the opposition Yukon Party pressed the Liberals to say when they would deliver on the promise.
Former Yukon Party premier Darrell Pasloski first made a similar pledge, at the 2016 mineral roundup. His government then allocated $395,000 in its 2016-17 capital budget for a "Dawson City Airport Development Plan."
Then, during the fall 2016 election campaign, Liberal Leader Sandy Silver — MLA for Klondike — repeated the promise.
Yukon Party MLA Geraldine Van Bibber said Monday that with the Liberals now in government, it was time for an update.
"We know there is no new paving money in the budget this year. Will the premier commit to keeping his election promise and pave the runway next year?" Van Bibber asked.
"Will the premier reiterate his support for this project, and tell us when they will pave the Dawson City runway?"
But the Liberals refused to bite, and Public Workers Minister Richard Mostyn turned the tables, saying that paving the runway may just be an ill-conceived Yukon Party scheme.
He said when the Liberals took office last year, they learned that the Yukon Party had not done enough work.
"We are executing on evidence-based decision-making, and during the election campaign, one of the pieces of information we were dealing with was a premier who had made an announcement that he was going to pave the runway," Mostyn said.
"What we inherited when we got in here is a lot of holes in all the work that was supposed to have been done ahead of time, with the [federal government], with the planning, with the funding."
He says the Yukon Party government was not "dealing with evidence" when making its promise.
"The ground work had not been done. Not done … and that was frankly a surprise to me," Mostyn said.
'Honestly, I haven't got a good answer right now'
One of the main reasons touted for paving the runway is that it would allow larger aircraft to land there.
But Sandy Silver reportedly told his Klondike constituents as recently as March that might not be the case, because the angle of the approach makes that unlikely.
Mostyn says determining the suitability of the current runway for jets is part of his investigations.
"To date, those questions have not been adequately answered. And I don't even know if our predecessors asked them or what they heard. Honestly, I haven't got a good answer right now.
"I wish it was clear cut. But we're dealing with federal officials who have safety concerns. There are all sorts of very complicated federal Transport Canada regulations that we're trying to sift through and find a good answer."
Mostyn said one report is mostly complete.
"I've seen a draft. It does not talk about moving the Dawson City runway, it talks about options about where the airport is currently situated."
Mostyn said he'll wait until he has all the information before making any decisions. But on Tuesday, he asserted that his government was not back-pedalling.
"This government is committed — I'll say it again — it remains firm in its commitment to pave the Dawson City runway."
The government has set aside $250,000 in this year's capital budget to study improvements to the airport.