Yukon Premier announces $72.8M surplus budget
Territory to spend $1.2B, much towards roads and infrastructure
The Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski announced a surplus budget of $72.8 million, without any tax increases.
This is down from an $81 million surplus last year.
Pasloski says the Yukon economy is a powerhouse, making it possible for the government to maintain spending.
This year's territorial budget allocates more than $1 billion in government spending — nearly twice the amount in the 2003-2004 budget, which was before the territory’s devolution.
Pasloski says the Yukon is prosperous and that this is a direct result of private business investment and resource extraction.
"Our objective … continues to be to develop an economy that is less dependent on government spending and more reliant on the private sector," said Pasloski in the budget address.
"Our government believes it is important to create new wealth as opposed to redistributing existing wealth."
Investment in roads
Much of the year's new spending is focused on roads and infrastructure. This includes a winter road to Old Crow and work on Dempster Highway and North Canol Road.
There is spending on fire halls and solid waste management facilities throughout Yukon.
The single biggest new contribution this year is to health.
The budget commits the government to contribute an extra $27 million to the Yukon hospital corporation to help pay debts related to finance the Thompson Centre, Crocus Ridge, and Dawson City and Watson Lake hospitals.
Premier targets environmentalists
This year the premier's budget address also contained a rebuke of environmentalists.
Pasloski singled out The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) for its "Yellowstone to Yukon" plan, which seeks to protect the Wolf Lake ecosystem in south-central and southeast Yukon.
"Most of the Yukon would be covered by parkland and the territory's resource-based economy would not be able to sustain itself, nor our current population, resulting in substantial loss of jobs and exodus of people," said Pasloski.
The address also mentioned the Peel River Watershed, for which Pasloski promoted industrial development.
"It is critical that we find a proper balance that the Final Recommended Plan failed to achieve. The mineral wealth of the Peel Watershed Region could sustain the territory for generations to come," he said.
Pasloski said the Crest ore deposit alone could be worth $140 billion.
Many Peel comments from non-Yukoners
While Pasloski's stance on the Peel Watershed was clear, the government is still reviewing public comments from the consultation process. They are also still compiling results and consulting with four affected First Nations.
"We will live up to all the obligations covered under the umbrella under the final agreement. We are looking for a balanced plan that will respect our wilderness but we also respect all sectors of our economy," said Pasloski.
The Yukon Party also appeared to dismiss a large section of comments on the Peel.
Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers said that many comments came from outside the territory, and said the Yukon Party government would not consider those views as equal.
"And while we will give fair consideration to all comments, make no mistake: we were elected by Yukoners for Yukoners, we were not elected to represent the citizens of Pasadena, Dusseldorf or Toronto."
Liberal member Sandy Silver accused the Yukon Party of holding consultations only for show.
He accused the government of having always had a plan for development, written behind closed doors.