North

Office set up for former gov't minister Leona Aglukkaq in Whitehorse remains open

A federal office set up in Whitehorse under the former Conservative government will remain open under the Liberals, at a cost of $333,030 per year.

Federal cabinet office in Whitehorse costing more than $300,000 dollars per year

The federal government is spending $166,958 this fiscal year to lease an office in the Taku Building at Fourth Ave. and Main St. in Whitehorse. (Dave Croft/CBC)

The new Liberal government in Ottawa will keep the low-profile "ministers' regional office" in Whitehorse — set up by the former Conservative government — open, but with changes, according to Public Services and Procurement Canada.

Former Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq was the regional minister under the Conservatives for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor). As minister in 2012, she opened three new offices, in Iqaluit, Yellowknife and Whitehorse, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Just a suite number, no name, identifies the Ministers' Regional Office in Whitehorse. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Conservative party supporter and former Yukon Party MLA Ted Staffen was hired as a political appointee working for Aglukkaq to run the office in the Taku Building at the intersection of Main St. and Fourth Ave. in downtown Whitehorse.

It's just across the street from a large Government of Canada building.

Staffen's job came to an end with the Conservative defeat last fall, and so did the political appointment, according to written information provided by the department that manages government property.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not appoint any regional ministers for the development agencies. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains is now overseeing them.

A discreet 'MRO' is the only clue that this is the heart of the Canadian government in the Yukon. (Dave Croft/CBC)

The office in Whitehorse is now run by public service employee Suzanne Evans, with one other employee providing administrative support, the department said. The staffing level was the same under the previous government.

The budget for the 2015/16 fiscal year is $333,030. That includes $157,356 for salaries, $166,958 for the lease and $8,716 for operations and maintenance.

Office is good for Yukon, MP says 

The office is separate from Liberal MP Larry Bagnell and his own Whitehorse office.

Bagnell said it's good to have a ministers' regional office in the city.

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell said it's good to have a ministers' regional office in the city.

"Hopefully there will be a lot of ministers here, cause I think it gives great profile to our area. Especially when we're the farthest riding from Ottawa.

"Yukoners often feel that they're not listened to, that they're so far away that people aren't aware we're here, so I think [the office] is good."

The office is a business centre for the use of the prime minister, cabinet ministers and their staff, according to the department.

It offers a closed office, meeting rooms, secure communications, document storage, administrative and event support and other assistance.