Opposition parties criticize spending choices

Yukon opposition leaders say the Liberal government’s $26.2 million supplementary budget falls far short of expectations.

By Morris Prokop on October 7, 2022

Yukon opposition leaders say the Liberal government’s $26.2 million supplementary budget falls far short of expectations.

Opposition Leader Currie Dixon walked out of the Legislature on Thursday afternoon with both barrels fired.

“We expressed fear that the Liberal government was not taking the inflation crisis seriously, and what we saw today was that exact fear played out…”. said Dixon.

“We had been telegraphing all week – myself and the NDP – telegraphing the government that we would make inflation the number one problem…the government’s responses were weak at best, to say the least. “Dixon said.

Last week, the government announced several measures to help Yukoners with the cost of living.

These include additional electricity rate relief of $150 per customer over three months, on top of an initial $150 earlier this year; one-time payments of $150 to social assistance recipients and recipients of the Yukon Senior Income Supplement; a six-month extension of $500 per month for caregivers of children in care outside the home; and a rebate of up to $50 per cord of wood to heat homes, up to 10 cords.

“None of those are in the budget…so it’s clear to us that they came up with them on the fly,” Dixon said.

“It’s not something they prepared for over the summer. They just made these announcements over the last couple of weeks because they knew they were going to get fried in the Legislative Assembly and they came up with a few of these things to fix it… so clearly they do it step by step.

Dixon explained how his party would handle current inflationary pressures.

“We think it would be more broadly favorable to Yukoners to reduce the fuel tax to help bring down gas prices, fuel prices and food prices because the majority of our food comes in by truck “, did he declare.

“We also suggested today removing the carbon tax from heating oil, as you see in other jurisdictions.

“The NDP has provided a number of things that they think will be helpful, and now I understand the Prime Minister is saying he will consider some of these NDP suggestions, but where was that two months ago? Where was it in the spring? »

He added that his position on the carbon tax was clear from the start.

“I don’t think a carbon tax is the best way to reduce emissions in the Yukon. I have never. We’ve been saying that for years.

“I think there are other measures that would be better suited to reducing emissions in the Yukon and I think that’s what we should focus on,” he said.

“But our question today was very specific: will the government ask the federal government to remove the carbon tax from heating oil? This is something that falls well within the range of possibilities that the government can consider.

“And we’ve seen him play in other jurisdictions. The Northwest Territories negotiated the carbon tax exemption for heating oil. We think it should be done here.

Ideally, he would like the carbon tax to be removed completely, “but we know that is not likely, so what we would like to see is that it is removed at least for home heating during this period. unprecedented inflation.

“We know that heating oil is an important driver of household budgets.”

He was asked why he thinks the Liberal government is reluctant to give up territorial fuel.

“My view is that any suggestion coming from the Yukon Party, they will inherently oppose it,” he said.

“And so, because we suggested it, I think they don’t want to do it because it’s our idea. I would be happy if they stole this idea from me; I really wish they would.

Independent economists found that eliminating the fuel tax in Alberta led to a direct reduction in the cost of fuel, Dixon said, “and anyone who goes to Alberta sees the difference at the pump.”

NDP leader Kate White was also quick to offer her thoughts on the government’s supplementary budget.

“I think there are real opportunities when we talk about budgets and we talk about things they can do, and when you listen to a budget speech and it’s like listening to dry paint, you you wonder how something that can be so important to the health of the economy and the health of a territory can be so lackluster,” White said.

“And so I think there will be a lot of opportunities over the next few weeks to really take that all apart, but you know, today’s question period was brutal in terms of the total lack of recognition of the experience of Yukoners right now. If that sets the tone for the fall session, it’s going to be long.

When politicians discuss these issues, she added, “it’s not just about how it affects us as individuals, but how it affects us all.” I think we’re all in there and some of us the experiences are much, much harder than others.

White was asked if there were any surprises for her in the extra budget.

“Honestly no. Preparing budgets takes a long time and so it is interesting that the first inflation announcement was included, but it does not include the ones that have just been made – I would say that is a bit random – last week and so we see some of that, we don’t see all of that.

“I’m not surprised. Everybody right now, we should be talking about the financial effects of climate change…$60 million for wildfires, $3 million for floods and those are all numbers that won’t matter. than grow.

“We saw landslides like we’ve never seen before, haven’t we? And those may affect the city of Whitehorse, but it certainly affects the territorial government along the (north) Klondike Highway and so we’re going to continue to see those things increase, but that money will have to be spent. It’s something you can’t skimp on. »

Would she have liked to see more?

“Absolutely. Because I think there was a real opportunity. We could have really done people good with that surplus, trying to help with people’s reality right now, the lived reality of the place where they are with the cost of everything going up.