New Yukon premier shares feds’ priorities
More than a few parallels between Sandy Silver and his federal counterpart
DAWSON CITY, YUKON— Sandy Silver, who took the Yukon Liberals from third-party status to a majority government in Monday’s territorial election, was being coy the morning after.
“Does it remind me of anybody?” he asked, all innocence. “It’s amazing. It really is.”
There are more than a few parallels between Silver in Yukon and his fellow Liberal and federal counterpart in Ottawa. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is likely to find a new ally in Canada’s northwest corner on two of his most prominent files: carbon policy and indigenous reconciliation.
Silver campaigned on a platform of working with the federal government on a new national price on carbon.
“We’ll do exactly what was set out in the Vancouver Protocol,” Silver said Tuesday, referring to the agreement signed last spring by Trudeau and all the premiers. “Carbon pricing should not be designed in a way that impedes the growth of the territory.”
He plans to return all carbon tax money to businesses and consumers, but at differing rates. “You can’t have the same amount of rebate for somebody who lives in Whitehorse and can take transit to work, compared to somebody who lives in rural Yukon,” said Silver, who was speaking from his home in Dawson.
Silver also promised to work better with aboriginal governments. Yukon has 11 of Canada’s 22 self-governing First Nations and the relationship under the Yukon Party — which led the territory for the last 14 years — was often testy.
The first person Silver called Monday night after his victory was Grand Chief Peter Johnston of the Yukon Council of First Nations.
Silver said his government will do its best to honour the original plans for the Peel Watershed, a vast Arctic wilderness that represents 14 per cent of the territory’s area and is highly valued by aboriginals and industry. Those plans, the result of years of land-claim negotiations, were rejected and heavily modified by the previous Yukon government and are the subject of a Supreme Court hearing scheduled next year.
The premier-elect also said he’ll work with Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell to hasten the repeal of federal legislation passed by the Harper Conservatives that replaced an independent environmental assessment board with one led by a federal appointee. That legislation was also the subject of aboriginal-led lawsuits.
Low commodity prices have made for some tough years recently for mining, Yukon’s mainstay. But Silver — who met with15 mining executives in Vancouver before the campaign began — said there’s still a future in the territory for miners willing to work with aboriginal governments. He points to the steady progress of the Kaminak gold project south of Dawson as proof.
His government will work to bring those parties together, he said.
“The one thing that we’ll do better is have conversations together.”
There’s more than a whiff of sunny ways to Silver’s promised approach.
“The way that we’ve structured the party fits perfectly for what Yukon needs — a moderate government, a government that allows membership from the left and from the right, consensus-building, actually having aparty that models the mosaic of this territory.”
The Yukon Party was dethroned by the Liberals after 14 years in power.