Yukon budget critics raise concerns about money for health care, rural land development | CBC News


Representatives of the Yukon opposition parties, labour unions and municipalities are speaking out about the new territorial budget, saying the government needs to do more to improve healthcare and housing access. 

Yukon Federation of Labour president Teresa Acheson and Yukon NDP leader Kate White both questioned whether increases in health spending were enough to meet the needs in the territory.

Acheson, Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon, and Association of Yukon Communities president Ted Laking, meanwhile, all criticized the government for not doing more on land development.

“The government has not reversed their cuts from last year, in which they cut the rural land development budget in half,” Laking said.

“In 2022, the government of Yukon had been investing $13.5 million annually in rural land development, and now they’re projecting by 2026 to reduce that down to $2 million per year. And so that’s an 85 per cent cut over four years.”

A man standing on a hill overlooking a lake
Ted Laking of the Association of Yukon Communities said cutting spending for rural land development is the wrong choice. (Submitted by Ted Laking)

The Yukon government tabled the budget Thursday, saying it is tackling the rising cost of living, investing in health care, education and infrastructure, and addressing pressing issues like the climate crisis and substance use health emergency.

“We’re improving life for all Yukoners,”  Finance Minister Sandy Silver said in his budget speech. 

But Laking called the cut to rural land development “drastic” and said it’s not the right decision when the territory needs more land developed in communities. 

Acheson agreed, saying that the territory is currently turning people away, even if it has jobs for them. 

And employers struggling to find workers are not sure where to house them if they find them. 

‘Any time you see a lot lottery… demand is way more than than the supply’

Yukon Party leader Dixon said that when it comes to housing, he wants to see the government focus on lot development instead of government-owned, government-run housing. There’s a role for the latter, he said, but there’s also a role for market housing and new home construction.

“Any time you see a lot lottery come out, you see that the demand is way more than than the supply,” he said.

“So I think that we’d like to see them doing more to get more land out.”

The Yukon Party would like to see the Liberals encouraging the rental market and the development of private sector rental housing, Dixon said. 

A man speaks into a microphone.
Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon said he’s happy to see more money in the budget for the RCMP. (Julien Gignac/CBC)

“That’s not been the case lately because so many landlords and so many folks in the housing industry are … concerned about the policies that we’ve seen the government bring in around rent control and no-cause evictions and the like.”

The party wants to see policies shift toward a deregulated model that encourages private enterprise to provide homes, Dixon said. 

Asked if such a strategy would bring prices down, he replied that increasing supply should indeed drive down costs. 

White said the NDP would seek to tackle the housing crisis, in part, by looking to partner with First Nation development corporations to get more homes on the market. 

NDP Leader Kate White spoke to the CBC outside the new clinic's temporary location on Quartz Road in Whitehorse.
NDP Leader Kate White praised the government’s investments in housing but said more is still needed. (Maria Tobin/CBC)

She’d like to see a big investment in seniors housing too, she said.

In addition to speaking out on housing and land development, White and Acheson expressed concerns about the government’s increase in healthcare funding, which includes an additional $30 million for insured health services and an additional $15.3 million for the Yukon Hospital Corporation.

Both cast doubt on whether the increases were enough.

“There’s $603 [million] listed there, but $628 [million] is what they ended up with, with supplemental budgets in the last year,” Acheson said. 

Money needs to address ‘front-line labour shortages’ in healthcare

The Yukon Federation of Labour is looking forward to seeing the new territorial health authority, Acheson added, but she questioned what kind of difference it would make in the lives of Yukoners.

“Really understanding what our community needs and making sure that we’re addressing the front-line labour shortages and not just administrative levels or management is going to be really important,” she said.

Overall, Acheson praised the budget, saying it is clear that the government is listening to Yukoners.

“There’s real diversity in where the funds are going to and the projects that we’re having in the Yukon as well as [how we’re] leveraging any of the federal dollars that are coming to us,” she said.

Laking said he was happy to see the government maintain the $50 million contingency fund it established last year to help assist with unexpected expenses such as wildfires and floods, though he expressed concerns about an apparent expansion of the list of qualifying expenses.

White said she was happy to see more spending on housing, though she added she would like to see even more.

Dixon, meanwhile, said he was happy to see increased funding for the RCMP and physician recruitment efforts, two initiatives his party has lobbied for.


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