Jordan: There’s a good argument to be made that people living in the Yukon are the most ignored voting Block in the country. These folks don’t get the same Focus as those in none of it because there is no easy statement or a photo op for leaders to make about their policy by showing up. They don’t get the same media coverage as the Northwest Territory because well climate changes every bit the problem in the Yukon. There’s nowhere near the same expanse of Coastline under threat and they also don’t get the attention of any other riding in Canada really because there’s only one Federal seat in the whole territory and you can’t claim support for First Nations issues or for climate change by winning it. You also have to go a long way just to get there. But what the. On does have is all the issues and challenges posed by its location as well as some of the problems shared by cities like Toronto and Vancouver where the economy is booming. So maybe the concerns of people living there could use a little more attention this month. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings. This is the big story. Chris Windeyer is a reporter at CBC North. He’s based in Whitehorse Chris. How’s democracy going up in the Yukon
Chris: democracy is is I guess going well. It’s proceeding relentlessly. You know, there are election signs starting to sprout on people’s Lawns and along the side of the road. We are having no fewer than 10 all candidates debates. Wow. This is the election year. Yeah. It’s a lot last night. There was one on workers issues sponsored by the Yukon Federation of Labor tomorrow night’s there’s one on nonprofits and on Saturday, there’s one on diversity and inclusion and then there are more sort of coming down the pike in the coming weeks. So there are. A lot of everybody sort of wants to have their debate on their issues and the candidates dont always attend all of them. But you do get a fairly good sort of turn out it’s good for us to do this business. There’s lots of debate that sort of cover. You know how much those way on voters. I’m not exactly sure but there are lots of chances at least to hear from the candidates.
Jordan: What’s the current makeup federally of the Yukon
Chris: federally there’s one, it’s one riding. And that’s held by Larry diagonal who has been a member of parliament since I think it’s mm apart from a brief into regnum starting from 2011 to 2015 when he lost to conservative Ryan Leaf Larry’s been around a long time. He’s really well known. He kind of volunteers for a lot of stuff, you know, like a volunteer for like music festivals and things so he comes from a non-profit background. So that’s pretty genuine. But also, you know doubles as a helpful campaign tactic as well as I suspect
Jordan: Is he at risk this time around we’ve talked to a lot of people from what were considered at least after 2015 pretty safe liberal writings that are up for grabs.
Chris: Now, I would say that it’s possible that there. At risk the sort of write right of Center party territorial politics. It’s the Yukon party there the conservatives, you know, they tend to sort of be at a sort of reliable 35 percent plus pretty much constantly. So there’s there’s a solid constituency, you know, and and the Conservative candidate John Smith comes from a Placer mining background up in Dawson City. He’s a gold miner there still a lot of those guys around up here, of course and the mining the Hard Rock mining industry is also big and the Chamber of Commerce scene is. The strong so he’s got a fair amount of support and is a pretty well-known guy. So, you know, I think there’s a challenge here for Larry. But he also like I say, he’s been around a long time and he does have a lot of support so you cannot kind of about that. I think it will be a competitive race this time.
Jordan: How does the mood of the electorate up there ebb and flow compared to you know, the saturation media coverage of the leaders down here for the last week. We’ve all been looking at whether or not. Trudeau’s Brown face and black face Scandal would have impact on the voters at large. Are Yukoners impacted the same way or are they a little bit more removed from the frenzy?
Chris: I mean it certainly bleeds up here for sure. There’s always you know, the coffee shop crab are always going to sort of talk about the sort of main things that are in the news nationally, you know, we’re not isolated from that here, but you know, I think like the other territories, you know, we have relatively unique issues and concerns that are. Distinct to us as a place and the other thing is we don’t have obviously the territories don’t have a ton of political power federally. We’re not rich Ontario and writing as the saying goes, you know, so I think people give a lot of thought to who is going to sort. Represent in Ottawa and sort of get stuff for us. And you know, this is something that the Liberals were doing all over the country, but the summer I mean Larry Bagnell was carpet bombing the territory with with funding announcements for a lot of stuff that meanest polities and First Nations government needed. It’s the same strategy as elsewhere. So we’re not immune from the the sort of larger political calculations, but I think for voters they’re still a real. What are you going to do for me? Because no one else is going to do it because we’re sort of Forgotten nothing sometimes a little bit. So
Jordan: when those funding announcements were made, what were they for? And what do communities up there and First Nation governments up there still need?
Chris: There are a lot of funding announcements about energy and certainly sewage waste water those sorts of projects. The last couple of weeks. Larry bagnall has been announcing along with Yukon energy the utility here funding for battery storage for the Hydro Dam here. That’s a big one because you can has an isolated hydrograph. And that is over capacity and they have to run diesel an LNG to back it up in the winter. So they’re trying to find sort of ways at the margins to get more out of the existing Hydra Network. So at the big ones and a lot of cases, the municipalities have major infrastructure needs for stuff that is exciting but water treatment sewers. You know Municipal Water Supply and that sort of thing Rhodes is always there are a major thing, you know. So those are two things are always an issue and and that’s sort of been the focus of a lot of the pre-election announcements that we had up here.
Jordan: We talked to Kent Driscoll from APTN who covers Nunavut a couple weeks ago. And he described to me something that I guess I never put my finger on as a southerner, which is that you see a lot of leaders in the north a lot of federal leaders at least in Nunavut and they’re always up there to talk about things. They think will swing them some votes in the South. So is the Yukon treated the same way as none of it in that respect and what kinds of things do you typically hear from the federal leaders about.
Chris: I don’t think we get quite as much attention as Nunavut Nunavut is unique in consideration. They have more keyed needs and also, you know for southern political operators. It’s sort of seeing is a very, you know, Scenic backdrop and a place where people go to sort of look Prime ministerial. Not that you couldn’t look cereal in the Yukon, but I don’t think we quite get our needs are not as serious. You know housing is a serious matter here that it’s not the desperate to billion dollar shortfall that the Nunavut is facing the core housing needs. So, you know, there’s there’s less I think gate to be gain politically from coming to the Yukon perhaps we do have endured here here this summer and it was a lot of talk about carbon pricing. He was speaking for Chamber of Commerce audiences. That seems to be a lot of what comes up. Actually. I was here a couple of summers ago now to announce a major packages funding for a network of mining roads that serve access to the gold fields in the mineral deposits in the city of West Central part of the territory and there’s a lot of projects coming down the pike on that. So that tends to be a heavy heavy matter of focus for leaders when they’re here.
Jordan: Well I’m kind of fascinated about the the push and pull of that because on the one hand like you mentioned, you know, you you need to get things up there and you need backups to the power grid and and so you need diesel and you need to burn carbon but on the other hand the north is kind of on the front lines of the climate crisis, and I wonder how how voters up there or even just people you speak to reckon with that.
Chris: It’s a very tricky proposition that we have here because you Connor is tend to have a fairly strong green streak and even folks on the right of the political Spectrum here tend to take climate change seriously as an issue, but they don’t know any other place has been a big problem that we have is that there are not a lot of alternative for people to go to, you know, if you live outside of Whitehorse you need a car or you need to fly if you want to get to Whitehorse. There’s no Inter-Community Transit the bus system and white horse is pretty decent but it doesn’t run on Sunday. So do these big gaps and make it really hard for people to just I’m going to put drive in and reduce my carbon footprint. You can’t do that. So this is why this is why I mean the carbon tax has been hugely controversial everywhere but here as well because there are not you can’t just get off furnace oil and you can’t just not drive a car. So there’s a lot of folks who would be. I guess sensitive and concerned about climate change, but also actually real serious questions about like how is this going to help when there’s no there’s nowhere for me to go. There’s nowhere to park my car Pacific
Jordan: what kinds of infrastructure issues do you have as the climate crisis worsens? Because I know that a lot of stuff up there was built thinking it would always be frozen.
Chris: It’s a very dramatic situation and a lot of coastal regions of the Arctic as you’re probably aware. Yeah, you know Coastal Coastal Alaska and the Northwest Territories. For example, you know, there’s huge shoreline erosion problems, you know and communities are literally facing being like washed out to sea quite has that level of concern here, but there’s a lot of permafrost that is probably eventually become discontinuous and that’s going to create a whole host of issues. Just something is even as simple as like Frosty on the highways do Yukon has I believe the most the most kilometers of paved. Wait per capita in the country and that’s a huge burden on the territorial government to fund and to maintain those roads and as climate change sort of gained even more traction. It’s only going to become worse and just the fact that like literally everything is built on ground that could become more and more in Stables is a huge problem. And then there’s all the other the issues is what is this going to do to Wildlife? What’s it going to do to Habitat? What’s it going to do to like traditional indigenous land use and and knowledge. Huge unknowns and there’s research in there are institutions here that are sort of working on those questions. But you know, it’s as with every where it is sort of a Race Against Time to sort of mitigate enough of these impacts before they really start to take hold and you know again like everywhere nobody really knows how that’s going to go.
Jordan: The universal issue that keeps coming up as we kind of go across the country is that pocketbook issues now are more important to a large chunk of people than the climate of the future. So, what is the economy like in the Yukon right now? And how does that compare to the rest of Canada?
Chris: The Yukon right now has what I believe is the lowest unemployment rate in the country. It’s about 3% at last count. The economy. Yeah, the economy is actually screaming right now. And you know, I guess just to go back to the political calculations that that always has to be good news for incumbents at least helpful. There are a lot of reasons for that. You know, the resource industry is picking up again after sort of a period of low commodity prices particularly base Metals, but we. A deal in gold as you know, and that is a commodity and if it’s from global economic uncertainty and between the trade war with China and Brexit, there’s plenty of that. So that’s actually good news for the Yukon economy. It is sort of weird way and the other thing is that during the last economic slowdown the Yukon party government actually spent a lot of money and an expanded the size of government and it’s sort of a Keynesian spending cycle to sort of keep the economy afloat, and it kind of. Worked and it just goes to show that everyone is a Social Democrat when the federal government is paying roughly, you know, so the economy is really good and unlike some other places in the north. We’re having sort of that that a fluids disease. So the we have an acute housing shortage in Whitehorse. So do a lot of places that are as a sort of has more in common with, you know, say Vancouver or Toronto just in terms of all these people moving here for work and that is. Creating real supply issues. The vacancy rate for rental apartments available is extremely low housing prices are extremely high. They’re not quite iqaluit high and rent is not Iqaluit high but it’s literally difficult to even find a place if you’re looking to rent. I know friends friends say I have friends who, you know were solid middle-class jobs and it’s a challenge to even find a rental apartment sometimes and people have to move a lot. So that’s one of those, you know sort of one of those weird spin off of having a really strong economy is that it really hits folks in the sort of middle income brackets and lower talk to the service industry has real problem finding attainable and affordable housing the McDonald’s here. Would you even posting ads a couple of months ago? Saying that you know, do you work for us? We will you know, if your rent costs more than a third of your income will Top it up so that you’re paying Max one third of your income. So like McDonald’s explicitly committed to affordable housing in a way that governments maybe aren’t. So that’s kind of the situation. We do, you know, it’s a good problem to have. I’m sure there are plenty of places in Canada would like to have that sort of overheating economy problem, but it does create real issues.
Jordan: Is there any sense of it stabilizing or slowing down or is this kind of growth something that whomever wins is going to have to deal with for the next however long?
Chris: You know, I mean making economic predictions is always a risky a risky proposition. So who knows, you know, the the mining industry has been here obviously a long time and that’s always going to be like a major facet of the economy. The current territorially the current liberal government has has put a lot of emphasis on trying to diversify the economy. They just announced two million dollars in funding for this Tech startup Venture Capital fund this week, you know, so they’re trying to serve it’s like. Get that sort of high-tech economy a little bit. There’s you know white horse is a is not just a sort of Mining and Transportation Center that it that it used to be it’s you know, it’s a much more sort of diverse City both economically and culturally so, you know that that part of the equation is changing tourism is sort of a feast to famine thing, but it’s really strong right now and there’s been a lot of emphasis on marketing outside of the territory for that and that seems to have been paying off but you know when your economy as Alberta can tell you, you know, if you’re if you have. Major interest in Commodities that can go away on you really quickly. So, you know, there’s always that risk, but you know, it’s also it’s hard to say five ten years out what it’s going to be like here
Jordan: if we’re talking to you the day after the election and the seat has flipped. What would you say would have had to happen over the next three four
Chris: weeks conservatives will have been extremely successful in mobilizing their core supporters. Liberal supporters will have stayed home for whatever reason and or one of the green or the NDP has sort of come on unexpectedly strong. There is a bit of precedent for that in 2011 when Larry bag no lost to rightly too conservative. There is a lot of sense that that was in part attributable to a really strong green candidate. John Striker who’s a city councilor at the time and is now a cabinet minister with the territorial liberals and he got a I’m hesitant to give an exact number. I think it was around 18 percent, but that was way high for the greens in this writing and it seemed to be that a lot of that support came from the Larry the other thing that happened with through a local polling company. He put out a hole just before the election that showed the Liberals firmly in the lead and a lot of liberals like to blame at polls for getting Google voters to sit on their hands and stay home. I don’t I don’t know about that. I’m a little skeptical but that one but then the other thing was that the conservatives had been hitting Larry back. And I you know, we we are still Hunting Society up here and you know that that sort of stuff is important to a lot of people so yeah that hurt him. So I guess just to go back to your to your original question and again election predictions, you know can make a fool of you in an awful hurry, but I do think that it does seem to be sort of a it has been for this writing for a while. So if if she does slip it’s going to be because the reporter is weren’t exactly. Taking the conservatives have been good job of getting their vote. I have to say that Dennis Smith space has been on every bus in the city for months and they had endured Shear up here and went out and I think that the conservative seat is at the gettable seat, and they’re really trying to flip it and we’ll see if they got it.
Jordan: Thanks Chris.
Chris: Yeah. Thanks.
Jordan: Chris Windeyer is with CBC North in white horse. That was the big story. We are now halfway through our lay of the land series. You can find them all at thebigstorypodcast.ca. We even have a special section. Right up top. Just click it, and of course, we will have more this week. If you want to talk to us about any of them or anything else hit us up at @thebigstoryfpn on Twitter and hit us up with a five star review on Apple podcasts herb. Any other podcast platform that will let you you can find us on all of them. Of course Apple Google Stitcher Spotify insert your favourite one here. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk tomorrow.
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