Territorial Election 2021: Focus on Heritage

UPDATED APRIL 9, 2021 WITH RESPONSES FROM YUKON NDP. 

The Yukon Historical & Museums Association last week reached out to the Yukon Liberal Party, Yukon Party, Yukon New Democratic Party, and Independent candidate Coach Jan Prieditis to emphasize the importance of heritage and gather information on each party or candidate's stance on heritage-related issues. We received answers to a series of questions from the Yukon Liberal Party, Yukon Party, and Mr. Prieditis; they are shared below. We did not receive a response from the Yukon New Democratic Party. UPDATE: The Yukon NDP reached out to let us know they did not receive our initial email with these questions and have now provided responses, which are added below.

1. The current Yukon Museums Policy was written in 1989, when there were only a handful of museums and no cultural centres, and contains outdated, inaccurate terminology. Do you support the development of a new policy, in consultation with all museums and cultural centres? If so, what steps will you take to ensure such a policy is developed without delay?

Yukon Liberal Party:

We do support the creation of a modern museum policy. That’s why we have incorporated one into the Yukon’s first ever Creative and Cultural Industries Strategy, which will be released early in a new mandate, should we be re-elected. The strategy lays out a long-term vision for the creative and cultural sector to increase its contributions to positive social outcomes and economic sustainability in Yukon.

Yukon Party:

The Yukon Party acknowledges that the current Yukon Museums Policy is out of date, and wil likely require updates. We commit to review the policy to determine what updates are needed.

Yukon NDP:

We are so proud of how our museums and cultural centers have developed over the last few decades. Yukoners benefit directly from this increased access to arts and culture, and beyond that this growth benefits our economy and drives tourism. We are supportive of the museum sector and we are committed to working in collaboration with the Yukon Historical & Museums Association to review the existing policy.

Coach Jan Prieditis:

My modus operandi is to be like a modern day coach who is not authoritarian but works collaboratively through a support team in order to enable organizations and individuals to seek best practice and for the realization of their full potential. 

I would jump through hoops to support the aforementioned sites realize their full potential for the good of The Yukon.

I would definitely engage with the experts, but also my constituents and the consumer which in your case includes out of territory tourists...hopefully sooner than later.

I definitely stand for “etcha sketching” outdated and inaccurate material and protocols and starting fresh where needed.

2. Yukon museums and cultural centres bring incredible value to their communities and the territory in terms of social and mental health, education, and economic benefits. These important facilities are currently underfunded and have not yet been targeted for pandemic relief and recovery supports. How will you ensure they are adequately funded and well supported, now and in the future?

Yukon Liberal Party:

During COVID-19, our government created the strongest support programs in the country, which included supports for the non-profit sector. Programs such as the Culture and Tourism Non-Profit Sector Supplement, being administered by the YHMA with funding from the Department of Tourism and Culture, provides funding relief to culture and tourism non-profit organizations who have suffered revenue losses related to declines in tourism visitation. Non-profit organizations can apply for up to $20,000 each. These supports will continue until they are no longer needed.

Through our Creative and Cultural Industries Strategy, we will also examine how we can streamline and modernize current funding streams to ensure that the value that this important sector brings to our society is recognized.

Yukon Party:

We appreciate the important role that museums and cultural centres play in the conservation of heritage and culture, and education. We will review the application of pandemic relief funds to consider how they may apply to museums and cultual centres. As we move out of the pandemic and towards recovery, we will also review the funding levels for museums and cultural centres.

Yukon NDP:

The Yukon is host to incredible talent in the visual, dramatic, musical, literary, and cultural arts. Communities where art is supported are healthier, happier and more vibrant. We have the highest per capita population of artists in the country, and this is a natural resource we have neglected to nurture and develop to its full potential as an industry in its own right.

We are committed to:

  • Marketing Yukon art nationally and internationally works better when an accessible showcase is facilitated and a united front is created. A Yukon NDP government will commit to creating, marketing, and supporting an online portal through which Yukon art and cultural works and experiences from the small, such as individual artists’ work, to the large, such as our amazing festivals, can be effectively promoted to potential customers both across Canada and in fertile international markets. No longer will Yukon be full of “hidden gems”. Our talent will be on full display for the world to admire.
  • Simultaneously, in consultation with representatives of the arts and cultural sectors, partner on developing and support implementation of an arts and cultural industries action plan for every sector of the cultural economy.
  • Establish a ten-year arts and cultural initiative for the creation of new, strategic and ground- breaking works that represent the territory and foster collaboration amongst music, theatre, dance, visual arts, film and media.
  • Establish a cost-shared arts and cultural infrastructure capital program to assist in the planning, construction and/or renovation of cultural facilities, replacing current ad hoc arrangements and better supporting the growth of cultural tourism, which gives back to the local economy and supports hundreds of jobs.

We will invest funds in the immediate development of a tourism strategy driven by all stakeholders including those in the arts and cultures community. We will need all voices at the table to develop creative and innovative solutions that work for everyone. Government and industry must work together, and listen to each other, to find our way through this.

Coach Jan Prieditis:

So, my modus operandi frustrates some who would like me to give on the spot Donald Trump style answers for what they want to hear.

My modus operandi is to engage with the experts and my lay advisers and my constituents to come to consensus as to what the most appropriate response is. After garnering that data I will take their findings and recommendations to all of the other MLA’s regardless of party affiliation and other stakeholders to illumine them as to what my team is advising as best practice.

I value culture and don’t want to see culture lost nor hoarded as being our culture and you can’t partake in it. I personally believe that venues such as you speak of are more viable when presented to the market in a manner that is engaging through constant change and interactive programming and not passive programming or leaving the consumer thinking I have been there, done that. Active, engaging and new programming is a key in  my view. To use a quote from a Whoopi Goldberg song ... ”get up offa that thang.”

I believe that the greatest value your venues could provide is people can learn from the past so we can realize our potential in the present, especially if we can learn from past mistakes so we never repeat them... especially for youth to learn from the past, yet live and love in the present.

As much as possible I believe that venues should strive to be financially self sustaining. My experience in a related industry was there were hands up but not long term hands out funded by tax payers for ever and ever. The lower the amount of top up money required the more viable the entity. The more an entity demonstrates self perpetuation the more open funding bodies are to top up the needs.

I personally believe in programming that gives wholesome options for the community to partake in. Again personally, I would appreciate it if such organizations helped shape the next generation to empower their conscience to act in the manner that respects themselves, others and the resources for a sustainable future.

However, my personal views would not be what I bring forward to the other MLA’s and stake holders but I would bring forward the recommendations of my experts, lay experts and constituents...with my two cents worth divulged to the team.

I believe in the JFK quote, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” We are a part of the whole and meant to be healthy viable entities and work for the common good.

3. The sustainability of cultural organizations such as museums can be placed at risk by property taxes. Other jurisdictions include property tax exemptions for museums, or charities, non-profits, and/or cultural organizations more broadly, in provincial legislation. What will you do to ensure that property taxes are not a barrier to sustainability for museums?

Yukon Liberal Party:

Museums in Whitehorse, with the exception of MacBride Museum are operated on land owned by a government, church or business, and as such do not pay property taxes directly. We worked with MacBride to address their municipal tax issue, for the short term.
Through our Creative and Cultural Industries Strategy, we will review current funding streams to ensure that our important cultural and heritage sector can be financially sustainable.

We recognize how important museums and cultural centres are to the fabric of the Yukon. We are committed to ensuring that their value is recognized, through our Creative and Cultural Industries Strategy.

Yukon Party:

While property taxes are not the sole responsibility of the territorial government, we will work with other levels of government to address any barriers to the sustainability of museums and cultural centres.

Yukon NDP:

We agree that property taxes are yet another bill which can make it challenging for a struggling NGO to make ends meet. We are committed to working with the cultural organizations to find solutions when it falls within our jurisdiction to do so. 

Coach Jan Prieditis:

Property taxes are a municipal tax typically and were an agreement entered into at the inception of the business entity. I don’t believe that an individual Territorial MLA, which I hope to be,  has the authority to intervene in municipal matters.

I admit that I am not a polished politician and I would be open to being more informed on the matter. I would again involve my team of special forces to seek out the most respectful course of action.

Having been an entrepreneur in a community that used my property tax to fund venues and programs to compete against me there is a part of me that would like to stick it to property tax.

I do ask, is the property tax onerous?

The short answer is, I would consider it contingent upon my getting a fuller understanding of the situation.

4. Museums and cultural centres already work in social wellbeing, interpretation, informal learning, education, programming, and tourism, and are valuable potential resources in these areas. Will you commit to reaching out to museums and cultural centres to outsource or collaborate on service delivery prior to creating new government infrastructure, or hiring consultants or new government staff?

Yukon Liberal Party:

Provided combined answer for 3 and 4 (same as above).

Yukon Party:

A Yukon Party government will to improve communication [sic] with museums and cultural centres about government decisions that will affect your operations.

Yukon NDP:

We are not looking to create new government infrastructure when there are already NGOs doing the work and doing it well and we love the idea of collaborating with museums and cultural centres when it works for both parties. We are so looking forward to seeing the opportunities to make this a reality!

Coach Jan Prieditis:

Yes.

5. Yukon has many important historic buildings, structures and cultural landscapes that receive some protection as federal, territorial, or municipal historic sites. Many more places are privately owned without protection, and too often the growth of our city and communities comes at the cost of losing these important places. Will you commit to the creation of a tax credit for residents who spend their own resources on restoration and stabilization of their historic buildings? Do you support including historic neighbourhoods in the list of places that can receive protection as territorial historic sites?

Yukon Liberal Party:

Historic sites and structures are a tangible record of the history and development of the Yukon, and we are fortunate to have many historic sites and structures across the territory. We appreciate that there may be homeowners who put time and financial resources into upkeeping a historic structure that they own. We would be happy to investigate the concept of a tax credit for residents who spend their own resources on restoration and stabilization of their historic buildings.

Yukon Party:

We agree that there should be incentives for property owners to preserve their historic buildings. We will work with the Yukon Historical and Museums Association and other stakeholders to consider what programs or supports are best suited to do that, including the idea of a tax credit as you have suggested.

Yukon NDP:

As someone who grew up here, I know that whitehorse and the communities already look very different to what they did even ten years ago. It saddens me to think about my friends’ children and my nephews growing up in a place without some of the landmarks I grew up around. I think the next reasonable step is to consult the appropriate stakeholders regarding criteria for such a tax credit or other support, including responsibilities for maintenance and how the asset needs to be safeguarded going forward once the government has put money into it, and consultation with municipalities regarding their responsibilities and needs.

Coach Jan Prieditis:

For profit enterprise and taxpayer resources are a tricky tight rope indeed. Fortunately my m.o. enables me to gain consensus as to how to collaboratively retain such sites.

Some for profit or private sites, like the first question, might be due for a reformation of the business entity.

6. What other ways will you support the Yukon heritage sector and Yukoners’ access to their heritage?

Yukon Liberal Party:

No response.

Yukon Party:

A new Yukon Party government will commit to meeting with the Yukon Historical and Museums Association to determine what gaps there might be currently in support for the heritage sector, and how Yukon government can best support heritage in the Yukon.

Yukon NDP:

As the Yukon Historical and Museums association, we believe you have amazing ideas regarding what types of initiatives would support Yukoners’ access to their heritage. There are so many fun and enriching ways to get engaged and I truly believe you are at the forefront.

Personally, I love programs that help people to try new things and learn something new about this wonderful place that we all call home. Partnerships with the tourism associations and local businesses to support a “passport” program that families can get involved is something we could support right away to encourage more engagement this summer, but I would love to consult further.

Coach Jan Prieditis:

Support revenue generating community activities.

Have outside of the box programming.

Raise the perceived value of the entity by the community and thus community patronage, especially in shaping the next generation to be conscience centered and help in ensuring we get straight trees from straight saplings.

Put out to the public you are open to receive death benefits/ inheritance.

7. How will the heritage community be involved in the development of the proposed Arts and Heritage Centre, and how will construction and ongoing operation and maintenance costs be funded? Note: This question was addressed to the Yukon Liberal Party only.

Yukon Liberal Party:

The Yukon is home to unique world-class archaeological, paleontological and cultural artifacts that are incredibly important. We have a responsibility for the proper care of our important heritage and art collections so that future generations will continue to benefit from their legacy.

We are very excited to be pursuing a combined facility for both the heritage and arts collections which will result in efficiencies and provide safe, adequate storage for our broad range of collections. We have identified approximately $25 million over five years for the design and construction of this new facility. It will be designed in consultation with stakeholders, including Yukon First Nations. It will be operated and funded by the Yukon Government.