Fentie issues another warrant

In what’s becoming a regular practice, Finance Minister Dennis Fentie is spending public money this spring without speaking to the legislature…

In what’s becoming a regular practice, Finance Minister Dennis Fentie is spending public money this spring without speaking to the legislature first.

Two weeks notice must be given before any new legislative sitting.

And with the fiscal year — and the Yukon Party government’s spending authority set to expire on March 31 — there has been no call for a spring sitting.

That effectively guarantees Fentie will again use special warrants for authority to spend public money on anything from bureaucrat salaries to road construction.

Special warrants are only supposed to be used during emergencies, say the opposition parties.

“It simply speaks to arrogance,” said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell on Friday.

Fentie has routinely used the warrants instead of calling the legislature back, said Mitchell.

And while he concedes every premier has used special warrants, “No premier has done it on an annual basis.

“It’s supposed to be the exception; now it’s become the rule,” said Mitchell.

The more accepted practice to tie the government over before the end of the fiscal year in March is to call the legislature back and seek an interim-spending bill, said Mitchell.

While that effectively mirrors a special warrant to tie-over the government while a proper budget is debated, it also involves the legislature.

Special warrants don’t.

While the Canada Winter Games just ended a very busy time for the Yukon, Mitchell doesn’t buy that as an excuse.

“We’ve all known for five years when the Canada Games were going to be,” he said.

Special warrants are at a premier’s disposal for emergencies — like for instance, a forest fire — not for yearly use, said NDP MLA Steve Cardiff.

“It shows the premier’s lack of respect for the legislative assembly,” said Cardiff.

“What’s supposed to be an extraordinary circumstance seems to have become common practice at this point.

“There’s no excuse for the legislature not to have been called back,” said Cardiff. “We’ve known since year immemorial that the end of the year is March 31st, and that the government needs to call the legislature back before that to present its budget.”

Had Fentie called the legislature back and introduced an interim supply bill, “We would have co-operated,” said Cardiff.

The use of special warrants and interim spending bills are quite common in Yukon governmental history, said deputy finance minister Bruce McLennan on Friday.

Every government has used them since 1984, he said.

Fentie refused to be interviewed for this story.