It’s nice to see our three political parties work together.
It doesn’t happen often. Not often enough.
But it did last week, with passage of the Smoke-free Places Act.
The legislation came out of work done by New Democrat Leader Todd Hardy.
Last session, Hardy’s bill was defeated. But, following that, an all-party committee was formed.
It toured the Yukon gathering information that was worked into the law.
And then Premier Dennis Fentie gave the OK for Justice officials to assist Hardy in a rewrite of the original private members bill.
Following that retooling of Hardy’s original work, the bill was reintroduced.
“I want to thank the leader of the third party, Todd Hardy, for hanging in there,” said his New Democrat colleague John Edzerza.
“I would like to thank the member for Whitehorse Centre (and) the leader of the third party,” said Health Minister Brad Cathers, noting it was Hardy who brought bill 104 forward.
“This bill, as you know, was treated by the government not in a partisan manner. The government did not take a collective position on the matter, but rather left this matter up to the legislative assembly to vote as each and every member saw appropriate, based on what they heard from their constituents and based on what the committee had reported to the legislative assembly following the public consultation.”
This bill was a good example of the legislature working together, said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.
And it isn’t the only recent example, he added.
“I want to note that the leader of the third party provided support to us when we brought forward the Apology Act, the Net Metering Act and proposed amendments to the Co-operation in Governance Act,” he said. “While those acts have not proceeded, we do appreciate the support that was shown by some members of the assembly.”
Todd Hardy spoke eloquently about the significance of the co-operative venture.
“It is quite a relief and I think it is also a joy to be able to stand here and talk about the Smoke-free Places Act and how we have been able to rise above party politics, partisan rhetoric, and find a common ground that is going to be of benefit to the people of this territory,” said Hardy.
“Although it was introduced by the NDP, it was not totally crafted by the NDP. This is an act that has had impact from all three parties; it is an act that has had voicing with the people of this territory with a select committee that went out and heard from the people directly in regard to it; it is an act that has been revised and amended in good faith from all parties in this legislative assembly; and it is a sign — a greater sign than just what it stands for — that we, in this legislative assembly, can rise above partisan politics, put aside scoring points for the next election and do what is right for the people of this territory.
“I consider that far more important than the act before us.
“I think that, when we are able to do this with a bill of this significance, we are indicating to the people of this territory that we are doing their work on behalf of them. We are not doing the work on behalf of our parties.
“That, to me, is what the people of this territory have asked us to do.
“We may have differences of opinions; we may have different concerns, but ultimately we work together, because we were put in this legislative assembly to do that.
“We are not put in this legislative assembly to defeat other people — the government to defeat the opposition in debate or the opposition to defeat the government. That’s not what we are put in for. We were elected to bring forward the voice of the people, and to articulate that and speak to that in the best manner we possibly can, and to find common ground and to work co-operatively together where we can.
“And, when we fail — and we do fail far more than we should — we are failing the people of this territory. Maybe it’s a failure of our system that we work under — the adversarial system that we have inherited — but it’s also a failure on our part, each and every one of us in here, to not change that system to allow this type of work to come forward and pass together.
“When we can come together, it is a great moment for this territory — but it happens so few times. It’s incumbent upon all of us to find more opportunities to do this.”
It was a good speech. And it was sincere.
And, on Wednesday, the Smoke-Free Places Act was endorsed by all parties. The only person to vote against it was Liberal Gary McRobb.
Hardy’s warm sentiment lasted all of about 40 minutes.
After a short break, the legislature debated final reading of the Child and Family Services Act, and the house morphed back into a nasty, divisive place.
But for a little while the territory’s politicians worked together for the greater good.
And, as Hardy said, it’s incumbent upon all of us to find more opportunities to do this. (RM)