Yukon residents and visitors alike look to our elected legislature for absolute preservation and protection of all Charter rights and privileges we enjoy as citizens of Canada.
Please remember, these are the identical rights and privileges that our soldiers are putting their lives on the line to protect in our interest. It now appears excessive government domination of debate and proceedings in our legislature has slowly rendered our assembly almost totally unworkable and ineffective.
A recently publicized letter from Liberal house leader Gary McRobb questioning the impartiality of Speaker Ted Staffen should be considered a matter of grave concern and be given immediate attention by the house. If desired, such a matter could be referred to the Standing Committee on Rules, Privileges and Elections for detailed consideration. However, I understand government has been using its majority to deny sittings of this important committee for more than two years now.
As presiding officer, one of the most fundamental and important duties of the Speaker is to protect the rights of minorities and to ensure that their voices are heard. All members look to him for guidance in matters of procedure, and he decides points of order, giving rulings when required.
So great is the prestige attaching to the office that an affront to the Speaker is an affront to the entire house. In order to fulfill, and seen to be fulfilling, his duties fairly and without bias, the Speaker is obligated to remain isolated from even a suggestion of any form of partisan political activity. It was once stated, “The office of Speaker does not demand rare qualities. It demands common qualities in a rare degree.”
To compensate for the Speaker’s inability to participate in partisan political activities, governments traditionally provide special consideration to any or all representations the Speaker may make on behalf of his or her constituency.
Your recent report that Staffen has publicly stated he will not respond to a letter from the Liberal house leader questioning his impartiality, and his additional comments, are disturbing. His failure to respond would certainly indicate to any reasonable person there may be substance to the important questions the member has raised, even though outside of the house, respecting his essential impartiality.
Whatever course of action is taken, even the perception of partisan political bias substantially undermines the effectiveness of the legislative process, and should be of concern to everyone who cherishes the rights and freedoms we have left to protect.
Donald E. Taylor