New Yukon Premier Sandy Silver’s first 100 days in office wrapped up earlier this week.
The first 100 days are a critical time for a new government, especially one elected on a “change” mandate. Citizens get a powerful first impression of the new leader’s management style. It’s also a critical period for leaders who want to make an
impact, since the election night euphoria quickly ends and political momentum can ebb away.
This is why political leaders as different as Donald Trump, Justin Trudeau and Franklin Roosevelt all put a major emphasis on their first 100 days.
As Day 100 for Silver wrapped up, I looked back at his announcements, speeches and executive orders.
It is clear that Silver is choosing a very different strategy around the first 100 days. It has, in fact, been eerily quiet. Several journalists have complained to me about slow news days. You may have noticed more cats in trees and deer on thin ice on the front pages of the papers.
The first sitting of the legislature was only one day long, and didn’t have a question period. Silver’s speech and the Speech from the Throne were short on specifics.
Silver hasn’t given any public speeches since the election that the Yukon Liberal Party thought were important enough to put on their website. The Premier’s Office only has two postings, a press conference after the Yukon Forum and an announcement about the Peel watershed lawsuit. Nothing is more recent than Jan. 19, almost eight weeks ago.
In terms of announcements and executive orders, here is a list of the more significant ones that involved legislation, funding or a major policy change. I ignored the ones about ministers attending meetings in Ottawa or commenting on reports.
On Day 100, Silver’s government announced plans for legislation to protect the rights of transgender Yukoners. They will no longer need to have sex reassignment surgery before changing the gender on their birth registration, and the Yukon Human Rights Act will prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender identity.
Day 90 saw the launch of the ColonCheck Yukon program. Day 81 announced $17,000 for First Nations language and heritage projects, while Day 73 had $186,000 for Community Development Fund projects. Day 67 marked the approval of an agreement with Kwanlin Dun First Nation on land titles registration. On Day 60, the government rolled out executive orders prohibiting the staking of mining claims in Kaska-asserted traditional territory in the Yukon.
Day 59 had two announcements, making take-home overdose kits available and earmarking $300,000 for resource road improvements. The day prior they announced 10 additional emergency shelter beds would be opening in Whitehorse.
Day 54 saw $88,000 given to crime prevention projects.
Day 52 saw several announcements about mining, including a memorandum of understanding with self-governing First Nations to “identify issues and work together to achieve concrete improvements to the management of mineral resources,” plus funding for industry associations and exploration credits.
On Day 51, the government announced that Yukon schools “will move towards multi-disciplinary, applied skill development beginning in September 2017.”
On Day 47, the government announced it would be continuing the Peel watershed litigation. On Day 44, the Yukon accepted the federal healthcare funding offer.
Day 41 saw the signing of an intergovernmental declaration with First Nations, in which they agreed to meet four times a year and develop a joint action plan.
Day 16 was when they approved the new open pit at the Minto mine, while Day 6 saw the government sign on to the national climate change plan.
Some of these were probably in the pipeline from the previous government, while others are clearly new Liberal initiatives. Many are worthy, but I would characterize most of them as relatively minor compared to first 100-day programs enacted by other political leaders.
It is also worth noting what has not happened. Besides a full sitting of the Legislature, which won’t convene until Day 138 or April 20, there has also been little shared about the “review of spending priorities” that Silver announced in his Speech from the Throne. This process remains behind closed doors, with little known about its cost-savings objectives, if any, and who is involved in the process.
There have also been successful governments who have started slowly, but then put a plan together and diligently executed it. Silver’s government will hopefully be one of these. He has also invested a lot of time in rebuilding relationships with First Nations governments. If he can build on this positive sentiment to deliver tangible new legislation and programs in the next few years that make the Yukon a better place, then history will consider him a success. To achieve this, at some point, he will need to shift from talk to action.
One thing is certain, however. Expectations for the upcoming budget and legislative sitting are high, and every day with no news pushes them even higher.
Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He is a Ma Murray award-winner for best columnist.