The Yukon government has plans to assess the Civil Emergency Measures Act and suggest reforms — but who will be in charge of the review was hotly debated on Dec. 8.
All the parties are in agreement that the current act, introduced in 1966 and last updated in 1985, is now outdated. The government has proposed striking a three-person special committee to look at the act in detail and suggest changes, but the composition of that study group has been hotly debated during the fall sitting.
The Liberals have presented their plan to form a three-member committee, with one MLA from the Yukon Party, one from the NDP and one from the Liberal government.
The Liberals have insisted that their representative be Community Services Minister John Streicker, who has been in charge of the ministerial orders and other powers granted under the act.
Part of the analysis would likely be the use of the act in the past nine months during the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee would sit over the summer and have the power to call witnesses and review records.
The opposition insists that having Streicker as chair of the committee would be akin to allowing him to “write his own report card” in the words of MLA Stacey Hassard.
As the majority in the House, the Liberals didn’t need the support of opposition members in order to pass the current motion and form the committee. But on Dec. 8 MLA Brad Cathers said not listening to their demands would “tarnish the committee’s credibility.”
“If the Liberals reconsider their position and agree to have one of the Liberal private members on the committee of the minister of community services, we will happily support the passage of this motion. If they refuse, we continue to have concerns,” he said.
“We are certainly getting a strong sense that the government is not actually interested in working with the Official Opposition or the Third Party and that they simply want the appearance of working together, but on terms that they themselves have dictated,” he said.
NDP leader Kate White proposed bringing Streicker in as a witness and having the Liberals represented by a non-minister.
White raised a concern that the busy schedule of Streicker would slow down the work. She also raised the point that there was a risk of an election being called before the committee could conclude in August 2021.
Streicker suggested the committee could figure out a way to preserve the work in case of an election.
Premier Sandy Silver has insisted that as the minister most familiar with the law, Streicker is the best choice. In an email gaff made public on Dec. 8, Streicker himself inadvertently sent out evidence to back up that claim.
“The other thing I ask that you emphasize is about me on the committee,” he wrote in an email intended only for Liberal cabinet members on Dec. 8.
“Explain why we as a party feel I would be the better choice,” he wrote in the email, accompanied by research about ministers sitting on previous committees that involve their portfolios.
Streicker inadvertently sent the email to a wider email list, including the Yukon Party chief of staff and the Speaker of the House Nils Clarke.
Accused of involving the Speaker in partisan politics, Streicker apologized and tabled the email in order to make it public.
On Dec. 8 the Yukon Party attempted to amend the motion to form the committee, removing Streicker’s name from the motion. The amendment was voted down by the Liberal majority and the unaltered Motion No. 212 was agreed to.
The committee will be required to report back before Aug. 31, 2021.
“On our part of the legislative assembly, we believe it’s very fair to have one member from each of the parties. The Yukon NDP can pick their member, the Yukon Party can pick their member, but I guess the Yukon Party doesn’t allow us to have representation that we think is extremely important on there, especially when you have an individual who has forensic knowledge not only of the act itself, but how it has been used in the last nine months,” Silver said.
Correction: This article was modified Dec. 21 to indicate the Act was introduced in 1966, rather than 1992, which was the date when the legislation was consolidated under devolution.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org