Fall legislative sitting draws to a close

The last fall sitting of the legislative assembly before the next territorial election wrapped up this week.

The last fall sitting of the legislative assembly before the next territorial election wrapped up this week.

It was a sitting that was fairly light on legislation, but fairly heavy on partisan bickering, as all three parties gear up for a 2016 election.

An election must be held by next October at the latest.

Premier Darrell Pasloski said he was especially happy about amendments to the Land Titles Act that were passed this fall. Those amendments allow Yukon First Nations to register settlement land without losing aboriginal title. The move was the first of its kind in Canada.

“That was very important to (the First Nations’) long-term prosperity,” Pasloski said in an interview with the News.

The assembly also unanimously passed amendments to the Oil and Gas Act. However, that only happened after three Yukon First Nations wrote to the government, saying they hadn’t been consulted about a change that would have allowed the government to indefinitely extend oil-and-gas licences. That amendment was later modified.

The assembly also passed amendments to the Municipal Act, the Elections Act, the Education Act and the Travel for Medical Treatment Act.

The Yukon Party’s relationship with First Nations featured prominently in this sitting, with the NDP and Liberals frequently challenging the government on its “divisive approach” to working with First Nations on issues like the Peel watershed land use plan and Bill S-6, federal legislation that introduced controversial amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

But the Yukon Party has recently supported a NDP motion to consult with Yukoners about declaring National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday. It has also committed to work with First Nations to implement recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Looking back on the sitting, both NDP and Liberal MLAs criticized the government’s record on consulting with Yukoners.

Health critic Jan Stick referred to the planned 150-bed continuing care facility in Whistle Bend, which the NDP says Yukoners don’t want.

“This fall, the real difference between the Yukon Party government and the Yukon NDP Official Opposition was that we are going out and listening to Yukoners,” she said in a news release.

Liberal Leader Sandy Silver criticized the government’s decision to hold community meetings, but to invite guests instead of opening them to the public.

So far, Pasloski has held meetings in Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Watson Lake and Dawson City.

Both Opposition parties have also challenged the government on its economic record throughout the sitting.

“When your GDP is projected to shrink for a third straight year I would argue there is a lot of work left to be done,” Silver said in a release.

Pasloski maintains that the struggling economy is the result of slumping commodity prices, which are “beyond the control” of the government.

The Yukon Party seemed to go on the offensive more often during the latter part of the sitting, possibly a sign that the government is gearing up for next year’s election.

On several occasions during question period, the Yukon Party accused the Opposition of criticizing the government without presenting any viable solutions of their own.

“We hear criticism with all of our plans,” Pasloski told the News. “But there’s never an alternative. There’s never a plan. They just don’t like what we’re doing.”

To that, Stick responded that “it’s not in question period… for us to come up with solutions.

“We’re asking questions of the government. We’re holding this government to account.”

And for his part, Silver’s response was simple.

“We’ve got a great plan. Is it time for us to show that plan? Well, then, drop the writ.”

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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