The fall session of the Yukon Legislative Assembly ended with two key questions outstanding: who will lead the territory into the 2023 spring sitting and what’s the fate of the Yukon NDP-Liberal confidence and supply agreement?
Reporters at the Yukon legislature queried the three territorial party leaders on the final day of the sitting on Nov. 24 to gain some insight.
Yukon NDP Leader Kate White suggested the Yukon NDP-Liberal confidence and supply deal has been effective. Reporters asked White if signing onto a renewed deal with the Liberals was on the horizon.
“It’s a hard day to ask that. My frustration level today is really high,” she said.
“We’ve got two political parties coming in from very different values.”
The agreement sets the terms which the NDP caucus will provide confidence in and vote in support of a Liberal minority government. The deal struck between the two parties expires on Jan. 31, 2023.
“All of the achievements in the confidence and supply agreement are initiatives of the NDP,” White said.
“I’m fiercely proud of what we did negotiate.”
White said she has learned to be more and less prescriptive when it comes to negotiating.
For example, White said she fully expected the Yukon government to roll out the dental plan a year ago.
The future of the rent increase cap, which is a stipulation in the agreement, remains unclear.
“We have the minister of Community Services who has all but said come Jan. 31, he’s removing the rent cap,” she said.
White said she has been asking “since day one” of working with the Liberal government to have the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act reviewed.
“[The Liberals] told me to sign another agreement. They’ve been saying that for the last 18 months,” she said.
“The fact that they’ve been using that as a negotiation tool, as opposed to doing what’s right, really shows their true colours.”
MLAs from all parties did come together to vote unanimously in favour of an NDP bill to make the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 a statutory holiday in the Yukon.
Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon said his party addressed all of the issues on the party’s plate.
“We were especially concerned with the cost of living in the territory and the measures that the government then put in place that we felt were inadequate,” he said regarding the Yukon government’s suite of inflationary measures.
The Yukon Party pressed the Yukon government on budget, timelines and more for lot development, housing projects and the Atlin hydro power expansion project during question period throughout the sitting.
Dixon was pleased to see two of his party’s recent motions pass in the legislature. One called on the federal government to exempt home heating fuel from the carbon tax. The other requested the premier consult the conflict commissioner regarding the former minister of Health and Social Services.
However, the premier said he would not be writing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to request an exemption and he has brushed off the Official Opposition’s calls to seek advice of the conflict commissioner.
Dixon said the legislative assembly saw cabinet ministers “jockeying” for position in the Yukon Liberal Party’s leadership race.
“The success that they’ve had, the policies that they’re talking about, even today, are the ones that are driven by the NDP,” he said.
“We think that this is a government that’s out of touch. We think they’re out of ideas, and they’re out of steam.”
Premier Sandy Silver disagreed with Dixon’s assessment. He said the Yukon Party is “unreliable.”
“We made good on our commitments,” he said.
Silver said his government wants the NDP-Liberal deal extended through to 2025.
“That’s my commitment as far as a possible extension of the confidence and supply agreement,” he said.
“When the session is over, I will sit down and talk with the NDP and see where they’re at.”
Silver was proud his team’s bills on the Clean Energy Act, the Animal Protection and Control Act, the Midwifery Integration Amendments Act and the Carbon Pricing Rebate Amendment Act passed in the legislative assembly.
A bilingual health centre opened in a temporary location without any doctors lined up to work there during the sitting, while physician recruitment challenges set back the Yukon government’s plans for a walk-in clinic in Whitehorse.
In his address to reporters, Silver declared his final day as premier in the legislative assembly.
“It has been a profound honour to lead such a dedicated team. I’m incredibly proud of the work that we’ve accomplished together and the important work that is underway to keep this territory moving forward,” he said.
“The territory is in a much stronger place than when we formed government in 2016, and I believe it continues to move in the right direction.”
A leadership convention to determine the next Yukon Liberal Party leader and premier is set for Jan. 28, 2023.
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com