Federation of labour won’t donate this election: president

The Yukon Federation of Labour, the largest donor to the NDP in the last territorial election, says it's in favour of a new bill that would ban union donations in the future.

The Yukon Federation of Labour, the largest donor to the NDP in the last territorial election, says it’s in favour of a new bill that would ban union donations in the future.

Federation president Vikki Quocksister said the organization will not be donating to any political party this time around.

“As the federation of labour, we will not be donating. I can’t speak for the unions, the unions themselves, have their own voice,” she said.

The Yukon Federation of Labour is an umbrella organization that includes unions from around the territory. In 2011 it donated $35,000 to the Yukon NDP.

This week NDP Leader Liz Hanson tabled a private members’ bill that would ban corporate and union donations to political parties. It would only allow individual donations from Yukoners up to a maximum of $1,500 a year.

Right now there are no rules around who can donate to Yukon political parties or how much they can give.

Quocksister said she hopes the bill passes, saying it would put politics “in the hands of the people rather than the organizations, not just unions but corporations, that might be able to be perceived to buy votes.”

The NDP are working with a tight timeline to get the bill passed. It would have to happen before this sitting ends on May 26.

The Yukon Party has criticized the Opposition for bring up the issue now. The government says it’s willing to talk about reform but hasn’t taken a stance on the NDP’s bill.

Quocksister, who was elected president in 2012, says she wasn’t involved in the 2011 decision to donate to the NDP.

She said it should be up to individual members to decide how to spend their money.

Yukon Employee’s Union president Steve Geick said he also supports the NDP’s bill.

Similar to the federation of labour, the YEU includes more than two dozen individual unions.

“It’s come up at almost every one of our AGMs or meetings or something. Somebody will say, ‘Well, I hear you’re supporting the NDP,’” he said.

“Well I personally may be, but I’m not going to make a donation on behalf of the membership, who may be voting for the Green Party or the Rhinoceros Party.”

While the NDP may have gotten a sizable chunk of its money from the unions last go-around, the Yukon Party received large sums from corporations including mining companies. Those companies would also be banned under the new rules.

Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, said his organization doesn’t have an opinion on the proposed changes.

“We are an apolitical organization and how our member businesses choose to participate in the democratic process is their prerogative.”

The chamber of mines doesn’t make political donations and has no intention of starting this election, he said.

Instead the chamber will be getting involved in the election the same way it did ahead of the federal polls, he said. It will be asking candidates to answer a set of questions and then posting the answers online for the members and public to read.

The YEU will also be preparing questions for the candidates running this election, Geick said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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