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Government’s job unfinished as legislature closes

The Yukon Party government has a lot of unfinished business on its plate as it approaches the end of its mandate.

The Yukon Party government has a lot of unfinished business on its plate as it approaches the end of its mandate.

The government failed to complete six pieces of promised legislation before the house adjourned Wednesday.

And with an election call expected by November, time is running out.

It’s been almost three years since the department of Health and Social Services started its review of the Yukon Children’s Act.

Minister Brad Cathers, who took over the Health portfolio in December after Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins was expelled from caucus, promised his department will do its best to complete the review by fall.

There’s also a review of the Yukon Education Act that the Yukon Party inherited from the former Liberal government.

Education minister John Edzerza decided to double-check the data, and assigned former Council of Yukon First Nations chief Ed Schultz and former schools superintendent Colin Kelly the two-year task of reviewing the review.

The Yukon Party promised whistleblower legislation in its 2002 election platform, but it has not materialized.

As is common, the Yukon Party blamed the opposition.

“We have chosen to move co-operatively with all members in a non-partisan approach toward the development of whistleblower legislation via the mechanism of an all-party select committee that would be representative of all political parties,” Elaine Taylor, minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, said Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, we do not have the consent of all parties to move ahead in this regard.”

There’s the Yukon Liquor Act. It hasn’t been amended in decades.

Twenty-eight of 49 recommendations to modify the act have already been implemented, said minister Jim Kenyon.

However, “it is becoming noticeable that there should be a review,” he said.

“This will be a priority of this government in our next mandate.”

And there’s a review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It hasn’t been done, despite repeated recommendations from Yukon privacy commissioner Hank Moorlag.

“We are working with other jurisdictions to see what they have and what would be applicable in the Yukon context,” said Highways and Public Works minister Glenn Hart.

A review is also pending for the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Act.

Southern Lakes MLA Patrick Rouble has been in charge of that review since the Yukon Party took office in 2002.

“It would be a challenge to do it in a four-year window, to design the process, to get acceptance of the process, to collect all of the people with the relevant experience and do the public consultation and then do the conclusion, the additional research and then the drafting,” Rouble said Thursday.

There’s a chance that the review could be ready for a fall sitting of the legislative assembly, he said.

And a fall session is very much a possibility, as Premier Dennis Fentie hinted several times.

“It’s likely,” Fentie said Wednesday.

“There is a possibility of a fall sitting.

“We have to go (to the polls) by November of 2006.”

Regardless, Official Opposition leader Arthur Mitchell graded the government with an “I” for “incomplete” on many fronts.

“The Yukon Party government has demonstrated over the last four years that it is not interested in doing the hard work required to move legislation through this legislature,” said Mitchell.

“It is simple enough to measure the government’s performance when it comes to major legislative assignments — the grade is incomplete.”

So what legislation did pass during the latest, and possibly the last, session of the Yukon’s 31st legislative assembly?

Safer communities legislation did pass, empowering Justice officials to receive complaints from community residents of criminal activity in their neighbourhoods, and collect surveillance.

The repeal of Dawson City’s restoration act also passed, promising Dawson a $3.43-million bailout package and municipal elections by June 15.

Both bills passed the house with unanimous consent.

“It’s not the number of bills, the amount of bills, it’s the type of legislation that is being enacted that is important when it comes to the public interest,” said Fentie.

“This is a budget sitting. We always prepare legislative bills for the fall sitting, so normally the focus in the spring sitting will be on the budget, and this was a big one.”

Then Fentie shifted into campaign mode.

“Four years is not enough time for any government to meet all the goals. It’s impossible.

“That’s why Yukoners have to reflect on the realities of the day.

“In the past decade, the public psyche tended to focus on voting governments out.

“Yukoners have to reflect and deliberate on this question very thoroughly.

“Now is not the time to change in this territory.

“Now is the time to continue in the direction Yukon is going.”

The government members and Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins voted in favour of the $793-million budget, while the NDP and Liberals voted against it.

Because of fixed-sitting terms instituted under the former Liberal government, the budget debate was capped at 30 days, since all three parties could not agree on a longer spring session.

The Environment department got only about an hour of debate.

“It’s unbelievable,” said NDP leader Todd Hardy.

“We’ve never come to this situation in the legislature that I can remember, where we still have four or five departments that haven’t even been touched, especially departments the size of Education and Environment, which is just being touched on now.”

The Education department was not debated at all.

Neither was the Yukon Liquor Corporation.

And all the parties blamed each other for wasting time.

Time ran out as Hardy and Mayo-Tatchun MLA Eric Fairclough squabbled on a point of order over who was wasting more time.

In the end, there were handshakes, and even some hugs.

Nevertheless, Education was not debated for the first time in the assembly’s history, said Hardy.

“There was poor time management this session, on the part of some people,” he said.