Heated legislative sitting ends

As the fall sitting of the 2012 legislative assembly wrapped up Thursday, around 70 protesters sat in the gallery wearing "Protect the Peel, democracy, the plan" shirts in a mostly silent show of dissatisfaction.

As the fall sitting of the 2012 legislative assembly wrapped up Thursday, around 70 protesters sat in the gallery wearing “Protect the Peel, democracy, the plan” shirts in a mostly silent show of dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the Peel land-use planning process.

It was an appropriate bookend for the proceedings, which opened to protests in support of the Peel plan as well.

Speaker David Laxton had to remind the crowd more than once not to applaud or otherwise interrupt the proceedings. He asked one protester, who insisted on standing, to leave.

After some time he gave up on verbal reminders of the rules and would simply stare in the audience’s direction in response to their occasional outbursts.

At the conclusion of question period, he commended the members of the assembly for the moderate tone of debate.

“I would like to thank the elected members for your commitment during the election a little over a year ago to raise the order and decorum in this House, and you have done so, and I thank you for that.”

The comment was unusual for Laxton, who frequently cautioned members through the sitting against “raising the rhetorical temperature” of the proceedings.

Certainly there were many issues of great division between the parties.

Although there were no bills tabled related to the Peel land-use planning process, criticism of the government’s handling of the public consultation was a frequent theme during question period.

Similarly, there were many questions about the government’s proposed changes to the Oil and Gas Act, and in particular its plan to remove the clause that grants unsigned First Nations veto power over any oil and gas development on their traditional territory.

The NDP also asked for a full scientific and public review of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, before it is allowed in the territory.

The Yukon Party didn’t exactly give the NDP what they wanted, but agreed to engage with key partners before any permits are issued.

The NDP supported many provisions in the new Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, but argued that it does not do enough to protect tenants from unreasonable rent increases and without-cause evictions.

Public Works Minister Wade Istchenko called the proposed amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act “narrow,” but the information and privacy commissioner found them to be “substantial.”

The NDP called Istchenko’s comments about the changes dishonest, and called for the minister to withdraw the amendments and resign.

The oil and gas, landlord and tenant, and access to information amendments all passed under what is known as the guillotine clause, which allows bills to be passed on the last day of the legislative sitting even if they have not had full debate.

The NDP called a motion Thursday to have the guillotine clause axed, but it will remain until the day when there is majority support for its removal.

Despite the many harsh words hurled from both sides of the room, there were areas of agreement.

The house unanimously passed a bill that will protect people who make charitable donations of food from lawsuits if someone gets sick from eating that food.

Members agreed that families who have children involved in arts, music or tutoring should get a tax credit for those activities.

And the assembly passed a bill that would allow nurse practitioners to work in the territory.

“We have the dubious distinction of being the last jurisdiction in Canada to allow this to happen,” said Liberal MLA Sandy Silver.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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