Yukon’s MLAs will sit for a one-day legislative session on Jan. 12, the first since Premier Sandy Silver’s majority Liberal government took office earlier this month.
The purpose of the shortened session is to elect the Speaker, the deputy speaker and the deputy chair of the committee of the whole. Silver has nominated Riverdale North MLA Nils Clarke as Speaker.
Certain MLAs will also be appointed to the members’ services board and other committees. Yukon Commissioner Doug Phillips will read the speech from the throne, which will outline the government’s priorities.
“I am pleased to have the support of the Yukon Party and the NDP for the one-day session,” Silver said in a statement. “The purpose is to make the necessary formal appointments to allow the legislative committees to begin their work.”
Until the various committees are set up, there is some government business that can’t happen, explained Helen Fitzsimmons, a director with the legislative assembly office.
For instance, the members’ services board oversees the budgets for various offices, including Elections Yukon, the office of the ombudsman and the office of the child and youth advocate. The 2017-18 budgets need to be completed before the end of March.
Any empty spots on various boards, including the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Utilities Board, cannot be filled until the committee responsible for those appointments has been formed.
Also, Yukon Party MLA Patti McLeod will continue to collect the Speaker’s salary until Clarke is formally elected. McLeod became Speaker in May 2016.
Fitzsimmons said all the MLAs have met with Yukon’s conflict of interest commissioner, David Jones, to declare any conflicts ahead of the first legislative session. However, their statements aren’t officially due until April, and won’t be made public until then.
Sunny Patch, press secretary for the Liberal cabinet, said the new government’s mandate letters will be issued early in the new year, before the legislative session.
This year’s territorial election campaign meant there was no fall sitting of the legislature, and no fall supplementary budget.
The Liberals may now choose to issue a special warrant to allow the government to keep spending money until the spring budget is passed. If they do, the special warrant must be issued at least seven days before a legislative sitting, and must be debated during the next sitting.
Silver has criticized the former Yukon Party government for its frequent use of special warrants, as they can’t be debated until after the fact. Patch wouldn’t confirm when or if the new government will issue a special warrant.
The Liberals have yet to announce dates for a longer spring sitting or for the Yukon Forum, which Silver promised to hold “up to four times annually.”
The Yukon Legislative Assembly must sit at least once a year, for a maximum of 60 days.
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