NDP celebrates its victories

The Yukon NDP celebrated the gains its made over the last year at its annual convention at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on the weekend.

The Yukon NDP celebrated the gains it’s made over the last year at its annual convention at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on the weekend.

The party is now the Official Opposition and holds six seats in the legislature. One year ago, it was relegated to third-party status and held just two seats.

Membership has similarly swollen to 730 now from 320 one year ago.

During last fall’s territorial election, the NDP was the only party to see its share of the popular vote grow, Leader Liz Hanson told a crowd of approximately 50 party loyalists at the convention.

“More and more Yukoners turned to the Yukon NDP as a viable choice and the best hope of defeating the tired, old politics of the Yukon Party,” she said. “We said we’re running for government. We meant it. And we came very close.”

Government members have accused Hanson of being unhelpful during the current legislative sitting. Not so, she replied.

“Being a constructive opposition doesn’t mean being silent when the government shows how out of touch and wrongheaded it is. It doesn’t mean cowering to the Yukon Party’s bullying tactics, or backing down when the premier or government ministers cry wolf.

“We’ll continue to stand up for what’s right, for the best interests of all Yukoners, even if the government doesn’t want to hear it. That’s what we were elected to do.”

As accomplishments, Hanson touted how the government had agreed to raise the minimum wage, make the ombudsman a permanent position and ban oil and gas development in the Whitehorse Trough for the next five years.

Hanson issued a warning to Premier Darrell Pasloski.

“Mr. Premier, we’re putting you on notice. We’re going to keep at it. We’re going to call your government on its games, diversions and bullying tactics.

“We’ll continue good ideas, and there have been some. We have positive, constructive ideas of our own. We’ll continue to oppose your government’s bad ideas with every tool at our disposal. And we’ll continue to build a progressive movement to replace you, one Yukoner at a time.”

The territory’s housing shortage is “the single greatest failing” of the government, said Hanson. She condemned the Yukon Party’s decision to sit on $13 million in federal housing money, which remains unspent.

“It’s simply unconscionable for the government to pad its bottom line with these federal housing dollars when the need for housing solutions is so great,” said Hanson.

The territory needs a public inquiry into the January deaths of five Porter Creek residents of carbon monoxide poisoning, she said.

She faulted the territory for not heeding the advice provided in a string of reports that called for the government to regulate the oil-burning trade and called the deaths a “preventable” tragedy.

“The solutions are simple,” said Hanson. “They’ve been known for years.”

Hanson also bashed the mining sector as a “fly-in, fly-out economy” and called for mining companies to pay more royalties. She promised “economic success … without destroying the environment.”

She promised to continue to fight against allowing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, being allowed in the territory. The controversial practice has been blamed for polluting groundwater elsewhere.

And she called on the government to adopt the land use plan to protect four-fifths of the Peel River watershed. The Yukon Party instead wants a more “balanced” approach that allows roads and mining.

Hanson also urged the territory to adopt a “passionate, progressive approach” to help addicts, rather than using “punitive” measures.

She called on the territory to focus on “patient-centred” health care.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com