The Yukon government’s lack of transparency about who it is being lobbied by has led to a “perception that access to government is for sale,” NDP Opposition Leader Liz Hanson said in the legislature this week.
“Mining companies and oil and gas companies, largely from Outside, make up a large percentage of donors to the Yukon Party’s war chest,” she said on Monday.
“I am not suggesting there is anything unlawful going on. Yukon’s rules, or lack of rules, allow this. Yukon Zinc, the owners of Wolverine mine, has every right to contribute to the Yukon Party, and they have given $9,100 since 2006, including $600 last year. Again, there is nothing unlawful with this, but Yukoners can’t be blamed for wondering about the benefits of donating.”
The NDP has been pushing for lobbying legislation for years.
Last year the party tabled draft legislation that would require anyone paid to lobby the government as part of their work to register and publicly record all lobbying activity. It would not apply to non-profits, unless they represent industry, management, unions or professional groups.
The government has no interest in this sort of legislation, Premier Darrell Pasloski said on Monday.
“The reality is that we don’t solve problems, or perceived problems, with legislation and regulation, because we know that is what the NDP do. They think they can regulate and legislate and that solves all the problems. Quite honestly, Mr. Speaker, we are not here to implement the NDP’s platform from 2011,” said Pasloski.
“The reality as well is that I do believe that this is important legislation in larger jurisdictions where it is very, very difficult to have access to the government and access to ministers. All you have to do here in Yukon is go to the grocery store.”
Government house leader Darius Elias took strong objection to Hanson’s assertion that there is a perception that government is for sale.
“I have a real problem with this question because it is casting aspersions and attacks on the reputation of the members on this side of the House,” he said, visibly agitated.
Opposition house leader Jan Stick disagreed.
“The house leader is using these points of order to dodge questions from the opposition,” she said. “This question directly relates to the government’s ability to do its job. It does not imply motives. We are simply asking the premier to be accountable and open.”
Speaker David Laxton took the government’s side.
“The implication is that the members opposite are not honourable and that they can be bought is unparliamentary, and I take great exception to it,” he said.
The following day, Laxton clarified his ruling further.
“The phrases ‘access to government is for sale’ and ‘ethical lassitude,’ which the leader of the Official Opposition used yesterday, are disorderly. Saying that these charges represent perceptions held by others is procedurally irrelevant. The member is responsible for having used those phrases in the House. In other words: you say it, you own it.”
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