Premier Sandy Silver during a live update on the COVID-19 situation at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 27. Silver said recently that the Yukon government is not planning on holding a virtual sitting of the legislature. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

No virtual sitting for Yukon legislature

Opposition reacts to lack of opportunity to scrutinize government

The Yukon government is not planning on holding a virtual sitting of the legislature but the premier said the opposition will get a chance to scrutinize the budget at a later time.

Premier Sandy Silver made these comments during the April 28 COVID-19 update.

Silver said his government is focusing on how to manage the health crisis that is “unlike anything we have ever seen before” and it is the government’s number one priority at the moment.

“Our entire caucus is focusing on the needs of all our constituents and Yukoners and I am extremely pleased at the work they have done,” Silver said.

He said he worked with the opposition to pass the 2020 budget as well as to suspend this year’s spring legislature sitting in order to focus on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Both opposition parties agree to this,” Silver said.

He pointed out that no other provincial legislatures are currently sitting in any shape or form. That said, he committed to giving the opposition time to be able to scrutinize the budget at a later time.

The News spoke with representatives of the Yukon Party and Yukon NDP about this issue on April 30.

Scott Kent, a Yukon Party MLA, said the party would be happy to have some kind of method to hold the government accountable because there is currently little the opposition can do at this point.

He said he has taken phone calls from constituents over various issues surrounding the pandemic as well as reopening.

Kent explained that while his party did agree to pass the budget and early adjournment, everyone was hoping more steps would be taken for accountability.

“We were hoping for a little bit more regular briefings and opportunities to question the cabinet ministers and the premier,” Kent said. “That hasn’t materialized.”

He feels the Yukon Party needs to find ways of getting their questions to the government. Members are currently sending letters to the government. He said some ministers are better at responding but none of their questions have been answered.

The party would be willing to explore the possibility of having some kind of virtual meeting or other methods to ask questions.

“The ball’s in the Liberal government’s court,” Kent said.

Kent argued that the government’s current mode of operating is not good democracy and it goes against the Liberals’ tagline in the 2016 election of “be heard”.

“They (Liberals) aren’t willing to listen to anybody,” Kent said.

NDP Leader Kate White said that some relief programs could end up weaker due to the lack of scrutiny, giving the example of the territory looking to claw back the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and reversing that decision once the story hit the media.

She doesn’t expect the government to take many steps to provide the opposition a chance to ask questions.

“There needs to be oversight,” White said.

She said the opposition needs to be able to push the government to help people, like those who need assistance with expensive DSL internet.

She added that there are a lot of people in the community that could come up with good ideas and need a method of which to share them. In this case, she said some kind of committee would be enough to get the job done.

“I would like something to happen,” White said. “That would be great.”

As for a virtual sitting, she said there is a value in question period. There were questions she would have liked to ask the government. She gave the example of the Adult Resource Centre being moved to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. She said there were questions she would have wanted to ask about this decision but there was no opportunity to.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

CoronavirusYukon governmentYukon legislative assembly

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COMMENTARY: Know your rights: Yukon’s anti-discrimination laws in housing

Luke FraughtSpecial to the News For three reasons, now is an extremely… Continue reading

Man convicted of sexually abusing 13 girls given 1.5 years’ credit on sentence after appeal

Man was given 1,299 days’ credit for time in jail pre-sentencing when he should have received 1,850

Yukon RCMP breach agreement with Queer Yukon by attending Pride flag raising in uniform

High-ranking Yukon RCMP officers broke an agreement with Queer Yukon last month… Continue reading

Tr’ondek Hwech’in citizens living outside traditional territory didn’t receive mail-in ballots in time for byelection

Despite tricky timelines, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in says the Elections Act was followed

Dust devil rips apart pop-up fruit stand in Haines Junction

Owner George Redies says he’s thankful for the help and support he’s received from Yukoners

Today’s mailbox: long-term care oversight

Letters to the editor published Aug. 12

Group of B.C. First Nations announce mutual support of travel, hunting restrictions

Group of B.C. First Nations announce mutual support of travel, hunting restrictions… Continue reading

Whitehorse airport baggage handling to be upgraded

Baggage handling at the Whitehorse airport is getting an upgrade next year.… Continue reading

Whitehorse driver pleads not guilty in 2019 pedestrian death

A Whitehorse driver charged with failing to yield for a pedestrian at… Continue reading

Yukon Filmmakers Fund awards announced

Four local filmmakers will receive $20,000 as they continue work on their… Continue reading

UPDATED: Yukon privacy commissioner releases information on COVID Alert app

The office of the IPC has said it has no stance on whether Yukoners should download the app

Changes to federal infrastructure funds allow for COVID-19 flexibility

Announcement allows for rapid COVID-19 projects and expands energy programs to Whitehorse

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read