Opposition parties respond to house call

Expect the fate of the Peel watershed and the shortage of affordable housing in the territory to dominate Opposition questions when the legislature sits later this month.

Expect the fate of the Peel watershed and the shortage of affordable housing in the territory to dominate Opposition questions when the legislature sits later this month.

Neither subject made Premier Darrell Pasloski’s own list of priorities, announced Friday.

“It’s pretty thin,” NDP Leader Liz Hanson said of premier’s list.

Along with the supplementary budget, Pasloski promised a debate around federal Parks Canada cuts and safety of children’s recreational equipment, as well as changes to income tax laws to include a “children’s art tax credit.”

The credit, like the federal one proposed in 2011, could offer $500 per child under 16 in arts, culture and recreational programming.

“But that presumes you’ve got an income that’s going to give you a tax credit,” said Hanson.

For a single parent working 40 hours each week, at minimum wage, the credit only comes to about $35, Hanson told the house last sitting, when the government brought up the idea.

Plus, a tax break for children’s art supplies is not the biggest issue facing Yukoners right now, she added.

“We’re waiting for the Landlord and Tenant Act, some substantive move on affordable housing – we’ve got the $13.5 million sitting there – we’ve got no housing strategy,” she said. “Is the government willing to actually put substantive issues forward and listen to Yukoners about what they have to say, as opposed to skirting around the issues?”

Sandy Silver, leader of the territory’s Liberals, applauded Pasloski for prioritizing debate on the Parks Canada cuts, which will affect the SS Klondike and Dawson’s Dredge No. 4.

But Silver said he would have rather seen the premier bring those concerns directly to the prime minister when he visited the territory this summer.

“It’s a start, but motions don’t necessarily mean much,” he said. Silver noted that one of his own motions, which called for support for tech and trades programs, hasn’t led to any government action, despite receiving unanimous support last sitting.

When it comes to the Peel, Silver’s Liberals have some new information they’ll be bringing to the table this sitting, he said. But he wouldn’t offer any details.

“It’s appalling right now, the situation that we’re in,” said Silver. “Land planning, in general. That whole process – it’s an insult. It’s an insult to the industries, it’s an insult to the First Nations, and it’s an insult to the people of the Yukon that we’re in the situation that we’re in. Get on with it. Let’s get this going.”

Along with multiple housing and environmental concerns, including land-use planning, Hanson also wants attention paid to other issues the premier’s list ignores, she said.

Legislation on oil-fired appliances, ATVs, whistleblowers and oil and gas have all been shelved, ignored or inadequately addressed, said Hanson.

“They (the Yukon Party government) have an absolute aversion to any kind of progressive legislation to do anything that’s going to make changes for people,” she said.

Hanson also wants to see the territory move on long-awaited healthcare changes, like filling nurse-practitioner vacancies, she said.

Both Hanson and Silver supported the recent demonstration of childcare workers, who are demanding a subsidy boost from the territory, and said they’d like to see that addressed this sitting as well.

Silver also mentioned that this week’s municipal elections are well worth politicians paying attention to, both to learn about issues and opportunities to work together.

Also last week, newly Independent Darius Elias announced a list of priorities for his community of Old Crow. Changes to the Nutrition North Canada program tops the list, followed by the continuation of a land-based education program, the construction of a winter road from the Dempster Highway, building a new community multiplex, planning a new subdivision, relocation and clean-up of the fuel tank farms and finishing stabilization of the community’s riverbank.

The fall sitting of the territorial legislative assembly starts Oct. 25.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com