On Oct. 1, the Yukon legislative assembly will be back in full swing. Six major bills are to be tabled this fall. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Parties lay out plans ahead of sitting

The premier’s priorities include reworking access to information law and creating a lobbyist registry

Six major bills are to be tabled at the legislative assembly this fall.

They are “very progressive, forward thinking pieces of legislation to modernize our government and bring us into the 21st century,” Premier Sandy Silver told the News during an exclusive pre-sitting interview on Sept. 27.

The House is back in session on Oct. 1.

To leaders from the opposition, though, it appears to be a moment of reflection on how the Liberals have served since coming into office.

“The housing crisis that existed in 2011 still exists today, maybe even more severe,” said NDP House Leader Kate White. “Mobile home owners still live in precarious housing situations. There is an incredible waitlist for Yukon housing. We have homeless seniors.”

Housing, she said, is at the top of the list for the NDP, noting that many changes on the file have yet to be implemented.

“It’s been two years since the last election and, to be perfectly honest, it’s hard to tell the difference between a Liberal government and Yukon Party government. We’re waiting to see what sort of vision they have,” White said.

Stacey Hassard, interim leader of the Yukon Party, said the Liberals are “still just as disorganized as they were on day one.”

Some of the core issues for his party include looking into the hunting permit system, how the Liberals are going to address waitlists for social and senior housing, “in all communities,” and carbon taxation, he said.

Two bills will deliver on election promises, Silver said. They include re-writing of the access to information act and implementing a lobbyist registry, the latter of which would be a first of any territory, he said.

The Liberals are moving to improve the amount and quality of information gathered through the access to information process, Silver said.

“That was a campaign commitment and we’re taking action on that,” he said. “During this process we’ve stayed focused to the access side outlined in this act, where individuals request their own personal information. It should be released to them directly,” noting that protection of privacy is key, too.

Creating a lobbyist registry falls in step with the Liberal’s pledge for more governmental transparency, Silver said.

“We did campaign on more open and more transparent government and we believe the public should know who’s meeting whom, when it comes to government. I think that this is part of that democratic process,” he said.

This development wouldn’t affect municipalities or First Nations governments, he said, but it can be made available to them on demand.

The registry would “create, for the first time, legislation for businesses and groups that are lobbying, not only ministers, but all MLAs, also public servants to register, if you’re going to lobbying any of those groups, under defined circumstances,” he said.

All provinces, except P.E.I., which is currently undergoing the process of creating a registry, Silver said, have implemented lobbyist registration.

Another talking point for MLAs this session will be amendments to the Societies Act

“We’re setting out clear rules for creation of societies and how societies are supposed to be governed and worked,” Silver said. “The intention of that act is to make requirements for societies less erroneous to them.”

The Coroners Act is slated for a potential update.

“We’re finally getting down to some real fundamental changes here and we hope that’s going to help with oversight, investigations, autopsies,” he said.

The work of the electoral boundaries commission will be introduced at legislative assembly by way of a bill, Silver said, and debates would, in part, entail discussions surrounding the creation of a 20th riding, as recommended by the commission.

The Equality of Spouses Statute Law Amendment Act will also be tabled.

With it, there could be amendments to “various acts to change gender specific language to language that is actually inclusive of all genders and sexual orientation,” Silver said, noting this will be the third time acts have been opened up to accommodate the LGBTQ community.

Currently, the Yukon’s economy is in healthy shape, he continued, adding that it has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada.

“There’s lots of investment in infrastructure. It’s a great time for our territory. I’m very proud of the work our team is doing and what they’ve accomplished. We’re making progress and moving the territory forward in a positive direction,” Silver said.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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