Partisan bickering closes legislative sitting

Moments of co-operation from this legislative sitting are doomed to be overshadowed by the fighting and personal attacks that characterized its final days.

Moments of co-operation from this legislative sitting are doomed to be overshadowed by the fighting and personal attacks that characterized its final days.

Tensions were high on Thursday afternoon, the final day of the sitting.

Speaker David Laxton nearly lost his cool as members of the NDP spoke over Energy Minister Scott Kent, who was answering a question about Yukon Energy’s Whitehorse LNG project.

Laxton became visibly agitated and pointed a finger in the direction of the NDP as he interrupted the proceeding to tell them to be quiet.

“Order please. This is getting to the point where it is bothering my ability to hear what is being said. It is not good. I have had enough.”

This week, Yukon Party members tabled two letters criticizing the public actions of NDP members.

In the first, MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin Darius Elias accused Mayo-Tatchun MLA Jim Tredger of overstepping the rules as a member of the select committee on hydraulic fracturing by speaking to the media about the committee’s work.

The letter also said that “allowing members of your caucus to participate in rallies, waving placards and speaking into microphones,” call into question if he is approaching the committee’s work with an open mind.

In a response, Tredger wrote only, “Thank you for your thoughtful letter.”

Another letter, tabled by Tourism Minister Mike Nixon on Thursday, accused Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes MLA Kevin Barr of “inappropriate and disappointing” conduct at a tourism open house in Dawson City earlier this month.

According to the letter, Barr “accosted departmental staff and demanded the contents of their discussions.”

In a response, Barr wrote that his interactions with staff and the public at the event were “professional and amicable.”

“This petty attempt to deter me from attending public events is beneath the office you hold.

“If you have concerns like this in the future I hope that you can speak to me personally or at least send me the letter before tabling it in the house.”

Despite the inability for members on the opposite side of the house to generally get along, there were brief moments of co-operation.

Members unanimously voted to push through changes to the Vital Statistics Act that would end discrimination against same-sex couples when it comes to recording their names on the birth certificate of a child.

For a moment, it seemed as though the assembly might also co-operate to amend the same act so that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission could access records it had requested regarding the death of children who may have died while attending residential schools.

The debate, however, focused largely on which side of the house was foot-dragging and otherwise creating delays.

It turned out, in the end, that the government had held since early April a legal opinion that made the legislative change unnecessary but failed to present that information until this week.

Thanks to the Yukon Party’s majority government, it didn’t need the support of either opposition party to pass the largest budget this territory has ever seen.

Big expenditures this year include $65 million on highway and bridge work, and $28 million towards the new F.H. Collins school. The government also plans to spend $2 million towards planning a new hydro dam.

A bill to reduce the small business tax rate from four to three per cent received unanimous support from the house.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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