Proposed Senate changes leads to worry about Yukon’s vacant seat

‘We try to act as a backup for our MPs, to take up the slack; we’re more hands on.” With that, outgoing Yukon senator Ione…

‘We try to act as a backup for our MPs, to take up the slack; we’re more hands on.”

With that, outgoing Yukon senator Ione Christensen explained the importance of filling her now-empty seat in Canada’s upper house.

And in a surprise move this week, the Yukon Party government has echoed the 73-year-old senator’s sentiments.

“We want representation in the upper chamber as quickly as possible,” said Premier Dennis Fentie in an interview Monday.

“We only have one Senate appointment. It’s a loss for us.”

But there’s a roadblock.

In the past, Prime Minister Stephen Harper would appoint Christensen’s replacement from a short-list of candidates, probably provided by the Yukon government.

That process could be headed for the history books, however, as Harper introduced a bill recently that could see senators elected through plebiscites held during federal, provincial or territorial elections.

The resulting confusion about appointments — mixed with the fact that the territory just held an election and an early federal election is still only a possibility — has some worried the Yukon’s Senate seat could remain empty for quite some time.

Fentie is pushing to find a solution as fast as he can.

“What I’d like to do is ask the prime minister what it is he thinks we should do,” he said.

“So, the question will be asked: ‘Is there something we can do to ensure that representation is expedited so that we have a senator in place?’”

Fentie wished Christensen well and said she was a “staunch champion” on Yukon issues, particularly when representing the territory’s placer mining industry.

But aside from the Yukon’s worries about our seat, it appears Canadians generally support Harper’s overhaul of the selection process.

A new Decima Research survey commissioned by the Canadian Press found that 64 per cent of respondents support  being able to select senators through plebiscites or elections.

And 72 per cent of respondents were supportive of term limits for senators, a bill that Harper introduced earlier in the year and that is now being reviewed in the upper house.

Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell wants an elected Senate.

But he feels Harper’s plebiscite approach avoids the Constitution, which has set rules in place for changing the Senate-appointment procedure.

He also finds Fentie’s sudden interest in the seat surprising, he said.

“He never seemed to show much interest in the Senate previously,” said Mitchell. “I believe his current position is at odds with his previously stated position on the Senate.

“Perhaps he has someone in mind that he would like to see appointed?”

Indeed, during his days in the NDP, Fentie appeared to see the upper house a bit differently.

In 1998, Fentie described the Senate as “merely a vehicle with which to repay political favours.”

“I don’t think that’s what the body was intended to be, and I believe that is a very clear reason why we should abolish it,” he said during question period on April 15, 1998.

The Yukon NDP still shares their former MLA’s position.

“I’m sure she (Christensen) did lots of good work, but I’m not losing any sleep over the fact she’s retiring and we may not have a senator for two or three months,” said acting NDP leader Steve Cardiff.

“My own personal point of view is that they should get rid of it.”

Cardiff said the Senate costs too much money for the amount of work it contributes, that it is currently open to abuse and to patronage appointments, and that it needs to be overhauled.

And if Harper’s government falls in the next election before the new bill is passed, “then we’ll be back to square one,” he said.

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

Just Posted

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 5, 2021.… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speak at a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. They formally announced that as of Nov. 20, anyone entering the territory (including Yukoners returning home) would be required to self-isolate with the exception of critical service workers, those exercising treaty rights and those living in B.C. border towns
Vaccinated people won’t have to self-isolate in the Yukon after May 25

Restaurants and bars will also be able to return to full capacity at the end of the month.

An RV pulls into Wolf Creek Campground to enjoy the first weekend of camping season on April 30, 2021. John Tonin/Yukon News
Opening weekend of Yukon campgrounds a ‘definite success’

The territorial campgrounds opened on April 30. Wolf Creek was the busiest park seeing 95 per cent of sites filled.

Visitors from Ushiku, Japan visit the Carcross Desert as part of the exchange program Ushiku and Whitehorse have. The previously annual exchange has been cancelled for 2021 due to COVID-19. (Submitted)
Whitehorse-Ushiku sister city exchange cancelled

Officials said the exchange is cancelled due to COVID-19

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: rent caps and vaccines

To Sandy Silver and Kate White Once again Kate White and her… Continue reading

Most Read