Premier Sandy Silver now insists he has supported a select committee on electoral reform all along.
“We always knew that a select committee would have to be formed, from the day one, because … you still have to strike the select committees or the boards of the Yukon legislative assembly,” he said on Nov. 27, the final day of the fall sitting.
During an in-person interview the next day with a News reporter, he said plans changed when Jessica Lott Thompson, the former chair of the commission, resigned. Now, a select committee would be prioritized, Silver said.
A letter tabled in October written by Floyd McCormick, the former clerk of the legislative assembly, called for the formation of a select committee comprised of MLAs from each party. Silver told reporters then that he disagreed with that idea.
“So again, a select committee is all-party,” he said on Oct. 23. “That’s now three political parties in a room together going out there and doing that (the work of the commission as pitched by the Liberals). I don’t agree. I want to make sure any move that we do gets to the Yukon public. I believe that it needs to be independent of political interference.”
McCormick sent the letter to the Members’ Services Board in the summer criticizing the Liberals, noting that the process, contrary to what Silver has repeatedly said, isn’t independent because the party is controlling it.
Both the NDP and Yukon Party have put forward, with nuances, that all parties should be more involved in the electoral reform process. During the sitting, Silver reiterated that he is open to working collaboratively with opposition leaders, a point routinely contested by Yukon Party MLAs.
The formation of a select committee has not been put forward as an option by Silver until now.
Silver confirmed that he now supports the formation of a committee comprised of MLAs from all parties despite the withdrawal of motion of his calling for such. It was withdrawn this week because the clerk’s office found it was out of order.
According to the Nov. 24 motion, the select committee would be made up of three Liberal MLAs, two from the official opposition and one from the third party. They would have reported back to the legislative assembly in June with their findings.
Silver said he’s “chomping at the bit” to have MLAs go out and engage Yukoners on electoral reform.
Asked why his motion wasn’t immediately tweaked and resubmitted, he said, “You know, it’s one of those things where we offered, you know, to work on a motion that could be unanimously consented upon,” noting a “herculean” effort with the NDP this week to see it through successfully.
“We put in wording that became problematic to the assembly because you have to have a chair decided upon. There could have been other language, there could have been other ways of doing it.”
He characterized it as a race against the clock, with the Liberals and NDP trying to reach a consensus on wording before the deadline struck.
“We simply ran out of time.”
It’s hard to speculate what will happen going forward, Silver said.
“I hope that both political parties in opposition will come together and re-tweak the motion. We believe we’re very close.”
He clarified that a plan to strike a committee is still in the works.
Asked when one would be established, he said, “We ran out of time this session, so you’ll have to stay tuned for spring session.”
NDP Leader Kate White said she’s disappointed with the outcome.
“I’d hoped we would get a select committee on electoral reform going. That was my deep hope. (We’re) no farther ahead than we were.”
Liz Hanson, NDP MLA for Whitehorse Centre, tabled a similar motion on Nov. 27. It sets a Dec. 9 deadline to have representatives selected.
White said the NDP’s stance on electoral reform has remained consistent since the Liberals came to power.
Asked whether she sees a positive in Silver’s change in position, “Yeah, for sure it is. We’ll continue working with the Liberals and the Yukon Party in hopes that we can get there, but I was hopeful that we would get there today.
“I’m hopeful that, come spring, we table something again.”
Stacey Hassard, interim leader of the Yukon Party, said Silver “gaslit” local media by saying it’s always been in the cards to develop a select committee.
When he met with Silver and White about the matter, Hassard said he told them that this is a process that shouldn’t be rushed.
“It’s really unfortunate that we are where we are today,” he said.
“I even suggested we have a special sitting, whether it be one or two days in December, January, February, whenever we could get everyone together with the appropriate wording that everyone was happy with, and lets move forward with this.”
The NDP supports the idea of a special sitting, too, according to a Nov. 28 statement from White.
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org