The political honeymoon’s over

So much for raising the tone of debate in the legislature.

So much for raising the tone of debate in the legislature.

By the end of the brief, nine-day legislative sitting that wrapped up Thursday, the pretense the government and opposition parties would somehow get along, rather than squabble, had ended.

On Thursday, NDP Leader Liz Hanson accused Premier Darrell Pasloski of having “reneged on his election promise to work co-operatively with all members of the legislative assembly.”

Pasloski, in turn, accused Hanson of “trying to lead and create this atmosphere of mistrust that exists within the Yukon.”

The breaking point seemed to be an NDP motion, tabled on Wednesday, that called on the government to do more to address the territory’s housing shortage.

No problem, replied Scott Kent, minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. But he needed to give the motion a tweak.

Altering two words, the motion then called on the Yukon Party to act on its own housing strategy rather than develop one.

The next day when Kent was asked where this strategy could be found, he pointed to the Yukon Party’s election platform.

It promises to work with the Salvation Army to expand or replace their existing homeless shelter, encourage the private sector to build affordable rental housing in Whitehorse and update the Landlord and Tenant Act.

But Jim Tredger, the NDP’s housing critic, couldn’t see how these commitments would accomplish everything his party has asked for: create measurable goals, include all Yukon communities and support families in the greatest need.

The housing corporation’s stock has grown by 40 per cent over the last five years, said Kent in the government’s defence. But that hasn’t been enough, said Tredger.

“The lack of a housing strategy under this government’s watch has brought us to this place where the price of homes has skyrocketed 100 per cent in six years, where there are no vacancies, where there is no progress on landlord and tenant issues, where there is little progress on addressing the hard-to-house and supportive housing files,” said Tredger.

The few returning incumbent MLAs were the first to fall back upon old habits.

The Liberals’ interim leader, Darius Elias, struggled with his new role as the giver of constructive criticism, having sunk to third-party status. He seemed to slip into making strident accusations.

“Here we go again,” he huffed on the sitting’s second day. “No answers to the questions.”

House Leader Brad Cathers, accustomed to sparring with the Liberals, responded to one pointed question by Elias by accusing him of having “no vision.”

Community Services Minister Elaine Taylor deployed one of her well-practised, sleep-inducing filibusters on Wednesday, droning on at great length about the government’s housing achievements.

Opposition MLAs complained several times that she was repeating herself. Speaker David Laxton conceded her comments were “becoming a bit long” and urged her to wrap up.

By the end of the sitting, questions remained unanswered and not for lack of the opposition asking.

Taylor wouldn’t say whether the cost of a contract dispute at Whistle Bend will be passed on to residents who buy lots at the new subdivision.

And Pasloski wouldn’t say how the territory will spend $16.5 million remaining from the Northern Housing Trust. Ottawa provided the money from 2008 to 2010.

Only $1 million has been earmarked to help Kaushee’s Place build housing for women fleeing violence.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com

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