The throne speech on May 11 struck an optimistic tone about working together, filled with Liberal election promises and some NDP wins – but the clock is now ticking on getting the budget passed.
“For the first time in nearly 30 years, Yukoners have elected a minority government to lead them forward,” said Commissioner Angélique Bernard. “Yukoners have sent a clear message that we need to move forward together for the benefit of our territory.”
Her words officially opened the first session of the 35th Yukon Legislative Assembly, after Liberal MLA Jeremy Harper was elected as speaker. NDP MLA Annie Blake will serve as deputy speaker and chair of the Committee of the Whole.
The throne speech included high-level promises from the previously tabled government budget, including renewable electricity projects, the health care reform recommendations from the Putting People First report and a local tourism campaign called the “Great Yukon Summer.”
It also included new items from an agreement struck between the Liberal minority government and opposition NDP, which included more ambitious climate change targets, new mental health supports and a higher minimum wage.
The spring special sitting will take place over 11 days, ending on May 31.
Budget to pass with NDP support
In that time, the new Liberal budget will need to be tabled and passed. The NDP has already pledged to support the passing of the budget, which will be a first for her, according to leader Kate White.
“We have a minority government and we’ve had some really interesting ideas come from all sides. It’ll be a fascinating time,” she told reporters after the first sitting day.
The agreement between the two parties included ambitious deadlines, including Aug. 31 for a supervised consumption site and May 15 for a new cap on annual rent increases. White said those deadlines are not negotiable.
“We signed an agreement with fixed dates. I’m going to have to vote for budgets that I don’t 100 per cent agree on. This will be the first time as an elected person that I will be voting in favour of the budget. So that is a sacrifice,” she said.
Short sitting means crunch time for debate
Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon took issue with the length of the session. He was concerned that the time is “unbelievably inadequate when it comes to the amount of scrutiny that we need to provide to that material.”
“We think that democracy requires transparency and public scrutiny and that there’s no good reason for the Liberals or the NDP, to deny public scrutiny of this budget and this material,” he said.
Dixon said while there were things in the speech his party will support – including a substance abuse treatment centre – he’s still waiting on details for policy items such as the rent cap.
Premier Sandy Silver said the government is ready to get back to work quickly.
“To be back in the legislative assembly about a month after the election shows our intent. We have been working very hard ever since. And we really do want to see the budget passed. You know, there’s a $434 million capital budget in there. Of course, there’s been some contracts out the door, but we really want to see the checks being cashed and the money flowing,” he said.
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