Throne speech offers few thrills

Thursday's throne speech offered no surprises, being a rehash of the Yukon Party's election platform. Liz Hanson, leader of the NDP Opposition, found it disappointing.

Thursday’s throne speech offered no surprises, being a rehash of the Yukon Party’s election platform.

Liz Hanson, leader of the NDP Opposition, found it disappointing. “Their platform was pretty thin gruel,” she told reporters afterwards. “I was expecting a visionary statement.”

Notably absent from the speech was any reference to the Peel Watershed –

a vast swath of wilderness that both opposition parties, as well as First Nations and conservationists, want protected.

Darius Elias, interim leader of the Liberals, called the speech “as exciting as an open-net goal.” But he lauded the government’s promise to build a youth shelter and develop a water strategy.

Elias expressed surprise at the Yukon Party’s long-term plans to build a big, new hydroelectric project. “It was not something the Yukon Party committed to in the recent election campaign,” Elias said in a release.

Not so. Premier Darrell Pasloski did announce this during the campaign. But it was easily missed, as it forms just a small part of the government’s energy strategy.

In the short term, Pasloski is banking on the private sector helping to relieve the territory’s power pinch, once his government completes its independent power production policy.

Medium-term, the premier is bullish on the potential to pump natural gas from Eagle Plains. Geothermal, wind, solar and biomass are also being explored.

The government plans to begin addressing Whitehorse’s housing shortage by having private developers build affordable rental units at a vacant lot on the corner of Mountainview Drive and Range Road.

It will either build a new homeless shelter, or expand the Salvation Army’s existing facility, and beef-up services offered to recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.

The government seems to be “capital-city-centred,” said Elias. Both he and Sandy Silver, the new Liberal MLA for the Klondike, have a laundry list of items they’d like to see in their communities.

Old Crow needs a new water well and recreation centre. And its residents remain unhappy with the federal government’s replacement to the Food Mail program, said Elias.

Dawson City needs a new recreation centre and new college residences, said Silver.

The sitting will last nine days, wrapping up on Thursday, December 15. No major pieces of legislation are expected to be tabled. But the sitting will provide the legislature’s many rookie MLAs a warm-up round before more serious matters arise in the spring.

David Laxton, MLA for Porter Creek Centre and the legislature’s newly-picked Speaker, urged members to keep it clean.

“While putting much effort into crafting clever questions designed to embarrass, and evading answers to that same end, may seem like the smart thing to do, putting effort into eliciting reasonable and useful information on both sides is perhaps the courageous thing to do.”

All parties have promised to work to improve decorum in the house, and Thursday ended on a chummy note, with MLAs from both sides of the legislature shaking hands.

But the battling hasn’t yet begun. Thursday’s sitting started later than usual, so question period wasn’t held.

Hanson expressed hope that decorum will be kept for “a long time.” Elias wasn’t so optimistic.

“Two days,” was his guess at how long the ceasefire will last.

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