The Yukon legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. The assembly is poised to resume Oct. 1 after an extra long break due to COVID-19. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

What to expect: Yukon legislature resumes Oct. 1

In March the legislative assembly quickly passed the budget before ending early

The Yukon legislature will resume on Oct. 1 with a few changes that include masks, social distancing and – if parties are to be believed – a new spirit of collaboration.

The legislature resumes Oct. 1 at 1 p.m.

So far items up for discussion are expected to include a bill on fixed election dates, changes to the Condominium Act, leftover legislation from the spring sitting and multiple budgets that will include details on COVID-19 spending.

All government bills to be dealt with during the 2020 Fall Sitting will have to be introduced by Oct. 8.

In March the legislative assembly quickly passed the budget before ending early due to COVID-19.

How long the fall session will last is a decision that will be made by mid-October. At its shortest, the legislative assembly will rise on Nov. 5 and at its longest, the House will rise on Dec. 14.

Leftover business

Seven bills left over from the last sitting are already on the order paper and up for debate. These include the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act that will ban conversion therapy for minors and the Act to Eliminate Daylight Saving Time.

Legislation is also being brought forward that would allow victims of domestic or sexual violence to access a paid or unpaid leave of absence.

State of emergency financials

On Sept. 29 Government House Leader Tracy-Anne McPhee said the government plans to introduce two supplementary budgets. These documents deal with changes in spending from what was previously allocated in the main budget.

The first will deal with changes made to the 2019-20 budget, including funds that have already been spent.

A second supplementary budget will deal with changes made to the 2020-21 budget, including changes in spending that have come up over the last six months during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government has also made some major funding announcements recently tied to emergency relief that will be included in those financials.

In June the federal government doubled the territory’s debt limit to $800 million at the request of the Yukon government. At the time the premier said the funds don’t have to be used, but could make more green energy projects possible.

Opposition priorities

Both the Yukon Party and the NDP have been criticizing the decision not to recall the legislature during the COVID-19 state of emergency, so don’t expect that tone to lessen as the government resumes sitting as scheduled.

Both parties say they want an opportunity to give feedback on COVID-19 decisions – and they’ll likely be making up for lost time when they get their chance during the sitting.

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon said the party has concerns about the Liberal strategy when it comes to businesses struggling with the pandemic, the government’s approach to wildlife management and hunting and the debt limit being doubled in a state of emergency.

NDP party leader Kate White said her main priorities right now are a post-pandemic vision for the territory, including a living wage. The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition pegs that number at $19.07 per hour, but the minimum wage is now $13.71 per hour.

Both Dixon and White said they have concerns about the current back-to-school configuration, including a decision to make some high school grades part-time that has many parents and students concerned.

Playing nice

The most recent full sitting by the government a year ago was characterized by back-and-forth bickering. Dixon said his party intends to change that going forward.

“We’re going to be taking an approach that’s very constructive and positive. We’re going to offer solutions,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, the Liberal Party isn’t taking the blame for political tension either. When asked about Dixon’s statement by reporters, McPhee said her party has been aiming for collaboration since 2016.

“We’ve always taken the position that constructive work together is far more productive on behalf of Yukoners, than sniping or insults or name-calling for the purposes of trying to make cheap points,” she said.

NDP leader Kate White said she looks forward to seeing both parties end “the blame game.”

“It doesn’t make life better for Yukoners,” White said.

Election looming

A territorial election is looming, a fact that is likely to influence how politicians interact over the sitting days and the following 12 months.

The Liberals will be required to call an election sometime prior to Nov. 18, 2021. Although they plan to introduce new legislation that would establish fixed election dates going forward, that law won’t come into effect until after the next election.

Without a fixed election date the decision of when to call an election remains with the sitting government. All three parties and election officials are already beginning to prepare for an election that could, in theory, be called at any time.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Correction: This article has been updated to clarify that while the Yukon government requested the federal government to increase the debt limit, the Yukon government did not in fact increase the debt limit, and that only four of the returning seven bills are government bills.

Yukon legislative assembly

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

Just Posted

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. Politicians return for the spring sitting of the assembly March 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Analysis: What to expect in spring sitting of the legislature

They’re back on March 4, but election speculation is looming large

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read