Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

What went down at the legislative assembly this fall

Liberals tout passed bills; opposition parties say there’s been little to no action on other fronts

Premier Sandy Silver told reporters that Yukoners expect legislation to be modernized, a priority that his government has accomplished this fall in the legislative assembly.

The sitting wrapped up Nov. 22.

Big takeaways included the passing of amendments to the Coroner’s Act, the new access to information and privacy act, the updated Societies Act and overhauling legislation to ensure that gender-neutral language is used.

It should be noted that despite municipalities having the option of subscribing to the information and privacy law, the Yukon government has the authority to force them to come under it. Whether this power will be used is unclear, however.

Silver said changes to budgetary processes have freed up time for more legislative changes, a move ensuring that the Yukon is “at the forefront when it comes to social issues.”

Several hot button topics resurfaced repeatedly this sitting.

Carbon pricing was one of them, which will come into effect in the Yukon in July, six months later than other jurisdictions that are part of the federal government’s backstop.

The Yukon Party relentlessly tried to suss out more details about the plan but to no avail, it seems.

It inquired as to whether the trucking industry, for instance, will be entitled to an exemption like the aviation sector is.

“The trucking industry has told us they can’t even get a meeting with the premier in regards” to gaining an exemption, Yukon Party Leader Stacey Hassard told reporters.

“The answers aren’t any better than they were two years ago,” he added.

Rebates collected from Ottawa will flow back to Yukoners, Silver said, a point he’s insisted thoroughout the sitting.

“We do know that we’ve committed to a rebate to the First Nations and the municipal governments,” he said, adding that there’s a “dollar for dollar” placer mining rebate.

“We are still waiting on some other information from the federal government. I wish that I could say right now that we had that information,” Silver said.

Hassard threw barbs at Liberal leadership, saying that the party has no plan or vision.

“I think the lack of leadership is starting to show,” he said.

Hassard said a recent engagement survey, which shows opinions the Executive Council Office has of the government, is proof of floundering leadership.

The survey, which is publicly available, shows that 49 per cent of ECO members have confidence in senior leadership.

“That’s a bit indicative of the way things are going with this government, and it’s very similar in the legislature and the lack of answers we’re getting,” Hassard said.

The Electoral District Boundaries Act was defeated this week, with all Liberal MLAs voting against it. One reason for the move was that the concept of a 20th riding did not carry over into the final report compiled by an independent commission.

Darren Parsons, a member of the Yukon Electoral District Boundaries Commission, tasked with making recommendations on electoral reform, blasted the government, telling the News the decision was incompetent and an attack on the non-partisan body.

During a press briefing on Nov. 22, Silver said that Parsons is entitled to his opinion.

Capacity issues at Whitehorse elementary schools were frequently raised during question period. The News reported a series of stories that delved into problems at Golden Horn Elementary School — at 98 per cent capacity — which has hosted small learning groups in boiler room closets and in a hallway.

Golden Horn has the highest concentration of students out of 10 others that are nearing 100 per cent capacity.

A tender for one portable was reportedly put out this month. It doesn’t appear to be public and it’s unclear where it will go.

The NDP will eventually be on the lookout for a new leader, as Liz Hanson officially announced on Nov. 21 that she’s stepping down from the post, a position she’s held since 2009.

On the final day of the fall sitting, Hanson told reporters that she’s resigning in order to prime the party for the next election.

She will remain third party leader until a successor is found. So, too, will Hanson continue to be the MLA for Whitehorse-Centre, a title she’s held since 2010.

Hanson called the Liberal government “pretty status quo.”

“That’s their approach: ‘We’re not going to rock the boat on almost anything,’” she said, adding that during the Liberal’s campaign, the party said it was going to listen to Yukoners.

That the Liberal government defeated its own bill concerning electoral reform, Hanson said, which would have allowed for rural and urban voting parity, damages its credibility, adding that it should cause the party pause for not accepting recommendations from a non-partisan commission.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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