A rare deal between the Yukon Liberal Party and Yukon NDP caucuses runs out in the new year.
Some Yukoners are wondering if the confidence and supply agreement (CASA) will be renegotiated and renewed before it expires.
The agreement stipulates that the NDP vote in support of the Liberal minority government. It is built on the principle of “good faith and no surprises.” The NDP made several requests of the Liberal government in exchange.
“All of the achievements in the confidence and supply agreement are initiatives of the NDP,” Yukon NDP Leader Kate White told reporters on Nov. 24, the final day of the fall sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
“I’m not the premier, my colleagues are not ministers. What did we do? We negotiated for Yukoners.”
From White’s angle, the Liberals “chose to do the absolute bare minimum” on their end.
Premier Sandy Silver indicated Nov. 24 he wants the deal extended.
But his time as premier is also coming up. Yukon Liberal Party members will elect a new leader who will replace Silver as premier. Silver said he will stay on until a new leader is chosen.
The date of the Liberal leadership convention is set for Jan. 28, 2023.
CASA expires on Jan. 31, 2023.
Democracy, climate change and environment, jobs and economy, services and affordability are the topics identified as policy pillars under the agreement.
Here’s the status of some items in the deal that affect many Yukoners’ day-to-day lives.
The agreement in writing is for residential rent increases to be capped at the rate of inflation and reviewed annually, effective May 15, 2021, until CASA ends. Currently, landlords must not jack up rent by more than 3.3 per cent, up from one per cent the previous year.
White asked about the rent cap on Nov. 24, the final day of the fall sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
“What does the minister have to say to tenants who will be facing unsustainable rent increases in February when he removes the rent cap?” White prompted.
“There are two visions here — the New Democrats campaigned on, and also championed, implementing a rent index with no consultation. The Yukon Liberal Party campaigned on increasing supply of properties in the territory to help make life more affordable for Yukoners. But we are all, in this House, searching to do the same thing,” Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn told the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
“We understand that the rent index was part of the confidence and supply agreement.”
Minimum wage is currently set at $15.70. It was originally bumped up to $15.20 on Aug. 1, 2021, as per CASA, and was increased again on April 1, 2022.
Increases are applied annually on April 1 of each subsequent year tied to inflation, which is calculated using the Consumer Price Index, according to the Yukon government’s website.
On Nov. 14, Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek North Geraldine Van Bibber questioned the government on minimum wage.
Mostyn cited CASA in his response: “As committed to in the confidence and supply agreement, and on the recommendation of the Employment Standards Board, the minimum wage will increase each year on April 1 by the previous year’s consumer price index,” he said.
Paid sick leave
A paid sick leave rebate program has been extended beyond the date set out in CASA.
The Yukon government announced in a Sept. 22 release that it is extending the program until March 31, 2023. The rebate is available for employers and people who are self-employed to pay workers up to 10 days in wages. Workers may receive up to 10 days in wages, or 10 days of average daily earnings per self-employed individual, if they are sick, self-isolating or caring for other household members due to COVID-19. The program was set to end on Sept. 30, as per CASA.
The Making Work Safe panel made recommendations to guide the execution of permanent paid sick leave and making changes to the Yukon’s Employment Standards Act. The panel falls under the territorial Liberal-NDP confidence and supply deal.
Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai told reporters in the cabinet office on Nov. 21 the Yukon government is seriously pursuing a permanent paid sick leave program.
How much will the program cost, how many days will it cover and who will be eligible for it have yet to be determined, he said.
Pillai said cabinet has approved a consultation process with the private sector on this topic.
While a dental plan is set to start on Jan. 1, 2023, White said the Yukon government is dragging its feet on implementing a fully funded dental plan, beginning with the 2022-23 budget, as per CASA.
A dental plan is a recommendation in Putting People First, the territory’s roadmap on the health system.
On Nov. 24, the final day of the fall sitting, Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee told the Yukon Legislative Assembly the dental plan will include dental treatment and full coverage for preventative care. She said the income-tested program will provide $1,300 in insured benefits annually to Yukoners without dental coverage, and Pacific Blue Cross will manage the program.
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