Premier Sandy Silver and NDP Leader Kate White announced April 28 that they have negotiated an agreement to stabilize the minority Liberal government.
“We agree that the way to move forward is to work together, to collaborate. And we agree that compromise is important too in those places where we differ. This agreement commits both of our caucuses to working together,” Silver said during a press conference.
The deal reached between the two parties is not a formal coalition. Instead, they have negotiated a “confidence and supply agreement” that extends from April 28 to Jan. 31, 2023.
Within that time frame the Yukon NDP caucus will support the budget and other confidence votes in the house.
In exchange for the support, the opposition party has insisted on certain priorities when the legislature resumes, including climate change targets, new mining legislation, universal dental, a raise in minimum wage, addictions services, a walk-in mental health clinic, caps on rent increases and a special committee to look at election reform.
“So today is a great day for Yukoners. Yukoners asked the parties to work together and that’s what we’ve done. From day one, my priorities have never changed, I want to get results for people,” added White.
“So I went to the negotiating table with all of those people and all of those stories in mind. And today, we struck a deal that secures results for them,” she said.
As of Aug. 1 the minimum wage in the Yukon will rise to $15.20 under the agreement. Annual increases will be tied to inflation.
The NDP election platform also included plans for a seven-day-a-week walk-in mental health clinic to open in Whitehorse, which has now been locked into the agreement.
Annual increases on rent were also an NDP promise, and the Liberals have agreed to cap residential rent increases at the rate of inflation effective May 15 and continuing on until the end of the agreement in 2023.
The parties are also planning to implement a territory-wide dental care plan. The upcoming budget will include $500,000 to develop the program, with a start date planned for the 2022-23 year.
Finally, a safe supply of opioids will be made available within six months. The agreement includes opening a supervised consumption site in Whitehorse by Aug. 31 this year. An initial cost of $1 million will be allotted in the budget.
Silver said the decision to work together with the NDP started on election night, when White was the only opposition leader to call him after results came in.
The agreement is based on “good faith and no surprises” according to the text, and the NDP will provide support on confidence votes if the agreement is respected. The process will also include greater consultation with NDP members when designing legislation.
White noted at the press conference that the agreement does not include silence in places where the two parties disagree.
“I’ve committed the Yukon NDP caucus to passing Premier Silver’s budgets and supplementaries. But I have not committed to not saying what I believe. I won’t stop saying what I think is right and working on those things for Yukoners. We will have differences, and that’s okay,” she said.
White has also asked for participation in the Yukon Forum. Because it is not a formal coalition, the NDP will not hold cabinet positions, aside from an NDP member being appointed deputy speaker and chair of committee of the whole.
The Liberal party will be appointing a speaker from their own ranks.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction: The original version of this article suggested the federal government had raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour earlier this year. This increase only applies to federally regulated jobs. The new minimum wage in the Yukon will be $15.20.