The Yukon Party said changes need to be made to the Civil Emergency Measures Act to prevent territorial governments from acting without transparency.
In a statement released Sept. 2, the opposition says it plans to amend the act to require oversight by the legislative assembly, even during an emergency.
Their primary concerns are the extension of the state of emergency by 90 days on June 12, the territorial debt limit being raised to $800 million and the back to school plan, all of which was done without recalling the legislature.
“The Civil Emergency Measures Act was designed to respond quickly to emergencies like floods and fires and those types of acute emergencies. But in the case of an extended emergency, like the one we’re in, I think it’s entirely appropriate that the Yukon Legislative Assembly play a role in providing oversight and accountability for the Yukon government,” Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon said.
“This will be a part of our election platform going into the next election, whenever it may be,” he said.
In March the government passed the 2020-21 budget before shutting down the spring session early due to COVID-19 concerns. On June 12 the Liberal government extended the state of emergency for 90 days. The legislature is scheduled to resume Oct. 1.
A number of provinces and territories have recalled their legislature for emergency sittings in order to pass new COVID-19 laws, including Ontario and British Columbia.
At a press conference on Sept. 2 Premier Sandy Silver said the government had been “busy dealing with the pandemic” and he hadn’t seen the proposal from the opposition.
Silver said the legislature will return on Oct. 1 and he is “very interested in what the opposition has to say, suggestions and critiques.”
“I’m looking forward to that opportunity. Private member’s days on Wednesdays are a great opportunity for the opposition to have their say to put forth motions and other things. Nothing is stopping them right now from sending in emails or letters as well,” Silver said.
Silver said the Liberal government has offered the opposition briefings and discussions.
Dixon said none of those avenues replace the legislature, and the lack of oversight from that official institution is “undemocratic.”
While Dixon said while many decisions made by the Liberal government during the pandemic have been necessary, some have also been controversial. Seven people filed a petition to the Yukon Supreme Court in June arguing that the territorial government’s COVID-19 border control and health orders, as well as the act under which they were made, are unconstitutional and should be struck down.
“We’re into six months now [of the pandemic] and the legislature hasn’t sat at all. So Yukoners haven’t had the ability through their democratically elected representatives to ask questions and raise issues,” he said.
An election for the next territorial government must take place before November 14, 2021.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org