The opposition parties have written a letter to Yukon Premier Sandy Silver asking him to call the legislature back.
Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent and Yukon NDP leader Kate White both spoke to the News about this letter on May 19. Both parties want the legislature called back into session to allow for the opposition to ask questions related to the COVID-19 response.
The government had proposed a series of budget meetings to take place at the end of May but those were cancelled. Silver addressed this during the May 19 COVID-19 update, where he said the opposition did not want to go through with these meetings.
He said he gave the opposition a chance to talk about the budget.
As for talking COVID-19 relief spending, he said that accounting will happen in the fall supplementary budget. He said this is no different than in wildfire season, where you would not stop a response to have a sitting but rather wait until the supplementary budget.
“We’re going to have a full opportunity to have the opposition critique every dollar spent on COVID and that will happen in the fall,” Silver said.
Kent pointed out that the premier has the power to call the legislature back into session. The Yukon Party wants a chance to provide a level of scrutiny to the COVID-19 relief programs and spending that he feels is being denied currently.
He felt Silver was asking the opposition to sign on to the series of budget meetings but stalling when the Yukon Party wanted to talk about something else.
Kent wants the party leaders to come together and ask questions and get answers for constituents.
“We’ve said that we’ve been available anytime, but (Silver) continues to ignore the request,” Kent said.
Kent disagrees with Silver’s comparison of the pandemic to a wildfire, even calling this assertion “crazy.” He explained that no wildfire has lead to the closure of schools, shuttering of business, spending of tens of millions and enacting the Civil Emergency Measures Act.
“It’s pretty disingenuous for the premier to compare what we’re going through now to a wildfire season,” Kent said.
He stood firm that it is paramount that Silver call the legislature back, adding there has been a lot of hype from the premier on the reopening plan, but the programs under-delivered.
White felt these budgetary meetings were not adequate.
She wants to have a conversation with Silver about a legislature sitting but says she has not gotten a response.
“Is it disappointing, absolutely,” White said.
She said the government forced the hand of the opposition to respond in this way. She stood firm that the opposition did not refuse to have these budgetary meetings. She feels the government only wants to talk about what it considered good things in the budget, while she wants to talk about COVID-19 relief programs.
“We’ve got suggestions,” White said. “We’ve got ideas.”
The NDP has been hearing from Yukoners and she feels this feedback could help strengthen programs.
She pointed out that Silver keeps saying, “we’re all in this together” but argued his actions demonstrates he does not believe it. She said it is problematic that he does not want to talk with the opposition.
There was talk about allowing for COVID relief scrutiny at the fall sitting. She said that was too far away because there are already gaps in the current programs that could be fixed if the opposition could bring it up.
“We’ve had sweeping changes, that should have oversight now, not months from now,” White said.
Contact Gord Fortin at firstname.lastname@example.org