WHITEHORSE – The Spring Sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly has ended. The sitting, only 11 days in length, was the third shortest spring sitting in the last 20 years. The only sittings that were shorter were the spring sitting of 2020 that was shortened by the pandemic, and the earlier spring sitting of March 2021 that was cut short by a snap election.
The unusually short sitting length was determined behind closed doors by the Liberal-NDP coalition. The truncated sitting left a shockingly inadequate amount of time for elected officials to review the $1.8 billion budget. Repeated attempts from the Yukon Party Official Opposition to allow for democratic oversight of the largest budget in the territory’s history were shut down by the Liberal-NDP coalition. Even on the last day of the sitting with over 90% of the budget yet to be debated and voted on, both coalition partners voted against allowing for more time to provide oversight.
A common theme of this legislative sitting was ministers unable or unwilling to answer questions.
Yukon Party MLAs brought forward many concerns that Yukoners have with the backroom Liberal-NDP coalition agreement to the floor of the legislative assembly. Those included rent control, the timelines for developing successor mining legislation, ignoring the process for determining a minimum wage hike, and the restoration of Individualized Education Plans. All issues garnered vague responses that has left Yukoners wondering what is next.
The Yukon Party also questioned the lack of benchmarks and timelines when it comes to reopening the territory as we emerge from the pandemic.
“The short sitting has uncovered many holes in the Liberal-NDP coalition agreement,” said Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon. “With many aspects of the agreement subject to tight timelines, it will be interesting to see if this hasty and poorly thought out backroom deal will hold up over the coming months, and what impacts some cobbled-together policies will have on Yukoners.”
Yukon Party MLAs also brought many other issues forward such as the Whistle Bend School, early learning and child care, enhancing support for the Yukon Hospital Corporation to address wait-times, land-use planning, rising construction costs, and the lack of funding for the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
The sitting also saw Yukon Party motions pass to develop a Type 1 Diabetes Strategy, and to improve pedestrian crosswalks on the Alaska Highway in Watson Lake.
It also saw a significant and historic milestone achieved as Yvonne Clarke became the first Filipina MLA to ask a question in the Legislative Assembly, and became the first person to address the assembly in Tagalog.
MLAs will now head back to their ridings and consult with constituents about what issues they would like to see brought forward in the fall.