FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 7, 2022
WHITEHORSE – The decision by the federal government to invoke the Emergencies Act has prompted a national debate on the topic of government use of emergency legislation and the need for democratic oversight. The Yukon Party Official Opposition is now tabling proposed legislation that will strengthen democratic oversight of emergency powers in the territory through the provision of public consultation and imposition of important safeguards on the use of emergency powers by government.
“Since early in the pandemic, the Yukon Party has called for democratic oversight of the government’s actions,” said Leader of the Yukon Party Currie Dixon. “National debate on the use of emergency powers has led many respected experts and elected representatives to conclude the use of emergency powers should not be normalized. We agree – and have been saying this for close to two years.”
The territorial Liberal government has moved toward normalizing the use of emergency powers, including casually using them to make changes in areas well outside the scope of public health. The current wording of the Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) allows the Liberal Cabinet to extend the State of Emergency and use sweeping emergency powers in perpetuity while avoiding democratic oversight. In fact, the territory has been under a state of emergency for 21 of the last 24 months. Previously, the Yukon Party proposed legislation to improve CEMA by requiring democratic oversight of government during an extended emergency.
“A public health situation is not an excuse to bypass democracy,” said Brad Cathers, MLA for Lake Laberge. “It is important that emergency powers be used only when there is no other reasonable alternative – not simply because it is more convenient for government. Our new proposed legislation contains several safeguards inspired by the federal legislation that was recently used by Ottawa. These safeguards require timely legislative oversight, public consultation, and a public inquiry afterward to determine if the use of emergency powers was necessary and handled appropriately.”
The legislation being tabled includes all the provisions in the private members bill tabled previously by the Yukon Party; “Bill 300 - Act to Amend the Civil Emergencies Act and the new language strengthening the proposed territorial legislation is very similar to the democratic safeguards found in the federal Emergencies Act.
The amendments will:
- require that any declaration of a State of Emergency be debated by the Legislative Assembly within 7 days and be subject to a vote.
- provide the Yukon Legislative Assembly with control over the extension of a State of Emergency.
- require that any regulations and ministerial orders be subject to a mandatory review by the Legislative Assembly or a Committee of the Legislative Assembly within 45 days of being issued.
- empower committees of the Legislative Assembly to conduct public hearings on regulations and ministerial orders under the Civil Emergency Measures Act.
- if the Speaker receives a request from three MLAs, require that the Assembly debate a request to revoke a declaration of a State of Emergency; and
- require that a public inquiry be held after the declaration of a state of emergency. (This can be waived if three-quarters of MLAs agree.)