The Yukon government is back in the red, running a $31.6 million dollar deficit amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Sandy Silver tabled a supplementary budget on Thursday, as the territory's Legislative Assembly reconvened for the first time since March.
The deficit comes after the government reported a $4.1 million surplus this spring.
While the vast majority of new spending is related to COVID-19, Premier Sandy Silver says he's concerned about the possibility of long term deficits.
Silver says the spending was necessary and noted the Yukon did not lose its credit rating.
According to budget documents, the federal government covered most of the new spending.
"It's extremely concerning," said Silver. "But compared to other jurisdictions in Canada, we're in a very, very good place because of our strong commitment to the economy and the environment." Budget documents also paint a grim picture of Yukon's job market, showing the pandemic wiped out a decade of job growth in the territory.
Committee to review CEMA
The Liberal government also introduced a motion to set up an all-party committee to review Yukon's Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA), which was used to invoke emergency legislation amid the pandemic. The government has issued more than 24 ministerial orders under CEMA, including extending states of emergency.
The Yukon Party has been calling for more democratic oversight of orders issued under CEMA.
On Thursday, the Liberals agreed changes were necessary. The premier proposed a committee made up of one member from each political party.
But the Yukon Party disagreed with the choice of Community Services Minister John Streicker, who is responsible for CEMA, as the Liberal member of the committee. "That's tantamount to him wanting to participate in the writing of his own report card," said Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon.
Premier Sandy Silver says Streicker's responsibility for CEMA made him the perfect person for the committee.
"I guess there's no credit ever," said Silver.
The committee would conduct public hearings and call witnesses. It would issue a report by the end of August, 2021.
Proceedings looked somewhat different Thursday, with desks spaced out and masks mandatory in the public gallery.
During question period, NDP Leader Kate White asked about help for the struggling tourism industry and increasing the $13.71 minimum wage, particularly after the federal "top-up" for essential workers runs out.
The Yukon Party asked about extra mental health supports for children returning to school.
Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said the government had not provided additional mental health supports for school re-openings, but noted that mental health supports already exist in the territory's schools.
She said the government was doing a review of student support services, but it was was delayed due to the pandemic.