Yukon MLAs pass flurry of bills as marathon fall sitting wraps up

·2 min read

At 45 days it was the Yukon's longest legislative sitting in 25 years.

It started with MLAs promising to play nice as they tried to make up for legislative work delayed when the spring session was cut short due to COVID-19. It ended Tuesday with Commissioner Angélique Bernard granting royal assent to eight government bills, including a supplementary budget, a ban on single-use plastics and fixed election dates that start in 2025.

Along the way, there was plenty of partisan mudslinging as the three main parties prepare for the next territorial election.

Speaking to reporters, Premier Sandy Silver said the year has been a trying one for cabinet ministers and civil servants alike.

"COVID hit and and then you really know who you're working with when the proverbial crap hits the fan," he said. "I'm just really so proud of everybody. And so today's a reflective day."

Silver listed what he held up as his government's accomplishments: among them relief for the territory's battered tourism sector, a ban on conversion therapy and a 10-year green energy plan.

But Silver also took a swipe at the opposition Yukon Party, accusing them of spreading "misinformation" on COVID-19 and recklessly pushing to relax border controls before it was safe.

Chris Windeyer/CBC
Chris Windeyer/CBC

Opposition parties less impressed

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon likewise accused the Liberals of "partisan theatrics."

"[At the start of the sitting] I committed that the Yukon Party would try our best to ask straightforward questions and try to be as positive and collaborative as we could and that we would leave the leave the partisan theatrics to to the Liberals," he said. "And looking back on that, I'm just surprised at how right I was."

NDP leader Kate White said her party tried to contrast the Liberals' self-assessed positive economic outlook with issues facing the territory's working class, who she said have been hit hard by the pandemic and who were already facing high rent and low wages.

Chris Windeyer/CBC
Chris Windeyer/CBC

"All of those are are symbols of an economy that's not doing great," she said. "So ... until we start looking at how people are actually doing, it's hard to to put on those rose-coloured glasses."

The election must take place some time in 2021, but the exact date is still at the discretion of the Liberal government.

Silver wouldn't say whether the government will reconvene the legislature before calling the next election. There are no un-passed government bills remaining, although the assembly has struck an all-party committee to examine changes to the Civil Emergency Measures Act.

That committee is due to report its finding by the end of next August.