Yukon Liberals, reduced to minority, embrace the NDP

Yukon's Liberals and NDP have struck a deal to work together in the next Legislative Assembly — signalling that Yukoners will not be returning to the polls anytime soon.

Liberal Leader Sandy Silver and NDP Kate White announce formal partnership

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver and NDP Leader Kate White said Wednesday their parties will work together, holding 11 of the territory's 19 seats. (CBC)

Yukon's Liberals and NDP have struck a deal to work together in the next Legislative Assembly — signalling that Yukoners will not be returning to the polls anytime soon.

Liberal Leader Sandy Silver and NDP Leader Kate White on Wednesday announced a confidence and supply agreement "that creates a more formal bridge between our two caucuses," Silver said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. 

The leaders stopped short, however, of calling it a coalition. Silver stressed that it was an "agreement" under a Yukon Liberal minority government, the negotiations for which started shortly after election night.

"The sky's the limit, as far as what we want to accomplish together. And we're going to start with this and we'll see where it goes," Silver said.

The agreement will be in effect until Jan. 31, 2023.

White said she has committed her party to passing Silver's budget, and other confidence bills.

"But I will not stop saying what I believe," she said.

The deal gives the parties a working majority in the Legislative Assembly, with 11 of the 19 seats between them. The Liberals won eight seats in the territorial election earlier this month — down from 10 before the campaign — while the NDP won three, raising speculation that a deal between the parties might be in the works. 

The other eight seats went to the Yukon Party, now to remain the Official Opposition. A Yukon Party spokesperson declined to comment on the agreement Wednesday, saying the party had not had a chance to read over the document yet. 

Addressing opioid crisis, climate change among promises

Under the agreement, both the Liberals and NDP are promising to work with each other in "good faith," with the Liberals committing to not requesting a dissolution of the assembly unless they lose a confidence vote, and the NDP, to neither move or vote non-confidence.

As well, the agreement lays out 16 wide-ranging policy initiatives that both parties will pursue together. They include recalling the assembly within one month of the swearing-in of a Yukon Liberal government and passing the 2021-2022 budget during the first sitting.

Other initiatives include:

  • Increasing the territory's greenhouse has emission reduction target for 2030 from 30 per cent to 45 per cent;
  • Increasing minimum wage to $15.20 an hour in August, with future increases to be tied to inflation;
  • Extending the government's paid-sick-leave reimbursement program for employers to September 2022;
  • Re-instating individualized education plans for children with special learning needs;
  • Introducing a safe drug supply within six months, and opening a supervised consumption site in Whitehorse by Aug. 31;
  • Establishing and fully funding a territory-wide dental care plan by the 2022-2023 budget;
  • and capping residential rent increases at the rate of inflation.

An appendix on consultation and dispute resolution says that, when issues arise, the NDP will choose a point-person from its caucus who a Liberal minister will consult with directly, the parties will create a "consultation committee"  and that Silver and White will hold "regular meetings" to dispense of any remaining issues.

"Both parties acknowledge that consultation will form the basis of ensuring that good relationships can be built, that the principle of good faith and no surprises can be followed, and that a strong, stable and effective minority government can exist," the agreement reads. 

'Great day for Yukoners'

"Today is a great day for Yukoners. Yukoners have asked the parties to work together, and that's what we've done," White said. "It's a deal that I'm so proud of."

She later added that the Liberals and NDP were "trying something that's never been tried before," in both the territorial and Canadian context. 

"And watch out Canada, because I think we've got some pretty cool things coming," she said.

Silver — who last week announced his intention to form a government despite his party losing its majority — said the two parties appreciate the "need for a stable government," and that there was now an "expedited process" for things the Liberals and NDP already agree upon. 

"Above all, we know that Yukoners need a government that will get the work done and deliver the results ... I look forward to this collaborative approach," he said.

MLAs were all sworn in last week.

Silver has not yet named his cabinet; however, in a statement April 29, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau congratulated him on being re-elected as premier. 

"I look forward to continuing to work closely with Premier Silver and the Government of Yukon to keep Northerners and their communities safe, healthy, and supported in this challenging time, and to build back better for everyone," the statement said.

"Together, we can make progress on shared priorities, including tackling the impacts of climate change in the North, creating jobs and clean economic growth, delivering on affordable housing and child care, and improving the well-being of Indigenous peoples, as we recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic." 

Read the agreement between the Yukon Liberals and Yukon NDP: