Yukon Liberals will review spending, present spring budget
Premier Sandy Silver will look through the books before crafting first Liberal budget
The 34th session of the Yukon legislative assembly got underway yesterday with a brisk sitting, about an and hour and half long.
That gave the fledging Liberal government enough time to elect a Speaker (Riverdale North MLA Nils Clarke), hear a very succinct throne speech from Commissioner Doug Phillips, and appoint members to the various Standing Committees of the assembly.
Premier Sandy Silver will carry out a review of spending priorities over the next two months, and introduce a budget during the spring sitting in March.
The throne speech repeated Silver's oft-stated commitment to seek reconciliation with Yukon First Nations.
Move to government side
"It's a different view over here," Silver quipped while standing to reply during a debate on the throne speech.
He then went on to outline the government's priorities, including creating jobs, diversifying the economy and protecting the environment.
Silver pledged to "govern in a respectful manner, and I've asked the same of my colleagues on this side of the House."
Yukon Party MLA Stacey Hassard, a former cabinet minister, gave his first speech in his new role as leader of the official opposition.
He lost no time in taking Silver and his government to task.
Hassard noted that as the opposition's "key role" is to hold government to account, "a longer sitting would have been more appropriate."
He conceded though that the Yukon Party opposition had in fact agreed to the short sitting.
Hassard then accused Silver of allowing the federal government to "challenge" Yukon's autonomy.
"We've seen that with the recent federal government decision to ban offshore drilling without consulting with the Yukon," he said, also citing cuts to transfer payments.
Speaking afterwards with reporters, Silver acknowledged that the ban on offshore Arctic drilling was a "unilateral move. That's exactly what happened here."
Silver said the federal explanation was that it had to "move quickly with Obama because of the fears of the next government."
He added the northern territories made it clear that "we don't like unilteral moves and we made that blatantly known, and we told him we need to see him up here for any decisions that affect the North. He said he 'understood.'"
NDP strike conciliatory tone
NDP Kate White was the sole MLA in the house during the sitting.
Her tone was more conciliatory; she began by congratulating the government for stating that the legislative assembly sits on the traditional territory of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta'an Kwäch'än Council.
"I thank the new premier for acknowledging that," she said. She reminded the government that Yukon First Nations are "looking for action, not just for words."
She repeated the NDP's primary stance from the election campaign, urging the government to "keep our water clean and protected... a strong first step is to ban fracking in the Yukon forever."
Speaking to reporters later, White said she's "hopeful" that the Liberal government will be more accountable than its Yukon Party predecessor.
White said she's already met with community services minister John Streicker on the issue of rights for mobile home residents, adding that it had taken her four years to obtain the same meeting under the Yukon Party government.
Yesterday's debate on the throne speech was just a small sampling of what's to come. Opposition members will have wait until the spring sitting for a full-on question period.
And Yukoners will have to wait until March to see if the Liberals put their money where their mouth is.