Yukon Party fails to topple Liberal gov't, as NDP rejects partnership
'What we don't need right now is political games,' said NDP Leader Kate White
Yukon's Official Opposition has failed in its attempt to topple Sandy Silver's Liberal minority government, as the NDP pointedly refused to play along.
Currie Dixon's opposition Yukon Party tabled a motion of non-confidence against Silver's government, seven months after Yukoners reduced the Liberals to a minority government in the last general election.
The motion was defeated in a vote in the Legislature late Wednesday afternoon, with only the Yukon Party's eight MLAs voting in favour.
For the motion to carry, Currie Dixon's Yukon Party would have needed at least two other MLAs to back it. That led him this week to court the NDP.
NDP Leader Kate White, however, was having none of it. In an emotional speech in the Legislature on Wednesday, she described how she felt she was being manipulated, and she questioned the sincerity of the Yukon Party's stated rationale for the motion.
"What we don't need right now is political games. We don't need a party leveraging the abuse of children for their own political gain," she said, referring to the Hidden Valley school sexual abuse case which has dominated political debate for months, and served as backdrop to Wednesday's drama in the Legislature.
"I know that not everyone will agree with the position that we're taking today. The government has failed to act on and address many issues, and Hidden Valley is the primary one," White said, just before voting against the non-confidence motion.
Dixon calls for public inquiry
Speaking before the vote on Wednesday, Dixon described how he felt duty-bound to introduce the non-confidence motion. He said Silver's government was failing on a number of fronts, but that his primary concern was the Hidden Valley case.
The Yukon Party has repeatedly hammered the government and the former education minister to speak about when they knew about the sexual abuse case, and what they did or did not do about it.
Several independent investigations are now underway into the Hidden Valley case, including one called by the government itself.
Dixon said he wants more — namely, a public inquiry. He said that's what he'd do if his party were to replace the Liberals in power, and it's why he forced a confidence vote.
"It was after hours and hours of difficult conversations, letters, emails and correspondence from families and others. It was with the interests of the parents and children in mind," Dixon said.
"I wish that we weren't here today being forced to discuss this, but we have to."
Dixon argued that an election would not be necessary even if his motion carried, because he was willing to work out a deal with the NDP — a party typically at the opposite end of the political spectrum — to prop up his own minority government.
He said he would honour the exact Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) White and the NDP worked out with the Liberals shortly after the election last spring, and make the same policy concessions he'd slammed just months ago as "the most left-wing political agenda that this territory has ever seen."
Speaking on Wednesday, he characterized those concessions as a bitter pill he was now willing to swallow.
"I had to bring my own party on board and convince people that I had spent the last six months explaining why I disagree with CASA that I was now going to offer to support it. And that was not easy," he said.
"But if putting water in my wine and giving up what are significant policy concessions ... to deliver those answers and to deliver this accountability for families and bring about a change in government, then it was worth it to me."
White scoffed at Dixon's sincerity. She questioned how he could come around to support an agreement that was apparent anathema to his party not that long ago.
"The Yukon Party has repeatedly slammed this agreement as being too radical," she said, adding that her experience of the previous Yukon Party government convinced her "there was no way to work together."
Still, White also made clear that her party's votes on Wednesday should not be seen as a "free pass" for Silver's Liberals. She said the government must still be held accountable, and that Hidden Valley parents are owed "acknowledgement and a genuine apology."
White has also called for a public inquiry into the matter.
"I have made it clear that the Liberals have made some serious mistakes," she said.
"If anything, the rules have been re-drawn today. And I expect more, and I expect better."
- An earlier version of this story misquoted Kate White's reference to the "abuse of children" as the "use of children."Nov 25, 2021 11:00 AM CT