Photo by Whitehorse Star
NDP Leader Kate White
Photo by Whitehorse Star
NDP Leader Kate White
The New Democrats “continue to push the envelope” using their political power to create a better Yukon, NDP Leader Kate White told the party’s spring convention last Sunday.
“The Yukon has the highest minimum wage in the country at $16.77/hour,” she told the delegates at the Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre and those online.
“There’s a rent cap in place to help tenants weather the storm of a housing market gone crazy. The loophole of evictions without cause has finally been closed.
“A supervised consumption site has been opened; safe supply is trickling out in to the community.”
Meanwhile, White said, “the most comprehensive public dental plan in Canadian history was rolled out; this program is expected to help up to 8,000 Yukoners.”
The Yukon Child Benefit has been indexed to inflation, and will rise by 6.8 per cent on July 1 – and continue to be indexed going forward.
“As well, social assistance rates have risen by $100 a month while a review of the system is finally being undertaken.”
Twenty years after the commitment was made, successor resource legislation is on its way to being developed, White reminded her listeners.
“Meanwhile, every Yukon employee now has access to paid sick leave.”
As well, White recalled, MLA Lane Tredger spearheaded legislation that passed to ensure safe spaces for 2SLGBTQ+ students in all Yukon schools.
Meanwhile, MLA Annie Blake brought forward legislation that passed to make Truth and Reconciliation Day a statutory September holiday.
“These are incredible achievements,” White said. “All of us who learn from and keep community at the core of our decisions have been told for decades that the NDP were asking for too much.
“What the NDP have been able to achieve in the Yukon is living proof that decisions and policies coming from a place of love can and do work.”
New Democrats are on the ground doing the work of supporting community, holding the climate close and uplifting those around us, White said.
“The ideas that we champion don’t come out of thin air; they come out of the lived experiences of our friends and neighbours. They are grounded in truth.”
Today’s three NDP MLAs “are standing on the shoulders of giants,” she told the audience.
“We are guided by the vision, hard work and dedication of those who believed that the society we want is possible.
“Whether in elected roles or not, those New Democrats of the past made space for us to dream and made space for those taking on roles across our communities now.” In the assembly in the weeks ahead of the 2021 election, White recalled, she was seeking a $15 hourly minimum wage, “and by the time Annie, Lane and I went back in, we had achieved that goal. And so many others.
“As incredible as that was, I felt like I had lost my anchor,” White told her listeners.
“For 10 years, the Yukon NDP was pushing a rock up a never-ending hill. In opposition to two majority governments, despite our best efforts, very little changed.
“We laid out the case for safe supply and a managed alcohol program, lobbied for a higher minimum wage, called for a climate emergency declaration and higher greenhouse gas emission targets and much more, over and over again … but even with the support of the public, any gain that was made was minimal.”
During that decade, White believed the big changes that were so desperately needed would only happen if the NDP formed a government … “and then on election night (2021), the world as I knew it changed.
“We put incredible initiatives into the first Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA), and in a short amount of time, we made the impossible possible.
“We are living what I think democracy should look like. Parties with differing views finding commonalities, pushing to get priorities accomplished and working together. It isn’t easy!”
Early this year, White added, “I had to think long and hard on the previous 18-plus months before I even entertained entering into a second CASA.
“Because even though our good ideas are moving forward, they are being actioned by a government that doesn’t share our values. They cut corners we wouldn’t dream of, push timelines to the absolute last minute and are willing to negotiate with the well-being of Yukoners to get what they want.
“That’s not our way.”
Important things are happening for Yukoners “because we continue to push the envelope,” White said.
“All of the positive policy issues and changes that the Liberals have made in the last two years have come from us.
“Compromise is hard. For 10 years, I never had to bend. But every day, I’m reminded that the trees that withstand the strongest winds are the trees that are able to bend.”
“I didn’t allow the government to fall when really hard issues came to light. I made the decision that the priorities we identified in the first CASA were too valuable for people to allow us to be a pawn of the Yukon Party.”
She thought “long and hard about the Yukon and its people and my responsibility to them before I even agreed to start negotiations on the second (CASA).
“I’ve had to defend my decisions, which is fair, and when it’s all said and done, even though it was a complicated choice.
“I know that I made the right choice, the Yukon that we know and the country we live in has changed for the better because of the decisions and actions we have taken.
“We have attained more progressive changes from an opposition bench than any other party in the country. Every day we are making life better for people.”
Yet people are still hurting, White acknowledged.
“Whether we’re talking about health care, education, climate, housing, the environment or any aspect that touches our lives, I know there’s more to do. And sometimes that can feel hopeless.”
Every day, people are resisting and pushing back against systems that don’t work, and, without forming government, the NDP has proved the naysayers wrong, she said.
“So on the darker days, I remind myself of all that we’ll be able to accomplish when we do form government ... we can move mountains when we set more places at the table.”
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