The Yukon legislative assembly adjourned until Oct. 1 on Thursday evening after passing the territorial budget for 2020-21.
MLAs sat in debate until 9:30 p.m. to allow as much debate as possible before passing four bills and adjourning.
The quick passing of bills was recommended by Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Four finance bills were passed, including the territorial government’s $1.6-billion budget for the coming year.
This budget includes $369.7 million in capital spending and $1.25 billion in operations and maintenance.
The opposition parties said Thursday they disagreed with the Liberals’ decision to rush the budget vote, rather than return for a more lengthy debate in early summer.
Stacey Hassard, the Yukon Party’s interim leader, told media Wednesday afternoon that he thought passing the budget this week was “irresponsible.”
Kate White, the leader of the NDP, said she was hoping the budget would be adjusted to promise support for Yukoners whose income will be affected by COVID-19.
The three parties negotiated on Thursday morning. Both opposition parties asked for specific commitments from the ruling party before supporting the motion to adjourn early.
The NDP obtained a commitment from the government to safeguard renters from evictions during the pandemic.
White said Thursday afternoon that she drew her line in the sand on this issue, determined the assembly would not adjourn until Yukoners were protected.
The Liberals made a commitment in writing to this effect, obtained by the Star yesterday.
“We will support renters and landlords to ensure housing is secure during the COVID-19 situation by adding a clause to all tenancy agreements that will safeguard against COVID-19-related evictions,” Janet Moodie, the premier’s chief of staff, wrote in an email to the NDP leader.
White said that while she was disappointed that more work wasn’t done on the record-size budget, she is happy to have this commitment.
“I know this will be a huge relief for hundreds of Yukoners who are facing uncertain times,” White said.
“I’m proud to know that we were able to bring those concerns to our work and get the guarantee that folks need that they won’t lose their housing due to no fault of their own.”
White added that she will continue to support Yukoners outside of the legislative assembly. She will be listening carefully to constituents to ensure that the government’s promise is fulfilled and nobody faces eviction.
On the Yukon Party’s side of negotiations, permanent funding for continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices was secured, as well as an agreement to stay late in debate on Thursday evening.
The wearable device tracks blood glucose levels every few minutes in persons with diabetes.
The government committed to permanently funding CGM for Yukoners up to 18 years of age, and introducing a CGM project for adults over 18.
The Yukon Party advocated for CGM as an essential service during the pandemic, as those living with Type 1 diabetes are at risk of severe complications as a result of COVID-19.
“We are proud to have fought for this commitment, as it will have a real and lasting impact on the lives of many Yukoners,” Hassard said in a statement this morning.
While neither party endorsed the decision to pass the budget, both White and Hassard said they are understanding of the need to adjourn the assembly.
Barring a change in plans, the next time MLAs return, the Yukon Party will have a new leader, with a leadership convention still scheduled for May 23.
Alongside the budget, the assembly passed the Budget Measures Implementation Act, which will reduce the small business tax from two to zero per cent.
Changes to the Income Tax Act were also approved, adjusting the Yukon Basic Personal Amount in line with federal taxation changes.
The Third Appropriation Act was passed to revise the spending of the 2019-20 fiscal year, with an additional $19 million for health, education and safety, including fighting wildfires.
The Interim Supply Appropriation Act was also passed, freeing the flow of money for the first two months of the fiscal year.
Four additional bills received a first reading and will be revisited in October.
These are the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection Act, which would ban conversion therapy, the Employment Standards Act, the Land Titles Act and the Act to Amend Wills Act.