Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

VISUALIZING THE FUTURE – Premier Sandy Silver speaks to the media on Thursday afternoon. An extended Confidence and Supply Agreement with the NDP will be the responsibility of the next Liberal leader, he said.

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon

Parties offer takes on the fall sitting

The fall sitting of the legislative assembly wrapped up Thursday. 

By Ethan Lycan-Lang on November 25, 2022

The fall sitting of the legislative assembly wrapped up Thursday. 

Opening way back on Oct. 6, the 28 days that followed were full of back and forth between all three parties. And there’s a lot to look at.

The sitting involved a premier on his way out, a two-party agreement ready to expire, a department mired in multiple school scandals and a seemingly endless litany of questions about crunches in housing, health care and the cost of living.

Let’s look back on the last legislative sitting of 2022, and how the three party leaders thought it went.


First, the party in power.

The Liberals entered the fall sitting with a minority government, a rapidly expiring Confidence and Supply Agreement with the NDP and a leader preparing to step down. They left the sitting under the same circumstances.

Premier Sandy Silver announced in the spring he’d leave his post as soon as a replacement was found, though he’s committed to stay on as Klondike’s representative until the next territorial election.

This led to steady criticism from the Yukon Party that the government’s leader is a lame duck, and cabinet ministers were now using the legislature floor to jockey for an edge in a leadership race that only started this week.

But the Liberals were able to get some work done. 

“We passed all of our bills,” Premier Silver told reporters after the final question period of the fall Thursday, “including the Clean Energy Act, the Animal Protection and Control Act, the Midwifery Integration Amendments Act, and also the Carbon Pricing Rebate Amendments Act.”

The Animal Protection and Control Act, meant to improve public safety around unleashed dogs and improve animal welfare, faced some serious debate before passing.

The government was accused of failing to adequately consult industries that work with animals before voting on an act that could impact their businesses.

But the government said over-900 responses to an online survey, and meetings since 2018 were enough, and the bill passed.

The Clean Energy Act will hold the territory to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent (compared to 2010 levels) by 2030. Though the Yukon NDP would likely argue that bill is their party’s success, as a third party initiative under the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) between the two parties.

And what about that CASA?

The Liberals currently hold seven seats in the legislature – the Yukon Party holds eight as official opposition – but an agreement signed in 2021 has given them a working majority with the support of the NDP’s three members.

In exchange for that support, the ruling party agreed to pursue a number of NDP-driven policies, including the Clean Energy Act. But the third party hasn’t been overly pleased with the delivery of all those policies.

The NDP has also voiced frustration with a lack of Liberal support for the NDP’s push for the Government to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indegenous Peoples (UNDRIP), or for an NDP bill to restore First Nations consent to the Oil and Gas Act.

With the agreement expiring after January, tensions between the two parties could put the agreement’s renewal in jeopardy. Silver said his replacement would have to negotiate a new agreement, but he was hopeful something could be reached.

He went on to tout his government’s record on the economy – the Yukon GDP is up 10 per cent since 2020, and the territory confirmed a surplus for the 2021-22 fiscal year last month – but Silver acknowledged inflation was still an issue for many Yukoners.

Inflation and emergencies led the government to pass a supplementary budget in October, “which included money to support the response to floods and fires this year as well as money to provide the $150 inflation relief rebate to all residents and commercial customers in the territory,” Silver said.

“We’re expanding the rebate this fall and customers will continue to see the rebates on their electricity bills.”

Affordability was recognized by all three parties as a priority issue this fall, and the Yukon Liberals faced plenty of criticism for the rising cost of living this year – though inflation has been a nationwide, if not worldwide, trend since the spring.

Other criticisms included a lack of movement on housing developments. A number of pledged developments were delayed and over budget, and the average cost of a house in Whitehorse rose to over $700,000.

Health care was a major concern.

The government opened a new health clinic in Whitehorse, but it did so without physicians. The territory is still without a walk-in clinic, and is facing a shortage in family doctors and community nurses.

Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee told the legislature in October that community nursing faced a 40-per-cent vacancy rate.

The Yukon NDP criticized the government this sitting for poor record keeping that kept the territory in the dark about the extent of labour shortages in Yukon hospitals.

Speaking of records, Minister McPhee had to apologize on behalf of her department in October when an unencrypted USB drive containing confidential files from Family and Children’s Services was found in a pawn shop.

In energy news, it was discovered that the Atlin Hydro Expansion, which would replace up to five diesel generators with renewable hydroelectricity for Yukon, is behind schedule and underfunded.

Should the expansion fail, it would be a major hit to Yukon Energy’s renewable targets for the decade.

Lastly, the Department of Education faced tremendous criticism for its handling of two Whitehorse school scandals: a sexual abuse case at Hidden Valley Elementary, and systemic physical abuse at Jack Hulland Elementary.

The two opposition parties voted on a motion in 2021 to remove McPhee from cabinet for her response to the Hidden Valley scandal, but she has remained in cabinet through the fall sitting.

In his closing remarks to reporters, Silver said he was proud of what his government achieved this sitting though.

“It has been a profound honor to lead such a dedicated team,” he said.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work that we’ve accomplished together and the important work that is underway to keep this territory moving forward. The territory is in a much stronger place than when we formed government in 2016. And I believe it continues to move in the right direction.”


The Yukon Party summed up its criticisms of the government in a news release Thursday:

“As they grapple with the rising cost of living, Yukoners are looking to this Liberal government for any assistance,” said party leader Currie Dixon in the release.

“Whether it was the rising cost of gasoline, diesel, firewood, and home heating fuel, the Liberals looked rudderless as they floundered to address these basic questions. The opposition parties were allowed to dictate priorities as ministers were distracted by the premier’s looming retirement, and on who would take the job.”

The party said it was pleased its motion to remove home heating fuel from carbon pricing passed, but criticized Silver for refusing to follow through on it and write the Prime Minister to request the exemption. Silver said in question period Thursday the request would be denied, and it was in conflict of Yukon’s climate goals.

The Yukon Party spent the sitting attacking the Liberals for their handling of the incidents at Jack Hulland and Hidden Valley elementary schools, responses to rising inflation, missed timelines on housing, a lack of consultation with the private sector on the new Animal Protection and Control Act and rising costs at a hydro plant that’s supposed to support Yukon Energy’s shift to 93 per cent renewable power.

Dixon also said his party still wanted to see McPhee removed from cabinet.

Asked about how he expected relations with the ruling Liberals would be once Silver is replaced, Dixon said he hoped the new leader would be thicker-skinned.

“I hope that whoever takes over is a little more ready for the job and a little more able to handle the rigours of public debate,” he said, adding that he thought Silver took every Yukon Party criticism as a personal attack. 

He said the Liberals were out of ideas, relying instead on NDP initiatives in the agreement between those two parties.

Third party

On to the third party. Smaller than the others, this party made its voice heard this fall on issues touching student safety, transgender care, mental health and affordability.

With only three seats, the Yukon NDP did all it could to punch above its weight. And it was largely able to do that because of something this article has mentioned repeatedly: the 2021 confidence and supply agreement the party signed with the Government.

A number of policy initiatives – all driven by the third party – are included in that agreement: a raised minimum wage, rent control, a dental plan for low-income Yukoners (supposedly coming soon).

But that agreement expires after Jan. 31. You might think it would be in the best interest of both parties to renew it. The NDP gets a better chance to push its policy and the Yukon Liberals can hold on to its current Government role until 2025 – unless of course the new ruling party leader decides an election’s in order.

Nothing’s certain there though.

Yukon NDP Leader Kate White hasn’t been silent about her frustration with the ruling Liberals. A big point of contention was the Liberals lack of support on an NDP bill that would have restored First Nations consent to the Oil and Gas Act. The Liberals said not all First Nations governments were consulted.

“We’ve got two political parties coming from very different values,” she told media Thursday. She also said the territory’s Liberals have been slow-moving on CASA policies, using the agreement as a negotiating tool instead of legislating policies like rent control and inflation-based minimum wage increases.

“What did we do? We negotiated for Yukoners,” she said about CASA. “What did they choose to do? The absolute bare minimum. Was there an opportunity to strengthen (rent control) from their side for the benefit of yukoners? There was? Did they choose to act on it? They did not. Did they use reviewing the residential landlord tenant act as a weapon? Did they say: ‘sign and extend the agreement, and then we’ll do it? They did.”

“My frustration level today is really high.”

She said CASA was still good for Yukoners, but she’d hoped for more from it.

She added she was also happy a bill her party introduced passed unanimously to make National Truth and Reconciliation Day a statutory holiday in the territory, fulfilling the 80th call to action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

White listed more accomplishments in a Yukon NDP release Thursday.

“From the hundreds of people who are protected by the rent cap, to the people using the supervised consumption site, the workers who got a raise to their minimum wage, and the folks who will soon have dental coverage – these stories are the true accomplishment of the Yukon NDP.”

Comments (9)

Up 4 Down 5

The best thing since… on Nov 28, 2022 at 4:43 pm

At al alcock on Nov 25, 2022 at 2:55 pm:

Since “white bread”? Seriously, any way you slice it, it sounds raycist.

I believe the expression is… since sliced bread.

Up 14 Down 1

Jim on Nov 27, 2022 at 5:12 pm

One important take away is the voting to contact Ottawa about a home heating carbon tax exemption and the Liberals refusal to do so. Much like the McPhee vote, it doesn’t matter as the Liberals do what they wish, when they wish. Sandy’s own words should let all Yukoners know that the Liberals along with the NDP do not care about how much we pay for heating. It is in their mandate that they prefer the cost to be high. The higher the better. He feels that any tax relief goes against their climate change goals. It’s almost like he thinks we will throw open our doors and turn the heat up.
Kate, if you have any sympathy for Yukoners who are struggling to heat their homes this winter, do the right thing. Put this government out of our misery now.

Up 25 Down 8

John on Nov 27, 2022 at 12:16 pm

Since the Jake Epp letter, some 42 years ago, I have been witness to all the parties governing. Some governments of the day were better than others. However, we have entered a new era of our politics where a party can cling to power by sharing - or as I like to put it "prostituting" themselves to a lesser party.

I hide no secret that I am neither a Liberal or NDP lover. I don't hide it. I tolerate the Liberals when they govern and the NDP of Penniket and MacDonald were very much more centre of the road - certainly not extreme left like White.

What we see today is a mix of Liberals and NDP - absolutely the worse of both parties have emerged at the expense of the citizens. They have gone so far left that they disappear over the horizon. I never thought I would experience a government of the day as dreadful as this one. Both parties are to fault for the conditions we are experiencing. Both are guilty of greed for power, not governing, but power. The NDP being as sanctimonious as they are shovel huge gobs of socialism at the expense of reasonable governing. It truly borders on Marx's philosophy. By all appearance the Liberals have, and are prepared, to be subjugated. I imagine that Tony and Piers likely wince when they see the shenanigans and antics of their current party now looks like.

Those of you who think that the two parties should merge - give your head a shake. For what you see is what you would get if they were to transpire. Ottawa is now another example of the very same thing.

Al is right "God give us all strength"...

Up 14 Down 26

Aloha on Nov 26, 2022 at 9:24 pm

Now that the legislature isn't in session I wonder if Currie Dixon will be sticking around Whitehorse? He might just decide to take off to his other house in Marsh Lake or maybe his condo in Hawaii.

Unbelievable how rich that guy is. Even more so when you realize he is only in his thirties and has only worked in government. Luckily private sector tax dollars will continue to arrive from Ottawa and here locally to fund his lifestyle.

Up 13 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Nov 26, 2022 at 2:47 pm

How do we measure success? How has the quality of life improved for all by government actions over the past 4 years?
Are we all happy campers? Why or why not and does the government hear us or are they in lock-step with their own agenda?
How do we measure good governance? in either federal or territorial arenas?
We the electorate are the score-keepers.

Up 15 Down 7

Josey Wales on Nov 25, 2022 at 9:31 pm

Photo caption?
Certainly, thanks for the idea...

“Rubes...despite the bulls**t I fed y’all being this deep?
Seems many of you chewed and continue to chew through it too!
Proud of your submission? Nah, gotta say surprised”

Long never ending caption yes, just like our debt, drama outta Beijing 2.0

Up 17 Down 9

New liberal legislation bans potato, water, and nerf guns… Stay tuned for more on this story tonight at 10… on Nov 25, 2022 at 9:24 pm

At al alcock on Nov 25, 2022 at 2:55 pm:

They are creating the conditions necessary to beat down any person who dares to attempt to scratch and claw their way out of the L-NDP vision of society as a fascistic impulse unbounded by some fluid concept of identitarian hierarchies applied in retrospect to any given grievance today…

Call us at the L-NDP grievance acceptance hotline: 1-800-SNITCH’S - The Voice for the L-NDP Profiteers… Stewards of the Public Intellect for the National Enragement and Lawful Enforcement of Social Symmetry (SPINELESS).

Note the inclusive use of SNITCH’S rather than SNITCHES… Yes, the irony…
It’s ironic because it is their perpetual flip-flopping that, in a fish would be evidence of a spine… Curious, n’est-ce pas?

At SPINELESS - “Our virtue is here to hurtue.” It’s for your common good!

Up 17 Down 8

Juniper Jackson on Nov 25, 2022 at 6:21 pm

Al Alcock: Well, and sincerely said. I'm supporting your opinion, I can't do better.

Up 51 Down 15

al alcock on Nov 25, 2022 at 2:55 pm

What can anyone say but - "what a schmozzle".

The Liberals claim they are the next best thing since white bread - just ask them; the NDP is proud of toe tapping on the face of capitalists and virtue signalling to anyone poor simple minded person that is willing to swallow their gumbo; while the Yukon Party took to the streets of righteousness.

God give us all strength as we endure more segments of the daily soap opera at play.
I fear we will continue our slide to the bottom of the hell hole before we are able to start scratching and clawing our way out of the shyte hole the Liberals/NDP have dug for us.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.