At the time this article was written
Donald Taylor was Speaker of the Yukon Legislative Assembly
Significant progress. is being made in the
Parliamentary evolution of Yukon. The Legislative Assembly has increased its
membership from twelve to sixteen seats. Following a November 1978 election,
Yukon residents returned for a four year term, eleven Conservatives, two
Liberals, one New Democrat and two Independents to the Legislature and for the
first time in its history, the House formally divided itself along traditional
In prior years, elections were conducted by
and under Federal authority. This election differed in that Yukon took the
opportunity of putting its new electoral legislation to the test. Its success
was largely due to the experience and efforts of W.H. (Bill) McDonald, former
Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, who played a major role in its
development and administration.
In anticipation of a political party system
the former House and its officers embarked upon an intensive research programme
designed to accommodate this change in concert with parliamentary practices in
other jurisdictions across Canada. For example, a detailed review of Standing
Orders and an examination of the committee system was undertaken, the results
of which were referred to the newly constituted Standing Committee on Rules,
Elections and Privileges. A Members' Services Board was instituted to assist
the Speaker on matters of Assembly organisation concurrent with the recent full
separation of the Executive and Legislative Assembly offices.
This preliminary activity, combined with the
new and important Constitutional considerations, has served to alter the
parliamentary structure of the Assembly. Some of these changes are worthy of
Following the election of a majority to the
House, the Government Party Leader assumed his duties and appointed portfolio
responsibilities to his personally selected ministers. The Yukon Cabinet now
consists of five elected ministers who sit on the Executive Committee with a
Federally appointed Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner. As a result of some
Constitutional advances, the role of the Commissioner has been formally
redefined in such a way as to bind the Commissioner to the advice of the
Executive Committee, except in certain defined areas of Federal interest.
Consequently the Commissioner now only attends the House as Lieutenant Governor
in order to present the Throne Speech and to give Royal Assent to Bills. The
Ministers are responsible to the House for Government
activities to the same degree as their
As in most other jurisdictions, the Speaker
no longer takes part in debates before the Assembly. He is, however, permitted
to participate in the business of Committee of the Whole, but rarely exercises
this prerogative. No appeal is allowed from the Speaker's rulings except by substantive
motion in the routine manner. Times of sittings of the House have been altered
in such a way as to provide members with free mornings, and accordingly the
House sits in afternoon and evening sessions four days a week.
Provision has been made for private members'
days and, to enable private members to fulfil their duties, funds have been
allocated for research purposes.
Standing committees on Rules, Elections and
Privileges and on Statutory Instruments have been retained. As well, serious
consideration is now being given to the establishment of a Public Accounts
The Yukon Legislative Assembly, one of
Canada's youngest legislatures, is making great progress in developing as a
parliamentary institution and in a manner compatible with jurisdictions
throughout the Commonwealth.