Phillips makes a choice

Doug Phillips has quit the electoral boundaries commission and will stay on as the newly appointed Yukon administrator — even though he says he…

Doug Phillips has quit the electoral boundaries commission and will stay on as the newly appointed Yukon administrator — even though he says he didn’t have to.

Last week, both the NDP and the Liberals expressed concern Phillips was the Yukon Party representative on the electoral commission and was also appointed as Yukon Commissioner Geraldine Van Bibber’s second in command.

One of the posts is purely political while the other requires pure non-partisanship, said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell.

Phillips needed to choose one job or the other, said NDP leader Todd Hardy.

But the federal conflicts commissioner said otherwise, said Phillips.

“It had been raised in public as a political issue, but I seek advice from the ethics and conflicts commissioner on everything I do,” said Phillips on Monday. “The advice I received was there was no need to step down from anything, because the job that I do is quite part time.

“You might be doing it (acting as the Yukon’s administrator) less than a half-dozen times a year — you get called in when the commissioner’s away, so they don’t expect to change much of your life,” he said.

“But I chose, because it had already been raised in public, the higher road, to step down.”

Phillips is a longtime public figure who once served in cabinet in Yukon Party Government leader John Ostashek’s government.

He was appointed as Yukon administrator by Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Jim Prentice in early April.

Harper’s Senate

appointment opens debate on elected upper chamber

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed Bert Brown to the Canadian Senate and, in the process, opened debate about appointments to the oft-forgotten upper chamber.

Brown is a farmer from Alberta who once plowed “Triple-E or else” into his barley field — the E’s standing for equal, elected and effective.

He has won two of three provincial senate elections in Alberta, making him the first “elected” Canadian senator.

But with several seats empty in the 105-seat Senate — including the Yukon’s — critics fear the electoral process used to appoint Brown is too vague and untested.

“It’s very ad hoc and leaves a lot of questions up in the air,” said former Yukon senator Ione Christensen last week.

By using elections to appoint senators, “What you’re doing is adding another 105 MPs,” she said.

Does that mean senators should campaign along party lines or remain independent? she asked.

And how can an individual in a riding such as BC, with six senators, run for a seat for the entire province? Would they have to visit every corner or will the province be broken into regions?

At the moment, too many of these questions remain unanswered, she said.

 “My feeling has always been that Canadians do want an elected Senate,” said Christensen.

But the best way is through a change to the Constitution.

“In the Yukon it can work, we only have one senator and one riding, but it certainly doesn’t work anywhere else,” she said.

“How are they going to elect six senators in BC? If an individual wants to run as a senator, they would have to run through the whole province, it would eliminate anyone who didn’t have a lot of money.

 “It’s a member of Parliament that you’re putting in there,” she said. “The way it’s being done now is through the back door.”

Public accounts report

Following a scathing study of Highways and Public Works by auditor general Sheila Fraser, the public accounts committee — composed of MLAs from all three parties — has released its own recommendations.

Some of them are terse. Some commending.

However, many are damning.

Following testimony by Highways officials in February, the committee is “satisfied” that Yukon roads and bridges are safe, reads the report.

But Highways’ past practice of ignoring several management board directives on contracting is “unacceptable,” wrote the committee.

“The committee is confident that the department is committed to its program of improvements. However, the department and the Property Management Agency have not always adhered to directives and legal and regulatory requirements,” it reads.

“There is ample evidence to suggest that had these directives and requirements been followed, problems identified in the auditor general’s report could have been mitigated or avoided entirely.”

Ouch!

Now, the committee wants assistant deputy minister Janet Mann to submit a report on the progress of improvements in Highways.

Mann has agreed.