an ethics quiz

In what might be the biggest fizzbang in Yukon politics, Dennis Fentie recently said he was responsible for the ATCO debacle.

In what might be the biggest fizzbang in Yukon politics, Dennis Fentie recently said he was responsible for the ATCO debacle.

Now, since Fentie was leading the discussions and withheld all information from then-Yukon Energy minister Jim Kenyon, cabinet and the Crown corporation board, it’s hard to imagine who else might be responsible. Besides God.

But Fentie’s mea culpa is kinda murky.

It’s couched in qualifiers, so you can be excused if you’re a tad puzzled about what, exactly, he’s taking responsibility for.

But that also opens opportunities for public education on ethics and morality.

So here’s a quick quiz. See how you do ….

Today, we know the government entered into talks to privatize ATCO, and Fentie, alone, was directing the discussions.

But a few weeks ago he brazenly told the public that privatization was never, ever on the table.

So what did Fentie do wrong?

a) Try to deceive the public.

b) Miscommunicate.

c) Adapt political strategies from Survivor.

The answer, according to Fentie, is b) “The communication on this was mishandled and I have no problem taking responsibility for that.”

If you put a check next to miscommunicate, good work. You might have the makings of a premier.

Alright, next question…

Fentie kept the ATCO talks secret from then-Energy minister Brad Cathers and his other cabinet colleagues, including Kenyon, the minister directly responsible for Yukon Energy.

So what did Fentie do wrong?

a) Undermine his colleagues’ authority.

b) Corrupt the Westminster parliamentary system.

c) Destroy cabinet morale.

d) Nothing. It might not have happened. But if it did…

e) a, b and c

The answer, according to Fentie, is d): “If that’s the case, I accept responsibility.”

OK so far? Here’s the next question.

Fentie encouraged Cathers to stick to the line that privatization was never on the table, even though it was.

So what did Fentie do wrong?

a) Nothing.

b) Encouraged a colleague, perhaps under threat of discipline, to deceive the public to ensure benefit to a private corporation.

c) Underestimate Cather’s integrity.

d) Attempt to deceive the public.

e) b, c and d.

f) None of the above.

The answer is f): Fentie never addressed this issue.

Ethics can be a fun topic, eh? Ready for the next one? Here goes.

As a result of Fentie’s secret dealings, Cathers quit caucus, costing the Yukon Party a member, and an important seat.

So what did Fentie do wrong?

a) Bungle his leadership duties.

b) Fail his constituents.

c) Make an inexplicable mistake.

d) Seriously damage a political organization.

e) Cost the government its majority.

The answer to this question is, of course, c): Fentie said, “It was a mistake. There’s no reasoning behind mistakes.”


As a result of his actions, Fentie alienated the Yukon Energy Board, forcing the resignations of four members at a time when the utility is building Mayo B, one of the largest hydro projects in its history – a project that is still short money and that must be built before a strict federal deadline expires.

So what did Fentie do wrong?

a) Nothing, the board had its opinions. We have ours. We don’t need them.

b) Undermine a board that is supposed to operate the utility at arm’s length from government.

c) Cripple the functioning of a utility at a critical time.

The answer is, apparently, a: At the time of the resignations, Fentie dismissed the board’s allegations as “opinions” and immediately appointed a new chair. He hasn’t said anything further.

Alright, almost done.

The public was never consulted, in any way, with the sale of the Crown-owned utility’s assets, yet Fentie, alone, opened negotiations that would have brought about a such a sale.

So what did Fentie do wrong?

a) Nothing, it is the premier’s prerogative, alone, to determine what’s best for the territory.

b) Nothing, private industry always operates utilities better than the government.

c) Almost open the territory to higher power rates.

d) Almost lose the territory dozens of local jobs.

e) Possibly erode the territorial government’s ability to set energy priorities.

f) Almost sold off the territory’s most important public infrastructure for a fraction of its value.

g) a and b.

The answer is g: Fentie has signalled he will continue with the privatization option. “It doesn’t change the issue,” said Fentie. “The issue is, how do we address on an ongoing basis the delivery of affordable, reliable energy to the Yukon?”

So there you have it. A brief quiz on ethics and politics.

If you scored four, or more, kudos. You probably have what it takes to govern the territory. (Richard Mostyn)