We can only hope that Darius Elias’ journey into the political wilderness, following his recent departure from the Liberal party, yields him fresh insight. Because right now he isn’t making much sense.
The MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin claims he quit the Liberals because his job as interim leader was distracting him from his focus of bringing home government-funded loot to Old Crow.
Two things about this. First: It doesn’t follow that he needed to quit the party if the pressures of leadership had grown too great.
Instead of quitting, Elias could have passed the leadership on to his former colleague, Sandy Silver, but remained a Liberal. Indeed, that was what was expected to happen sometime this year.
“I’ll be right there beside him,” Elias told the News in February. “It’s a team effort.”
So much for that. Something’s clearly changed, but both Elias and Silver seem to prefer to skirt the issue.
Second: if Elias’ focus is simply to cash as many government cheques as possible for his home community, what’s he doing sitting as an independent? Clearly, his goal would be better served by sitting with the Yukon Party government.
These discrepancies leave us wondering whether Elias is using the independent’s office as a halfway house before crossing to the government’s side of the legislature floor, to ease the transition. That may not be the case. (And the government, which already enjoys a healthy majority of seats, may not even want him.) We’re left to guess Elias’ motives because unfortunately, we can no longer trust what he says.
Elias’ troubles as the Liberal leader came into focus during the party’s spring annual meeting, at which he was notably absent. Where was he? Nobody at the meeting could say.
When this newspaper described that scene, Elias threw a fit. But he couldn’t offer much of an explanation for his no-show, other than to say that an undisclosed personal crisis meant he couldn’t attend the meeting. It remains puzzling that he couldn’t have given his colleagues any heads-up that he wouldn’t be giving his scheduled speech.
During a subsequent interview with the News, perhaps hoping to shift the heat off his absence at the meeting, Elias made a dramatic about-turn on the Liberals’ stated support of the plan to protect four-fifths of the Peel watershed.
“There’s a lot of ways you can protect an ecological region without locking it up and throwing away the key,” said Elias. “I don’t want to handcuff Yukoners 50 years from now.”
Elias has been trying to pull his foot out of his mouth ever since. Liberals quickly distanced themselves from the statement, explaining that no decision has been made – although all policies are up for grabs during a convention to be held this autumn.
Elias, meanwhile, insists his words were taken out of context. Well, here’s the missing context: a Yukon News reporter asked him how his proposed tilt of the party to the right would affect their stand on the Peel.
So, if Elias seeks to reinvent himself, he may want to start by taking responsibility for the words that come out of his mouth. Does he actually believe the plan to protect the Peel is a pair of handcuffs? If he doesn’t, why did he say it?
The fate of the Peel could be the most contentious issue in the territory. At the risk of stating the obvious, Elias needs to explain himself. Yet, so far, he hasn’t.
Instead, Elias refused to discuss the subject when other reporters called him for comment. Sort of like how he refuses to give the public the straight goods about why he’s now sitting as an independent.
We sympathize with whatever personal problems Elias may be struggling with. But he needs to understand that if something is affecting his ability to serve the public, it’s no longer simply a personal matter anymore. He should come clean with whatever is weighing him down and causing him to behave in such a regrettably erratic manner.
A coherent explanation of why he left the Liberal party would be nice, too. (JT)