ethics trumps power

It reflects poorly on the Yukon Party that many people were surprised Brad Cathers turned down Dennis Fentie's invitation to return to caucus. However, that decision reflects well on Cathers.

It reflects poorly on the Yukon Party that many people were surprised Brad Cathers turned down Dennis Fentie’s invitation to return to caucus.

However, that decision reflects well on Cathers.

Cathers quit the Yukon Party caucus at the height of his political career.

He was the Energy minister. But he’d been cuckolded by Fentie, who was holding secret talks with Alberta-based ATCO about privatizing the territory’s power infrastructure.

Fentie not only undermined cabinet’s authority, he lied to the public about the possible sell-off, Cathers alleged at the time.

Fentie also urged Cathers to do the same.

Cathers refused. And he resigned.

That action was both courageous and admirable.

Courageous because Cathers was turning his back on his longtime colleagues and alienating his supporters in Laberge, leading them into political limbo because he couldn’t abide the leader’s lack of ethics.

It was admirable because, despite the personal cost - both financially and politically – it was the right thing to do, given the circumstances.

It was, sadly, an unusual thing to do.

The entire Yukon Party caucus was in the same boat, undermined and humiliated by a rogue premier acting outside the bounds of acceptable behaviour in a parliamentary democracy.

Jim Kenyon was the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corp. that Fentie was trying to secretly sell off.

Kenyon knew nothing of the deal, and when he learned what was going on, he threatened, before plenty of witnesses, to resign. But he never did.

Instead, he was quietly shuffled out of Energy and retained his other cabinet posts and salary. He also went on a junket to China. There has never been a good explanation for his change of heart.

The rest of cabinet also held their tongues. They simply watched Cathers go.

His departure reduced Fentie to a minority government.

And that’s when Fentie reached out to another old nemesis.

John Edzerza, another former cabinet minister who quit after being bullied by Fentie, was lured back to caucus. Soon after returning, Edzerza received a cabinet post. As well, the government promised a year’s funding for an alcohol-treatment program Edzerza had long championed.

Then in June, Fentie gave a “wing-dinger” speech to Yukon Party supporters during a closed session of the party’s annual meeting.

The spiel won over Al Falle, a former Laberge MLA, longtime Yukon Party member and one of Cathers’ staunchest supporters.

Fentie, facing a serious challenge to his leadership, called for unity. He extended an olive branch to Cathers and vowed to subject himself to a leadership vote early in 2011.

“It was the best speech I’ve heard from that man,” said Falle. “It was honest. It was sincere. And he sounded genuine.”

And, after it, Falle said he’d support Cathers’ return to caucus.

Cathers said he’d think about it.

Now, he’s announced he’s not going back.

While loyal to the party, he can’t reconcile with Fentie.

Why?

Because nothing has changed, said Cathers, adding he now thinks Fentie’s “wing-dinger” spiel was simply an effort to save his skin.

And, so, Cathers remains on the outs. An all-too-rare example of ethics trumping power.

And while it reflects as well on Cathers, it casts his former colleagues in a dim light indeed.