Though a tad longwinded, the release from the ongoing Western Premiers’ Conference says it all.
“Canadian premiers and governors from Mexico and the United States of America, who see themselves as an integral part of the North American community, met to discuss the role of provinces/territories and states in North American relations, including the region’s future in an increasingly competitive global economy.”
Premier Dennis Fentie wasn’t there.
Despite all his talk about building the economy, he took a pass.
Instead, he sent a stand in — 28-year-old Health minister Brad Cathers, who has been in cabinet six months and is the Yukon’s most junior minister.
Government has offered no explanation for Fentie’s absence.
Not surprisingly, Cathers name didn’t appear on the conference guest list.
In fact, Cathers returned to the territory two days before the event wrapped up.
Again, there’s been no explanation for why he packed it in early. He’s scheduled to give a briefing on Monday — five days after getting back.
So where’s Fentie?
After the legislature shut down, he went to ground. Vanished — disappeared faster than magician David Copperfield.
Even when pressed, advisers won’t say where he is or what he’s doing.
Recently, he’d talked about loading up his boat and his Harley-Davidson and headin’ home.
So we have to assume he’s gone fishing. (Hey, the ice has just left the lakes and the lunker season is a short one.)
Still, this conference was a big deal.
Attendees included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mexican ambassador Maria Teresa Garcia Segovia de Madero, US ambassador David Wilkins, Canada’s man in Washington Michael Wilson and its Mexican ambassador Gaetan Lavertu.
And Manitoba’s premier Gary Doer, Ontario’s Dalton McGuinty, Quebec’s Jean Charest, New Brunswick’s Bernard Lord, BC’s Gordon Campbell, Saskatchewan’s Lorne Calvert, Alberta’s Ralph Klein, NWT’s Joseph Handley and Nunavut’s Paul Okalik all attended.
They are heavy hitters.
And they were discussing important stuff — NAFTA, setting up knowledge corridors to foster new technologies that might improve wages and living standards, North American security (trying to stave off the US mandatory passport law, which threatens cross-border tourism), investment in Arctic sovereignty, preparations for a continent-wide flu pandemic, curbing cross-border drug traffic, organized crime and child abductions.
They also talked about co-operating on environmental stewardship and developing better energy strategies.
Many of these issues — energy, pipelines, the fate of the Kelowna Accord, transboundary environmental affairs, developing new technologies and streamlining security measures — are important to Yukon.
But Fentie wasn’t there.
Heck, Handley and Okalik don’t even share a border with the US, and they attended the event.
The Yukon has a low profile. It has a fledgling economy and a tiny population.
So hobnobbing with the big boys is important.
The Yukon had a seat at the leader’s summit.
And Fentie blew it off.
Simply put, he should have been there. (RM)