It smells like Economic Development minister Jim Kenyon has stepped in it again.
Kenyon returned from his fourth trade mission to Asia last week, full of good news about building partnerships with mining interests in China, Japan and South Korea.
A couple of Yukon mining companies, Yukon Zinc Corp. and Pacifica Resources Ltd., asked Kenyon to join them as they sought financing from Asian investors.
But according to media reports, Kenyon talked about more than minerals.
Apparently Kenyon had some high-profile chats with folks at China Rail about building and buying railroads in the Yukon.
Upon his return, Kenyon told one reporter that China Rail is interested in the proposed multi-billion-dollar Alaska-Canada rail link.
No problem there. Arguably, it’s the Economic Development minister’s job to seek financing for megaprojects, and by most accounts, the rail link would boost the territory’s resource revenue.
Everyone is skeptical about the economics of the project, hence a joint feasibility study with Alaska. But the proposal is certainly within Kenyon’s purview.
But Kenyon also said China Rail is interested in buying the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway, a private company that the government neither owns nor controls.
And the president of the railway is not impressed.
“I find it totally inappropriate that a minister of a government would delve into the affairs of a private company,” Gary Danielson told the other paper.
“I have made my feelings known to the premier’s office about it. We are not pleased, at all, nor are the people in Toronto pleased, at all.”
What exactly Kenyon did or didn’t say to China Rail about White Pass isn’t clear. He hasn’t been available for comment, ostensibly because he’s caught up in meetings this week with the Pacific North West Economic Regional Partnership.
But officials with the Yukon Party cabinet were quick to point out that the White Pass parent company, Tri-White Corp., has recently suggested that the railway is for sale.
In September, the company announced an “investigation” of the railway’s potential value that could include “the sale of all or part of this business, a strategic alliance or partnership or other restructuring of the asset within Tri-White.”
Kenyon was operating on this basis, said cabinet communications adviser Peter Carr.
Maybe so. But it would have been better if the White Pass folks new Kenyon was going to be shopping their business during his Asian mining junket.
The mining companies got what they asked for. White Pass did not. (GM)