Alright, let’s imagine tomorrow for a minute.
Imagine five more years of Yukon Party government.
That’s a long time.
Longer than most prison terms.
And that’s what we’re looking at, the next government is entitled to a five-year term.
Does the Yukon Party deserve it?
We think not.
Sure, it knows how to spend federal transfer payments and reward its own. Dennis Fentie’s government has excelled at expanding the civil service.
But it has failed to grow the private-sector economy.
And it has been terrible for the territory.
It’s time to bring some respectability back to government and end the shenanigans.
If you want to know why Yukon politicians are tripping over themselves to demonstrate they are ethical and without taint of conflict, look no further than Fentie’s crew.
It has been nothing but contemptuous of the government it was elected to run.
Throughout its mandate, the Yukon Party has rewarded the few at the expense of the many.
It has shamelessly doled out sole-sourced contracts to supporters and members of the government caucus.
And it has used Yukon funds to benefit its own.
For example, you might remember Jim Kenyon, Economic Development minister and a veterinarian, buying a $100,000 seat at Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine for one of his employees while sitting in for then-Education minister John Edzerza.
The territory’s deal with the college had been cancelled by the Yukon Party, and another student had lost the seat just months before, but Kenyon resurrected it for his employee while Edzerza was on vacation.
Archie Lang, who owns an outfitting concession, runs a department that promised to issue long-term leases on choice plots of wilderness to the outfitting industry.
In fact, on several occasions, Lang was caught promising folks land that, frankly, he had no authority to hand out.
There are advisory committees that are supposed to review such things, and make recommendations, but Lang ignored their existence several times.
And when they made recommendations, his departmental officials overturned them anyway.
So why have ‘em?
Well, they’re a good place to plunk the faithful.
The Yukon Party has stacked boards and committees, like the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, to further the ambitions of its favoured special-interest groups, like those who raise captive game.
In doing so, it diminished the credibility of once effective management bodies created under the Umbrella Final Agreement.
It hasn’t earned Fentie many fans in the territory’s First Nation community.
From Watson Lake to Dawson, and most points in between, First Nation chiefs are openly hostile to Fentie’s Yukon government.
It’s hard to remember a time when relations between the territorial and aboriginal governments have been worse.
Take the Ta’an Kwach’an Council.
It has been fighting a growing list of Yukon Party-backed land applications in its traditional territory.
Funnily enough, when Brad Cathers was confirmed as the Yukon Party’s candidate in Lake Laberge, he promised to get land for his constituents. He was flanked by several grinning farmers.
It raises questions about whether the Ta’an have a chance at impartial land-application hearings in the future.
Fentie has pledged to develop the territory’s resources, but that’s going to be hard, if not impossible, without First Nation support.
Which brings us to the territory’s economy.
Fentie has run the Yukon Party election campaign much like he’s run the economy – he’s spent tonnes of money on a high-gloss campaign, but accomplished little of substance.
The Whitehorse economy has been buoyed by a $100-million federal investment in the Canada Games.
Fentie pumped $27.4-million into the $31.4 million athletes’ village project, which will house visitors for about two weeks.
Of course, all this government spending has floated Whitehorse’s existing businesses.
They are throttled only by a labour shortage that Fentie failed to anticipate, and has done scant little to alleviate.
But, despite all the hoopla, there’s an awful lot of vacant commercial space for rent in the city core.
The Qwanlin Mall is eerily quiet.
The old Nissan dealership remains empty.
The Yukon Party occupies the old MicroAge site, which lacks a long-term occupant.
The list goes on.
So, despite Fentie’s optimism, there’s little small-business development exploiting the boom.
Business isn’t buying the hype.
A market adjustment is imminent, probably as early as March when the Games end and federal largesse begins to ebb under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
Which leaves the territory exposed, because Fentie built his economic mirage on a gross expansion in government spending, rather than a healthy, diversified private sector.
In fact, the Yukon Party’s one success has been in expanding the bureaucracy.
Since taking office, the Yukon Party has spent roughly $2.6 billion.
Most of it has gone to the civil service.
Whitehorse has flourished.
But rural communities are wondering what all the hype is about.
Established Watson Lake businesses are being denied bank loans because the regional economy is moribund — the issue was serious enough to be one of five issues raised at the town’s recent all-candidates forum.
Carcross sees more tourism than Dawson, but there’s nothing in place to keep the visitors in the village, a fact Fentie’s government has done little to change.
It’s a similar story in Haines Junction, and in Dawson, which is still waiting for the Yukon Party to deliver a $1-million contribution agreement.
Despite all the boosterism about industry, there isn’t a single operating hardrock mine in the territory. Minto is closest to production, and should open next year — if the price of copper remains high.
And not a single gas or oil disposition has been issued in the last four years.
Exploration has bumped up, but still lags an order of magnitude behind the other territories and provinces.
In fact, Lang’s first order of business as Mines minister was to grant stakeholders a year’s grace on working their claims — a giveaway that allowed many to divert money to choice properties in the NWT, BC and Alberta.
Is the Yukon Party sensitive to environmental concerns? It hasn’t addressed a single issue raised by the conservation movement. (See pages 72 and 73.)
The Yukon Party has failed to deliver a long-promised children’s act review.
The education act review is missing in action.
So is the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Act review.
Fentie’s government tossed out a refurbished liquor act that the Liberals developed after widespread public review.
Under the Yukon Party, which has close ties to the hotel and bar industry, the territory now has only one liquor inspector.
Of course, that’s not a problem because the Yukon Liquor Corp. has, apparently, given up enforcing the liquor laws.
Sorry, not true.
Recently, the Fentie government suspended the liquor licence of Bold Rush Power Plant because its menu changed and it had five seats fewer than required under its licence.
Did we mention the juice joint wasn’t even serving booze anymore?
Meanwhile, city vigilantes have to confront well-known drug dealers in the Capital Hotel, which is partially owned by Lang.
The Capital hasn’t had its licence pulled in recent memory. The News is trying to get its inspection reports, but the government has, so far, refused to hand them over.
Fentie’s Yukon Party desperately wants a second term.
So desperately, in fact, that last weekend a campaign worker in Fentie’s riding escorted clearly inebriated individuals into the advance poll. A written complaint has been received by Elections Yukon.
The Yukon Party argues a second term would provide stability to the territory.
If this is stability, the Yukon can do without it.
We prefer to imagine tomorrow without the Yukon Party at the helm, for the benefit of all Yukoners, not just a select few. (RM)