lambs to the slaughter

"Let me be very clear. There's no privatization of the Energy Corp. in the Yukon.

“Let me be very clear. There’s no privatization of the Energy Corp. in the Yukon. None whatsoever.”

Dennis Fentie, CBC Radio One, June 12.

“It’s misinformation. There is absolutely no initiative or process to privatize the Energy Corp. in the Yukon. There never has been. There is not at this time, nor under this government’s watch will there any privatization of our utility.”

Dennis Fentie, CBC Radio One, June 19.

“A new entity ‘OPCO’ would be created, using existing YEC and YECL personnel, that would be owned 50/50 by ATCO and the Yukon. Yukon’s position is … ATCO will get to 50/50 through funding 100 per cent of new investment in 50/50 assets.”

Confidential draft joint position paper between ATCO and Yukon, May 27.

Dennis Fentie calls it rationalization. Others assert it’s privatization.

We prefer to call it what it is … a coverup by the territory’s premier.

It’s now clear that for months Fentie has conducted secret talks with Calgary-based ATCO to, eventually, allow the corporation to own 50 per cent of the territory’s energy assets.

Publicly, he has denied any such plan was in the works.

That alone has violated the public trust.

But an energy deal isn’t the only angle the fellow is pursuing.

In an April phone call to ATCO CEO Nancy Southern, Fentie suggested the multinational should establish a northern base in the Yukon, investing in the territory’s water, waste-management and housing infrastructure, according to a joint position paper leaked this week.

That could lead to the privatization of a wider range of public infrastructure.

This isn’t what the Yukon public signed up for in 2006.

And so citizens find themselves in a odd situation. They listen to Fentie say one thing, then learn he’s doing something else in portfolios that are supposed to be managed by other cabinet ministers. And from those cabinet ministers we hear … crickets.

This isn’t the way a parliamentary democracy is supposed to operate.

And despite the astounding revelations of board resignations, employee uprisings and months of secret talks between the premier’s office and ATCO, Fentie is still spewing misinformation.

On Wednesday, during an interview with a trio of journalists in Rotary Park, Fentie was asked if there was a May 12 meeting between ATCO and Yukon officials in Calgary.

“As far as I know, discussions wrapped up in April,” he said.

But the leaked documents clearly state there was a significant meeting on May 12th in Calgary. Given the events of the past three weeks, it stretches credibility that he knew nothing about this.

Fentie was also asked if a new energy company was being created.

He said it’s possible, noting “there’s nothing final or remotely determined in that regard.”

In fact, more than $275,000 has been spent on the negotiations and they are very close to completion, with only eight matters “requiring further clarity.”

Fentie was asked why Yukon Energy officials were not party to the discussions.

“You’re asking a question that’s foreign to me.”

And yet four senior Yukon Energy board members have resigned because they were shut out of discussions. They are supposed to be responsible for the corporation, and weren’t, so they decided they could not, in good conscience, continue to sit on the board.

They have said, publicly, that Fentie was personally meddling in board affairs.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s not even his portfolio. Jim Kenyon is the minster responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, and the person who ultimately bears responsibility should the ATCO deal prove a loser for the Yukon. It is astounding Kenyon would be willing to stand back, quietly letting Fentie act on his behalf. But apparently he is.

In fact, it’s shocking his eight cabinet colleagues would prove so meek, allowing Fentie to shepherd the territory’s affairs this way.

It’s not the way parliamentary government is supposed to work.

The public now knows deals are being brokered that could profoundly alter the way utilities are delivered to the public.

The fellow doing the dealing clearly doesn’t want to discuss what’s going on.

But Yukoners have a right to know.

They should be told, precisely, what has been promised to whom and when.

As well, they should be told, clearly, why such deals are being made.

And how, exactly, the goals, if there are any, will be achieved.

These are not insignificant questions. But getting answers is clearly not going to be easy.

Fentie still commands a majority of seats in the house.

So it’s going to take an act of courage on behalf of his cabinet colleagues to force him to come clean.

The public trust has been violated and anger is building, so we suggest they step up.

For the territory’s sake. (Richard Mostyn)