Leef blows in the wind

When a Yukon MP broke his word on a matter of symbolic importance a few years ago, he found himself on the receiving end of some tough criticism from an energetic rival named Ryan Leef.

When a Yukon MP broke his word on a matter of symbolic importance a few years ago, he found himself on the receiving end of some tough criticism from an energetic rival named Ryan Leef who ended up taking his job. Today, Leef finds himself similarly vulnerable to charges of putting the interests of his party ahead of his constituents. Expect this to play into the next federal election campaign, to be held sometime in the coming year.

The Liberals’ decision to whip votes to fight the abolition of the long-gun registry helped unseat Larry Bagnell, but Leef is in a pickle of his own making over calls for a federal inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. A year ago, he decided to break rank on the issue and support a federal inquiry. It was, he said, the “loud and clear” view of voters.

“The reality is, I’m not defying leadership,” he said. “I’m standing up for Yukon constituents.”

Now Leef finds himself busy trying to sell his government’s proposed alternative to a federal inquiry. The problem is, the so-called action plan announced by the government is actually a plan to do absolutely nothing new at all, beyond maintaining existing spending commitments.

That’s not how Leef frames things, of course. He has repeatedly insisted that a chunk of the money is “new,” even it’s actually a continuation of a spending package announced in 2010.

Pressed on the issue, Leef conceded that “people get confused” on such matters. Well, exactly: people are confused because of what Leef is telling them.

He went on to say, “I don’t think I implied that the budgets have been increased at this point or the capacity has been increased,” when that’s precisely what he’s done, repeatedly.

There are good reasons to think that an inquiry wouldn’t actually accomplish anything, given how the issue at hand has already been studied to death. But that doesn’t change the fact that Leef told voters he’d support one, and now sounds like he doesn’t. Nor does it change the fact that Leef is presenting his government’s commitments in a misleading fashion. In short, our MP isn’t being straight with voters.

None of this is quite as clear cut as the gun registry issue that helped fell Bagnell. In that case, Bagnell had long stated he personally opposed the registry, but, after being threatened with expulsion from his party if he didn’t vote with his party, fought its destruction. Crucially, Bagnell was up front with voters that he wasn’t voting as they wished, but asserted that the benefits of remaining with his party outweighed the risks of sitting as an independent.

Leef, meanwhile, hasn’t yet had to vote on an inquiry. Nor has he admitted to giving up on supporting one. He says he needs to chat with constituents about the government’s new plan, first. But, given that the new plan is not new, but is merely a recital of what is already being done, how many Yukoners who previously supported an inquiry will be convinced this is a reasonable alternative? This appears to be just another way to muddy the waters, in the hope that voters won’t follow what’s happening.

It should also be remembered that Leef’s support of the inquiry was fairly half-hearted – he said he only supported it if the provinces and territories helped pay for it. Still, Leef staked some credibility on this issue by sticking his neck out in the first place. Presumably, the idea was to show he’s able to think independently, and behave as something more than the prime minister’s sock puppet. So much for that.

Instead, we’re left with an MP who, like the party he represents, isn’t able to provide a straight answer to an important question. The prime minister, of course, has dismissed calls for an inquiry with the silly assertion that the disproportionate amount of violence that aboriginal women face is no “sociological phenomenon,” but merely a matter of locking up bad guys.

No wonder Marian Horne, president of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, is so upset. The former MLA for the right-leaning Yukon Party is now openly calling on First Nation residents to think twice before voting Conservative, in light of the government’s refusal to take the issue seriously.

It’s always hard to predict which issues will catch fire with voters, and it’s possible the inquiry schmozzle won’t peel away many votes from Leef. After all, many Yukoners who think an inquiry would do some good are probably unlikely to support Conservatives in the first place. But this issue could also harm Leef in a more general way, by casting him as a guy who says one thing and does another. If voters can’t trust Leef on this one issue, they may wonder, can they on others?

All this makes it that much harder for Leef to present himself as Yukon’s guy in Ottawa, rather than Ottawa’s guy in the Yukon.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

A pedestrian passes by an offsales sandwich board along Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Oct. 22. NDP MLA Liz Hanson raised concerns Oct. 21 in the legislature about increased hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption that correlate with an extension in the hours alcohol can be sold in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Alcohol-related hospitalizations rise after off-sales hours extended

Reduced hours for off-sale liquor establishments likely part of Liquor Act spring reforms

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tourism relief funding offers $2.8 million to hotels and overnight accommodations

$15 million in relief funding is planned for the tourism sector over the next three years

The Whitehorse sewage lagoons photographed in 2011. With new regulations for wastewater anticipated to be introduced by the federal government within the next decade, the City of Whitehorse may soon be doing some prep work by looking at exactly what type of pollutants are making their way into the city’s wastewater. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Pondering pollutants

City could spend $70,000 looking at what contaminents are in waste water

Most of Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 graduates. The former students were welcomed back and honoured by staff at the school on Oct. 14 with a personalized grad ceremony for each graduate. (Submitted)
Individual Learning Centre grads honoured

Members of the Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 were welcomed… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

asdf
COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Evan Lafreniere races downhill during the U Kon Echelon Halloweeny Cross-Country Race on Oct. 16. (Inara Barker/Submitted)
Costumed bike race marks end of season

The U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted its final race of the… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Most Read