Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

One particularly high-minded reader expressed surprise that last Friday's editorial dared to conclude that cabinet ministers Brad Cathers and Scott Kent may have deliberately uttered mistruths.

One particularly high-minded reader expressed surprise that last Friday’s editorial dared to conclude that cabinet ministers Brad Cathers and Scott Kent may have deliberately uttered mistruths – which is to say, lied – about the Mountain View Golf Club fiasco.

It’s not a suggestion that’s made lightly. Our MLAs, after all, are forbidden from making such an accusation in our legislature, where they are expected to assume that fellow members behave with the best of motives. In that spirit, here are a few alternative scenarios to help explain the comments made by Cathers and Kent.

First: perhaps both men are terribly forgetful. Like the guy in the movie Memento, they struggle to recreate their lives every day they awaken. Given this lot, how are they supposed to recall that they were briefed on the golf course fiasco more than a year ago? When they recently suggested, falsely, they had only recently been told of the matter, this wasn’t because they are liars. It’s because they are amnesiacs.

Second: maybe both men are incredibly dense. Maybe they both mixed up two folders – the one with the real story and the one with the completely unfactual, misleading explanation that was designed to cover-up the scandal.

Maybe they have managed to fool even themselves that, say, the Mountain View transaction was a real land sale, although in fact, it involved the government paying $750,000 for it to obtain land that it owned in the first place. Or that the City of Whitehorse wanted the land parcel to develop Whistle Bend, when city officials have been clear that this is absolutely untrue.

Similarly, perhaps Kent genuinely doesn’t understand that two explanations, recently offered by him in nearly the same breath, contradict one another. If you dislike the shady bail-out, it’s apparently now the fault of a previous NDP government that signed the lease – although Kent has provided no information to buttress this unlikely claim. But if you like the bail-out, the Yukon Party is glad to claim credit for helping out a non-profit.

These are the charitable explanations. Otherwise, it’s hard to escape the conclusion they have lied to the public.

It’s not hard to see why they would do this. A government with no ties to a scandal committed by its predecessors would usually take pains to distance itself from the mess, with an impartial airing of the facts and a clear commitment that it would handle things differently. But the Yukon Party can’t do that, because Premier Darrell Pasloski stands smack in the middle of the golf course scandal. He was on the club’s board at the time.

That is terribly damaging. Pasloski won the Yukon Party leadership a few years ago in large part because supporters saw him as the best way for them to distance themselves from scandals created by his predecessor, Dennis Fentie. Now it turns out that Pasloski was deeply implicated in Fentie-era sleezy dealings. No wonder our current government has done everything it can to disguise this fact.

The Yukon public forgave Fentie for many things. What did him in wasn’t that he contemplated privatizing Yukon Energy, it was that he later tried to cover it up. When his denials were shown to be falsehoods, his credibility was shot. It’s not hard to imagine a similar dynamic now catching up to our current leaders.

Cathers, as Fentie’s energy minister, managed to survive the privatization scandal by quitting cabinet and loudly denouncing Fentie for lying to the public. His actions were celebrated as idealistic at the time. Where, pray tell, have these ideals gone since then? Now Cathers is the one misrepresenting the facts in order to conceal a scandal. How is this different from what Fentie had done?

Kent, a former Liberal cabinet minister, used to be widely viewed as one of the Yukon Party’s more reasonable and less partisan ministers. But now he’s also been pulled down into the Mountain View quagmire, and is left looking equally dirty.

To a lesser extent, the same holds for Elaine Taylor, who is also seen as one of the government’s more competent managers. She sat on Fentie’s cabinet at the time of the Mountain View bail-out. An expenditure of that size would surely have been discussed and approved by Taylor and her peers then. Both Cathers and Kent held at one point they couldn’t know much about the rationale for the decision then, but clearly, they could simply ask Taylor. She has remained mum on the matter so far, refusing to answer questions. No matter. Whether Taylor liked the decision or not, she was a part of it.

Pasloski similarly remains silent. He notes that he’s received advice from Yukon’s conflict-of-interest commissioner that there could be a perceived conflict if he did otherwise. And, really, what is there to say? How illuminating has our premier been in any past scandal? When has he ever veered from the same stultifying talking points, or addressed the meat of a controversy head-on, rather than simply confusing matters with non-sequiturs and other diversions?

Pasloski could say, like his ministers, that Mountain View is an important community asset, and that without the bail-out it would have shuttered. But that doesn’t justify the misleading, secretive way the bail-out was conducted, nor our current government’s painstaking efforts to obscure what happened.

In short, no matter what Pasloski would say, he would probably end up sounding quite a bit like Dennis Fentie. Unfortunately for him, even if he stays quiet, that’s an association many will have trouble shaking.