I know the Yukon Party owes Ken McKinnon a lot.
But paying him $115,000 (plus expenses) for 13 months’ work to produce a report on electoral reform that concludes Yukoners don’t want, or need, electoral reform at this time is a bit much, I say.
“At some future point in Yukon history, the Yukon public will loudly and clearly let their leaders know that the time has come to examine ‘electoral reform,’” he concludes in the report he tabled in the legislature last week. “That moment in Yukon time has not yet arrived.”
Stop the presses! Had the government asked me to study electoral reform, I could have told it that right away, and I wouldn’t have charged it a cent.
When he was commissioner some years back, McKinnon went out of his way to publicly embarrass Tony Penikett by refusing to sign several pieces of legislation the former premier took to him right after his New Democratic Party had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of political neophyte John Ostashek.
Almost everyone ultimately agreed with McKinnon that he could not legally proclaim the legislation, but his public grandstanding managed to tick off a lot of people, and not all were NDPers.
He also prevented some very progressive and important pieces of legislation for the time, like the Public Governance Act, from seeing the light of day.
As a result, the Yukon is still stuck with some of the weakest code-of-conduct and conflict-of-interest legislation for MLAs in the country, which has caused much grief for some of our more ethically challenged cabinet ministers ever since.
From that moment on, McKinnon has been a darling of the Yukon Party, and received several favours for services rendered, including getting named chancellor of Yukon College.
After that job ended about a year ago, he was quickly hired by Dennis Fentie to sit in on BC’s discussions on electoral reform.
“We are committed to establishing our own commission to examine electoral reform in the Yukon to ensure the way we elect MLAs provides for fair, equitable and effective representation,” our premier crowed at the time. “Mr. McKinnon’s appointment would be a first step towards this process.”
NDP leader Todd Hardy’s initial reaction to the news was unabashed skepticism, and rightly so.
“I don’t know what’s so magic about the BC model of a citizens’ assembly that warrants spending more than $100,000 to have one person study it,” he told the legislature.
“There is already a great deal of information available on the internet, and I’m sure the salient reports from BC will also be online as the process unfolds.”
Hardy’s suspicions were justified, as McKinnon attended few community meetings in that province, except when they were held in Vancouver, it seems, which gives you some idea of his level of dedication to the job.
And when he tabled his interim report in the legislature last October, for example, it was so skimpy that opposition politicians and journalists mocked it savagely.
That’s because it contained little more than his resume and material purloined from the BC electoral reform meetings.
And now he dares to tell us that Yukoners are more or less content with the status quo and the only thing they really want is electoral “renewal” rather than wholesale “reform.”
They want to see their politicians better behaved, particularly during Question Period, he says, and they want to see an end to patronage appointments, similar to those he’s enjoyed over the years, thanks to his cozy relationship with the Yukon Party.
“We don’t like the way you act in the house, we don’t like the lack of civility, we abhor the lack of decorum, we want people to treat each other more responsibly and we are not seeing it,” he says Yukoners told him.
Can he not see that he’s a big part of the problem himself, and has been for a quite considerable period of time?
Does he not understand that the reason for the surfeit of cynicism, both inside and outside the legislature, is because of things just like this, bogus but costly assignments handed to political hacks who deliver little or nothing in return?
If there’s a political party out there that’s genuine about electoral “renewal,” I’d like to offer a few free discussion points, free of charge: code-of-conduct and conflict-of-interest legislation with real teeth, enough to prevent ministers from expanding their business empires while they sit in cabinet; recall legislation if a politician sufficiently betrays the public trust; an all-party committee that actually appoints people to boards and commissions rather than just makes recommendations to government, which can turn around and ignore them; legislation preventing people from running for MLA if they owe the territorial government substantial sums of money…
This is a starting point for future discussions but I’m sure that any party with the gumption and the desire to restore the public’s faith in the political process and politicians can come up with many more good ideas in no time at all.
I just hope and pray it doesn’t give the job to Ken McKinnon, or anyone else who’s suckled as much at the public teat as he has already. (PL)