Does the territory have an active and effective cabinet, or one-man rule?
These are questions people should be asking, again and again.
There are plenty of examples to provoke such a troubling question.
The latest is the appointment of Bruce McLellan as interim chair of the Yukon Utilities Board.
Though an administrative matter, it highlights a much larger issue.
Dennis Fentie appointed McLellan, but he wasn’t supposed to. Board appointments are supposed to be handled by a legislative committee.
Now, this is one of those issues that can easily devolve into bureaucratic rambling. Let’s avoid that.
The legislative assembly has rules. They were developed by smart people over time to avoid blatant problems. Like, for instance, consolidation of tremendous power in one guy’s hands.
That is a biggie.
Here, that one guy is Fentie, and he has access to nearly $1 billion in federal transfers, a wealth of natural resources and millions of acres of public land.
There are supposed to be checks and balances curbing his authority. But are there?
In this case, Fentie is not supposed to simply appoint someone to lead the review of the territory’s power rates. But he did.
Now, Fentie has plenty of excuses for breaking this rule. He always has excuses.
For this one, it was a time crunch.
The $120-million Mayo B hydro project requires a hearing. The former chair of the Yukon Utilities Board resigned in December – the committee had no time to do its thing, said Fentie.
The committee in question is controlled by Elaine Taylor, Fentie’s deputy premier. Chairing the committee is her job.
So, in the face of such a unique crisis, she couldn’t motivate the committee to hire a replacement? She couldn’t accomplish this simple task within two months? A task that was, in the end, accomplished with a simple signature?
He never gave her the chance. He simply acted – did it himself.
Fentie does that a lot.
He routinely dispenses money without legislative oversight through special warrants, asks his colleagues to intentionally mislead the public and bullies his cabinet colleagues if they challenge his schemes.
He’s singlehandedly restructured the Yukon Development Corp. without explanation and engaged in talks to privatize the Yukon’s energy system without anybody realizing it.
He also tried to game the Peel Watershed land-use plan by leaning on Environment officials. Taylor was minister at the time.
These are only a few recent examples. There are plenty more.
The point is, there is little check on the fellow’s authority.
Even though McLellan’s appointment has been challenged publicly by Liberal Don Inverarity, the central issue – Fentie’s contempt for democratic rules and procedure – quickly gets lost in the fog.
Asked how he’s going to deal with Fentie’s circumvention of the rules, Inverarity is obviously stymied.
With Fentie backed by an ineffectual and compliant cabinet, the normal rules no longer apply. (Richard Mostyn)