Right decision, wrong question

Premier Dennis Fentie’s decision to ask conflicts commissioner David Jones to investigate Jim Kenyon’s Yukon Liquor Act consultations…

Premier Dennis Fentie’s decision to ask conflicts commissioner David Jones to investigate Jim Kenyon’s Yukon Liquor Act consultations with colleagues Peter Jenkins and Archie Lang was swift and appropriate.

Too bad he asked the wrong question.

Fentie asked Jones to probe whether Kenyon was in a conflict. Kenyon clearly is not.

However, things get less clear if Jones focuses on Lang and Jenkins.

Both owned hotels when Kenyon approached them about changes to the liquor act.

As a result of Kenyon’s loose lips, both had foreknowledge of possible changes to the act.

Instead of telling Kenyon his question was inappropriate, both talked about amendments to the liquor act.

One change is to sever the requirement to have hotel rooms for rent in all liquor establishments.

That knowledge could have provided a competitive advantage in the marketplace — knowledge other bar owners, or prospective bar owners did not have.

Indeed, sometime after his casual discussion with Kenyon, Lang sold his interest in Watson Lake’s hotels, which include popular bars.

And, if Kenyon’s amendments are approved by the legislature, the new owners of Lang’s bars may face competition that would previously have been illegal.

That is, you could make the case that Lang’s hotel/bars are more valuable before the amendments than after.

“If consulting stakeholders is a conflict of interest then we’re in trouble,” said Kenyon.

Problem is, he didn’t consult all stakeholders. Just handpicked bar owners —Lang, Jenkins and campaign manager Craig Tuton — all holding Yukon Party memberships.

“We didn’t go out and do a proper consultation,” he added hastily in his interview with CHON FM.

After hearing the clip, Fentie wrote Jones to investigate whether Kenyon was in a conflict.

And Jones will be obliged to report he was not.

Fentie may assert his government has been cleared.

But such an assertion would simply be more misinformation in the public domain.

The question is whether Lang and the now-retired Jenkins were in a conflict, or perceived conflict.

And that’s the question the Liberal caucus have asked Jones to answer.

But the fact it has been posed by the Opposition blunts its impact.

Fentie had an opportunity to do the right thing. He acted quickly and responsibly.

But, for whatever reason, he asked the wrong question.

And that’s unfortunate. (RM)