sunlight is always the best disinfectant

The Yukon Party did itself a disservice by holding its annual general assembly in secret. Last weekend, roughly six dozen members gathered at the Yukon Inn to set the future direction of the territory and the party.

The Yukon Party did itself a disservice by holding its annual general assembly in secret.

Last weekend, roughly six dozen members gathered at the Yukon Inn to set the future direction of the territory and the party.

It is not unusual for a political party to have in-camera sessions during such meetings. But it is unusual for democratic political parties to shutter the entire event.

Especially in the last year of a mandate.

It makes one wonder what it had to hide.

Usually, a party will use such gatherings of the clans to leverage publicity and support for the cause. In the past this has been common practice, even for the Yukon Party.

Leaders and invited guests will give stump speeches to pump up the grassroots and suggest the new directions they’ve scouted for the territory. They’ll elect an executive and discuss a few riding-specific issues. Supporters will demonstrate their confidence and solidarity.

The wind from such meetings fills the sails.

It gives the organization responsible for running the place a public face. It builds civic confidence in the party that’s responsible for the territory’s government.

Open meetings allow the party’s own supporters – those who had more important things to do last weekend – to catch up on the goings on of their party.

And, to be more mercenary, an open meeting lets dabblers sample the wares, so to speak.

But the Yukon Party decided not to go that route.

And that wasn’t good politics – especially in a party run by a man who has earned a reputation for his dictatorial style.

Closing the meeting does two things.

First, it reinforces the impression that the party is not a democratic institution.

Second, the skulking behaviour suggests party officials lacked faith in Dennis Fentie’s grip on the party – that they were worried something embarrassing would happen, or, at the very least, they couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t.

After all, if people are gunning for your unpopular leader, you don’t want that playing out in public.

That’s a peculiar position for a majority government to be in. Who has the profile and strength in the party to challenge a sitting premier who has a reputation for bare-knuckle politics?

Who was Fentie’s inner circle afraid of?

In the end, Fentie staved off any leadership woes by promising to hold his own review in a few months.

He held out an olive branch to dissident MLA Brad Cathers and soothed his most strident critics in that Laberge riding.

That’s quite a feat.

And it might have played out well in wider society.

But, in the end, the party didn’t trust itself, its leader or the public.

And, because of that, it did itself a disservice.