the price of junkets

‘We’ll spend whatever it takes to win.” Candid talk from Craig Tuton, the Yukon Party’s campaign manager.

‘We’ll spend whatever it takes to win.”

Candid talk from Craig Tuton, the Yukon Party’s campaign manager.

Nevertheless, Tuton won’t say how much the Yukon Party spent shuttling two Whitehorse-based reporters to Mayo and Dawson last week on a junket with Premier Dennis Fentie.

Whatever the cost, two institutions paid a price last week — the media and Fentie’s campaign.

When it comes to ethical questions, Fentie has often played fast and loose.

This situation is no different.

And, clearly, the Whitehorse Star and CHON-FM are cool with it.

They, along with CKRW, were asked by the Yukon Party to accompany Fentie on a rural swing last week.

The French newspaper l’ Aurore boreale didn’t go and CKRW didn’t send anyone, citing a lack of resources (the private radio station has but two reporters) and a potential conflict of interest.

To paraphrase veteran CKRW reporter Ron McFadyen, media should ideally pay for junkets from their own pockets, lest they be perceived as being in the pocket of a politician of any stripe.

That is, you undermine public faith in political coverage.

The Yukon News and the CBC were not on the Yukon Party’s invite list.

On Friday, Fentie said otherwise.

“We will offer the press opportunity to travel.

“Should you choose, it’s up to you — it makes no difference to myself.

“If you choose not to go, that is entirely your choice.

“Yesterday (Thursday) two members of the media chose to come along, others didn’t.

“We offer the same to all.”

And so Fentie’s credibility took a hit.

His statement wasn’t true.

No one from Fentie’s campaign called this office or the CBC.

Fentie’s team cherry picked who would go.

Asked why, Fentie turned evasive.

“I don’t do the selecting; I’m the message boy,” he said.

“We took myself, our campaign manager, Julia from the Star, Chuck Hendry from CHON FM, Mr. (Ted) Staffen was with us.

“That about filled the bill.”

Then he tried to assure reporters that everyone would get their turn.

“I offer to make myself available, every Friday, and we will entertain in the campaign and in my travels, bringing members of the press along.

“It might not always be a situation where every member of the press can be in attendance, but we will be fair and balanced in doing this.”

That’s an awfully convenient answer, coming after his crew made its exclusive choices.

Frankly, the answer from the Yukon News is the same as it would have been last week: no thanks.

We don’t care that Fentie did not invite us.

We’re more concerned about journalistic independence, and in reporting the truth.

And, in laying out the selection process, Fentie failed that test.

At least Tuton’s comment was honest.

The Yukon Party will spend whatever it takes to win this election.

Best of luck. (GM, RM)