Premier Darrell Pasloski must think that most Yukoners are rubes and dim-wits. How else to explain his ongoing reliance on staying mum when the latest political scandal detonates, in the clear hope that residents are too busy enjoying the summer to notice?
This is, by now, standard operating procedure for the Yukon Party. It usually only dares speak to matters that reflect well upon it, while pretending that the unflattering stuff simply doesn’t exist. Especially talkative ministers end up locked up in a closet with their mouths duct-taped – at least, that’s our theory where Doug Graham has spent much of his time.
Sure, Elaine Taylor is excited to speak about efforts to hire female firefighters, while Currie Dixon has plenty of time to chat about the weeds growing along the White Pass railway route. Yet some matters of clear public importance – particularly those that beg a direct response from our premier – receive no comment at all.
Consider the eerie silence from Pasloski’s office when questions are posed about potentially far-reaching changes to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board now being considered by the Senate. These changes until recently were secret. Well, secret to the public. The premier knew about them, and apparently had no problem about having the whole affair hushed up.
As we’ve said before, if anyone had the power to open up the federal consultations to the public, it would have been Pasloski, who usually enjoys touting his tight relationship with Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. And, to nobody’s surprise, the changes largely strengthen the hand of the Yukon government.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, Pasloski still isn’t interested in publicly addressing the matter. This silence manages to be both appalling and unsurprising. Appalling, because assessors play a key role of impartially vetting industrial projects in ways that our territorial government, which never met a mining project it didn’t like, couldn’t do alone. Unsurprising, because covertly monkeying around with the planning processes set out in the Umbrella Final Agreement is just what the Yukon Party does, as evidenced during last week’s trial over the plan for the Peel watershed. Having to make a reasonable case for their position in the light of day has never been how this government prefers to roll.
Of course, if you want a walking, talking example of the failure of our leaders to behave as responsible adults, look no further than Darius Elias. On Wednesday, the Yukon Party backbencher pleaded guilty for failing to blow into a breathalyzer. Yet Elias continues to refuse to explain the circumstances that led police to pull him over the evening after the last legislative sitting ended, even though one of the lame excuses offered for his silence – that the matter was before the courts – no longer seems valid.
The apology that Elias has offered his constituents is clearly deficient, in that he never explained what he’s sorry about. Was it just for refusing to blow? Or was he, as you might suspect, drunk when he got behind the wheel? That is to say, did Elias recklessly endanger the lives of Yukoners?
In Pasloski’s government, the answer to that question, and many others, is something the public just doesn’t deserve to know. So much for the quaint notion that conservatives stand for such things as personal responsibility.
Elias has at least admitted he has a drinking problem. But he hasn’t explained how alcoholism has affected his job, which is surely why this is a matter of public concern in the first place.
Seeing as Elias was seen at a bar and restaurant while other MLAs were attending to business in the house during part of the afternoon the final day of the sitting, and forgot to settle his bill while rushing back to vote on the budget, this doesn’t seem to be an unwarranted concern.
Questions also remain about when Pasloski became aware of Elias’s drinking problem. Seeing as this addiction was long considered an open secret among many political onlookers, prior to Elias joining the Yukon Party, it would be odd if the premier had not heard similar concerns.
Given that, did Pasloski encourage Elias to seek help at an earlier point? Or, like so much else, was Pasloski content to sweep this problem under the carpet in the hope it would go away?
Elias claims to be receiving some sort of help. Just what kind, he won’t say. However, it’s obviously nothing that requires him to take much time off work. The MLA has attended the ongoing hearings on the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing, and he sat through a day of the trial over the Peel watershed.
Speaking of which, Elias has also refused to say anything at all about that case. That’s no small matter: many of his constituents would likely count the fate of the Peel as one of their most important issues.
Of course, there’s nothing that Elias can say about the Peel that wouldn’t be somehow damaging. The case clearly pits his community – which wants the watershed protected – against his own party – which wants most of the watershed open to development.
But if Elias isn’t about to speak publicly about how his personal struggles have affected his ability to serve the public, and he isn’t able to speak about one of the most pressing policy issues affecting his constituency … what are we paying him to do, exactly? To keep a committee seat warm and give the occasional speech about how much he likes hockey?
Similar questions could be asked, of course, about our premier. What is so pressing that he’s unable to discuss the plans to weaken Yukon’s regulatory regime, or address real concerns about the fitness of one of his MLAs to hold office?
It’s a little late in his term to be getting this memo, but someone should really explain to him that being a leader involves answering tough questions, rather than simply running from them.