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Theatre, with strings attached

The puppets are clattering, but is the dance anything more than a distraction for the masses? It's something to consider.

The puppets are clattering, but is the dance anything more than a distraction for the masses?

It’s something to consider.

Because though the premier may have shuffled his cabinet, events of the past year have shown it doesn’t matter who warms the chair, Dennis Fentie’s pulling the strings.

Jim Kenyon’s nameplate was on the door of Yukon Energy. But it was Fentie who was sharing face time with Nancy Southern, the CEO of Alberta-based ATCO, trying to strike a deal to privatize the utility.

Fentie’s scheme was so secret Kenyon didn’t even know the talks were happening.

When Kenyon discovered he’d been politically cuckolded by Fentie, he told a roomful of people he would quit cabinet.

But in the end, possibly mollified by the promise of more Chinese junkets, Kenyon quietly surrendered Yukon Energy to Fentie and retreated to Economic Development. Clatter, clatter.

It was a good fit for Kenyon. The $7-million department exists solely to facilitate business deals.

Brad Cathers, on the other hand, proved he had backbone worthy of a minister.

Then-Energy, Mines and Resources minister and tired of Fentie’s lies and shenanigans, Cathers quit cabinet. Given the circumstances and his position in a parliamentary democracy, it was the right thing to do.

He’d hoped his courage would embolden his cabinet colleagues. He was wrong.

They kept quiet and held their seats. And by doing so, they endorsed Fentie’s behaviour.

Patrick Rouble was one of the first ministers to publicly support Fentie following the scandal. Thursday, he was handed Cather’s old job. Clatter, clatter.

During the Peel Watershed planning process, Fentie phoned Deputy Environment minister Kelvin Leary and irately demanded he do something about the department’s submission to the process, which favoured protection. The department complied, amending its document to a shadow of its former self.

Elaine Taylor was Environment minister.

Though Fentie disciplined her deputy, interfering in a process that was supposed to be objective, she did nothing. She said nothing. By so doing, she endorsed Fentie’s behaviour.

Meanwhile, Cathers joined John Edzerza in opposition. Edzerza is another former Yukon Party minister who quit to protest Fentie’s bullying behaviour.

“I left Mr. Fentie’s government under the same circumstances as Brad,” said Edzerza at the time. “And it doesn’t look like anything has changed.”

Edzerza talked up the benefits of a minority government and vowed never to join Fentie’s cabinet again.

Then he rejoined Fentie’s cabinet.

What was he promised?

Thursday, he was handed Taylor’s Environment portfolio. He’ll make $117,500 a year, up from $80,000.

The first release issued under Edzerza’s watch announced the Peel Watershed would be removed from staking. And talks would begin with First Nations to tweak the Peel Watershed plan, which essentially protected 80 per cent of the region. Clatter, clatter.

Edzerza got promoted to a prominent department ahead of Klondike MLA Steve Nordick, a loyal footsoldier and the government’s sole backbencher.

What did Nordick get? He’s been promoted to Archie Lang’s second banana in Community Services and Highways and Public Works. He doesn’t get a pay raise, so it will be interesting to see what bones Fentie tosses him to shore up his status in the Klondike. Clatter, clatter.

The independence of the Yukon cabinet is an illusion.

A year ago, people could be excused for believing the players were acting of their own free will. But events have shown that only Cathers was his own man.

The rest have strings attached.

And those strings are firmly in Fentie’s grasp.

We’re just watching them dance. (Richard Mostyn)