The Yukon Party’s explanation as to why David Laxton no longer sits with the party caucus makes no sense.
He left, we’re told, for “personal reasons.” This may bring to mind all manner of terrible life events: the loss of a loved one, perhaps, or a cancer diagnosis, or the onset of a degenerative illness. Any of these awful scenarios would help explain Laxton’s decision to resign from his role as Speaker of the Yukon legislature - and may offer a reasonable case for some privacy, although even then it would be bizarre to not at least offer a cursory explanation of some kind. But none of these scenarios explains his decision to leave his party.
It would be one thing if Laxton were simply retiring from politics and giving up his seat. But he isn’t - he plans to sit through the remainder of his term as an Independent. That being the case, Laxton’s constituents in Porter Creek Centre and the broader public deserve an explanation why he has left his party.
Since neither Laxton nor the premier will say, many of us are left to assume that Laxton has done something so bad that the Yukon Party can’t support him. And so bad they don’t want to say what.
Some will say that this ignores the possibility of the party having done something bad to Laxton. But, in such circumstances, the aggrieved politician is usually all too happy to go public about his shabby treatment. And it’s hard to imagine someone in that situation agreeing to offer a glowing appraisal of the government in a news release prepared by the premier’s office, as Laxton has done. Instead, this resembles the sort of arrangement in which a sitting politician is pushed, rather than jumps, but his party agrees to keep quiet about the reasons why, because it’s in the mutual interest of both sides to keep the public in the dark.
Among the many indignities risked by a sitting politician is the risk of being ousted by a hostile riding association that prefers another candidate. But Laxton received his riding’s nomination by acclamation in early April, and he announced his plans to seek re-election less than a week before news broke that he was leaving the Yukon Party. Clearly, something big changed during that intervening period.
The only reasonable explanation left standing, in our view, is that Laxton must have done something that, if made public, would bring his party to disrepute. As to just what that would be - well, recent experience suggests it would need to be something worse than failing to give a breathalyzer test.
After all, Darius Elias remained with the Yukon Party after he refused to blow for a police officer, and the premier stood by his side as he pledged to receive help for his drinking problem. Just how Elias did seek help was similarly declared “personal,” and judging by how he seemed to smell of alcohol during a recent visit to Old Crow, appears to be unresolved. Elias, like Laxton, refuses to speak about the subject. But unlike Laxton, he remains with his party today.
Laxton, like everyone, has his demons. He has a diagnosis for post-traumatic stress disorder from his time served as a Canadian peacekeeper in Bosnia. And drinking and anger-management issues have gotten him into trouble in the past. A year before he sought office, in 2010, he got into a drunken argument at the Legion and threatened to throw an elderly man off a balcony. He ended up being charged with a count of uttering threats, although the charge was dropped in exchange for a peace bond.
Whatever the personal problem is that Laxton is struggling with, we hope he receives the help he needs. But his constituents in Porter Creek Centre elected a Yukon Party MLA, and they deserve to know why he is no longer one today.