Don’t let the Yukon Party old guard kill your idealism

An open letter to the rookie MLAs of the Yukon Party: I cannot help but feel when an individual decides to run for political office, whatever their political stripes.

An open letter to the rookie MLAs of the Yukon Party:

I cannot help but feel when an individual decides to run for political office, whatever their political stripes, they are inspired to do so from an idealistic perspective – a chance to do some good for their fellow citizens, working from their democratic and ethical standards toward a common good for the betterment of society.

It must feel wonderful, when one acquires the confidence to pursue such a vision, and is able to put their principles and ethics into practice. I don’t think I’m painting too much into this. I’m sure most of you will agree.

Well, I also cannot help but feel that the governing style of the leaders of your party does not match your original ideal. I suspect the belligerent and undemocratic stance of Brad Cathers (who, it would seem, is running this party) may have some of you a little disillusioned. Perhaps some of that original idealism that led you into politics has been paralyzed.

The most important question has become not whether to protect the Peel, but how the democratic process of determining protection for the Peel has been hijacked by the Yukon Party. It began with the former leader of your party, Dennis Fentie, secretly rejecting the initial Department of Environment submission to the Peel watershed planning commission, and bullying a much shorter submission out of them that allowed for development.

Wasn’t the purpose of the commission to provide an unbiased, arms-length decision on the matter to the government? Is it not obvious the Yukon Party already knew what their decision was going to be in regards to the Peel? A sham! And the perfect antithesis of the democratic process.

This same underhanded approach by the Yukon Party was evident during our last election in October.

The other three parties were very clear on where they stood on the matter of the Peel. Your party, as we know, refused to state its position on the Peel under the pretence that it would be “irresponsible” to take a position without allowing a final round of consultation.

And now, just a few months after your party was elected but before this final round of consultation, we get Brad’s eight principles of “development” (let’s call them what they are).

Let’s be honest. You know, just like the rest of us, the reason your party didn’t disclose its position on the Peel before the election, is because it would have been detrimental to your party getting elected. It is no secret a large majority of us want protection for the Peel, and your party is knowingly working against our collective wishes.

Again, the antithesis of democracy. Simon Mervyn, chief of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun, expressed a concern on this matter in the media recently. According to Mr. Mervyn, “The minds of young impressionable cabinet ministers are being overrun with the gunslinger mentality … the dictatorial mentality is being moulded into the minds of young ministers. I worry about that. Our young people see that, and right away the red flags go up.”

I can only hope you will not let that happen. I hope you have the objectivity to see the very serious negative implications of this governing style. It really is unprecedented in Yukon history. And it must not become the norm, or the next undemocratic step, however seemingly implausible now, will become plausible.

I echo Simon Mervyn’s concern of what this is telling our young people. This undermining of the democratic process can only decrease the already-low turnout of the youth vote (37 per cent). It works to justify their apathy and enhance a cynical view of politics. We should be encouraging by example.

I would refer you to a recent letter from Dave Blottner, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Whitehorse. The youth he works with have been following the Peel watershed planning process as a lesson in “concepts of sharing ideas, working together and coming to a consensus with the community” and as “an example of what democracy in action looks like and how many people of differing opinions can come to a consensus.”

The letter states that the youth of the Boys and Girls Club are wondering why your government wasted so much time and money on a planning committee if it is going to be ignored anyhow.

Mr. Blottner is at a loss as to how to explain this, and requested of Mr. Cathers, “Can you please educate us as to the model in which our government has chosen to act so that we may be better able to educate, as opposed to disillusion our youth?” I don’t imagine Brad got back to him. What could he say anyhow, when our youth already see through his connivance. I can only hope they take it as a lesson in what democracy is not.

You know, there’s nothing wrong with holding differing views on something like the Peel. We should be able to openly and respectfully discuss and debate our views. It’s the way a healthy society operates. It’s what democracy is. It’s the consultation we were supposed to have.

If there really is more merit to Brad’s plan of development for the Peel than just wanting it all now, perhaps you could change our minds or perhaps you could see the merit of our views.

Thomas Paine, in his monumental treatise The Age of Reason, from the late 1700s, adamantly stated his strenuous support for the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to his.

However, and most importantly, he added, “He who denies to another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion because he precludes himself the right of changing it.”

If only we could all live by such a maxim. Would we not be “working together and coming to a consensus with the community,” as Mr. Blottner’s youth desire to see, instead of the “dictatorial moulding” of young minds as Mr. Mervyn observed? For certain, we would have an open dialogue with our government through an extensive consultative process, instead of one that disrespectfully ignores the wishes of the majority and dictates ‘eight guiding principles of development.’

Brad Cathers stated he is not going to ban mining in an area the size of Nova Scotia. I sincerely wish you could explain to him that we are not asking you to ban mining in a vast and beautiful area, but delay it, and set it aside, when we already have so much, so that our descendants can mine it, if (and when and how) they so choose. And in the meantime, a pristine functioning wilderness is preserved for us, our descendants and the entire planet.

It is absolutely marvellous and fortunate that we can set aside such a vast and rich area for the future, and still have a huge and robust mining and exploration industry. Just have a look at a mining map sometime and you will see staking, exploration and mining happening all over the Yukon.

The Stewart River valley, as has previously been stated, is staked up to the N.W.T. border, all there’s all the exploration and staking of the Macmillan Pass and Ross River area, the hardrock mines of Keno, Carmacks and Watson Lake areas, the placer fields of the Klondike, Bonanza, White River, Burwash, the gas leases of Eagle Plains and the southeast Yukon, etc. And we can still set aside an area the size of Nova Scotia? How absolutely marvellous and fortunate!

So I do strongly encourage you, do not abandon the idealistic fervour that led you into politics. Please find the courage to speak to Brad and Darrell, if not about preserving the Peel, then about their undemocratic approach to the decision making process of it.

I can’t stress enough the importance of following your ethical and democratic principles. Occasionally, the ‘ship of state’ needs to be steered back on course, and when we find the courage to listen to our hearts and speak the truth, it surprisingly takes but a few oars to bring it back on a democratic course.

Yes, there’s a chance you could lose your standing within the Yukon Party, and have to sit as an independent. But you will have lived by your ethics and would be free to work by the democratic principles that led you into politics in the first place.

You will have done the right thing. And your integrity will be ablaze for all to see. Please, let’s bring truth and honesty back into our politics.

Jim Borisenko