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Letter: A message to the premier

A message to the premier

A message to the premier

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ranj Pillai for becoming the leader of the Yukon Liberal Party and, in accordance with parliamentary tradition as the leader of the largest party in the legislature, the Premier of the Yukon.

I don’t know Mr. Pillai too well, but in my limited dealings with him I have found him to be an energetic, smart man who believes in what he does.

Unfortunately this is the point in this letter where my positive words must end because his actions since taking office have not reflected the commitment to the democratic principles I expect of my leaders.

Mr. Pillai has signaled first in words and later through his continuation of the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the NDP that he intends to govern for the next two and a half years despite never facing the electorate as the leader of the Yukon Liberal Party.

Canadian political tradition is chock full of technicalities. I remember years ago a political science professor saying that if aliens were to visit earth and just read the constitution they would think that Canada is governed by the British Monarch with the assistance of a “Privy Council”. The written constitution of Canada makes no reference to a “Premier” or a “Cabinet” and references to the Prime Minister in a very limited sense were only added in 1982.

All parliamentary pedantry aside, to me at least, democracy means so much more than just the laws that govern how elections are held.

Democracy is a basic principle that says that it is the people who get to decide who govern them. Particularly in a system where the Premier or Prime Minister wield more power than a US President the public certainly has a right to weigh in when the governing party makes a leadership change.

It is relevant that past polling has indicated that at least as many voters cast their vote based on the identity of the leader as vote based on the party banner or their local candidate. None of those people voted for Mr. Pillai.

Mr. Pillai says that Yukoners don’t want an election. To some extent this is probably true in the sense that few of us like elections with the signs, sloganeering, mud throwing, requests for donations and assorted silly business.

Joking aside, I am not sure how he could possibly know that we don’t want an election. I have not seen any opinion polls to that effect. His suggestion that we don’t want an election begs the question as it is elections themselves that determine what people want. His assertion is, at best, purely anecdotal influenced heavily by the consensus effect.

At worst (and more likely) it is baseless, self-serving political comms for a party down in the polls.

Pedants can pedant as much as they would like. I expect better. It behooves our leaders to do more than the minimum that the law requires.

In my respectful opinion Mr. Pillai fundamentally lacks a democratic mandate. He should, like most leaders who have ascended to the top office by internal leadership race rather than a general election, schedule a vote within a reasonable period of time not govern like he has a mandate for two and half years.

The second issue that has caused me to doubt Mr. Pillai’s democratic bona fides is the rent cap and ban on without cause evictions.

No I am not referring to the policy itself. I am also not referring to Mr. Pillai’s agreement with the NDP (although I do think that the fact that a party with such meager electoral support is getting key parts of its agenda implemented does raise valid critiques about our political system).

I am referring to the fact that a substantive change to the legal rights of private individuals was made retroactively, with zero consultation, with little warning at the 11th hour by Order-In-Council and not where it ought to have been made: through the Legislative Assembly.

This is not how things are supposed to be done. Regulations are intended to make relatively minor tweaks in a timely and efficient manner, not usher in significant retroactive alterations to private contracts out of political convenience. The Liberals may be able to shoe-horn the latest orders-in-council into the regulation making authority contained in the Residential Landlord and Tenant (and this is a big “may be” this is probably debatable as a matter of law). But again that does not make it right.

This move seems designed to sweep under the rug something the Liberals may have horse-traded in order to maintain legislative confidence but probably do not want their centrist and centre-right constituencies to spend much time stewing over. The likely want to get it off the political radar as quickly as possible.

If the Liberals and NDP believe in the merits of rent caps and the ban on without cause evictions they should have the courage to make their case in the legislature. If they had done so the policy could have stood or fallen on its merits and I would have nothing to say here.

Less than a month in to his tenure and I will have to give the Pillai government a failing grade on its commitment to democratic ideals. I understand why he is doing all of it from a perspective of political strategy. But that does not make it right.

It was probably naïve to expect better in our modern hyper-partisan political environment but you can’t blame a guy for hoping.

Kyle Carruthers