Opinions should reflect facts

Opinions should reflect facts Richard Mostyn needs to pay a bit more attention to his facts. Otherwise, people will stop reading, or believing, what he writes in his editorials. Let's take last Friday's effort as a case in point. I am not saying he does

Richard Mostyn needs to pay a bit more attention to his facts. Otherwise, people will stop reading, or believing, what he writes in his editorials.

Let’s take last Friday’s effort as a case in point. I am not saying he does not have a right to his opinions. But he has a duty to his readers to ensure they are informed and not based on fabrication and falsehoods.

Welcome to the Monkey House is riddled top to bottom with misinformation. So it compels me to try and set the record straight. Here goes.

He writes the Yukon New Democratic party has “little” money.

If he had taken the time to read the 2008 Report of the Chief Electoral Officer on Election Financing and Political Contributions, he would have learned that more members of the public donated more money to the Yukon New Democratic Party that year than to either of the other two territorial parties.

Many people in this territory believe very strongly in what the party stands for and are willing to donate money and time to see those values and principles championed.

If he had bothered to check his facts, Mostyn also would have learned that only the Yukon New Democratic Party has committed to renting a party office year-round, giving interested members of the public ready access to the party executive as well as an opportunity to attend and participate in its regular meetings.

He also writes the party has “anemic membership lists,” when nothing is farther from the truth.

It doubled its membership over the last year to more than 200, and this number keeps growing daily.

I also wish to address his assertion that there are divisions in the New Democrat caucus.

I personally see no contradiction in the public positions taken by Todd Hardy, Elizabeth Hanson and Steve Cardiff.

The party prides itself on welcoming healthy and open dialogue and debate at all times on any issue. This has always been one of the chief differences between it and the others. The caucus and executive have already had spirited debate around this and I hope they will continue to in future.

However, Mostyn is perfectly correct when he writes the New Democratic Party has been able to work with Dennis Fentie’s Yukon Party government on several major initiatives.

It was the New Democratic Party that convened a meeting in Whitehorse attended by the premier, the mayor, the grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Yukon’s minister of Justice and representatives of the Association of Yukon Communities to discuss the substance abuse problems plaguing our city.

One of the outcomes of that meeting was a substance abuse summit and action plan full of worthy initiatives the party continues to champion at every opportunity to this day.

Another outcome was the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, which the party also continues to champion.

Although Mostyn has publicly criticized this piece of legislation, the New Democratic Party has heard nothing but gratitude from people who have suffered for years because they were unlucky enough to live next to houses where illegal activities, such as drug dealing and prostitution, occurred. I wonder how he would feel if his family was subjected to theses activities on a daily basis in his neighbourhood.

The Smoke Free Places Act was another New Democrat initiative.

The party first promised to bring in this legislation during the last election campaign.

After months of political lobbying, and even tabling a draft bill in the legislature, it was finally able to persuade the government the time had come to enact these long-needed changes. Once again, it has heard lots of hallelujahs from members of the public.

I can cite many other examples where the NDP was able to work with the current government. In fact, never before in Yukon political history has an opposition party had so much direct influence on a majority government.

And what has Arthur Mitchell actually accomplished, aside from making repeated calls for resignations and elections? That gets a bit tired and predictable after a while, don’t you think?

On the other hand, the Fentie government has time and time again during its mandate betrayed the public trust or refused to do things the NDP believes would significantly improve the lives of ordinary Yukoners.

This list includes such things as meddling in the Peel Watershed planning process, engaging in secret negotiations with ATCO to reduce local control over our energy assets and then lying about it, stalling on making democratic and electoral reforms, failing to have respectful and honourable relations with First Nation governments, moving too slowly to enact legislation to protect whistleblowers and young workers, refusing to make the Landlord and Tenant Act fairer and clearer, rushing through changes to the Quartz Mining Act, and now the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, ahead of land-use planning and meaningful public consultations and discussions.

I could go on but I think I made my point.

The NDP disagrees with the current government on many fundamental issues, and it has little confidence it can find enough common ground on most of them, and so it will vote for any non-confidence motion tabled in the legislature this fall.

But seriously, does Mostyn really think the government will fall any time soon, considering Brad Cathers’ political history and recent comments to the media?

The harsh reality is that the opposition parties and the now two independent members will have to find creative ways to work with the Fentie government a while longer.

And given the NDP’s great track record for getting the government to see the light and accept its ideas for better laws, policies and programs, I believe its new minority status will oblige it to listen even more carefully to all reasonable suggestions coming from the opposition benches. The key word here is ‘reasonable.’

In summary, the next time Mostyn fires off an editorial about the Yukon New Democratic Party, I wish he would spend more time checking the facts and less time twisting the truth to support his own political biases and prejudices.

Peter Lesniak, special assistant to the NDP caucus,