Just when you thought it was safe to answer the door again, I’m afraid two more elections are on the way.
The Yukon Party leadership vote is on May 28, and a territorial election will follow. This could be as early as June if the new leader is feeling perky, or as late as the Fall.
Hopefully the candidates will learn from the successful election of NDP candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau in Quebec. Pundits have been baffled as to why the voters of overwhelmingly francophone Berthier-Maskinonge voted in such huge numbers for a college bartender who doesn’t speak French and lives in Ottawa.
The real reason she won was that she didn’t knock on anyone’s door during the Stanley Cup playoffs. In fact, she guaranteed this to the electorate by taking a mid-campaign vacation in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, trends are often late to hit the Yukon. Most of our candidates will actually campaign.
If you don’t have a sign on your lawn that says “Al Qaeda” or “I (heart) Mao Tse-tung,” you will probably get asked to join the Yukon Party so you can vote for the next premier.
Minister Jim Kenyon, former federal Conservative candidate Darrell Pasloski and Whitehorse businessman Rod Taylor are running to lead the Yukon Party. Minister Patrick Rouble also told Yukoners to “stay tuned” for an announcement, but all we’ve heard on that station is static since Taylor announced with the apparent backing of many of Rouble’s cabinet colleagues.
The winner will then face Liberal Arthur Mitchell, Liz Hanson of the NDP and possibly a territorial Green candidate in the Fall.
All the candidates will be promising fresh leadership and restored decorum in the legislature. Their brochures will all declare a passionate commitment to jobs, health care, education, the environment, First Nations relations and social justice. In fact, if you cut the airbrushed photos off the top of party brochures in the Yukon it can sometimes be hard to tell them apart.
The big question for each of them is if they have any specific ideas that would make the Yukon an even better place.
We don’t need more studies and consultative processes.
Patrick Rouble’s non-announcement highlights this. He’s been Minister of Education for years and has led an elaborate bureaucratic process called at various times “Ed Reform” and “New Horizons.” There have been conferences, white papers, consultant reports and so on.
But if you look at the attendance rates and test scores in the Education Department’s annual report over the last five years not much seems to have changed. Probably very few parents, teachers and principals are clamouring to volunteer for a Rouble leadership campaign.
So if your door does get knocked on, ask your candidate some tough questions. Don’t let them get away with fancy talk and vague, feel-good promises.
As crib notes, here are three topics you can grill your political tormentors about: energy, education and electoral reform.
On energy, the question is, What are they going to do to stop us from burning diesel and seeing electricity prices go up over the next 10 years. High electricity prices are bad for families, bad for business and if you’re burning diesel also bad for the planet.
Yukon Energy has been telling the government since at least 2005 that our hydro surplus was rapidly disappearing. The money plane from Ottawa arrived to pay for most of the Mayo B expansion, which is helpful but won’t keep us off diesel for long.
So ask your candidate how they intend to get us more cheap and green electricity (emphasis on cheap). If the Taku River Tlingit in Atlin can build a profitable mini-hydro facility at Surprise Lake – one that generates jobs, clean energy and profits for the First Nation – then we should be able to do things like that too.
On education, ask them what they intend to actually do to improve attendance and reduce drop-out rates. They should have specific ideas if they are running for office. If they mention a multi-year, multi-stakeholder, multi-consultant process, slam the screen door in their face.
On electoral reform, a good specific question is to ask them if they support an elected senator for the Yukon. Stephen Harper’s various Senate reform bills over the last few years envisaged the provinces and territories holding elections where the prime minister will appoint the winner. Presumably Harper will pass this now that he has a majority and the Yukon will have to decide whether to participate.
And if you’re feeling saucy, you can also ask them if they think the Yukon’s current unelected senator should resign to get this process started.
Those three topics should give you enough ammunition to hold them off at the front door. Assuming you haven’t decided to slip away early for a politician-free summer at the cabin, of course.
Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels.