Liberal candidate Brendan Hanley announces his plans to run for office on Aug. 10 outside the Yukon Arts Centre. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Liberal candidate Brendan Hanley announces his plans to run for office on Aug. 10 outside the Yukon Arts Centre. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Yukon Party leader criticizes Chief Medical Officer’s decision to enter partisan politics

Currie Dixon called on Brendan Hanley to resign from his position.

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon has called into question the ethics and decision-making of the Chief Medical Officer of Health in an open letter that criticized Brendan Hanley’s decision to enter politics.

In his letter, Dixon criticizes the “outsized role” Hanley took in day-to-day operations of the government as top doctor, including extensive media interviews and the advice to cut the legislative sitting short when the pandemic began.

Dixon wrote that at the time “his recommendations were given the benefit of the doubt and seen as benign public health advice.”

“I’ve personally defended Dr. Hanley numerous times over the past year and a half, when people have said that he is of a certain partisan persuasion, and I always dismissed it,” said Dixon, in an interview with the News. “That is called into question now.”

Dixon said in his letter that it is unlikely that Hanley’s decision to run for office was made in just a few days, and questioned how he could remove his political aspirations from his decisions leading up to the campaign announcement.

The Yukon News requested an interview with Hanley after the letter was published on Aug. 24, but campaign manager Moira Lassen said his travel schedule to Beaver Creek and Old Crow was too busy to speak with the paper.

Instead, the campaign put out a press release.

“Let me be clear. There is no room for partisanship in the role of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. I can say without hesitation that I always conducted myself in a non-partisan and impartial way,” the page-long statement, attributed to Hanley, said.

“Personal attacks designed to damage my reputation will not deter me from campaigning to become Yukon’s next member of Parliament,” it continues.

He also clarified that he is no longer receiving pay or benefits from the CMOH position, and said he approached the Liberal Party about running only after MP Larry Bagnell announced his decision to step down.

Hanley is currently on leave from his position. Asked about his intentions when he announced his campaign on Aug. 10, Hanley said he would plan to return to the role if he lost the election.

But Dixon said all the recent decisions made by Hanley are now tainted by his run for office. He also called Hanley to resign from his position so that the government could move forward with finding a permanent replacement.

“The idea that he could return to his role of CMOH after an unsuccessful election is completely untenable now that he has revealed his partisanship; he must resign immediately,” wrote Dixon.

“Yukoners were willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Brendan Hanley during an unprecedented health emergency. But it remains to be seen if they will appreciate learning that he was simply an aspiring politician using his position to further his profile and gear up for an election,” he finishes his letter.

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