Cathers gets cold welcome

Brad Cathers is getting some tough love in the opposition benches.

Brad Cathers is getting some tough love in the opposition benches.

The independent MLA, who resigned from Premier Dennis Fentie’s cabinet in August, is looking for a helping hand from his former foes in the Liberal and New Democratic parties.

Cathers wants them to support his bid for more speaking time now that he’s an independent. Currently, an independent can’t demand a debate on their own private members bill.

“I have no ability to call them to debate,” said Cathers.

The rules aren’t fair to independents, he said.

But giving Cathers some debate time would eat into the rest of private members day, which is held every Wednesday, said Liberal MLA Gary McRobb.

That’s the one day that private members bills, which differ from government bills, get to be sponsored and debated.

And Cathers might just waste it by supporting his former colleagues in the government, said McRobb.

“It gives rise to a larger concern,” said McRobb. “We need to know first where Cathers stands.”

When former Yukon Party MLA Peter Jenkins, now mayor of Dawson City, crossed the floor to sit as an independent in 2005, he would waste his opposition privileges by asking “sweetheart questions” to his former colleagues, said McRobb.

“Is (Cathers) going to hold the government accountable, or prop it up?” he said.

Cathers resigned alleging Fentie “lied” about privatizing the Yukon Energy Corporation late this summer. He kept his Yukon Party membership and has vowed to return to the government if Fentie resigns.

Since his resignation, Cathers hasn’t offered much criticism of his former boss – but then again, he hasn’t really had a chance.

There hasn’t been a legislative sitting since the spring and the fall session doesn’t begin until next week.

But Cathers did level some heavy criticism at a proposed Liberal bill that would make privatizing the Yukon Energy Corporation illegal, said McRobb, noting it raises doubts about where he stands.

“It’s too soon to tell,” he said.

Cathers is also hypocritical for seeking changes in the legislative rules, said Elizabeth Hanson, the newly crowned leader of the New Democratic party.

As a Yukon Party MLA, Cathers resisted multiple opposition attempts at rewriting the rules, also known as the standing orders, she said.

“It’s interesting that now that he’s in opposition, he supports legislative renewal,” said Hanson.

Instead of changing the rules on an ad hoc basis, the New Democrats will reintroduce their older, more wide-ranging bill that Cathers once rejected, said Hanson.

For his part, Cathers said he supported previous efforts at legislative renewal, but that the momentum within his party was never enough to make it happen.

“Proposals to amend parts of the standing orders came from all different sides,” said Cathers. “Resistance to it slowed it down.”

The Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges would have to approve any recommended changes before being voted on in the legislature.

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