Cathers resigns over ATCO scandal

Brad Cathers has resigned from cabinet alleging Premier Dennis Fentie misled the public and ministers about plans to privatize the Yukon Energy Corporation.

Brad Cathers has resigned from cabinet alleging Premier Dennis Fentie misled the public and ministers about plans to privatize the Yukon Energy Corporation.

“The premier lied to the public and to MLAs about his involvement in discussions with ATCO, and about what was on the table,” Cathers told a news conference Friday morning.

“I will not lie to the public or to my constituents. I am doing what I feel I have to do to avoid compromising my principles.”

Fentie considered the outright sale of Yukon Energy’s hydro stations to Alberta-based ATCO, and then told the Yukon public that privatization was never on the table during seven-month-long negotiations, he


“Some of the statements that (Fentie) made – I can’t come up with a good reason for why he made them,” said Cathers. “I don’t understand why he made some of the statements rather than acknowledge the

fact that the government did, indeed, consider the sale of hydro assets.”

Cathers, who has been minister of Energy, Mines and Resources since July 2008, tried to convince Fentie to clear the record, only to be rebuffed by a premier who has degenerated into using “bullying tactics

towards ministers.”

ATCO’s sale proposal was reviewed by bureaucrats, who concluded privatization was not a good idea. The government then told ATCO it would not sell any assets.

“I don’t see why the premier wouldn’t come clean about that,” said Cathers.

In June, half the Yukon Energy board resigned in protest of the ATCO negotiations, and Fentie began telling the public that privatization was never an option, said Cathers, who has also resigned his post as

government house leader.

Fentie has repeatedly pressured cabinet colleagues to back up his version of events and, after a meeting on August 18, Cathers reached a breaking point.

“This has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life,” he said.

Fentie has done untold damage to the Westminster system and the tradition of ministerial accountability in the Yukon, said Cathers.

“When information is given behind (ministers’) backs to departments, that is a case, in my view, of the premier’s office bypassing ministerial accountability,” he said.

Fentie’s handling of the ATCO negotiations has caused major distrust within cabinet, and many other ministers feel the same way, said Cathers.

“I encourage them to join me in standing up to Premier Fentie by leaving the caucus – but not the Yukon Party – to sit as an Independent,” he said.

The ATCO scandal isn’t the only rift in cabinet, said Cathers, who wouldn’t elaborate.

“I could go through a long list of incidences and occasions, but that’s not what this is about,” said Cathers, citing cabinet confidentiality. “I don’t want to get into a long list of every gory detail that goes on.”

Fentie is damaging the reputation of the Yukon Party, said Cathers.

“Dennis Fentie use to be a good leader, but that has changed,” said Cathers.

The Lake Laberge MLA will remain a member of the Yukon Party and would consider returning to caucus if Fentie steps down.

Fentie’s “belligerent and confrontational” treatment of MLAs, political staff and senior officials is the problem, he said.

Fentie wouldn’t tolerate ministers disagreeing with him, said Cathers, noting he has centralized power among a small circle of followers and made major decisions behind his colleagues’ backs.

As well, Fentie and his staffers would prevent ministers from speaking to the media.

“You have been rightly frustrated with the lack of answers and lack of accountability,” Cathers told media.

“I hope you understand that much of this relates to the premier’s office not telling ministers to talk to the media and, in some cases, if they don’t want us to talk to the media, we were not even informed the

media’s been calling us.”

Cathers doesn’t know whether Fentie asked ATCO to send in a proposal, as former Yukon Energy chair Willard Phelps has said.

Phelps is suspicious of ATCO’s proposal because it had “unsolicited” in its title, something that is highly unusual.

“I had never seen a proposal before that bothered to mention it was unsolicited, because usually it’s assumed,” said Cathers.

Cathers would not seek the leadership of the Yukon Party should Fentie resign, he said.

Fentie could not be reached by press time.

Contact James Munson at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read