Brad Cathers will continue to sit as an independent during the autumn session of the legislature.
“Nothing has changed,” the MLA for Lake Laberge said in a news release today. “I do not intend to rejoin the government caucus under Mr. (Dennis) Fentie’s leadership.”
One year ago, Cathers quit his post as Energy minister to protest Fentie’s handling of the ATCO energy privatization scandal.
At the time, Cathers alleged Fentie lied to the public and his fellow MLAs about plans to sell off Yukon Energy’s assets to Alberta-based ATCO, then urged Cathers to do the same. Instead, Cathers quit.
“None of the leadership problems that led to the breaking point have gone away – and for me, the ethical line is exactly where it was last year,” said Cathers.
This may surprise many. During the annual meeting of the Yukon Party this summer, Fentie made overtures for Cathers to return to the government side of the House.
At the time, Cathers called Fentie’s entreaties “an olive branch.” Now he’s describing it as “a strategic about-face.”
The premier’s speech helped avert a push to have him removed through a leadership convention, Cathers notes. But Fentie has made no effort to woo Cathers back to the fold since dodging that bullet, said Cathers.
“It was timed for him to win a vote he thought he would not win.”
Shortly before the annual meeting, supporters of the premier tried, without success, to have Cathers removed from the Yukon Party.
Cathers spent the summer speaking with constituents. The “vast majority,” he said, favour him remaining an Independent member until Fentie is gone.
“There is no one more silenced or less effective than a backbencher a premier wants to muzzle,” he said in his release. “Under the current circumstances, I am able to represent my constituents more effectively sitting as an Independent.”
At the summer meeting, Fentie managed to cool those pushing to depose him with a promise to voluntarily trigger a leadership review in early 2011.
Popular support for the Yukon Party remains in a slump, with 39 per cent of voters currently “undecided,” according to the latest DataPath poll. Cathers sees this as an indication that many voters could be won over by a new Yukon Party leader who could rebuild the divided party.
Cathers says he knows of several people interested in running for the leadership. But, until the date of a leadership review is set, “they’re not in a position to say much about it,” Cathers said in an interview.
Cathers has no plans to run against Fentie for the premier’s seat.
“That’s never been the plan,” he said. “That’s never been what this is about.”
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