Does the Yukon Party support drilling in ANWR?

Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell says Energy Minister Archie Lang discussed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with Alaskan officials…

Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell says Energy Minister Archie Lang discussed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with Alaskan officials during a legislative forum in Juneau.

During last February’s exchange, Mitchell found himself sitting at a roundtable forum with Alaskan policy wonks and biologists, talking about ANWR.

He was surprised when Lang, the only other Yukon politician present, gave the Alaskans’ a candid assessment about ANWR.

“I was shocked to hear Yukon’s Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Lang state that, ‘We all know that it is not a question of whether or not there will be drilling and exploration in ANWR, but only a question of when,’” Mitchell said during an address to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Old Crow.

Lang was sitting in the room listening to Mitchell. Witnesses say he was not amused.

Without any other Yukoners to corroborate his story — NDP leader Todd Hardy was attending another talk in Juneau at the time — Mitchell kept Lang’s comments quiet, and off the record.

Until now.

“I told the Alaskans that, respectfully, I disagree with my colleague,” Mitchell told the Vuntut Gwitchin, who depend on the Porcupine caribou herd, which calves in ANWR, an area that is also coveted by oil interests.

 “I told them that was not the position of the Yukon Liberal Party, nor the vast majority of Yukoners.

“I told them that most Yukoners felt the Porcupine caribou herd was too precious a resource to take a chance on better drilling technology solving the problem.”

At one point during Mitchell’s Old Crow address, Lang reportedly sprang from his seat in the audience to interrupt Mitchell, and called him a liar.

Lang did not return calls before press time.

Vuntut Gwitchin chief Joe Linklater wants proof of Lang’s alleged comments.

“These are fairly serious allegations,” said Linklater.

“If somebody is going to make that kind of statement, especially a politician during an election, it needs to be substantiated.

“Arthur Mitchell needs to give the exact time and the exact statement in context.”

There must be a public record of the Alaksan meetings, said Linklater.

Premier Dennis Fentie has been criticized for his failure to visit Washington in support of ANWR. But he has publicly stated the Yukon’s support for protecting the region many times. (GM)

Campaign finance

All three parties claim to be budgeting somewhere between $60,000 and $75,000 for this election.

That’s substantially less than the $100,000 average logged in 2000.

Granted, the last few years have been politically busy.

There was a federal election in June 2004, another one in January 2006 and a territorial byelection in November 2005.

Since political volunteers and financiers are often involved at the federal and territorial levels, the coffers of all three political parties have been tapped a fair bit.

But it’s clear the Yukon Party has spent more than the others at this point.

Check out the huge full-colour signs starring Fentie and three female candidates with “Imagine Tomorrow” emblazoned across the bottom.

Check out the party’s revamped website, replete with photos and profiles for each candidate.

Check out the Yukon Party prime time radio ads on CKRW and the rotating television ads on WHTV.

And don’t forget those media junket airplane rides.

Rumours are floating that the Yukon Party is budgeting $300,000, but campaign manager Craig Tuton just laughed when he heard that.

“Categorically, no, not a chance,” said Tuton on Thursday.

“It’ll be well under $100,000 and I’m hoping it doesn’t get much over $75,000.”

But even if a political party receives contributions in kind — such as free charter flights from Alkan Air or donated radio broadcasts from the Hougen Group of Companies that owns CKRW and WHTV — those contributions must be given a value and added in the final tally.

There won’t be a financial reckoning until after the election.  All contributions exceeding $250 must be declared.

“Sometimes they come from numbered companies, which are harder to track,” said assistant chief electoral officer Jo-Ann Waugh.

And some groups, such as the Yukon Federation of Labour and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, have launched “non-partisan” campaigns of their own, worth thousands of dollars, that don’t directly endorse the New Democrats, but don’t shy from criticizing the governing Yukon Party, either.

Although the Yukon is one jurisdiction where there is no legal limit to what a party may spend on a campaign, every dime must be accounted for with the Yukon’s chief electoral officer, Patrick Michael.

Questions of diversity

Middle-aged white men are still more active in Yukon politics than are people from any other demographic.

But the NDP is doing more than the other two parties to change this trend.

The Yukon Party leads with 12 of its 18 candidates being white males.

The Liberals come second with 10 white guys.

The NDP is fielding eight white men.

The Yukon Party has five women running in this election while the Liberals have three.

The NDP have eight women running.

The Liberals have the most First Nations candidates — six — followed by five for the NDP and three for the Yukon Party.

Most candidates are over 30, but the NDP has two younger candidates in their 20s, while the Yukon Party has 28-year-old incumbent minister Brad Cathers, of course.

The Liberal candidates are all over 30.

At the other end of the age scale, the Liberals have one semi-retired candidate, Ethel Tizya. Jim Bowers of the Yukon Party is also retired.

None of the NDP candidates are retired.

The four independent candidates are all middle-aged white guys. (GM)