Edzerza slapdown ELECTION 2006 NOTEBBOK

John Edzerza’s is haunted by his days as a Yukon Party minister. Last week, in these pages, the NDP candidate for McIntyre-Takhini talked…

John Edzerza’s is haunted by his days as a Yukon Party minister.

Last week, in these pages, the NDP candidate for McIntyre-Takhini talked about the 2003 computer misuse investigation.

The Yukon Employees’ Union found his remarks “unacceptable.”

As minister responsible for the Public Service Commission at the time, Edzerza was involved in the investigation of internet habits of 543 union employee computers.

When offered the opportunity to reconcile his actions as minister with his new home in the union-friendly NDP, Edzerza said he had no regrets.

To recap:

“The computer investigation was a necessity,” he said September 22.

“I don’t feel that it was heavy-handed. It was handled in the most appropriate way that the commission could do it.”

Edzerza noted that there were no mass terminations, although the government disciplined 96 employees and fired four of them.

“There was a legal obligation to deal with it,” said Edzerza.

“It was, in my opinion, a breach in the collective agreement if you didn’t (deal with it).

“The big thing for the government was not to paint everybody with the same brush.

“We realized that not everybody was involved with it.

“In fact, as the minister, I had more calls from employees saying they were glad it was being addressed than the ones that were opposed to it.

“It turned out fairly positive, in my opinion.”

Union president Laurie Butterworth was not amused.

He could not disagree more with Edzerza.

“Nothing positive resulted from the affair,” Butterworth said in a release Friday.

“(Edzerza) still does not understand the trauma experienced by workers unnecessarily scrutinized and falsely accused during the sorry affair.”

The investigation was not necessary, said Butterworth.

The union asked the government under Premier Dennis Fentie to follow the example of arms-length Crown corporations, such as the Yukon Energy Corporation, that gave employees a 48-hour amnesty period to remove any inappropriate material from their office computers before enacting a strict no-tolerance policy.

“Unfortunately, this reasonable remedy was rejected by the Yukon government in favour of a punitive and destructive attack on its workforce,” said Butterworth.

“Mr. Edzerza’s claim that the government did not paint every employee with the same brush is fundamentally at odds with reality.”

The probe left a black mark on the resumes of many more than 500 employees, said former union president Dave Hobbis.

“(Edzerza) was grossly misled by senior bureaucrats in the government at that point in time,” said Hobbis, who is running for election in Porter Creek North for the NDP — the same team as Edzerza.

“He was a relative newcomer to being a minister of government and the workings of government.

“The only the thing that I can forgive him for is that there were personal agendas at work.”

The government’s “ridiculous and heavy-handed approach” scandalized the lives of 2,500 union employees, said Hobbis.

But the blame is Fentie’s, not Edzerza’s, he said.

“I met with John to call a halt, and it was clear in that meeting with John that it was out of his hands and into Fentie’s hands.”

Meetings with Fentie were “totally unproductive,” said Hobbis.

Fentie adopted a “holier-than-thou” attitude and postured as though he were the “moral guardian of the Yukon,” but he was never able to point to a contractual obligation within the union’s collective bargaining agreement that indicated the probe was necessary, said Hobbis.

Hundreds of Yukoners who were not government employees were also traced through emails and scandalized, he said.

“Fentie knew that because I bloody well told him.”

The NDP have consistently recognized that Fentie’s approach was inappropriate, and have consistently said they’ll clean up the mess once elected, added Hobbis. (GM)

Vote Casa Loma?

The Casa Loma Hotel, owned and operated by Yukon Party campaign manager Craig Tuton, is the official returning office for Porter Creek South.

There’s a sign on the door of the bar saying it will be closed October 10 for the territorial election.

Apparently it’s within the rules for an establishment owned by a prominent political person, such as Tuton, to double as a non-partisan returning office, which functions as the administrative headquarters for the election.

There’s a lack of infrastructure in the Porter Creek area for elections officials to rent, explained assistant chief electoral officer Jo-Ann Waugh.

Some special ballots are counted at returning offices, but they’re marked by voters who are already decided, Waugh said Monday.

So be it. As Yukon Party candidates and supporters have said many times, people wear many hats in the territory.

But don’t election rules forbid the placement of signs within a certain distance of returning offices?

What about the grinning portrait of Archie Lang on the outside of the Casa Loma, facing the Alaska Highway?

There are no such rules, said Waugh.

Political propaganda is outlawed with 100 metres of polling places, but not the returning offices, she said.

“The sign stays up if the owner wants it, and we continue to pay rent until the election is over.

“We’re not going to ask the owner (Tuton) to take it down.”

NDP economics

Full-accrual accounting is more expensive than the Yukon Party thinks, according to New Democrat leader Todd Hardy.

During the NDP platform release Tuesday, Hardy explained how former Yukon governments received qualified audits because they were trying to keep housing prices low.

When the NDP was in power under Piers McDonald, the government kept a stock of roughly 200 lots, said Hardy.

Canada’s auditor general didn’t like it, and routinely qualified the Yukon’s audits, he said in a teleconference.

But the NDP had a commitment to affordable housing, said Hardy.

“We had made the commitment that we would have affordable lots, and one of the ways we would do it would have an excess of lots.

“And then the lots were sold exactly at the price it took to develop them.

“That kept the prices down, that prevented a few builders and developers from buying up a whole whack of them, so people would have to go through them to get their building, and of course that drove prices up.

“It allowed people a choice. It allowed young families to be able to buy a lot, to design their own house, get an architect, whatever.

“Those lots were available, choice was available in different price ranges throughout the Yukon during that period.

“The Yukon Party shrunk that down to nothing. They collapsed it.

“They got rid of the qualification, but what they also did was remove the availability of lots from the marketplace, which drove the price up, which made the availability for any young family or anybody that wanted to build their own house almost impossible.

“It’s a different philosophy.

“We will make sure that there are more lots available at affordable prices so that the people of this territory have that option, to be able to get into their own first home.” (GM)

Rock the vote not a Yukon party

Power-chords, politicians and about 80 Whitehorse youth mixed Thursday night to Rock the Vote, but, er, no Yukon Party-ers showed up.

While Whitehorse rock stars Death in Venice entertained the crowd, several politicians took to the microphone, including Riverdale South NDP candidate Peter Lesniak, McIntyre-Takhini Liberal candidate Ed Schultz, and Whitehorse Centre Liberal candidate Bernie Phillips.

Other candidates and staff from the Liberals and NDP milled about the crowd and spoke with youth, many of whom conceded that they’re too young to vote on October 10th.

Still, Rock the Vote was a whole lot more lively than the leaders’ economic debate happening at the Yukon Inn across town.

Yukon Party communications flack Peter Carr poked his perennially sweatered frame into the coffee shop for a few moments, but quickly left.

Theresa Gulliver with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society took to the microphone and asked for someone — anyone — from the Yukon Party to come to the stage.

“Is anyone here from the Yukon Party?” Gulliver said. “They were invited.”

Those invitations included a personal request to the Yukon Party’s Whitehorse Centre candidate Jerry Johnson.

But, like the rest of them, Johnson didn’t show up. (TQ)

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