Candidates vying to be Yukon’s voice in Parliament sparred with each other by testing their knowledge of the alphabet.
It was one of the few moments of unscripted conflict during last night’s election forum hosted by the CBC.
Incumbent Ryan Leef, Liberal Larry Bagnell, the NDP’s Melissa Atkinson and the Green’s Frank de Jong answered questions from people in the audience, over the phone and on the Internet during the debate broadcast across the territory.
The off-book moment happened following a question about Bill C-51.
That’s the law passed earlier this year that is framed as an anti-terrorism bill, but which some have claimed could erode personal freedoms and privacy.
Leef denied those assertions, insisting the bill does respect personal privacy but gives Canadian law enforcement tools to do their job up against an evolving terrorism threat.
He accused Atkinson of fear-mongering and telling people C-51 could prevent protesting against something like the development of the Peel watershed.
“Our fight is not with the RCMP and CSIS, it’s with ISIS. You’ve got your letters mixed up,” Leef said.
Atkinson, a lawyer and former chair of the Yukon Human Rights Commission, replied with: “I think one of us has a law degree.”
She said the passing of C-51, by both the Liberals and the Conservatives, was part of the reason she decided to run for office.
“When you talk about civil liberties, I know it, it’s the fabric of who I am, I’ve practiced it and I don’t need practice in the alphabet,” she said.
“It’s quite insulting quite frankly.”
Both sides earned applause during the exchange.
Bagnell said a Liberal government would rescind parts of C-51.
It would also create an all-party oversight committee so politicians would know what the agencies are doing, he said.
De Jong took most of his 60 seconds as an opportunity to make a pitch for electoral reform.
“If we had a system of proportional representation we wouldn’t have had a Conservative government in the first place.”
Incumbent Leef said electoral reform is not something the Conservatives are considering. He also accused the other parties of championing change, but only when they lose.
“I say you can always vote with your heart. You may not get the result you like, but you can always vote and you can always vote for the party you believe in.”
Atkinson, whose party has promised to replace Canada’s first-past-the-post system with proportional representation, said her party believes in electoral form and doing it in the first term they are in office.
Bagnell said the Liberals have also promised to get rid of Canada’s first-past-the-post system. What those changes would look like hasn’t been decided yet, he said. Public consultation would decide what model would work better in Canada, he said.
This is not the last time the four candidates will meet before Election Day. Two forums are scheduled for next week, one hosted by Yukon Registered Nurses Association and one by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.
Contact Ashley Joannou at