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Fentie cooked liquor question, say Liberals

Premier Dennis Fentie is looking to the conflicts commissioner to investigate allegations two ministers may have benefited from changes to the…

Premier Dennis Fentie is looking to the conflicts commissioner to investigate allegations two ministers may have benefited from changes to the territorial liquor act.

“I am writing to seek your ruling regarding an allegation of conflict of interest against Minister Jim Kenyon, made by Mr. Inverarity and Mr. Mitchell of the Official Opposition,” begins the letter to David Phillips, Edmonton-based Queen’s counsel and conflicts commissioner.

Mitchell and Inverarity accuse then-minister Peter Jenkins and Archie Lang, currently minister of Energy Mines and Resources, of conflict for their participation in the review of the liquor act while both men owned hotels with bars.

Although Fentie’s letter does mention “two cabinet ministers,” it states the alleged conflict is against Jim Kenyon, minister responsible for the Yukon liquor corporation.

“The issue here isn’t Mr. Kenyon,” said Inverarity following Tuesday’s question period.

“All he is is just somebody shooting off his mouth … This is another example of the government trying to change the intent.”

Obviously, Kenyon will be cleared of any conflict, said Inverarity, who promised Lang one more opportunity to “come clean” about it his role in the review before he files his own complaint with Phillips.

“Quite likely, I will write my own letter,” he said.

The liquor act has been awaiting review for years.

In 2001, after an extensive public review, the governing Liberal party introduced changes that included the elimination of hotel room requirements.

However, an election brought in the Yukon Party and for seven years the changes were pushed aside, despite repeated calls the amend the liquor act.

Now, the sweeping changes have again been proposed, including the elimination of the contentious requirement for hotel rooms adjacent to bars, which could allow for neighbourhood pubs.

The revisions would also allow for those under 19 to handle and serve alcohol in restaurants, and their customers would no longer be required to order food with alcohol.

Restaurants could also be licensed as bars after dinner hours.

The timing is convenient, Liberal MLA Eric Fairclough told the News last week.

The two Yukon ministers who vocally opposed the changes were hotel owners, he said, citing  Jenkins and Lang.

Jenkins is no longer sitting in government and Lang sold his interest in three Watson Lake hotels last summer, said Fairclough.

NDP leader Todd Hardy has avoided the conflict debate, but he did put forward a related April Fool’s motion Tuesday.

“That this house mark this auspicious occasion by directing the Members’ Service Board to authorize the conflict of interest commissioner to purchase polygraph equipment, commonly known as a lie detector, for use as required in future dealings with