Premier Dennis Fentie’s government has pursued the privatization of Yukon Energy Corp. while spurning its board for more than a year, according to past and current directors.
Board members of the Crown-owned Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation haven’t heard from Fentie or Jim Kenyon, minister responsible for the Crown corporations, since early 2008.
The two corporate boards heard through the grapevine that privatization was afoot, but have been completely isolated from the government’s energy policy, said board member Paul Birckel.
“It was just the government talking about (privatization),” said Birckel. “I don’t think we’ve been involved at all.”
Monday, there was a mass resignation from the eight-member corporate boards. The chair, Willard Phelps, and directors Greg Hakonson, Paul Hunter and Martin Allen quit, citing political interference in the board’s affairs by the Fentie government.
Birckel won’t leave without approval of the Council of Yukon First Nations, which appointed him. But being shut out of cabinet and department-level decisions is a huge worry, he said.
“I think the biggest problem is no communication between the board and the government,” he said. “It really concerns me.”
The only public mention of a change in the governance structure of the two corporations was a brief statement by Fentie in the legislature.
The government is “rationalizing” the relations between the government and the corporations, he said on April 27.
The remaining board members still don’t know anything about the changes.
“As far as I know, the government hasn’t given us any direction on any kind of governance,” said Birckel. “So we’re just waiting.”
The departure of Phelps and friends is tragic, he said.
“I’m really sad,” said Birckel. “I think some of them were doing a really good job. Some of them have been there for a while, especially Willard.”
“His family has been in the electrical business for a long time and it’s his second term.”
“It was really sad to see him go. I didn’t want to see him go. I guess he got frustrated enough to leave.”
The mass resignation came 10 days after the government announced a $160-million expansion in the territory’s hydroelectric system, dubbed Mayo B.
Since Monday, Fentie hasn’t answered any questions on the resignations. He simply issued a terse three-paragraph release accepting their resignations and thanking them for their work.
By failing to consult with the two boards, Fentie is running roughshod over the corporations, say board members.
“The issue is, we could never have a meeting with the minister,” said Allen, a seven-year board member who resigned this week.
“The only meeting was when Archie Lang was minister of Yukon Energy,” said Allen.
Lang was shuffled out of the post in July 2008.
“Kenyon came out once and introduced himself, but they never attended any of our meetings,” said Allen. “Neither did Angus Robertson, and he’s supposed to be president of the Yukon Development Corporation.”
The board chair reports to the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, Jim Kenyon. And the deputy minister of the Energy, Mines and Resources Department, Angus Robertson, is president of the corporation, according to the governance structure.
“None of these guys came and gave us an, ‘Are you doing this or are you doing that?,’” said Allen.
“We asked for a letter of expectations,” he said. “We never got that either.”
There were meetings between Fentie and Yukon Energy’s president David Morrison, he said.
“David Morrison is supposed to deal with the board. And the chair of the board is supposed to deal with the government and the minister.”
“That wasn’t happening,” said Allen.
The board has been edged out of decisions for “the last year and a half,” he said.
Morrison was not in the territory on Thursday. The spokesperson for Yukon Energy did not know where he was.
The interim board chair for both Crown corporations, Pat Irvin, was in Vancouver attending a family emergency, said Janet Patterson.
Five calls were made to Fentie. None were returned before press time.
Yukon Energy has been a Crown corporation owned by the Yukon government since the mid-1980s. The Yukon Development Corporation is its mother department, and they share the same board members.
On Thursday, Fentie announced a $3-million rebate fund for energy consumers, to replace a subsidy that expires on July 1.
Calls on this issue were not returned either.
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