Fentie not talking on allegations he ‘lied’

James Munson News Report Premier Dennis Fentie is not talking about allegations he "lied" to the public. Five days after his former Energy, Mines and Resources minister Brad Cathers made the claim, there has been no official response from the government.

James Munson

News Report

Premier Dennis Fentie is not talking about allegations he “lied” to the public.

Five days after his former Energy, Mines and Resources minister Brad Cathers made the claim, there has been no official response from the government.

Archie Lang, who is already in charge of two departments, was given Cathers’ old portfolio on Monday, according to government orders-in-council.

There was no news release on that either.

“The premier is having discussions with caucus, cabinet and the party executive,” said his spokesperson Roxanne Vallevand, who is also the Yukon Party’s vice-president.

“And once those meetings have taken place, the government will be making a statement,” she said.

But it’s not clear if those meetings have even been scheduled.

“I don’t want to answer that because I don’t know (when the meetings will happen,)” said Vallevand.

Fentie, who was accused of lying about whether the government had contemplated selling hydro assets to Alberta-based ATCO, is hunkering down, said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.

“Premier Fentie has gathered his caucus together and is trying to ride this out,” said Mitchell. “It’s disappointing that he’s not prepared to take this to the Yukon public and do the right thing.”

Lang is a Fentie “loyalist” that won’t get in the way of Fentie’s plans, he added.

The longer Fentie waits, the more he loses the public’s trust, said Mitchell.

“It’s hard for the public to have any confidence in the premier,” he said.

It might be an even longer time before the Opposition Liberals have a chance to face Fentie in the legislature.

The assembly’s standing orders are a set of agreed-upon rules that directs when and how members meet.

But it’s not the law.

So while the standing orders stipulate that the house can sit for a maximum of 60 days within the year, and only 32 have been had so far, Fentie doesn’t have to have a fall sitting.

The only legal constraint is the Yukon Act, which states that the assembly cannot go a year without meetings.

That gives Fentie until May 2010 before he has to head back to the legislature.

Cathers’ defection puts Fentie’s government in a minority position. Should the opposition parties and the two Independents band together on a nonconfidence motion, their nine members would trump the government’s eight and an election would be called.

But there is still no indication where Fentie is heading.

Mitchell will put forward a nonconfidence motion on Fentie’s leadership the first chance he has. The Liberal’s energy critic, Gary McRobb, is also drafting a motion that will make it impossible for the government to privatize the Yukon Energy Corporation, the territory’s publicly owned utility company.

“The language of that is still being figured out,” said Mitchell.

Cathers, who resigned from the government caucus, but not his party, gave no hints which way he will vote as an Independent.

The Lake Laberge MLA will lose a significant chunk of his ministerial salary for defecting, said Helen Fitzsimmons, director of finance for the assembly.

A minister makes an extra $36,557 on top of the members’ base salary of $67,891.

Cathers will lose the $21,000 he would have earned from September to March.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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