Fentie puts himself in charge of Yukon Energy

Premier Dennis Fentie has appointed himself minister of the Yukon Energy Corporation and begun restructuring the public utility.

Premier Dennis Fentie has appointed himself minister of the Yukon Energy Corporation and begun restructuring the public utility.

The mini cabinet shuffle comes a week after a leaked seven-page position paper revealed Fentie and Alberta-based ATCO were in advanced talks negotiating a deal that would greatly increase the energy giant’s control over the territory’s power assets.

The paper outlined the creation of a new energy company in the Yukon, to be owned half by the Yukon government and half by ATCO. It would assume managerial control of the two public utilities currently in the Yukon—the Yukon Energy Corporation and ATCO-owned Yukon Electrical Company Limited.

But the new company would put the Crown corporation at a massive disadvantage, because ATCO would now have a share in new generation projects and a stronger grip on who runs the territory’s energy companies.

The paper, which was drafted after talks were held on May 12 between government officials and ATCO, was leaked by former Yukon Energy chair Willard Phelps.

Phelps and three board directors resigned in early June citing Fentie’s secret negotiations with ATCO, which Fentie never disclosed publicly until the paper was made public.

Even now, Fentie has only mentioned the talks as “preliminary scoping-out discussions” that have come to an end.

ATCO and the government are still talking, he said, but he refused to elaborate on details.

Phelps alleges ATCO demanded the Yukon Energy board of directors be barred from the negotiations, undermining the board’s fiduciary responsibilities toward the Crown corporation.

Beyond thanking them for service, Fentie has not commented on the resignation of Phelps and fellow board members Greg Hakonson, Paul Hunter and Martin Allen.

Throughout the last month, the minister responsible for Yukon Energy, Jim Kenyon, has refused to meet with reporters and has let Fentie handle all comments.

Opposition parties have criticized Kenyon for being cowardly and not up to the job.

In shuffling his cabinet, Fentie has now formalized his control over the energy file, putting Kenyon in charge of the Yukon Liquor Corporation and the Yukon Lotteries Corporation, which had been under Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers.

The shuffle, announced in a release issued Monday, included several other important policy decisions that could only have been made with Phelps and friends purged from the Yukon Energy board.

Fentie has begun restructuring the relationship between Yukon Energy and its mother company, the Crown-owned Yukon Development Corporation.

The corporations currently share the same board. Fentie wants to install different board members to “ensure accountability and transparency at both corporations,” said the news release.

The Yukon Development Corporation, which was once mandated to work on larger economic development files, had its responsibilities restricted to the energy file in the 1990s. It currently has no responsibilities beyond Yukon Energy.

It is the sole shareholder of Yukon Energy, which is run like a private business. Its responsibility over Yukon Energy is outlined in the Yukon Development Corporation Act.

It’s not clear whether amending the relationship between the corporations will require legislative changes or simply new regulations.

Several calls to Fentie’s office were not returned.

Newly installed Yukon Energy chair Pat Irvin was in Vancouver visiting family, said staff at Watson Lake Foods. Irvin is the grocery store’s co-owner.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com.

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