For the art of debate

If Yukoners were hoping an arts debate would make the election campaign more theatrical, they were wrong. Last night's all-candidates forum on the arts had the best lighting, but little drama. All four men continued to agree with one another on most things.

If Yukoners were hoping an arts debate would make the election campaign more theatrical, they were wrong.

Last night’s all-candidates forum on the arts had the best lighting, but little drama.

All four men continued to agree with one another on most things.

Possibly the night’s best performance went to Green Party candidate John Streicker.

He tried to start an aggressive discussion, bluntly criticizing the exclusion of federal leader Elizabeth May from televised debates and hammering the Harper government’s lack of transparency and respect for public participation.

“I wish what we had was real honesty in politics,” he said.

The Conservative government’s meddling in arts organizations put Ryan Leef on the defensive.

“While I support the arm’s-length aspect of it, I still think Canadians want and require a proper oversight of a corporate body that receives $100 billion in taxpayers’ money,” he said.

The Harper government did not apply pressure to these groups, he said, adding the audience question was too general to warrant a specific response.

Streicker cocked his head, puzzled.

“So, I’ll supply some specifics then …” he said, listing multiple examples of partisan appointees, removals, suppression of communication with media and the removal of Linda Keen from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

“Thus removing the safety mechanism that Fukushima needed,” he said.

The crowd erupted with applause and laughter.

Smiling, Leef shook Streicker’s hand.

Asked about cuts to organizations, like the Department of Canadian Heritage, that helped Canadian artists promote their work abroad, Liberal Larry Bagnell was moved to tears.

“I was there the day people were laid off,” he said, dropping his head, his face growing blotchy.

“It was hard.”

Kevin Barr consoled him with a pat on the back.

The only professional performer of the group, Barr’s decision to read directly – and obviously – from a script was possibly the biggest disappointment of the night.

But when he left his notes to discuss the oppression of First Nation culture his stature grew.

Referencing how he’d once hidden his own heritage from people, he noted that, without time to heal and without federal support to relearn traditional ways, Canada cannot take pride in First Nation culture without hypocrisy.

“My people will sleep for 100 years, but when they awaken, it will be the artists who will give them their spirit back,” he said, quoting Louis Riel.

Dressed in a black suit, Leef stood out amongst the art crowd.

At times, he seemed to struggle to connect with them.

He spoke of his Yukon upbringing and dabbles in poetry, noting it was an outlet to express the great beauty of his home.

It was hard to leave for post-secondary school, he said.

Photos littering his dorm room were not enough, he said. He had to spray Pine Sol to revive memories of home, he said with a sheepish smile.

If elected, Leef vowed to remain independent of the party line.

“I’ve been on the record since I started this that I’m going to Ottawa to represent Yukoners,” he said. “I’m not going to Ottawa for a job. I have a job here, I’ll always have a job to come back to.

“I need to be able to come home and hold my head high. I am not a career politician, I am a career Yukoner.”

“I think it went really well,” said Michele Emslie of the debate, which was attended by more than 60 people.

“I think we got through everybody’s questions, so I think it reflected everybody’s concerns.”

But when it comes to helping the arts community, the most revealing action came at the very end of the night.

Almost three hours after the debate began, less than 10 people remained at the Old Fire Hall.

Larry Bagnell and John Streicker were among them, helping stack and put away chairs.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

Most Read