Community Services minister Glenn Hart was strangely quite during Question Period last week when opposition members asked about government endorsements of land development in Porter Creek.
Hart passed all questions to Energy, Mines and Resources minister Archie Lang.
Land disposition is the shared responsibility of the two departments, and Hart has answered many questions in the past.
So why the sudden deferral?
It turns out Hart has resigned as a lands minister and handed all responsibility to Lang.
“I had a conversation with the conflicts commissioner and he has advised me that I should divorce myself from all land-related issues in my portfolio,” Hart said Wednesday.
“He made some recommendations to me, and he indicates that we have taken the appropriate action.”
Hart owns shares in the Meadow Lakes Golf and Country Club in Whitehorse.
The Meadow Lakes management board recently applied to develop some nearby private land into residential property.
Yukon conflicts commissioner David Phillip Jones advised Hart to keep as clean as possible.
“I had chatted about the issue with (Jones) recently,” said Hart.
“The only reason it came up into light is because of the application put forth by the Meadow Lakes management for land development.
“That’s where the potential conflict might lie.
“Even though I haven’t had any contact with Meadow Lakes, period, since I’ve been in office, the fact that I still maintain the share indicates some perception of conflict.”
Hart’s decision isn’t limited to land in Whitehorse.
He won’t be touching any Yukon land issues for the remainder of his mandate.
But the question remains: Does Lang, a businessman, own any land that might lead to a potential conflict?
“I don’t believe that is an issue that is being acquainted,” said Hart.
“Minister Lang is fairly good with his particular aspect. He is handling all of the land issues related to planning and zoning, as well as his issues under EMR.”
Lang does not own any land that could pose a similar conflict, said cabinet communications spokesman Peter Carr.
“I own no undeveloped land in the city of Whitehorse,” said Lang.
“The department never had any communication with the city on that issue or on that land at Holly Street.”
That’s Archie Lang talking about the Porter Creek lot controversy in Question Period on Monday.
We wonder if his little tongue is black.
Because we have a letter from Lang’s lands branch.
It is dated November 4, 2005.
It is from Lang’s lands branch director Lyle Henderson and it is addressed to then-assistant city manager Dennis Shewfelt.
It asks the city to consider amending its official community plan.
“We would appreciate your confirmation if city of Whitehorse is prepared to or is considering entering into public discussions related to an OCP amendment for Holly Street East for purposes other than ‘Park (sic) & Recreation,’” wrote Henderson.
“Please note that consistent with past practices we are prepared to transfer this area to city of Whitehorse on the basis of current OCP and zoning designations.”
Last week, would-be land developer Daryl Novakowski presented Whitehorse council with a written endorsement from Lang, authorizing him to develop the Holly Street greenspace.
It has raised questions about Lang’s management of land issues in the city, and also about whether he’s meddling in city affairs.
But, in the house, Lang insists, “the department, at no point, contacted the city on developing that land.”
Lang had a full seven days to get his story straight.
Yet he insisted opposition critics were “not factual” when they questioned his endorsement.
“The department had nothing to do with the transfer of land on Holly Street,” he said.
Well, somebody’s not factual.
We suggest it’s not the opposition.
Sparks fly over Dawson
The debate over Dawson City’s mangled finances became caustic on Monday as Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins berated Hart.
The members were supposed to debate the proposed Dawson Municipal Election Act, but Jenkins took the opportunity — as is his wont, since leaving the government benches — to hammer Hart over the government’s handling of Dawson’s sordid financial affairs.
Jenkins has four main beefs with the government, which he once served as deputy premier.
He wants solutions to Dawson’s faulty arena and its decrepit sewage system.
He wants the town’s debt paid down, and he wants three former city officials — Glen Everitt, Scott Coulson and Dale Courtice — to be held accountable for their alleged misspending.
Criminal prosecution is a matter for the RCMP, but Jenkins wants to know if the government was planning to take civil action against the accused.
That’s up to the new mayor and council that will be elected by mid-June, said Hart.
Jenkins accused Hart of trying to “dump the responsibility that the minister is clearly responsible for on a new council.”
“I’m not even going to respond to the member opposite,” replied Hart.
The debate tumbled downhill from there.
Committee of the Whole chair Patrick Rouble called Jenkins to order three times, asking him to stick to the legislation at hand, not the past 10 years of Dawson’s freewheeling history.
Hart revealed he is considering appointing a supervisor once Dawson has a new council in place, for “guidance.”
“So Big Brother is alive and well and will be watching in the form of a supervisor,” said Jenkins.
“We haven’t made a decision specifically on that item because I haven’t done it,” replied Hart.
The house voted unanimously in favour of the Dawson Election Act on Tuesday.
Jenkins was absent.