Justice Minister Marian Horne is at a loss to explain how her vehicle became parked in a handicapped space late Friday morning.
Her grey GMC Jimmy is easily identified, thanks to a vanity plate that says “TLING8,” in reference to her Tlingit ancestry. It has no handicapped permit on its windshield.
It was parked in front of Horwood’s Mall on Steele Street in a handicapped parking stall that warned violators would be fined $250.
What’s more, the vehicle was parked so poorly it also blocked the sidewalk.
Horne was at the mall having her hair cut and coloured. As she left, she offered several confusing and contradictory explanations to the Yukon News.
Throughout, Horne insisted that she did not park the vehicle. She became increasingly agitated and left in tears.
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According to Horne’s version of events, she double-parked her vehicle on First Avenue because there was no parking, and someone else later parked it in the handicapped space.
This is peculiar because downtown Whitehorse was fairly quiet early in the afternoon at the start of Rendezvous. Empty parking spaces were not difficult to come by.
A mall employee offered another explanation: Horne arrived late for her appointment and parked her vehicle in the handicapped space. A hair stylist later moved the vehicle to another stall across the street – but not before the News photographed the vehicle illegally parked.
“I’m absolutely flabbergasted,” said Rick Goodfellow, executive director of Challenge Community Vocational Alternatives. “I’m blown away. If Marian did that, it just gives you an idea about the battle we’re trying to fight. Because she’s good people.”
At first, Horne said she didn’t know who parked her vehicle.
When pressed, she conceded she did know. She just wouldn’t say.
“I don’t want to,” she said.
“I don’t want to blame somebody else. If you have to blame somebody, blame me. But I did not park it there.”
Doesn’t the public deserve an explanation of how the Justice minister’s vehicle wound up shoddily parked in a handicapped space?
“I don’t think it’s any of your business,” said Horne.
She insisted she is a defender of the disabled. But she won’t tell them who parked her vehicle, either.
“If you bring the handicapped people around, I’ll talk to them, and tell them I did not do it.”
Horne’s jam would be embarrassing for any elected official. But it’s especially so for the Justice minister of a government that amended the territory’s laws last year so the city could crack down on scofflaws caught parking in handicapped spaces.
When it was noted she either broke the law, or knew someone who did, she responded, “I’m not the RCMP.”
That’s true. And, unlike Justice ministers in the provinces, Horne does not double as attorney-general, or chief law officer.
That would put her in a more direct conflict of interest – in 2009, British Columbia’s attorney general resigned after it came to light that multiple speeding tickets had cost him his drivers’ license.
Horne blamed the News for prying into her personal affairs.
“I think you’re just so wrong to interfere with people’s lives. I’m a very gentle, caring person.”
But she’s also the Justice minister. And it appeared as if she broke the law.
“Does that make me superhuman?” she asked. “If I drove it there, if I made a mistake, don’t humans make mistakes?”
But she wasn’t admitting to making one. Asked again, Horne continued to deny she parked the vehicle.
This week, the News asked Horne if she wanted to clarify any of her comments. She declined.
An MLA in Horne’s position should offer a clear explanation and public apology, said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.
“We should lead by example,” he said.
“It goes beyond inconsiderate. It’s not a matter of simple convenience. It’s a matter of necessity for the people who need those spots.”
NDP Leader Liz Hanson agreed that Horne owes the public a better explanation.
“She’s capable. I’ve seen her walk,” she said.
Last summer, the Yukon government amended its Motor Vehicles Act so the city could ticket drivers illegally parked in handicapped spaces on private property. At the time, the city also raised the penalty for illegally parking in handicapped spaces to $250, from $25.
The city began cracking down on illegal parking in September.
“We’ve been issuing approximately 30 per month,” said Dave Pruden, the city’s bylaw chief. “In January, I think it would have been more like 20.”
Bylaw could issue a ticket to Horne based on the photo of her vehicle, said Pruden. But he’d have to investigate first, “to make sure that the vehicle wasn’t there legitimately.”
The city only had one bylaw officer on duty Friday morning, which, because of Rendezvous Sourdough festivities, was a holiday for much of Whitehorse. Parking was free.
Coun. Florence Roberts helped push for the tougher penalties. Asked about Horne’s transgression, “I’d say the same thing I’d say about anybody else,” said Roberts. “You shouldn’t be doing it.”
Goodfellow is wheelchair-bound. He noticed fewer parking scofflaws once bylaw officers began stepping up enforcement in September. But, as temperatures sunk, he saw the number rebound.
Usually, they’re either waiting for someone, or say “I’ll just be a minute.”
Nearly as bad are those who park immediately beside a handicapped stall – easy to do, when the lines are obscured by snow. “The minute they do that, I can’t get back in my vehicle,” he said.
Goodfellow parks further afield at his own risk. A busy parking lot is no place to be with a wheelchair or walker.
“I’ve been backed over twice, because people don’t see you.”
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