Kenn Roberts is living a contradiction of his own creation.
He’s a politician who doesn’t want to run and the defacto leader of a party that, really, isn’t one.
As a Whitehorse-based businessman, he’s politically inclined and determined to return some accountability to citizens from elected leaders.
But he doesn’t want to run for office himself.
Instead, Roberts is seeking 18 independent candidates to run in the next territorial election.
But the “Yukon independence forum” he’s trying to build is not a political party, Roberts insisted Monday.
“If it is a party, it is an oxymoron — we’re independents, but we’re a party,” he said as he sat alone after a “strategy meeting” with “about four people” who are interested in his cause.
“That’s why it’s more of a forum.
“Each person in each riding will have to run as an independent, and if things work out positively, they would win their riding, and if they are in the majority, or even minority, you have a consensus.”
With all the party-hopping that has happened in the Yukon legislative assembly over the past year, it’s time for some democratic renewal, he said.
“One week (an MLA) could be with this party, and say mining is bad, then he’ll change parties and say mining’s good.
“If he’s representing his riding, what he should be doing is representing people’s views, not a political platform.”
The political party system that the Yukon adopted in 1979 detracts from the people’s mandate, Roberts explained.
Memorandums of agreement that successive governments have used fail to meet the needs of individual communities, he said.
“We see a lot of perpetual circles of government MLAs following a certain mandate that I feel is presumptuous and not applicable to smaller communities.
“In the Yukon we have a populace of 30,000.
“We need an alternative.
“A consensus government would offer an opportunity to represent the people at the grassroots level.”
The consensus style of government that Roberts proposed would be modeled after the Northwest Territories, where political parties do not exist in the legislative assembly.
The NWT has 19 independent MLAs. They choose a premier together, and decisions are made by consensus.
“We’re looking at Nunavut and we’re looking at NWT, and things have been working out pretty well over there,” said Roberts.
“In NWT, there’s development, there’s balance. There’s going to be a Mackenzie Valley pipeline, which is going to be a catalyst to open the whole territory.
“If there was a majority government that had anti-development views, would that represent the people who want development?”
The Yukon practised a similar style of consensus government before party politics were adopted.
Deals were often made in backrooms, away from public scrutiny, said legislative assembly clerk Patrick Michael.
“Consensus decision-making is very difficult to do in public,” said Michael, who first worked as clerk in 1977, before party politics in the Yukon.
“There would be private meetings, when a decision couldn’t be swung in the house. The members would step out and come back with an announcement.
“You wouldn’t know how a decision was made and you wouldn’t know the reasons
behind it, because it wasn’t done in public.”
After the Yukon adopted party politics, an unofficial “independent alliance party” was formed in 1991, with Bea Firth and Alan Nordling who defected from the PC Yukon Party, added Michael.
Firth and Nordling were granted privileges as a third party, but were not officially recognized as a party, he said.
Roberts is prepared to put his convictions to the test and run in McIntyre-Takhini — as long as enough people jump aboard his independence bandwagon.
“If there is no one running in that riding, and if I see interest in the other ridings, the other 17, I will run, if no one is going to do the independence in my jurisdiction.”
Three people have expressed a desire to run as independents in the fall election, he said.
Roberts wouldn’t name names, but said prospective candidates could find out more information by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roberts realized too late that he should have named the online group a forum, not a party, he admitted with chagrin.
About a month ago he was considering running in McIntyre-Takhini under the Yukon Liberal Party banner.
He met with Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell, but decided not to pursue a seat with the party.
“I was shopping around, because I was seeing an injustice with some past dealings in political party structures,” said Roberts.
“I approached them and asked them what their views are.
“It was half what I wanted. The other parties may have had a quarter of what I wanted.
“If that’s all you’ve got, why don’t you set up something where you can get your full representation?”
Roberts is free to seek the Liberal nomination or an independent seat just like anyone else, said Mitchell.
“He’s now talking about this independent party, and I’m not certain what they stand for,” he said.
“If you’re determined to run a slate of 18 people, that’s a party.
“Presumably, they share some common views or they wouldn’t be running together.”