Kenyon claims ignorance is a job requirement

Jim Kenyon is the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. Part of this job, he says, is to ignore what the corporation's board is doing.

Jim Kenyon is the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. Part of this job, he says, is to ignore what the corporation’s board is doing.

He made this peculiar claim last week to put distance between himself and a controversial plan that would have seen the sell-off of the corporation’s mortgage portfolio, which is worth more than $44 million.

The corporation’s board considered, and eventually rejected, the plan in 2009. Both board directors and Kenyon insist the proposal was never passed up to the cabinet table.

In fact, Kenyon claims he didn’t know about the plan at the time.

“I do not get the minutes of board of director meetings,” he said October 14. “I don’t want to – they’re an independent body.”

He went on to speculate that Liberals “would interfere with corporate boards, that they would interfere with their decisions, that they would expect seats on the board.”

Liberals had their own fun with the matter later. On October 18, they tabled a slew of motions that call on each minister responsible for a Crown corporation to read up on their board minutes. (They forgot Yukon College.)

And Gary McRobb warned that the portfolio sell-off plan was “ATCO II”- a reference to Premier Dennis Fentie’s botched plan to sell-off Yukon Energy’s assets.

But McRobb shot himself in the foot on October 14, while complaining about sections of the corporation’s minutes that had been blacked-out due to cabinet confidentiality.

He described how, while serving in government, “I have seen where the deputy minister of the executive council office comes into the executive offices with an ATIPP request and asks for political guidance about what sections should be blanked out.”

This, Kenyon later said, “is contrary to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. It is a criminal act.”

Later, on October 19, McRobb dug up two instances in which Kenyon offered directions to the board, which contradict the minister’s claims he takes a hands-off approach. Kenyon responded these were simply “requests,” rather than “absolute direction.” (John Thompson)

MLAs pass

cellphone driving ban

It will be illegal to use a hand-held cellphone while driving as of April.

A bill that amends Yukon’s Motor Vehicles Act was passed by MLAs on Tuesday. The bill received unanimous support.

Lake Laberge MLA Brad Cathers, who had previously expressed mixed feelings about the proposal, was absent during the vote.

Yukoners will still be able to dial and drive if their cellphone is equipped with a wireless headset. The use of two-way radios will also be allowed through the forthcoming regulations, said Archie Lang, Yukon’s minister of Highways and Public Works.

Young drivers will be prohibited from using any phone while driving.

Researchers consider talking on the phone just as dangerous as driving drunk. This remains the case, whether the driver has a handheld phone or wireless headset.

But Canadian provinces with cellphone driving laws have all allowed wireless headsets. And so has the Yukon.

The bill, said Lang, balances “an attempt to reduce risky behaviour that we know raises the chances of an accident” against “the reality that many people do need to use electronic devices in the course of their work.”

“The law cannot legislate everything,” said Lang. “People must be educated regarding the risks they are taking in trying to multitask while driving.”

The territory plans to launch an education campaign about distracted driving this winter. (John Thompson)

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