Jim Kenyon was fired from cabinet last week, shortly after he publicly criticized Premier Dennis Fentie.
Perennial backbencher Steve Nordick assumed Kenyon’s portfolios on May 4, making him responsible for the Department of Economic Development and the liquor, lottery and housing corporations.
Kenyon didn’t receive notice he’d been canned until Dale Drown, Fentie’s chief of staff, stepped into his office and handed him the order-in-council that made it official.
“Dennis, don’t you have the guts to come down and tell me?” asked Kenyon. “That’s classic Fentie. Do things and people find out about it later.”
Nearly one week after the fact, Fentie still hasn’t spoken to him, said Kenyon.
“He still hasn’t said a word. That’s pretty disappointing.”
Fentie did not respond to an interview request.
Kenyon is one of three men seeking to replace Fentie in the Yukon Party leadership race that’s underway.
While all contenders have made veiled digs at Fentie’s high-handed leadership style, Kenyon has been the most critical.
The 64-year-old was responsible for Yukon Energy while Fentie was hatching plans to sell-off the utility’s assets to Alberta-based ATCO. Kenyon long remained silent about his role in the controversy, until the leadership race kicked off last month.
Kenyon has since asserted Fentie left him in the dark about the privatization plans, and, in doing so, overstepped his authority under the Westminster system of government.
Kenyon has also expressed skepticism about the claim that ATCO’s bid was unsolicited, as Fentie maintains.
Kenyon stayed on with Fentie, he said, because he feared that his departure would trigger an election and put the Liberals in power, which he asserts would have been disastrous to the economy.
Like all candidates, Kenyon has promised to let ministers do their jobs without meddling, if he becomes premier.
Officially, Kenyon was fired because the campaign conflicts with his duties as minister, he said. But Kenyon insists he received earlier assurances from senior staff that he could keep his job, provided he step away from ministerial duties during the race.
Each cabinet minister has an alternate to fill-in when he or she is incapacitated. Kenyon expected this system would suffice during the campaign, he said.
And another cabinet minister continues to play an active role in the campaign: Elaine Taylor, Yukon’s tourism minister, has thrown her open support behind Rod Taylor (no relation), former boss of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon.
She too has agreed to step away from her ministerial dutiest during the campaign, said Kenyon. And she’s involved enough in the Taylor campaign to be one of five recipients of an email sent by Yukon Party President Mike Nixon that spells out the campaign rules. The memo is addressed to “candidates and campaign managers.”
“She does everything the same as I have, and yet I catch it in the ear,” said Kenyon.
Elaine Taylor didn’t respond to an email and interview request, asking her to clarify her status as minister and her role in the leadership race. But Rod Taylor said “she has no formal role. She’s a supporter.”
And he sees one “significant difference” between her position and Kenyon’s. “He’s running for the office, and she isn’t.”
Kenyon’s firing means a big cut to his paycheque and pension. “It’s huge, financially.”
Whether Kenyon will be reinstated to cabinet will depend on the wishes of the next Yukon Party leader.
The third challenger is Darrell Pasloski, who stood as the Conservative candidate during the 2008 federal election.
Members vote on May 28.
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