Rick Nielsen is leaving a one-year job in politics four years behind schedule.
He’s planning to fly — or maybe just run — instead.
In 2002, Nielsen accepted an invitation from a newly elected Premier Dennis Fentie to join the Yukon Party and become chief of staff.
The one-year commitment turned out to be a mandate-long job that he’s only now able to pull the parachute on.
“We’re in a stage here, with the new mandate, that it’s probably an opportune time to make a change,” said Nielsen on Wednesday.
The 53-year-old business owner, farmer and pilot has lived in the Yukon his whole life.
During an interview Wednesday, Nielsen said he “hadn’t figured it all out” about what he will do next.
But reached on his cellphone in Montreal on Friday, Nielsen’s tune had changed.
Rumours about him potentially buying out his long-time partner at Alkan Air are “true,” he said.
“Among other things, that is something that’s in the works,” said Nielsen. “It’s not happened yet, but I believed it’s going to happen.
“I’m not leaving the post just for that reason,” he said. But, “That played a part in my decision. If this comes together, I don’t think it would be appropriate to be working (for the government).”
Nielsen checked with the conflicts commissioner and has been told there are no issues if he chooses to buy Alkan.
He expects a deal to be done by the end of May, he said.
Unprompted, Nielsen then brought up rumours that he’s being courted by the federal Conservatives to run in the next election.
“With respect to the premier’s job, I think we have a great premier right now. That’s all I’ll say,” said Nielsen in a cheeky tone.
How good a job is Liberal MP Larry Bagnell doing, then?
“Frankly, I shouldn’t comment on that at this point,” said Nielsen. “Let’s just say I’ve never been congratulated so much on my departure from a job before. And there’s all these rumours about me possibly getting into federal politics.”
Nielsen is being replaced as Fentie’s chief of staff by Dale Drown.
Drown was contacted for an interview but didn’t return phone calls.
Is Lang out of
the conflict zone?
Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Archie Lang may find his tongue this spring.
In the fall, Lang deferred to Fentie on any questions related to outfitting policies and outfitter cabins being built in the Yukon wilds.
This despite being the minister in charge.
The reason: Lang was president of Devil Hole Outfitters Ltd.
But as the News reported last month, Lang hasn’t been president since early November.
“Mr. Lang, as everybody knew, was involved in an outfitting business,” said Fentie on Friday.
“That’s changed and I believe, currently, that Mr. Lang no longer has any vested interest in an outfitting business. Therefore, the perceived or real possibility of conflict is no longer there.”
Lang has had further discussions with the conflicts commissioner.
And Fentie is “pretty sure” that Lang has been told he can participate in debate now, he said.
“It’s one of those things where you’ve got to let it run due course, and make sure all I’s are dotted and all T’s are crossed. It’s not something you can short circuit,” he said.
Did Fentie advise Lang to sell?
“No. Advice in these areas is not from me.”
Will Lang be answering questions?
“As far as I know, yes,” said Fentie.