Old dog doctor, new tricks

Jim Kenyon has more experience than any Yukon Party leadership candidate - which is to say, he has experience in government.

Jim Kenyon has more experience than any Yukon Party leadership candidate – which is to say, he has experience in government.

It’s his chief strength and his biggest vulnerability, for Kenyon must distance himself from scandals of Premier Dennis Fentie’s making.

The 64-year-old veterinarian was responsible for the Department of Economic Development and the liquor, lottery and housing corporations until last week, when Fentie fired him.

Government spindoctors initially claimed Kenyon had resigned. Not so, says Kenyon.

Instead, it appears Fentie – who won’t return calls to Yukon News – took a dim view of some of the disparaging remarks Kenyon made about the his iron-fisted leadership.

It was time to come clean with the public, said Kenyon. “I’ve gone from having to live with the elephant in the room to suddenly being one.”

Until now, the only responsible thing to do was stay mum, he said.

True, he could have followed Brad Cathers to the opposition benches after learning Premier Dennis Fentie had begun secret talks to sell-off the assets of Yukon Energy.

Kenyon was the minister responsible for the utility. And, this was done without his knowledge, he said.

But it would have robbed the Yukon Party of its majority. Kenyon feared triggering an election that would put the Liberals in power. That would have been disastrous to the economy, he said.

The Westminster system of government requires cabinet to toe the leader’s line outside of closed-door meetings, said Kenyon. But, out of public view, there’s discord and turmoil within the ruling party’s ranks.

As Kenyon tells it, he’s heard the usually placid Elaine Taylor swear like a trucker. “She has a vocabulary that’s quite unusual.”

He’s also seen Speaker Ted Staffen “explode” during one caucus meeting, in which he threw books and slammed the door so hard Kenyon wondered if it would require repairs.

It isn’t clear how much cabinet support Kenyon enjoys. So far, no colleague has endorsed him. And, while other leadership candidates have campaign managers, Kenyon seems to be working alone.

Since being fired, Kenyon made the bombshell disclosure that the Yukon has sat on nearly $18 million in affordable housing money for several years. (See story, page three.)

If he wins, he’d like to spend $3 million of that to leverage cash to build another 18 units for Options for Independence, a group that helps Yukoners with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

He’s not convinced that the Yukon needs a youth shelter. Only two youth have bunked at existing government beds in recent months, he said.

Youth homelessness has been exaggerated by some advocates, he said. And he worries the proposed Angel’s Nest shelter would be a legal headache.

“It’s always been a question of liability. They don’t have the training or background.”

He’s also cool to a homeless shelter with attached detoxification centre downtown. The medically supervised drunk tank to be built at the new jail should be adequate, he said.

The Kwanlin Dun’s land-based treatment centre has proven to be a success, said Kenyon, except that “now every First Nation wants to do that. I’d rather see it supported as a central facility, with input from all First Nations.”

On Yukon’s impending power pinch, Kenyon’s bullish on the need to build a weir in Atlin Lake to help retain water during the winter months. He’d also like to see several small, run-of-the-river hydro-electric dams investigated. And Kenyon would like to see the possibility of tapping geothermal heat studied more.

“No matter what you’ll do, there will be someone whose against it,” said Kenyon. “There are going to have to be some really hard decisions made.”

Before deciding how much of the Peel Watershed to protect, Kenyon wants the cost of putting areas off-limits to mining studied. “Don’t protect something the size of Nova Scotia without knowing what’s in there. Deal with facts and data.”

Kenyon supports a mandatory helmet law for ATV and snowmobile riders. “I don’t want to be paying the medical bill if you’re a vegetable for the next 50 years.”

He’s also in favour of imposing a temporary ban on cutting new trails until new government policies are in place, and of putting a committee of experts to work to develop an action plan.

“We’ve got to do something.”

Kenyon’s of mixed minds on education reform, which has put a big emphasis on First Nation culture camps. He worries this is done at the expense of teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.

“Then you wonder why they do less well than BC students,” he said.

Yukon also has one of the shortest school years in the country, and high levels of absenteeism. Could lengthening the school year be a solution?

“I’m not an educator, but someone in Education should really be looking at that.”

And, tapping his experience as a vet, Kenyon would like to see the Department of Environment study the impact of disease on big game populations.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

Just Posted

Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley announced youth vaccination clinics planned for this summer. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon government file)
Vaccination campaign planned for Yukon youth age 12 and up

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for younger people on May 5.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Courtesy/Yukon Protective Services Yukon Wildland Fire Management crews doing a prescribed burn at the Carcross Cut-Off in May 2020.
Prescribed burns planned near Whitehorse neighbourhoods to improve wildfire resistance

Manual fuel removal and the replacement of conifers with aspens is also ongoing.

Chloe Tatsumi dismounts the balance beam to cap her routine during the Yukon Championships at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club on May 1. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Gymnasts vie in 2021 Yukon Championships

In a year without competition because of COVID-19, the Polarettes Gymnastics Club hosted its Yukon Championships.

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Two young orienteers reach their first checkpoint near Shipyards Park during a Yukon Orienteering Association sprint race May 5. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Orienteers were back in action for the season’s first race

The Yukon Orienteering Association began its 2021 season with a sprint race beginning at Shipyards.

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its May 3 meeting and the upcoming 20-minute makeover.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister talks tourism in “virtual visit” to the Yukon

Tourism operators discussed the budget with Freeland

Polarity Brewing is giving people extra incentive to get their COVID vaccine by offering a ‘free beer’ within 24 hours of their first shot. John Tonin/Yukon News
Polarity Brewing giving out ‘free’ beer with first COVID vaccination

Within 24 hours of receiving your first COVID-19 vaccine, Polarity Brewing will give you a beer.

Most Read