Darrell Pasloski began his job as Yukon’s premier nearly two weeks ago with not one, but two protests camped outside of his office window.
One, provoked by Whitehorse’s acute housing shortage, he hopes to get a jump on by talking with the Yukon Anti-poverty Coalition. He was to speak with the group on Thursday afternoon, joined by Health Minister Glenn Hart and Housing Minister Steve Nordick, “to listen to their concerns and their suggestions.”
“That’s what collaborative government is about, listening to people,” said Pasloski.
One mixed blessing that Pasloski has inherited from his predecessor, Dennis Fentie, is nearly $18 million in unspent housing funds. Critics are calling on Pasloski to put the money to work quickly, but for now, he’s content to talk, rather than spend.
The other legislature protest was stirred by a contracting spat at the new Whistle Bend subdivision. That case is set to hit court today, and Pasloski won’t comment on the matter until a judge has ruled.
Pasloski has made no big changes since taking office, so political watchers have had to make do by reading much into small details. Some wondered whether the absence of any cabinet shuffle to date meant that Brad Cathers and Jim Kenyon are being left out in the cold.
Cathers, the Yukon Party’s MLA for Lake Laberge, currently sits as an Independent, following his spat with then-premier Dennis Fentie’s handling of the ATCO scandal.
Kenyon recently served as minister responsible for Economic Development and the housing, liquor and lottery corporations, until he publicly disparaged Fentie during the Yukon Party’s leadership race. That had him fired.
During Pasloski’s swearing-in ceremony, he avowed that he had no immediate plans to shuffle cabinet. But that doesn’t mean he won’t cause a shakeup before the autumn election, he said.
“I’m not one for rash moves. Haste makes waste. You need a full understanding of what’s going on before you start to do anything else.”
Pasloski has made one change: he’s hired Gord Steele as his interim chief of staff, following the departure of Dale Drown. Steele is an old hand, having held the powerful, politically appointed position before. He previously served as principal secretary.
Earlier this week, Pasloski hobnobbed with his counterparts from Western Canada in Yellowknife. Discussions ranged from ways of curbing spiralling healthcare costs (Pasloski spoke of the government’s existing plans to save money by buying drugs in bulk) to connecting Yukon to British Columbia’s energy grid. (“We’re almost tapped out. And going to diesel and coal is just not an option for Yukoners.”)
The premiers celebrated National Aboriginal Day in Fort Simpson. Pasloski received as a gift a pair of moccasins, “which was very timely,” he said.
“I have a pair that have worn right out.”
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