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Premier prodded into public debate

Premier Darrell Pasloski made a surprise appearance at an environmental debate last night. Surprising, because the premier's campaign staff said he wouldn't attend.

Premier Darrell Pasloski made a surprise appearance at an environmental debate last night.

Surprising, because the premier’s campaign staff said he wouldn’t attend.

“I made the decision I had to be here,” said Pasloski at the event.

He was scheduled to be in another community, he said. That’s at odds with what Yukon Party campaign manager Jonas Smith told reporters earlier this week.

According to him, the governing party was fed up with a newspaper advertisement paid for by environmental groups organizing the debate.

The ad shows two paddlers on one of the watershed’s remote rivers, accompanied by the headline, “My Yukon floats when mining sinks. My Yukon protects the Peel.”

This catchphrase diminished the importance of mining in the territory, said Smith. But the ad doesn’t say mining isn’t important - indeed, it says the territory “needs” it.

But the ad also states mining is cyclical and “we also need big wild places without industrial development for human health, healthy wildlife and tourism.”

Pasloski’s plan to play hookey drew quick criticism from both the Liberals and NDP.

Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell released a statement with the cheeky headline, “Despite anti-chicken legislation, Pasloski remains silent.” (That’s a reference to the city’s decision to shut down Green Party Leader Kristina Calhoun’s backyard chicken coop.)

In it, Mitchell notes, “While Mr. Pasloski has been premier for the past 106 days, we’ve heard very little from him on his party’s position on environmental issues. They seem intent on dodging these questions, particularly ones about the Peel.”

And Pasloski isn’t alone. The Yukon Party’s candidate for Old Crow, Garry Njootli, recently refused to debate Liberal incumbent Darius Elias, noted Mitchell.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson also weighed in.

“Accountability and transparency are ideas that the Fentie/Pasloski government has never grasped, and their contempt for voters in this election is proof that they haven’t changed,” she said in a statement.

“I’m sure many Yukoners share my disappointment that a man who wants to be elected premier would show such disrespect for voters. It makes people wonder what he has to hide,” said Hanson. “I invite Mr. Pasloski to step up and do the right thing.”

Pasloski has a “track record of campaigning in a bubble,” said Hanson. When Pasloski campaigned as the Conservative candidate in the 2008 federal election, he refused to answer reporters’ questions or participate in public debates, she noted.

When Pasloski indicated Tuesday morning he would, in fact, appear at the debate, Mitchell offered further condemnation.

“It is a shame that only after repeated calls for his attendance, Darrell Pasloski would choose to make accountability to voters a priority. Being publicly shamed into doing something isn’t leadership, and Yukoners deserve better from their representatives.”

Both the Liberals and NDP have regularly fielded questions from reporters during the campaign. The Yukon Party have been far more guarded.

Pasloski held sit-down interviews with news organizations a week and a half ago. But, since then, he’s been kept tucked out of sight.

The Liberals have staged announcements every weekday, while the New Democrats roll out several announcements a week.

The Yukon Party typically makes one announcement a week. And, when it does, it usually responds to reporters’ queries individually, rather than staging a news conference. (Or, last week, it staged an event and invited some new organizations, but not the Yukon News.)

The governing party’s reluctance to discuss issues it wants to avoid, like the Peel Watershed, extends to promises it has made.

One week after the Yukon Party promised to build a new centre to treat drug and alcohol addictions, it still hasn’t offered details of its plan, despite repeated phone calls.

Contact John Thompson at