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Public accounts committee remains stalled

Arthur Mitchell won't call a meeting of the public accounts committee. Not yet. As committee chair, it's the Liberal leader's move to make.

Arthur Mitchell won’t call a meeting of the public accounts committee. Not yet.

As committee chair, it’s the Liberal leader’s move to make. And he recently received the assurance of Premier Dennis Fentie that the committee’s Yukon Party members would attend the next meeting, ending the government’s seven-month boycott.

In April, the government members protested Mitchell was “politicizing” the committee with his wishes to examine the territory’s decision to invest $36.3 million in asset-backed commercial paper. At the time, they said they wouldn’t meet until Mitchell resigned as chair.

But since the legislature reconvened two weeks ago, Fentie has discovered newfound enthusiasm for the committee.

Fentie says it’s the proper forum to air the ATCO scandal, and he’s done his best to defer all questions about his involvement in talks that touched on the privatization of Yukon Energy until the committee meets.

“The government members of the public accounts committee have done a lot of soul searching, have looked deep into their hearts, and have made a very clear, substantial decision,” Fentie said on November 12.

“The government members are willing to proceed, and we would hope that the chair of the committee would do his job and convene the meeting as soon as possible. Let’s get on with the work we were elected to do.”

The NDP’s Todd Hardy took a swipe at Mitchell that same day, calling for the committee to resume its work.

“The Liberal leader seems to really have no interest in the public accounts committee because he won’t call the meeting to find out if they will attend,” he said.

“We need to move beyond the scapegoating and the blame-laying. Frankly, there’s enough of that that goes on here already.”

Hardy offered to mediate the two feuding parties “so we can put this kind of disgraceful gamemanship to rest.”

Fentie said he’s willing to meet. Mitchell isn’t interested.

Mitchell still hasn’t received written notice that the government members have dropped their boycott. Until he has, he said the committee won’t meet.

“Fentie’s not on the committee. What he says is irrelevant,” Mitchell said in an interview. “If I were to rely on Mr. Fentie’s words, I would be a very lonely person.”

Brad Cathers, who resigned as Energy minister over the ATCO scandal, also doubts that Fentie is sincere in wanting to see the committee work.

“It wasn’t many months ago that (Fentie) told government members to scuttle the committee,” Cathers said in the legislature on November 3.

And the committee would be a poor forum to investigate the government’s talks with Alberta-based ATCO, which touched on the idea of privatizing Yukon Energy, said Cathers.

“PAC’s mandate deals merely with reviewing implementation of policy. The key questions regarding the government’s talks with ATCO have always been about the premier’s involvement and about the premier’s actions.

“This is another deflection technique, another attempt by the premier to put officials out front and not answer the questions himself.”

Contact John Thompson at