Public inquiry should be made into privatization talks, Phelps tells bipartisan rally

Premier Dennis Fentie's government was criticized for being dictatorial, arrogant and secretive at an open-air public meeting Monday night. Four speakers -- each connected to the Yukon Energy Corporation in their own way -- took the stage to denounce Fentie's secret discussions...

Premier Dennis Fentie’s government was criticized for being dictatorial, arrogant and secretive at an open-air public meeting Monday night.

Four speakers—each connected to the Yukon Energy Corporation in their own way—took the stage to denounce Fentie’s secret discussions with Calgary-based ATCO to sell parts of the Crown corporation.

The sight would have been unimaginable three weeks ago.

A former Conservative premier. A socialist party leader. A Liberal Energy critic and former New Democrat commissioner. And a representative of the close-knit Crown corporation employees.

None of them minced words.

“This is a sellout of the Yukon,” said New Democrat Party leader Todd Hardy, who organized the rally. Hardy is stepping down as leader, but is incensed by what’s been described as the “back-door privatization” of Yukon Energy.

“If there’s anything that got me into politics, it’s privatization,” he said last week.

The only non-political speaker of the evening, Janet Patterson, spoke on behalf of more than 20 Yukon Energy employees who have publicly broken ranks with the government over Fentie’s hush-hush talks.

“The government admitted that it had talks with ATCO,” said Patterson, who learned this from the new Yukon Energy chair Pat Irvin in a meeting earlier in the day.

The talks included selling Yukon Energy at a fraction of its worth, about 10 cents on the dollar, to ATCO, she said, referring to media reports.

“That’s how much the government thinks we’re worth,” she said.

“To (privatize Yukon Energy) in this sneaky way, it’s terrible and it’s not the Yukon way,” said Yukon Energy chair Willard Phelps, who quit two weeks ago citing Fentie’s interference in the corporation.

Once, a “man was as good as his word” in the Yukon, said Phelps.

But the Fentie government is a new brand of politics—one that Phelps repeatedly described as not doing things in the “Yukon way.”

“So what do we have here?” Phelps told about 80 people attending the rally. “We have manipulation. We have cowardice. We have secret deals. We have a lack of loyalty. We have backstabbing.”

“These are not the type of ethics we honour in the Yukon,” said Phelps.

A public inquiry should be held into Fentie’s actions to bring everything to light, he said.

The unlikely allies poked fun at each other, too.

Gary McRobb, the former Liberal minister of Yukon Energy who criticized Phelps for receiving a higher than average wage for board duties two months ago, got a laugh when he paid respect to Phelps.

“I just want to say,” said McRobb. “It doesn’t matter what they pay you, Willard. You earned every penny of it.”

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com.