Archie Lang has a self-declared conflict of interest when it comes to the outfitting industry.
But that hasn’t stopped him from discussing outfitter policy, in writing, with the Alsek Renewable Resource Council.
And this is a problem.
Lang insists that, since being named minister of Energy, Mines and Resources in 2002, the advice of Yukon conflicts commissioner David Jones has been followed.
“I’ve never been involved in any decision-making on anything about outfitting,” said Lang in an interview last week.
“I have a conflict where the outfitting business is involved, and it’s all part and parcel of my yearly declaration on file.”
Lang owns Devilhole Outfitters, which has a concession in the southwest Yukon.
That puts Lang in an awkward position, since his department is responsible for outfitting concessions.
And, in 2005, the department released a new policy that allows big-game outfitters the opportunity to apply for leases on small parcels of land.
The policy grants outfitters “tenure” on Crown land where they have built infrastructure, such as cabins or airstrips.
It also gives them priority on leased parcels over other recreational users and First Nations.
And that has made it a controversial policy.
It benefits the outfitters.
And, that begs the question, what involvement, if any, has Lang had in crafting it?
“Not a thing,” he said.
When an outfitting question comes up in cabinet, “I leave the room,” he said.
And, if somebody sends a letter asking about outfitting?
“I don’t answer the letter. I don’t get involved in it.”
But that’s not true.
On April 27, 2003, a letter bearing Lang’s name was sent to the Alsek Renewable Resource Council.
“Consideration of a land tenure policy for outfitters, to manage existing improvements, is considered a positive step in the policy development process,” Lang said in the letter.
Comments from federal territorial government officials “will continue to be considered in the policy development process,” he wrote.
So, clearly, he has been involved in the policy process.
More troubling, the Liberal Party filed an access to information request for correspondence between Lang’s office and stakeholders. The request specifically included resource councils.
The government failed to produce the letter.
“No records found,” came the reply.
Subsequently, the Liberals obtained the letter to the Alsek council from another source.
“It was written by the minister in April 2003 about this very issue, yet according to the minister’s department it does not exist,” said Mitchell.
The letter was signed by Angus Robertson, deputy minister of Resources, on Lang’s behalf. Lang’s name appears below Robertson’s.
“According to the lawyers we’ve talked to, and we talked to two today, (Robertson’s signature) has the same force and effect as though Lang signed it,” said Mitchell.
And, recently, Lang has been less than open on the matter of his involvement with outfitters.
He won’t answer questions about it in the house.
And, unlike Glenn Hart, who has willingly provided the advice he’s received from Jones on a potential conflict of interest, Lang refuses to provide anything he’s received from Jones.
He claims that he never approached Jones for advice on this matter.
And this week he has refused to give interviews.
In the legislature, Premier Dennis Fentie became Lang’s flak catcher, fielding all questions on the matter.
“So what?” Fentie told Mitchell when the presence of the letter came up in the house. “The minister wrote a letter.”
“(Lang) should not be involved in this manner in a way that he would seem to be the decision-maker, and that is exactly what has transpired all through this.”
Still, it’s another in a string of conflict-of-interest controversies for Lang, who has been no stranger to such things.
And it had the government in full damage control.
On Tuesday, Robertson was making unsolicited calls to reporters explaining the matter.
“I signed the letter because we knew that Archie did have those interests,” he said.
“I didn’t do as studious a job as I should have.
“Rather than sign the letter for Archie, I should have said I was responding as the deputy and signed it as the deputy.
“That’s the mistake I made, and I guess I’m going to get pilloried for it for a little while.
“I’m not trying to hide it.”
A formal letter detailing areas of conflict in the context of devolution was sent from Lang’s office to Fentie on May 6, 2003, said Robertson.
That’s nine days after Lang’s letter about the outfitter policy was sent to the resource council.