and John Thompson
Minister Elaine Taylor was stripped of her Environment portfolio on Thursday.
And it brought her to tears.
“Sorry, I’m just a little overwhelmed,” she said.
“It’s a hard thing when you put your energies into a portfolio – it’s always difficult to ….”
Taylor took several moments to compose herself before defending the decision.
“(Cabinet) shuffles need to happen – from time to time shifts will occur,” she said.
“And the premier (Dennis Fentie) viewed it as a move that was favourable at this time.”
Taylor is now minister of the Public Service Commission. She inherits the tough task of bargaining with the Yukon Teachers’ Association and the Yukon Employees’ Union at a time when the government has little money to spare. She retains the Tourism portfolio and her duties as deputy premier and house leader.
John Edzerza has replaced Taylor as Environment minister.
Edzerza quit the Yukon Party in 2006 to join the NDP. Later, he quit the NDP to sit as an independent.
He was joined as an independent MLA by Brad Cathers, who quit cabinet to protest Fentie’s shenanigans surrounding the secret ATCO deal.
Reacting to Cathers’ departure on September 8, Edzerza reported he had been “verbally threatened” by Fentie while he sat in cabinet.
“Things are just the same as when I left, and I sure as heck wouldn’t volunteer to go back to that hornet’s nest,” Edzerza later said September 21.
A month later, Edzerza did exactly that.
His return restored Fentie’s majority following Cathers’ crippling departure.
Now his promotion to cabinet raises his salary to $117,500 a year from $80,900.
Edzerza did not return calls before press time.
“Here’s the payoff,” said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell. “No wonder the public is so skeptical of politicians – in particular, the premier and this government. You know, it’s fairly blatant.”
“It certainly looks a little funny, doesn’t it?” asked Cathers, who proceeded to read Edzerza’s statements savaging the premier in early September.
Given Edzerza’s previous clashes with the premier, the NDP’s Steve Cardiff wondered, “How short is the leash going to be?”
Meanwhile, it looks like Patrick Rouble’s star may be rising, said Mitchell.
Rouble, a Fentie loyalist, has been given Energy, Mines and Resources, a post previously held by Archie Lang and, before that, by Cathers.
The mining portfolio is particularly important, given how two new mines are expected to open over the next year.
“It perhaps levels the playing field in the race to succeed Mr. Fentie down the road,” he said.
Following the shuffle, Steve Nordick remains the Yukon Party’s sole backbencher, although he’s been given the gussied-up title of commissioner of Community Services and Highways and Public Works.
This appears to mean that Nordick will be able to make announcements and answer questions for these departments, although he lacks ministerial authority – and the pay raise that comes with it.
It’s unfair that Steve Nordick was passed over for a cabinet post, said Cathers.
“Steve deserved to be sworn into cabinet,” he said. “Somehow he finds himself sitting on the benches. That’s really not fair. It’s just unfortunate, because he’s a good guy and he does his best for his constituents.”
Dawsonites may be left wondering why they voted for the Yukon Party last election, said Mitchell, given that “Edzerza can return to government, after sitting as a critic of government for a number of years, and receive a portfolio, and their MLA is a junior minister.”
Commissioner duties were introduced under Piers McDonald’s NDP government. At that time, Gary McRobb was energy commissioner, Dennis Fentie was forestry commissioner and Todd Hardy was labour commissioner.
As for Taylor, through her tears she said she invested “a lot of time and energy into the Environment portfolio,” and that she wants to stay involved.
“Environment is one of the most complex departments,” she said. “It is a very complex and very important portfolio. Environment touches every Yukoner’s daily life and it’s what makes us proud to call the Yukon home.
“I’ll miss Environment,” she said. “But will also be at the table to give that added perspective, as well.”
Contact Genesee Keevil at email@example.com and John Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.