Deputy premier Elaine Taylor has no problem with the premier negotiating a possible merger involving the Yukon’s publicly owned utility and energy giant ATCO.
Leaked documents exposing advanced talks between ATCO, Dennis Fentie and officials in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources didn’t seem to bother Taylor, who was at Ecole Emile-Tremblay on Wednesday flipping burgers for constituents.
“Nothing has been mandated by cabinet,” said Taylor, who holds a senior cabinet post.
Former members of the Yukon Energy board have made allegations that Fentie never included cabinet—or even the minister responsible for the crown corporation—in the talks.
That, in itself, is a breach of normal parliamentary procedure.
But Taylor wasn’t worried.
In fact, cabinet’s lack of involvement in the talks – that could involve the sale of Yukon Energy’s assets, worth an approximate $600 million – means nothing substantial has happened, she said.
“There’s been no direction by cabinet when it comes to all the discussions that have been going on in the media with respect to the ATCO corporation,” she said.
Opposition Leader Arthur Mitchell scolded the minister for tacitly agreeing with Fentie’s preference to involve only himself and high-level public servants in the talks.
“It’s an absolute abdication of responsibility,” said Mitchell from Old Crow.
“Taylor’s position is a little like saying, if a tree falls in the forest and cabinet doesn’t hear it fall, it didn’t happen,” he said.
A seven-page position paper drafted last May after meetings between Fentie and ATCO suggested the creation of a new energy company in the territory that would eventually divide all of Yukon Energy’s and the Yukon Electrical Company Limited’s assets in half.
Yukon Electrical is an ATCO subsidiary and a much smaller operation than Yukon Energy, especially when it comes to generation projects.
Any business model that would result in ATCO owning half of the Yukon’s electrical assets is a significant grab by the Calgary-based energy multinational.
The only people involved in the negotiations on the government side were Fentie and deputy ministers, alleged former Yukon Energy chair Willard Phelps, who resigned after he found out even the board of directors was kept in the dark.
The position paper corroborated Phelps’ allegations.
“If the premier is the person doing it, and if the deputy minister of EMR and the assistant deputy minister of EMR are the ones involved, and they did this without the knowledge of cabinet, is this just a rogue premier?” said Mitchell.
“Or is (cabinet) all a bunch of sheep, just following orders about anything he says?”
The position paper and the allegations by Phelps and three other members of the Yukon Energy board aren’t considered serious discussion in Taylor’s logic.
“When things come to cabinet, when things are provided (by cabinet) that’s when there’s an actual mandate to perform negotiations,” she said.
Taylor wouldn’t answer questions about how Fentie and Energy, Mines and Resources officials received their mandate to enter talks with ATCO.
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