The battle for Laberge

Teena Dixon wants to be the Yukon Party's MLA for Lake Laberge. She faces a tough task. That job has belonged to Brad Cathers since 2002.

Teena Dickson wants to be the Yukon Party’s MLA for Lake Laberge.

She faces a tough task. That job has belonged to Brad Cathers since 2002.

Cathers is popular, having won more than half the votes in both the 2002 and 2006 elections.

And Cathers enjoys the support of Darrell Pasloski, the Yukon Party’s new leader.

But some party loyalists remain unhappy with Cathers, who quit cabinet and caucus to sit as an Independent in the fall of 2009 during a noisy falling-out with then-premier Dennis Fentie over plans to selloff Yukon Energy’s assets.

Cathers always insisted he remains a proud Yukon Party member, and that he would rejoin the fold once Fentie left.

Now that Fentie’s gone and Cathers has been embraced by the new leader, you may have thought the ruling party’s simmering civil war would have ended.

Think again.

“I’ve been approached by many people,” said Dickson.

Among her supporters are Shirley and Smiley Ford, two Fentie supporters who fought, without luck, to have Cathers removed as the riding association’s candidate in May of 2010.

“We’re both supporting Teena,” said Shirley Ford. “We think she’s a great candidate.”

Dickson is selling herself as a “team player.” She won’t say whether she believes Cathers deserves that designation.

“I have no comment on that,” said Dickson.

As for Cathers, he intends to remain the Yukon Party’s candidate for the riding in the next election, which must be triggered by October.

He’s unapologetic about his past denunciations of Fentie. According to Cathers, Fentie lied to the public about plans to privatize Yukon Energy, then pressured Cathers to do the same. Instead, Cathers quit.

“What occurred is not something there’s a manual for. I did what I believed was the right thing to do.”

And Cathers touted his many achievements in office, having served as government house leader and minister responsible for Health and Social Services, Energy, Mines and Resources and the liquor and lottery corporations.

It would be surprising if Cathers did not receive another cabinet post. He made light of the absence of any cabinet shuffle since Pasloski was sworn in on June 11.

“You don’t show up on your first day as premier and make major changes,” said Cathers. “I have full confidence in Darrell and his approach.”

In May, when Cathers threw his support behind Pasloski’s leadership bid, Pasloski vowed to help end the feud within the party.

“I want to unite all members of the Yukon Party and ensure that, together, we put past differences behind us and work together as part of ‘Team Yukon’ to secure Yukon’s future prosperity and ensure it continues to be a great place to live and raise our families,” he said.

Pasloski also talked up Cathers’ importance, saying he “contributed to the Yukon Party government’s success over the past eight and a half years and I believe he can help the Yukon Party achieve a third mandate.”

The Yukon Party’s Lake Laberge riding association meets tonight to pick a date for the nomination vote.

Dickson has lived in the riding for 17 years. She and her husband, Dave, operate an outfitting company.

They have a 14-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son.

As a Chipewyan woman from the Northwest Territories, Dickson touted her diverse appeal. But it’s hard to pin down how she’d do her job any differently than Cathers.

She’d like to see the pothole-ridden Hot Springs Road widened and repaved. Cathers has banged away at the same issue for the past few years.

As well, Dickson hopes to see a multi-use trail built between the hot springs and the nearby gas station.

She’d like to see more residents send their children to Hidden Valley Elementary School, rather than drop their kids off in town during their commutes to work. And Dickson is keen on promoting Lake Laberge’s farms.

But she won’t offer opinions on touchy subjects.

Cathers has been a staunch opponent of the proposed hot springs condo development. And he’s fought a proposal to require ATV riders to wear helmets.

On both these matters, Dickson won’t venture an opinion.

“I definitely have some ideas,” she said. But, for now, she won’t share them.

“I’d like to discuss that with our constituents first,” she said.

“If I share all my secrets, what would my campaign be?”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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