Former Yukon government leader Willard Phelps and Yukon Party election campaign manager Craig Tuton have been handed cushy government appointments.
This week, Phelps was re-appointed chair of the Yukon Development Corporation through an order-in-council.
And by using an order-in-council earlier this month, the Yukon Party government extended Tuton’s position as chair of the Whitehorse Hospital Corporation until September 6.
Tuton has also chaired the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board since 2004.
Phelps has strong credentials for the Development Corp. job.
His family started Yukon Electrical Company and he was the minister responsible for both the Energy and Development corporations under former Yukon Party government leader John Ostashek.
But while the Yukon Party government is calling Phelps’ agreement to chair the Development Corp. for another three-year term “fortunate,” the opposition parties are questioning the process used to make the major board appointments.
The government requests input from the opposition parties on “non-political” appointments like the Human Rights Commission, said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell.
But the cream of the board crop — the Development Corporation, the Energy Corporation and the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board — is reserved for Yukon Party cronies, he said.
“We see that Mr. Tuton gets appointed, we see that Mr. Phelps gets appointed, and it just shows that this is a sham,” said Mitchell.
“There’s no intent to actually consult. Mr. Tuton holds two major positions now, and it’s clearly the party faithful and I think that’s unfortunate.”
On the last day of the fall legislative sitting, the Yukon Party tabled a motion to create an all-party standing committee charged with major board appointments.
Both parties have been pushing for years to have the committee created, as it is called for in the rules of the house and limits the power the government has to make patronage appointments.
Despite the motion the group has not been created and has not met, said McIntyre-Takhini MLA John Edzerza.
But in the interim, two new appointments have been made, he pointed out.
“Quite frankly it raises some doubt in my mind as to the sincerity of the government about the standing committee on appointments,” said Edzerza.
“They were well aware this was an issue with the NDP, and by bringing it forward on the last day (of the fall legislative sitting) raises questions,” he said.
“It could have been done on the first day and approved.”
It is important each party has some say in major board appointments, he said.
“That way you wouldn’t have your major boards and committees rubber stamping everything the government wants.”
The major board appointments in the Yukon are the development corporation, the energy corporation, workers’ compensation, Yukon Lotteries, Yukon Recreation Advisory Council, Arts Advisory Council, Yukon Utilities’ Board, Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, and the Yukon Human Rights Commission, explained Edzerza.
The Liberals have also pushed for the standing committee on board appointments.
But the results under the Yukon Party government have continually added up to little more than “lip service,” said Mitchell.
Phelps has served as development corporation chair since being appointed in 2004.
During that time Phelps also received a $20,000 sole-sourced contract with Yukon Energy Corp. by Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Archie Lang.
Phelps was also given a $24,130 sole-sourced contract for “general consulting” with YDC by Lang at about the same time.
The two contracts overlapped and raised questions of conflict in the legislative assembly.
Lang refused comment for this story.
An all-party committee has appointed Jo-Ann Waugh as the Yukon’s next chief electoral officer.
Waugh has served as assistant to the territory’s chief electoral officer since 1983 under Patrick Michael.
Michael, who has also been the clerk of the legislative assembly since 1978, will retire at the end of March.
Waugh, 60, has been involved in nine general elections in the Yukon.
“I’m absolutely excited about it,” said Waugh about her new job on Tuesday.
“I’m looking forward to the next election already, which of course will be a few years away.”
Some suggested Waugh would retire from the post before the next election, which doesn’t have to be held until 2011.
But Waugh saw it differently.
“Absolutely,” said Waugh, when asked if she’ll still be chief electoral officer during the next territorial election.
The last territorial election saw complaints of “incomplete” voters lists in the Watson Lake, Lake Laberge, Ross River, Teslin and McIntyre-Takhini electoral districts.
Party members quietly criticized Waugh.
Politicians, not elections workers, have control over the timing of elections and the rules enumerators must follow, countered Waugh.
“Let’s be real about this,” she said in an earlier interview.
in the game
A group of stalwarts from all three major political parties will now examine the lines dividing Yukon electoral ridings.
Yukon Commissioner Geraldine Van Bibber has appointed Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower to chair the electoral district boundaries commission.
She has also appointed Yukon Party member Doug Phillips, former Yukon Employees’ Union president and New Democrat Dave Hobbis, and former Liberal Yukon senator Ione Christensen.
The commission will review existing boundaries and make recommendations about their status before the next territorial election.
The group will write a final report in the next year.