Visiting Conservatives hear about hunger

A day after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff flew into Whitehorse, the BC/Yukon Conservative caucus came to town. "We didn't follow him here," said caucus chair Dick Harris on Wednesday night.

A day after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff flew into Whitehorse, the BC/Yukon Conservative caucus came to town.

“We didn’t follow him here,” said caucus chair Dick Harris on Wednesday night.

“He was on our heels – we planned it first.”

It’s the first time the caucus was held in Whitehorse, and Harris credits Conservative Yukon Senator Dan Lang.

“I think it’s important for members of Parliament, when they make decisions, to make decisions about their country, not just their riding,” said Lang.

“And a lot of them haven’t been here.”

The event, a barbecue held at the Old Fire Hall, was a Whitehorse Food Bank fundraiser.

So, food bank executive director Stephen Dunbar-Edge took a few minutes during the meet-and greet to tell caucus members a little about local need.

“This summer, the food bank really experienced some hard times,” he said.

“We have seen more clients come into the food bank who have never been there before. Currently, there are 1,274 registered clients: 691 single people, 242 families of two, 155 families of three, 81 families of four, 62 families of five, 22 families of six, five families of seven, three families of eight, two families of nine, and two service organizations we provide food for.”

The amount of food they get from the food bank is not a great deal, said Dunbar-Edge. “It’s only meant to sustain them for three days, and they’re allowed to come once a month, and once a month only.

“So what we are providing is a minimum service – and I can’t keep food on the shelves.”

Dunbar-Edge’s short, eloquent speech is all the Conservative caucus is going to learn about poverty in the territory.

The MPs met with five stakeholders while here: the Yukon Environmental Assessment Board, Northwestel, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Council of Yukon First Nations, and the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

They didn’t meet with the anti-poverty coalition, which founded the food bank, because “they only had the morning,” said Lang.

But West Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton had already learned about a few Yukon issues.

“There’s no Blackberry service up here,” he said. “As politicians we can’t live without our Blackberrys.”

He’d also experienced the Wednesday afternoon power outage.

“So I guess power is an issue too,” he said.

Former Dawson City mayor Colin Mayes, now the Conservative MP for Okanagan-Shuswap, wanted to see aboriginals given the “independence and respect they deserve,” and credits his time in the Yukon for giving him a good appreciation of aboriginal culture.

While Harris had been approached by five or six people about the gun registry, he said. “They want to know when we’re going to get rid of it.”

The vote’s in October, said the Prince George/Caribou MP.

“We want to kill it.”

Bagnell used to be onside, but now Ignatieff is twisting his arm, he added. “It’s going to be interesting.”

Lang had heard about Prime Minister Stephen Harper demoting the head of the Canadian Firearms Program, who was a strong supporter of the long-gun registry.

RCMP Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak is being sent to French language training.

“There’s speculation he was demoted,” said Lang.

“But it’s not unlike any top civil servant – you do your French lessons whether you like it or not; you don’t have a choice.”

Lang can’t speak French, either.

But two of his daughters can, he said.

The Conservative caucus wrapped up Thursday with a reception at the Old Fire Hall.

Contact Genesee Keevil at