Whitehorse Centre voters go to the polls on Monday

Three candidates have been pounding the pavement since the byelection was called. On Monday, the voters will decide who will represent them. Read the final three stories regarding the candidates.

Cameron calls for more cops

By John Thompson

Downtown Whitehorse needs more cops walking the beat, says Kirk Cameron, the Liberal candidate for the riding.

“There isn’t the same level of visibility on the street in downtown Whitehorse as there used to be,” said Cameron, who is vying for the Whitehorse Centre seat in Monday’s byelection. “I used to bump into (RCMP) all the time on Sixth Avenue. They were quite visible.”

The Yukon government recently ended its Street Crime Reduction Team. The three-year pilot program funded RCMP members dedicated to fighting visible crime such as drug dealing and drunken brawls in the downtown core.

Cameron wants the territory to restore the program. But the number of officers available for street patrol has actually increased, said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Don Rogers.

“Now you have seven members on the watch, while before, you had six members on the watch,” he said.

“The Street Crime Reduction Team was folded into the street watch,” said Dan Cable, a spokesman for Justice. “The money’s still there. And the officers are still there.”

The responsibility of curbing crime is now shared across the detachment, said Cable. Previously, under the pilot program, crime-reduction efforts hung on the team members, which limited operations during certain hours. “Crime doesn’t sleep,” he said.

The pilot program received $450,000 per year. By comparison, this fiscal year, “one million and change” is earmarked to fund, among other things, an additional four RCMP members on duty watch, said Cable.

The funds also help pay for a crime-reduction co-ordinator, whose job is to warn community detachments of prolific criminals headed their way.

A total of $20.5 million is allocated for Yukon’s police operations this year. That’s down from last year’s estimate of $22.1 million. But that reduction may not mean much; spending in 2009-10 overshot to $25 million.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

Hanson wants to keep ‘em honest

By James Munson

New Democratic Leader Elizabeth Hanson wants politicians to clean up their act.

In the home stretch of the Whitehorse Centre byelection, Hanson is pushing for more honesty in government, if elected Tuesday.

She’s pouncing on some of the ethically dubious behaviour by the governing Yukon Party, starting with the legislature.

Premier Dennis Fentie has been caught signing Christmas cards in the house while being asked a question, Housing Minister Jim Kenyon has prevented opposition members from speaking by using up the clock, and Kenyon has also fallen asleep while a inquiry into his actions during the ATCO scandal took place last year.

“I can’t tell you all the ins and outs of how an MLA asks a question and gets a response,” said Hanson.

But constituents have been telling her they are unimpressed by the back-and-forth in the legislature, she said.

“At the very least, it’s annoying and, at it’s worst, it’s going on about something completely unrelated, or worse, it’s completely disrespectful.”

Hanson wouldn’t offer any specifics on how to change behaviour in the house, except for promising a code of conduct for MLAs.

The behaviour of MLAs is already governed by the Speaker’s rules and his decisions, but Hanson said that doesn’t work.

“It’s rules from the institutions and not the expectations of constituents,” she said.

Over the last two years, the government’s Crown corporations have also been caught breaking the rules.

Fentie tried to sell the Yukon Energy Corporation without telling his cabinet or the corporation’s board, the Yukon Hospital Corporation gave its board a massive raise without government approval and both corporations have piled on hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

The heads of both corporations are only expected to show up in the legislature once a year, at the premier’s whim.

Hanson wants that power removed because Fentie schedules the appearances for the end of legislative sittings, when the opposition has only minimal time to investigate their management.

“We had a lot of issues last year with the delays,” she said.

Hanson is also calling for a lobbyist registry, much like the one currently used in Ottawa.

She reiterated her party’s calls for the creation of whistleblower protection and changes to the elections act that would force the premier to call a byelection within 90 days rather than the current 180 days.

“We’re the Yukon, we should be more nimble,” she said.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com

Yukon Party’s muddy position on the Peel

By Genesee Keevil

There is not “overwhelming support for 100 per cent protection” of the Peel Watershed, says Mike Nixon.

The Yukon Party’s Whitehorse Centre candidate was responding to four questions on the Peel issued by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon Chapter and the Yukon Conservation Society.

The questions were sent to all three candidates to determine their positions on the Peel prior to Monday’s upcoming byelection.

The first asked candidates if they support protecting 80 per cent of the Peel Watershed, as recommended in the planning commission’s land-use plan.

Liberal candidate Kirk Cameron and NDP candidate Liz Hanson both support 80 per cent protection, and said so in their written responses.

Nixon supports “the approach taken by the Yukon Party government.”

He did not say whether or not he supports protecting 80 per cent of the Peel, as recommended in the draft plan.

The Yukon government still hasn’t stated its position on the Peel, said Yukon Conservation Society executive director Karen Baltgailis.

Affected First Nations want 100 per cent of the watershed protected. And during recent public consultation there was “overwhelming support for 100 per cent protection,” said the questionnaire.

How would the candidates approach this?

Both Hanson and Cameron deferred to the planning process.

Nixon challenged the assertion there was overwhelming support for 100 per cent protection.

There are “starkly drawn conflicts over how to manage the land and resources in the planning region,” wrote Nixon.

The territory will decide the fate of 97.3 per cent of the watershed, he wrote.

“The remaining 2.7 per cent of the planning area is settlement land that is the responsibility of First Nations.”

Technically that’s true – each government can decide what to do with land under its control, said Baltgailis.

“However, the spirit and intent of the final agreements is collaborative planning,” she said.

Not “this high-handed approach of not taking First Nations into account.”

If the Yukon Party’s approach is to carve up the land, asserting ownership of 97.3 per cent of the Peel, “it doesn’t bode well,” she said.

The purpose of the land-use plan was to work together, said Hanson, responding to Nixon’s 97 per cent/three per cent division of the Peel.

“It’s a revealing remark,” she said.

Those are the figures, said Nixon.

“We are looking at it as the whole package, but at the end of the day it’s 97 per cent Crown land and about three per cent First Nation (lands).”

Given there’s been six years of planning, the environmental groups asked candidates whether they would work with First Nations and when they’d make a decision.

Give clarity soon, wrote Cameron.

Implement a plan immediately, wrote Hanson.

Nixon’s answer was much longer.

The four First Nations want to modify the plan, and this involves more consultation, he wrote.

However, the Yukon government gets to decide the fate of 97.3 per cent of the watershed, while First Nation governments can only decide the fate of 2.7 per cent of the Peel, reiterated Nixon.

“The Yukon government would like to proceed as expeditiously as possible,” he wrote.

The affected First Nations and government were to discuss their positions this fall.

A response to the plan was to be delivered to the commission by mid-December.

But the Yukon government hasn’t stated its position.

“The parties need to get together and work out their differences,” said Cameron.

“But a critical piece of the puzzle is still an unknown – where does the Yukon government sit?”

Without that position, how can First Nations respond to it? said Baltgailis.

In November, Na-cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn and Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Eddie Taylor arrived at Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Patrick Rouble’s office for a scheduled 9 a.m. meeting to discuss their positions on the Peel.

When the chiefs arrived, Rouble’s assistant told them the meeting was cancelled.

No explanation was given.

Finally, the questionnaire asked whether candidates supported a staking moratorium in the watershed.

All candidates did.

That’s one positive thing, said Baltgailis.

The Peel planning commission started its work in October 2004.

Back then, there were 1,658 claims in the watershed.

The commission and First Nations immediately recommended a staking moratorium in the watershed.

Energy, Mines and Resources put off the moratorium for six years.

Today, there are 8,431 claims staked there.

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com