The Yukon Development Corporation has hired a Vancouver-based recruiting firm to fill four empty seats on the Yukon Energy Corporation’s board of directors.
Yukon Development has contracted Watson Advisors Incorporated to fill the board vacancies for $50,000 over the next three months.
The unprecedented hiring of a private appointment service is part of a larger plan to separate the normally-symbiotic Yukon Development and Yukon Energy corporations.
However, Premier Dennis Fentie hasn’t explained the rationale behind the separation and hasn’t responded to repeated requests for an interview.
The separation of both boards raises several questions:
What independent role will Yukon Development serve?
Will it run its own projects?
Will the new structure lessen oversight of Yukon Energy?
Could Yukon Energy be privatized under the new arrangement?
Which corporation would run any new independent power plants?
Fentie shouldn’t be restructuring these corporations by stealth and without a public discussion, says the opposition.
“I want to see the minister saying what they’re thinking for the future, because it’s a continuation in a series of ad hoc initiatives around the energy front,” said New Democratic Party Leader Elizabeth Hanson.
Fentie assumed responsibility for both corporations after half their boards resigned last July over secret talks Fentie had with ATCO to privatize Yukon Energy. At the time, both corporations shared the same board members.
Today, Fentie is restructuring the corporations. The first phase is appointing different directors to each board.
Yukon Development received four new members in October and Watson Advisors has now been hired to fill up Yukon Energy’s executive.
The Yukon Energy seats have been empty for seven months. And they likely won’t be filled for another three, according to the contract signed between Yukon Development and Watson.
Elizabeth Watson, one of the hiring firm’s main consultants, will lead the hunt for new directors. She’s worked in British Columbia’s patronage office for five years in the early 2000s, according to Yukon Development.
It’s not the hiring of professional recruiters that bothers Hanson and the NDP. It’s the lack of information on the new process.
Yukon Energy and Watson printed an ad in newspapers two weeks ago, decorated with their logos, requesting candidate submissions for the board jobs.
The ad gives the appearance of an independent Yukon Energy no longer under the helm of Yukon Development, said Hanson.
“It’s the framing of the issue (that bothers me),” she said. “We start to talk about it being independent and then that’s how it is.”
By law, Yukon Development is required to appoint the Yukon Energy board, based on the recommendation of the cabinet.
Yukon Development was the actual signatory to the Watson contract and it should be in the ad, said Hanson.
The ad makes it look like Yukon Energy is hiring on its own board, she said.
“There hasn’t been any public discussion about a different relationship between Yukon Development and a more-independent Yukon Energy,” she said.
“Until you have that conversation with the people who are elected, under what authority is Yukon Energy going out on its own?” she said.
Everyone from the cabinet to Yukon Development to Yukon Energy agreed with hiring Watson, said David Morrison, who is chief executive officer of both Crown corporations.
Watson’s job is to vet the first set of candidates and prepare a long and short list for the Yukon Development board, said Morrison in an interview with the News two weeks ago.
The point of hiring Watson is to remove any political appointments and find candidates based on their merits, he said.
However, it is not clear why such a merit-based process was not used to recruit Yukon Development’s board members in the fall.
A governance committee, made from people on Yukon Development’s board, will do the interviews and then decide which candidates to recommend to the government.
The final decision is the government’s, which approves the candidates with an order-in-council.
Hiring an external human resources firm is common practice in the private sector, said Morrison. Watson has worked on BC Hydro and BC Liquor Commission board appointments.
Morrison didn’t offer much detail on what the new separation means in terms of substance. It’s not clear what competencies Yukon Energy board members must have compared to Yukon Development board members. Nor is it clear why both boards, which have been identical for almost 25 years, must be changed now.
There are arguments for both sides, said Morrison. Those who argue for two boards say it provides oversight and more transparency. Those who want one board say it’s more efficient, cheaper and smooths communication.
Yukon Development’s website has also disappeared since the announcement of the separation. It is currently being redesigned, said Patterson.
Fentie is one of the only people who knows why the boards are being separated, but hasn’t explained the policy change since issuing a vague news release last summer.
There wasn’t any debate in the last sitting of the legislature on the separation of the boards.
“There has been so much going on subsurface with relation to energy,” said Hanson. “So it should all be in the open.”
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