Yule Schmidt is no longer an advisor to Yukon premier Darrell Pasloski, according to several sources familiar with the matter.
Schmidt’s abrupt departure comes on the heels of two controversial newspaper articles she published recently, which the government says were not approved.
The cabinet office is keeping mum about the affair, saying that it doesn’t comment on personnel matters. Schmidt hasn’t responded to several interview requests.
Liberal Leader Sandy Silver said the premier needs to tell Yukoners what’s really going on. “If she was fired, why? The premier owes us an explanation,” he said.
The controversy began when Schmidt published an opinion piece in the National Post, arguing that an activist judicial system and litigious First Nations are to blame for the recent spate of lawsuits filed against the government.
The article was published at the onset of Toronto’s big mining conference, and Silver questioned whether it could further undermine the Yukon’s reputation as a legally safe place to do business.
“The courts have replaced the government’s paternalism with a form of their own,” Schmidt wrote.
“And its enshrinement in statutory law will make it particularly difficult to undo. As long as the honour of the Crown trumps the legal provisions of land claims, the Yukon government and its settled First Nations will continue disputing the meaning of their final agreements in court,” she wrote.
While the article carried a disclaimer that said the author’s views were not her employer’s, both Silver and Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson were quick to question whether this was true.
In response, Schmidt wrote a letter to the editor accusing Silver of either “misplaced chivalry” or “untimely chauvinism,” and said that her right to free speech extends to her job in the cabinet office.
“Perhaps it surprises the Liberal leader that I was able to freely express my thoughts without having them politically vetted, but last time I checked, that chunk of the Constitution that protects freedom of speech had not been deleted,” Schmidt wrote.
“I should think Mr. Silver and others in the opposition would find it comforting to know that a political staffer retains the independence to publish articles as I did. Is that not something we should commend as a society?” she wrote.
Hanson said she agrees with Schmidt’s defence of free speech. But she said she doesn’t find it surprising that a Yukon Party staffer’s employment would end shortly after publishing articles that could put her bosses in a particularly awkward position.
“If Ms. Schmidt is no longer there, where does the premier stand?” Hanson asked.
“His silence is telling. What about the views she has expressed does he find unacceptable?”
When reached by phone in Washington last week, Premier Darrell Pasloski dodged questions about Schmidt’s departure. Asked if Schmidt was still employed by his office, Pasloski at first suggested she could be on vacation and said that his Washington trip left him out of the loop. When pressed on the point, Pasloski said the government doesn’t comment on staffing decisions.
Cabinet spokeswoman Elaine Schiman said that the views Schmidt expressed in the National Post article do not reflect that of her employer, and that the government is supportive of the land claims process.
But Hanson said she thinks Schmidt’s piece is an accurate reflection of the Yukon Party’s views, as evidenced by its often antagonistic approach to dealing with the territory’s First Nations.
“The views that she expressed are exactly those of the Yukon Party. They’re going about it as though the status quo from pre-1993, before the final agreements were signed, is the way it stands. It’s not only wrong, it’s wrong-headed,” Hanson said.
She also expressed doubt that the Yukon Party never vetted Schmidt’s opinions, despite the party’s claim to the contrary.
“I just don’t buy the notion that something got out that was such a significant statement of Yukon Party belief that you wouldn’t have touched base with the fellow in charge? That’s not good leadership. The buck stops with the person in charge,” she said.
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