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Yukon Party survives nonconfidence vote

The Yukon Party government survived a nonconfidence motion introduced by the Liberals on Wednesday. This was no big surprise. It's long been clear that the Liberals' effort to defeat the government would be a dud.

The Yukon Party government survived a nonconfidence motion introduced by the Liberals on Wednesday.

This was no big surprise. It’s long been clear that the Liberals’ effort to defeat the government would be a dud.

The Liberals first hyped their nonconfidence motion when the government was briefly reduced to a minority, after Brad Cathers quit cabinet and caucus in late August over Premier Dennis Fentie’s handling of the ATCO affair.

But the government’s majority was restored shortly before the legislature reconvened in late October, when John Edzerza, who had quit the Yukon Party in 2006 to first sit with the NDP and later as an independent, returned to the fold.

Edzerza’s support ensured the government would not fall. As well, Cathers has made in clear in recent weeks he had no plans to vote against the government.

While calling for Fentie’s resignation, he remains a Yukon Party supporter and hopes to rejoin the party once Fentie leaves.

Nevertheless, Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell made his case that a number of scandals have shaken the Yukon public’s faith in the government and that an election should be held now, and not in October of 2011, when the government’s mandate expires.

He referred to the embarrassment of having $36.3 million in territorial money invested in asset-backed commercial paper when the market for these risky investments imploded. This money is now locked up in long-term investments that largely mature in 2017.

Mitchell also dwelled on the ATCO scandal, in which the premier was found to have conducted secret talks with the Alberta-based company that touched on privatizing Yukon Energy.

Fentie refuses to answer many questions about these talks. Instead, he has chosen to foot-drag with promises that all will be explained eventually, in the public accounts committee.

A third major embarrassment for the government is documentation that suggests the premier gutted a document that proposed conserving much of the pristine wilderness of the Peel Watershed.

Fentie has suggested that First Nation land claim deals required him to do so, but he’s never clearly explained why this is so.

Cathers did not vote. He had earlier agreed to pair with Elaine Taylor, who could not vote because she was in Ottawa that day, meeting with the federal Environment minister.

But he rose to say that the Liberals have failed to present themselves as a credible alternative to the current government.

The New Democrats voted in favour of the nonconfidence motion, but they did not speak to the motion and accused the Liberals in a press release of “playing partisan political games (rather) than engaging in constructive dialogue that will advance the important business of Yukon people.”

Fentie preoccupied himself with signing Christmas cards during the motion and did not speak.

Anti-poverty summit

set for spring

Yukon will hold an anti-poverty summit this spring.

The meeting is spurred by an NDP motion that won unanimous support on Wednesday. It calls for the territory to bring together front-line social workers, academics, politicians from all levels of government and poor people themselves to sort out what can be done to improve the lot of the least fortunate.

The summit is to be modelled after a similar meeting held on substance abuse in 2005. That meeting led to improvements to government services offered to addicts, said the NDP’s Todd Hardy.

He hopes to float the idea of introducing a guaranteed minimum income for the territory at the summit.

Hardy also boasted that this was just one of a string of NDP-led initiatives to have won government support this sitting.

As a result, the territory plans to overhaul the Landlord and Tenant Act, look at improving the workings of the legislature and consider various restrictions on the use of off-road vehicles.

“If we want to make change, we need to make change together,” Hardy said.

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