Last Thursday evening’s leaders’ forum on First Nations issues was a relatively sedate affair among the Liberals, the NDP and the Yukon Party.
The debate was more than enough to illustrate the differences among the parties, but one of the more intriguing exchanges came from a discussion of COVID-19 issues.
While Liberal Leader Sandy Silver stuck to his tried-and-true script on virus issues and “following the advice of the chief medical officer,” Kate White of the NDP raised some eyebrows with her comments.
White told the forum she and her party had been mostly quiet on pandemic-related issues for the last year – and that was part of a plan.
“In positions of leadership you sometimes face great pressures, so I don’t envy what happened with Sandy in the last year at all,” White said.
“I made the decision never to question the decisions that were coming from the chief medical officer of health and the government at the time because I didn’t need to fuel the insecurity and the fear that existed.
“My job was to support and share as much information as possible and make sure people understood,” the NDP leader said.
“Had the shoe been on one of my feet, I would hope that I would have been supported by my colleagues in a way in which no one could ever have anticipated.”
White went on to say she might not have done anything much different than the Liberal response of deferring to Dr. Brendan Hanley.
“It hasn’t been easy for them, and there’s a lot to be commended there.”
“I’m not a doctor,” White added. “That’s what I’ve said for the last year. I trust the guidance of the chief medical officer of health and the guidance of epidemiologists and the team that he has.”
White went on to add that she occasionally had a chance to discuss those decisions with Hanley, but it was always in “non-public ways.”
She seemed to have no problem with those behind-the-scenes interactions out of the sight of the public.
“My role was not to encourage a division,” she reiterated. “We have to proceed cautiously.”
In stark contrast to that approach was the Yukon Party’s Currie Dixon.
He spoke in some detail on the party’s belief that the handling of the pandemic requires much more information being provided to the public, particularly in the form of benchmarks and a comprehensible framework for decisions.
“The first thing we would like to do is sit down with the chief medical officer of health and seek his advice. That certainly is the starting point for any discussion around re-opening,” Dixon said.
“With regards to timelines and benchmarks, we have said over and over that what we want to see is when decisions will be made and how decisions will be made giving Yukoners the information they have been asking for.
“At what point do restrictions begin to be lifted once certain thresholds of vaccinations are met?”
Silver told the forum, “I have been receiving pressure from day one.
The hardest thing I had to do was cancel the (2020) Arctic Winter Games.
“We’ve always had pressure from all sides, and we’ve always followed the recommendations on the chief medical officer of health.
“I wish I had a crystal ball. I really do,” Silver added.
“I wish I could give concrete timelines. These variants are very concerning. We’ll continue to do things safely.
“I think our approach had been moderate, but we will keep with safety.”