Whitehorse Daily Star

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PARTY LEADERS MEET – The Council of Yukon First Nations held a party leaders’ debate last Thursday evening at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. The event was broadcast on CHON-FM and on Facebook live. Christine Genier was the moderator.

NDP explains limited comments on pandemic

Last Thursday evening’s leaders’ forum on First Nations issues was a relatively sedate affair among the Liberals, the NDP and the Yukon Party.

By Tim Giilck on April 5, 2021

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.”

Comments (18)

Up 3 Down 2

HJ on Apr 8, 2021 at 2:14 pm

@ Grant Funding - I don't disagree; just pointing out that they have a plan to lift all restrictions once vaccination is widespread. There's no reason the Yukon can't have that as well, especially now.

@ Heather - The Yukon has a higher vaccination rate than any other jurisdiction in Canada. Do you not believe the vaccine works? Are you an anti-vaxxer?

Up 9 Down 2

DMZ on Apr 8, 2021 at 12:46 pm

The NDP's position is ridiculous -- just follow Hanley's guidance. There is lots to critique in between science and politics. Kate White mitigated a bit in the debate on the CBC when she said, as both opposition parties started out saying last year -- last year! -- that they should be fully briefed and allowed to weigh in. At a minimum, you would expect that.

And since when did politicians scold people about attending protests, based on what's being protested? And here, of all places, where there are no cases. You can bet your life that if it was a social justice issue, they wouldn't dare, and yet public health supposedly trumps everything.

I think Hanley suggested that restrictions being lifted here depended on herd immunity in the whole country. That's alarming. Does that mean mask-wearing and no public events till Ontario does? I'm really not sure, because nobody asked the question. Including the NDP, who is attempting to turn blind obedience into some kind of virtue in an opposition party.

I feel less informed about progress now, then at any point in the pandemic. The data is totally confusing. Doctors in other jurisdictions keep saying, if they would only lock down for two weeks, it would solve everything. How long are politicians going to let them keep saying that? Obviously two weeks doesn't do it, because they've had it again and again. But all they have to do is say that out of the millions of people they're trying to control, a few bad apples aren't complying and that's the problem. One doctor is literally using his Twitter account to point fingers at individuals, and the CBC and other media is giving him a platform to do it. Why am I supposed to consider these people paragons of judgement?
It couldn't possibly be an inherently flawed strategy. Or maybe they just don't like sharing good news. Because when whatever they do is working, that doesn't get shared a whole lot.

I hear doctors making a bigger fuss about masks than vaccinations. I'm sorry, I'm faithfully wearing the mask out of social compliance, but I don't believe for one minute that anyone's life is saved or in danger one way or another. It really doesn't warrant distracting from or mismanaging the vaccination rollout. And I'm talking about the provinces, because apparently that's what's weighing in here.

I just want to hear one politician say, the restrictions have to stay still we're out of this. And not. a. minute. longer. Instead, their message leaves the opposite impression. That they will never feel safe enough to lift the emergency.
And no, I am not right-leaning. It's very upsetting to me that "progressive" has increasingly come to stand for compliance with authority.

Up 7 Down 12

Grant Funding on Apr 7, 2021 at 5:48 pm

HJ, let me be quite clear, Yukon does not want anything, absolutely nothing from AB. Especially their funding for the con party.

Up 13 Down 9

Heather on Apr 7, 2021 at 5:31 pm

When looking at other jurisdictions across Canada, and seeing how they’re locking down due to the systems being overrun, and people are wanting to open the boarders back up now? The reason our numbers have been so low is because of the borders being closed down. Because we’ve discouraged travel to the Yukon. Yes, it’s incredibly hard on businesses and they are suffering but what if you lost your child, your wife, your husband, or your parent to COVID-19? What if you have suffered like so many in Ontario, BC and Alberta have suffered, would you feel the same way? Would you want to see everything opening back up increasing the risk? When the Spanish flu ripped through the world, they reopened the Alaska ports too early which allowed for the flu to rip through Champagne and decimated the first nation there.
Yes, this sucks but we are so over privileged in North America. Travel has become just part of what we do versus a privilege. Take this time to reflect, look at how you can build your relationship with your family, look at the way so you can become more sustainable and look at how you can get back to your community instead of spending those thousands upon thousands of dollars traveling. I’m sure there’s a way that we could implement testing without re-opening the border so that travellers could come to the Yukon and we could decrease isolation time, but opening it wide up, that’s what led us to have cases this fall and having a sock back down again. No one ever talks about the outbreaks that long-term care facilities see every year. It can be something as simple as the flu or as deadly as Noreau virus. Every year long-term care loses residents to illness, you just don’t hear about it. You are helping protect them right now. You are helping protect immuno compromised kids, those who are cancer survivors and those who cannot be vaccinated. Yes, to some degree there should be survival of the fittest, we don’t need to go out of our way to make it worse for those who have a lesser chance. Be great full and thankful you live in a place where you have so many freedoms to be able to go outside, to explore your backyard and to socially distance. Think about Brazil, New York and others who are suffering so much loss while you whine. Be thankful. I know I am, as I just finished my last round of chemo and can’t have the vaccine yet. I am thankful.

Up 6 Down 5

HJ on Apr 7, 2021 at 11:23 am

If you want an example of a re-opening plan, a plan to lift all restrictions based on vaccination levels, take a look at Alberta's press conference from yesterday (Apr 6) - ("Path to Recovery" around the 13:12 mark in the video)

Up 10 Down 20

Observer on Apr 6, 2021 at 7:10 pm

Wilf, what the heck would you know about getting voted in? The only place you get any votes is on this site and I stand by the fact that you and all the other old cons are voting way more then once.

Up 21 Down 10

Wilf Carter on Apr 6, 2021 at 12:35 pm

Politicians are voted in to obey, serve and protect all Yukoners. The real question is did liberals do that over the last 4 years??

Up 18 Down 53

Old YP member on Apr 6, 2021 at 12:29 pm

I used to be a YP supporter, but they have lost their way. They have a leader with questionable family values, MLAs that have been milking the system (Brad), people that have done really nothing (Kent, Ishenko, Vanbibber, that lady from WL), they are all old and tired and have nothing left to contribute. Who would be in cabinet?
I am supporting the Liberals this time around, they have done a good job, have a solid leader and a good choice of cabinet members. Good luck to all.

Up 43 Down 7

Max Mack on Apr 6, 2021 at 10:46 am

The problem is that Hanley is getting his direction from the Canadian CMOs who are, in turn, getting their direction from WHO. This navel-gazing, self-important bunch are determined to "beat" this virus at all costs. All competing information and alternative views are suppressed, censored, ignored or demonized. There is not a balanced public health policy when it comes to covid. The medical establishment and their bureaucratic allies have become a de-facto dictatorship.

Meanwhile, the populace is suffering immensely under business closures, layoffs, travel bans, quarantines, restrictions, lockdowns, "safe six" and mask mandates.
This "emergency" has now existed for a full year in the Yukon. And there are no plans to end this so-called state of emergency.
Summer is coming and I want out.

Up 26 Down 10

JSM on Apr 6, 2021 at 8:58 am

@Why? If you are looking around at all the big government control and how much they can regulate your life and business now and can tell me with a straight face that things could not have been improved, you are laughably misguided. These paid socialist shills who want to convince you that your personal rights are not important should not be taken seriously. People are using drugs and alcohol at record highs because of these never ending lock downs. It's taking lives, breaking up families and causing unrest and depression among the youth and elderly alike. There is clearly issues not being addressed in the name of mass population control.

Up 26 Down 23

bonanzajoe on Apr 5, 2021 at 8:50 pm

White: in other words, she didn't have a clue about handling the Covid, so pass it all off to the doc. Ditto for Silver. Why not just make Doc Hanley the Premier?

Up 28 Down 5

No one is good on COVID on Apr 5, 2021 at 8:21 pm

The truth is all politicians in Yukon are too scared to be original on COVID. It is far easier to defer to the CMOH. Then he will bear any blame or praise. The politicians here have seen what happened to their peers in other jurisdictions when they went off script. They are all cowards who will play it "safe" (if you ignore the long-term damages of restrictions).

Up 10 Down 43

We’ll see on Apr 5, 2021 at 5:38 pm

Boy..this readership is incredibly right leaning. @John..step out of your echo chamber. Many people including your leader think the incumbents have done a decent job on most fronts. They’ll keep going, we all know too much is at stake right now. That’s what I hear from EVERYONE.

Up 27 Down 11

Juniper Jackson on Apr 5, 2021 at 5:31 pm

uh huh. I understand that no government leader is going to go against their Chief Medical Officer. So, replace Hanley with someone that is following best practice and is fairly reasonable in his edicts. Hanley probably listens to Mr. Tam. Tam listens to the voices in his head. Europe and the United States are lifting restrictions, starting with masks. Mostly, because they don't work for what Hanley is saying they do. You need 3 layers and a filter. I see one cotton fashion accessory on most women, plain black on most men. Why keep beating that dead horse? Because, the government has spent billions of dollars on advertising designed to scare the crap out of people. If I die? I die. If I get sick? I get sick. BUT, the caveat is, I am totally dedicated to my children. I put on the damn mask. I know it doesn't work..BUT, just in case.. Masking has done one thing for me. Made me aware of just how much a server person breaths into my food. When this is all over, and eventually it will be as a new super dooper, gigantic, human killing disease, asteroid, war, etc will be introduced to us) servers can keep masking.


Have we heard anything about this? No. No cases, but STILL, the 2 weeks to flatten the curve, over a year. I know people that have not worked in over 14 months. They have a new routine now, and work is not part of it.

Have we heard anything about over weight individuals, smokers, being at really high risk? Have we heard anything about Vitamin D? No.. Have i heard people that want to stay home carrying on like Nazi SS about someone on the street without a mask? Oh yeah.. and on and on and on.

As usual, I speak only for myself. But, my opinion is. Extended lockdown is not a good thing. Science knows that isolation is bad in the jails and is outlawed now as a general containment solution. But, lockdown for us is ok? Not being able to hug our kids and our grand kids, after a while, we lose those connections. Some people have disconnected from society entirely. Here in the Yukon, we have been pretty secure. The Covid Police are active and issuing charges, but those are not hitting the news. People have relative freedom, but only because 'they' are not able to enforce the emergency laws. While we don't have any covid here, we are in a lockdown as if we have the highest numbers in the land, but allowed to go to the end of our leash. Other posters have said, it's wise to strengthen our immune systems. Eat nutritiously, exercise, sleep.. and love. They are right. Has our chief medical officer gone here? Nope. Those folks who are following that path, please keep posting. You have been presenting excellent advice.

Up 19 Down 67

Why? on Apr 5, 2021 at 4:31 pm

The below “slippery silver” comment by JSM is ridiculous. Did you even read the article? This debate did nothing but prove that Sandy’s leadership on all topics including navigating the ever changing pandemic was informed and conscious and in consultation with experts every step of the way. Numerous times Curry complimented the incumbent on the excellent work that Sandy and his team have succeeded in accomplishing and that he would continue to build on their work. NUMEROUS times. And how is his approach of first sitting down with the CMO any different than what Sandy and his team did. Unless he would sit with the CMO and demand him to make timelines based on ...what?? This article states facts and the facts are ..no one could have done any better. I was proud to be a Yukoner listening to this debate. The leaders were respectful and informed. Any frustration could be directed at the pandemic, not at our current leadership. Seriously , smarten up.

Up 40 Down 27

Tater on Apr 5, 2021 at 4:04 pm

Well, I agree that it irritates me that the goal posts keep moving, but I do want decisions based on the BEST info available at the time. And that continues to evolve. Just think 4 months ago we were just getting the vaccines, there were no "variants" and so on. Would "goal posts" set then be appropriate?
Anyway, I'm glad to live in the Yukon as I think we are doing much better than the rest of Canada.

Up 83 Down 25

John on Apr 5, 2021 at 3:49 pm

Currie has all the right answers, can see momentum shifting towards Yukon party. Everyone i speak to is saying the same thing. NDP is in dream land, Liberals...well enough said, they have shown their true colors. YP promoting open dialogue, fiscal responsibility and respect for diversity. Sounds good to me...fyi I'm ex liberal.

Up 83 Down 29

JSM on Apr 5, 2021 at 2:13 pm

Slippery Sandy Silver, the issue is not that we expect you to have a crystal ball, we expect you and the good doctor to stop moving the goal posts. One day it's 75 percent, then 90, then stating that there may not be a safe number. Either provide the public with the same info that you are looking at to make these decisions, so we can decide whether or not this strong armed big government rule is just or let us know when you will finally free us? These Socialist agenda's are starting to ware on the population and causing way more harm then good.

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