One wants to lead the Yukon Party, the other aims to return to the party's fold and today they appeared together at the Gold Rush Inn to back each other's ambitions.
Estranged Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers, who has sat as an independent MLA since resigning from the cabinet and caucus nearly two years ago, this morning endorsed Darrell Pasloski for the party's leadership.
"I believe Darrell is the right choice for premier and the right man to lead a team focused on governing effectively through collaboration and teamwork,” Cathers told reporters.
Collaboration and teamwork are two buzzwords Pasloski, the Conservative runner-up in the 2008 federal election, has used to describe his "Team Yukon” approach to politics.
When Pasloski threw his hat into the ruling party's leadership contest ring two weeks ago, behind Yukon Party MLA Jim Kenyon and tourism lobbyist and operator Rod Taylor, the former druggist tried to distance himself from Premier Dennis Fentie's combative and controlling management style.
It is a style that led Cathers to abandon ship, and with Fentie on his way out – the premier announced on April 27 he would not defend his leadership – Cathers is intent on seeing the reins of power passed to Pasloski.
But the rogue Lake Laberge MLA's backing of an untested leadership candidate creates curious optics.
"It's about unifying the party and working together,” Pasloski said when asked the significance of Cathers' endorsement.
"Brad brings a wealth of experiences and will help us to be successful in winning a third mandate from Yukon citizens.”
In August 2009, Cathers' self-imposed exile to the opposition benches – after four Yukon Energy Corp. directors resigned to protest briefly Fentie's attempt to privatize the public utility – nearly brought down the government.
When he resigned, Cathers accused Fentie of lying to his caucus and the public about negotiations with ATCO, and the potential deal to privatize the Yukon's public utility for pennies on the dollar.
Cathers, whose stunning resignation briefly reduced Fentie's government to minority status, also suggested at the time that there were other disgruntled Yukon Party MLAs contemplating leaving as well.
This never came to pass.
But between Fentie restoring his majority by luring then-independent MLA John Edzerza back to government side and the current leadership race, Cathers survived an attempted mutiny by a smattering of Lake Laberge Yukon Party members and appears no worse for the wear.
Cathers' party, however, is a different story, and appears to be fragmenting when leadership candidates like Pasloski are touting unity.
On Monday, the Star learned that Fentie stripped Kenyon of his cabinet portfolios – Economic Development and minister responsible for the lotteries commission, liquor and housing corporations – and replaced him with Klondike MLA Steve Nordick.
Fentie did not return the Star's calls for comment. When Kenyon was contacted, the only leadership hopeful with any government experience explained the move as a hiatus from cabinet duties until the Yukon Party's May 28 convention concluded.
But Kenyon told a story of betrayal to CHON-FM radio reporter Dan Jones, and painted himself as another victim of a spiteful premier who robbed the veteran cabinet minister of pension money.
"That one motion cost me a small fortune ... it has affected any kind of severance should I – when I leave government,” Kenyon told Jones of an order-in-council relieving him of his ministerial duties.
"It's a real kick in the pants for me.”
Unaware of Kenyon's predicament this morning, Pasloksi declined to comment. Cathers called it "a very unfortunate situation.”
Cathers preferred to direct his criticism of Taylor's leadership bid, and by association, those who are supporting it, including Deputy Premier Elaine Taylor (no relation).
Cathers called Rod Taylor an "unknown quantity ... (that) came very much out of left field.
"We expected for quite a while that he was going to be my Liberal opponent in Lake Laberge,” said Cathers.
"And although I'm pleased to see that he's chosen to join the Yukon Party ... it's a little bit surprising when somebody buys their first membership after the start of a leadership race.”
Cathers also slammed Taylor for criticisms he levelled as the former chair of the Tourism Industry Association Yukon, over the government's handling of land use recommendations for the Peel watershed.
"His remarks about the Yukon Party back in December were extremely strong – using the word ‘contempt',” said Cathers.
"And then, four months later, seeking to lead that government does raise a lot of questions in people's minds.”
Taylor has since apologized for those remarks and blamed them on his lack of knowledge of the Peel land use planning process.