October 14, 2005

Yukon Party board member has vitriol for premier (from October 14 issue of the Yukon News)

A Yukon Party board member has put Premier Dennis Fentie on “probation” because he “misled” Yukoners about his past.

Freddy Hutter, a political pollster who owns and runs TrendLines Polling in Judas Creek, is a card carrying Yukon Party member who says the party recruited him to its board.

Hutter has been waiting for Fentie to call the Copperbelt byelection like a long-overdue bus, and recently upped his criticism of the delay on his company’s website.

In a column titled A Pollster’s View, Hutter writes: “With respect to the Premier taking his sweet time in calling a byelection, it is my humble opinion that any political leader would do the same.”

Several paragraphs later, he adds: “Dennis Fentie cannot afford to be cocky and political on this matter.

“In 2002, he misled the media and the voters by giving us Yukoners the impression he was just a hicktown pothead selling grass to his friends back in his dark past. In reality, it was found later ‘when we checked him out’ that he was actually part of a heroin trafficking ring in Edmonton.”

Hutter wears what some believe are conflicting hats, but he says his affiliations aren’t a problem.

“I don’t know when I ever wear a Yukon Party hat,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

Asked if there is potential for conflicting interests because he is a pollster, a Yukon Party member, as well as a federal Conservative Party member, he answered without trepidation.


But Hutter’s diverse resumé guarantees what he publishes gets noticed.
“His comments, as a director of the Yukon Party, I find quite fascinating,” said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell on Thursday.

“If he’s trying to establish his neutrality from them, he’s certainly done it in an interesting way. I think you always have to question the independence of pollsters that are politically affiliated with any party, as opposed to maintaining neutrality.”

Hutter’s interest in politics began after watching Pierre Trudeau in the late ‘60s, and his days in political science at the University of Waterloo, “where his socialism thrived,” he writes on his website.

He has accepted invitations from the NDP, Liberal, federal Reform and Ontario Reform parties to work as a board member in the past, he adds.

Hutter has been a member of the Yukon Party since the party’s annual general meeting this spring, he said Wednesday.

He moved his polling company to the Yukon late last year, from Ontario.

Though Hutter’s words are biting, Fentie should expect more scorn from Hutter.

“In one sliver situation, I don’t support him. I don’t support him calling a fall sitting. If he did call a fall sitting, I would be very upset. I don’t feel it’s fair to the people in Copperbelt,” said Hutter on Wednesday.

But after the interview, the government sent a press release announcing the legislature will reconvene on Thursday, October 27.

Last week, NDP house leader Gary McRobb suggested the fall sitting should be delayed until after Christmas, to give time for an MLA from Copperbelt to be elected and sworn in.

“Unfortunately, the government turned a deaf ear to that idea, so now we’ll be sitting until a few days before Christmas, when everyone’s schedule is very busy,” said McRobb in a release.

According to several sources, Fentie is likely to call the Copperbelt byelection October 21, one day after the Yukon Party’s candidate nomination meeting for the riding.

That would mean Copperbelt’s new MLA would miss most of the next sitting, said NDP leader, Todd Hardy.

People in Copperbelt “will go through most of the next sitting with no MLA of their own to speak for them,” he said in a release.

Hutter disputes being referred to as a member Yukon Party executive — though his name appears on the party’s website under the link ‘executive.’

“Executive’s not exactly the right word,” he said. “Most of the executive is all girls.”

Fentie and Yukon Party president Darrell Peters were contacted for this story, but did not return phone calls.

“The premier won’t be commenting,” said cabinet spokesperson Peter Carr in an e-mail.

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