Darius Elias is now the newest member of the Yukon Party.
In a surprising move, the former Independent MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin announced that he’s joining the government ranks at a press conference with Premier Darrell Pasloski on Monday morning.
“While I believe that I’ve been able to accomplish much with the limited resources afforded me as an Independent member, it is clear to me that working within the government will provide me with the resources and opportunity to do much more,” Elias said.
“I think I have gone as far as I can as an Independent member,” he said.
Elias hasn’t been assigned a cabinet post.
Elias was elected as one of only two Liberals in the last territorial election in October 2011, and became interim leader when former leader Arther Mitchell lost his seat.
In August 2012 Elias left the Liberals for personal reasons to sit as an Independent. That left Klondike MLA Sandy Silver as the Liberals’ sole MLA and current interim leader.
“For the past several months it’s really become clear that the member for Vuntut Gwitchin and the governing caucus really do share similar perspectives on a number of important issues,” Pasloski said on Monday.
“The addition of an experienced MLA can only benefit our government, our caucus and all Yukoners,” the premier said.
When asked to explain the move, Elias used the same explanation he gave last August nearly word for word.
“First of all political metamorphosis happens all the time in our territory, and I think that I received a very strong mandate as the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin,” he said.
“Good leaders always re-evaluate themselves and their commitment and the job that they are doing for their constituents,” Elias said.
He said he doesn’t feel a byelection was necessary because he knows his community well, and that people there vote for individuals, not parties.
“I came to the realization that I’m not the best that I can be. That’s unacceptable to me, it’s unacceptable to my constituents and I think that Yukoners rightly expect all MLAs to re-evaluate themselves. It’s not an easy thing to do. I’ve done it twice now. Was this the right decision? I don’t know. Time will tell, but nine-tenths of wisdom is the courage to be wise in time,” Elias said.
Silver said he wasn’t surprised by the move, only by the timing.
“I really believe this was inevitable. Everyone knew that as an Independent, you always want to know what your options are, where are you going. I’m surprised that they took him,” he said.
Elias will keep his seat on the legislative assembly’s select committee on hydraulic fracturing, giving the Yukon Party a majority vote on that body.
That’s unfair, said NDP Leader Liz Hanson.
“The integrity of the process of this select committee is so important. I cannot underscore that enough,” Hanson said.
“When we make this huge decision about whether or not this territory at this time is going to move forward and allow hydraulic fracturing, if the government is saying now that well, we want to stack the books, stack process by having it completely dominated by the Yukon Party, I think the public is going to have a few comments on that,” Hanson said.
Silver said the government needs to offer an alternative to keep the fracking committee non-partisan, and soon.
“Every time they defended the committee it was because it was an even split, it’s not a partisanship. It’s obvious that it’s now four to two. If it stays that way, I’m going to be very vocal,” Silver said.
“They did this clearly because the fracking committee is going to meet this afternoon. I’m sure they’re going to present some kind of option,” he said.
Contact Jesse Winter at firstname.lastname@example.org