Yukon Party appears to distance itself from federal Conservatives

As the federal election approaches, the Yukon Party has sent an email to its members inviting them to volunteer for Conservative candidate Ryan Leef's campaign. But the message includes a bit of a disclaimer.

As the federal election approaches, the Yukon Party has sent an email to its members inviting them to volunteer for Conservative candidate Ryan Leef’s campaign.

But the message includes a bit of a disclaimer.

“Part of the Yukon Party’s identity is that we are not affiliated with any federal party and we realize that our party has individuals who support a variety of candidates at the federal level,” reads the email from Yukon Party treasurer Linda Hillier, dated Aug. 12.

That message rings false to Jason Cunning, the federal Liberal Party’s Yukon chair, who said there are very tight ties between the federal Conservatives and the Yukon Party.

“Does anyone believe that they’re not the same party?” he asked. “It’s a bit rich for them to say they’re not affiliated with any federal party.”

The Yukon Party was originally branded the Yukon Progressive Conservative Party, but severed ties with the federal Conservatives before the 1992 election.

Cunning believes the Yukon Party distanced itself from the Conservatives under Dennis Fentie, but the two parties have forged tighter ties since Premier Darrell Pasloski was elected in 2011.

In fact, Pasloski previously ran as the Conservative candidate in the 2008 federal election. And Yukon Senator Dan Lang, appointed by Stephen Harper in 2009, was previously a Yukon Party politician.

“It’s the same people that are involved in both parties,” Cunning said. “I don’t think they’re fooling anybody.”

Darren Parsons, Ryan Leef’s campaign manager, agreed there is a lot of crossover between the parties. But he said it’s important to emphasize that there is no “formal affiliation or association.”

“There’s no direct communication or instruction in terms of policy resolutions and directions,” he said. “They’re the only party territorially that can say that.”

Jim Kenyon, an ex-Yukon Party MLA, said similar messages have been sent out prior to previous federal elections, emphasizing the distinction between the territorial and federal parties.

Kenyon also said not all Yukon Party members likely vote Conservative federally, though he couldn’t point to any member in particular.

“There is a preponderance of Conservatives,” he said. “But they’re not all that.”

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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