The Yukon Liberal Party is not dying, insists its new interim leader, Sandy Silver.
With the announcement late last week that former interim leader and six-year member Darius Elias left the party to sit as an independent, Silver now stands as the only Liberal in the territory’s legislature.
“All parties hit highs and lows,” Silver noted. “The Yukon Party only had one seat in 2000. Right now, as far as I’m concerned, the people that are in this party and that are forming the core of this party are unstoppable.”
While Silver insists that the people behind the scenes are strong – and growing – he is now the only public face and voice for the party that considers itself the middle ground.
“Call the party whatever you want to call it – I’m a centrist,” he said. “And I think it’s my job to create that party with a centrist, moderate point of view, where folks of all walks of life are welcome to work together on common goals,” he said.
And that’s what “most Yukoners” want, he said.
“I think that it’s the vast majority, really, but we’re doing a poor job of representing this majority,” he said.
The problem is not just the way votes translate into government in the territory, said Silver, adding that one in four, or 25 per cent of Yukon voters, voted for the Liberals in the last election, despite the party’s miniscule representation in the legislature.
But the territory has also been plagued with polarization, said Silver.
“I hate the polarization that you either have to be pro-mining or you’re pro-environment. It’s just not true,” he said. “Right now, there’s not a lot of compromise and co-operation going on. It seems that we have political parties that represent their own and that’s it. It’s in my opinion that we have two parties right now that are to the extreme on both sides.”
Silver doesn’t shy away from pointing out his own party’s faults as well.
Mainly, in the last election, the Liberals’ policies could have easily been confused with either NDP or Yukon Party policies, he said.
“How about next time around, we offer up three distinct options for Yukoners,” he said. “And the Liberals must live and breathe as moderates.”
As the green politician takes on the leadership role – only in an interim capacity for now – he will juggle the needs of his Klondike constituents with the rebuilding of a party that truly is in the middle, he said.
That will begin with a policy-wide review this fall. Every single stance on every single issue will be looked at and fixed to make sure it really is in the middle, he said.
And while Silver wouldn’t speculate on any outcomes of that holistic review, to be completed by all party members, he did say that for right now, the Liberals would still accept the recommend plan for the Peel watershed land-use plan.
“I’ve always maintained that if you set up a system, where you set up a commission and task them with the responsibility … you owe it to them to accept what they give you,” he said.
But the real discussion shouldn’t stay on the Peel, it should expand to land-use planning overall. Dawson, for example, has started up its land-use planning commission and will only be the third of eight regions designated for the plans that were promised in the Yukon First Nations’ land claim agreements. Only one, in northern Yukon, has been signed.
“We’re doing a horrible job of it,” said Silver. “The money’s been spent and nothing’s been done.”
Silver also wants the territory to start planning for the future more broadly, noting startling population predictions and the growing infrastructure and housing needs that come with them.
Now at the helm, Silver also promises that Yukoners will hear more from the party than they have been recently.
“Everything is firing on all pistons now,” he said. “It’s really hard to do a lot of stuff when there’s only a few of you. But it’s time to revamp and it’s time to have a different thinking. We’re all going on this concept of decentralization – give everyone enough rope and allow them to do their own jobs and have confidence in them, and we’re at the place where we want to be, now.”
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at