The Yukon government’s press secretary is stepping out from behind the scenes onto centre stage.
Dan Macdonald, 36, has announced he’s seeking the Yukon Party nomination in Riverdale South for this year’s territorial election.
He said he wants to help bring a younger, modern perspective to the Yukon Party.
“We’ve seen actually a huge amount of growth … in the territory here over the last decade – population, economic, jobs. And with that have come a lot of opportunities, but also a lot of challenges,” he said. “That’s why it’s kind of exciting to have this next generation of Yukoners stepping forward at this time.”
Macdonald has been the head of media relations with the cabinet office for the last year, and has had a front-row seat for many of the stories that have made headlines in recent months. As press secretary, he sits in on most media interviews with the premier and the cabinet ministers.
But last week, Macdonald chose not to weigh in on the issues that look to shape the coming election, including the Yukon government’s economic track record and its relationship with First Nations. He said that’s not his focus at the moment.
“Maybe I’m able to have a bit more of an in-depth dialogue on some of the issues because I have had a broader perspective on it,” he said. “But I think the priority for me is to definitely have those discussions and listen to folks … as opposed to telling them what I think.”
As press secretary, Macdonald has not always seemed favourably disposed to questions from the media. He has frequently declined interview requests on behalf of ministers, and has not always provided explanations for the refusals.
Of course, Macdonald may often just be the messenger for decisions made by the politicians. But he does appear to have acted unilaterally at times. For instance, when the News recently questioned Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias about the status of his alcohol addiction, it was Macdonald who answered for Elias and shut down the interview.
Still, Macdonald said his interview with the News shows that he’s “more than willing to engage with the media.”
“I’m more than happy to get started now and have that relationship,” he said. “I think engagement with the media is an important aspect.”
Macdonald grew up in Riverdale South and graduated from F.H. Collins Secondary School in 1998. He said friends and family have encouraged him to run for office over the years.
“It’s really an opportunity to work for people in your constituency and to give something back,” he said. “For me, it’s been a long time coming.”
Macdonald was senior adviser to Whitehorse West MLA Elaine Taylor from 2006 to 2011, and has also worked in communications for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and for Capstone Mining. He has also worked for Whitehorse-based marketing firm Outside the Cube.
Macdonald has also coached with the Yukon Soccer Association, and is a team representative and treasurer on the board of the Whitehorse men’s hockey league. He also helped organize the first two Yukon Beer Festivals.
He said he first joined the board of the Yukon Party around 2000, and has been treasurer and president of the board at different times since then.
Macdonald will continue to work for cabinet communications, though he is not dealing directly with media for the time being.
Riverdale South is currently held by NDP MLA Jan Stick. Macdonald will be competing against Wayne Cousins for the Yukon Party nomination. The Liberals have yet to announce a candidate for the riding.
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