Brad Cathers will represent the Yukon Party in Lake Laberge in the looming territorial election.
The two-term MLA kept his party’s nomination on July 28, beating back a challenge by Teena Dickson, a local outfitter.
Cathers garnered 216 votes. Dickson got 163. Voter turnout was at a whopping 89 per cent.
This was no ordinary nomination fight. Cathers helped set off a simmering civil war within the ruling party in the autumn of 2009, when he quit the Yukon Party’s cabinet and caucus to sit as an independent to protest then-Dennis Fentie’s handling of the ATCO energy privatization scandal.
In doing so, Cathers took a big gamble. Many conservative bigwigs in his riding remained loyal to the premier, and upset with him. They tried, without success, to yank his nomination at the time.
With this summer’s replacement of Fentie with Darrell Pasloski, and the more recent return of Cathers to the Yukon Party caucus, you may have thought all this infighting would end.
Wrong. Instead, Fentie-boosters rallied behind Dickson.
She emphasized how she would be a “team player” – in contrast to Cathers, who she evidently didn’t think met that description. (Asked if this was so, she wouldn’t say – which probably says it all.)
Dickson didn’t return calls on Monday morning. But she complained to the Whitehorse Star that Pasloski had meddled with the nomination, by letting Cathers back into caucus before the vote.
She also alleged Cathers campaigned on “government time,” and cautioned “a vote for him just causes more divide.”
That all points to Cathers’ next big challenge: winning re-election for a third term.
He won the majority of votes in Laberge in 2002 and 2006. But a considerable number of conservatives in the riding weren’t fed-up with him then, as they are now.
If enough Dickson supporters remain embittered and stay home on voting day, Cathers could be in trouble. Much depends, then, on Cathers making peace with former Fentie backers.
Shirley Ford, a longtime party supporter, hasn’t decided whether she’ll supporter Cathers in the upcoming election. Others feel the same, she said.
“People in the riding will decide what they’ll decide,” she said.
The Liberals have named Mike Simon, a government electrician, as their candidate in the riding. The NDP haven’t yet picked a candidate.
Before quitting cabinet, Cathers served as government house leader and as minister responsible for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, as well as the housing, lottery and liquor corporations.
The Yukon Party’s tentative election lineup is firming up.
Currie Dixon, a policy wonk who’s worked in cabinet offices since 2006, has secured the nomination for Copperbelt North. He beat out Evangeline Ramirez, who operates a janitorial business and is a well-known face in Whitehorse’s Filipino community.
David Laxton will carry the Yukon Party flag in Porter Creek Centre. The businessman and veteran ran for the Liberals in 2006. He won the Yukon Party nomination against Russ Hobbis, owner of Bilsen Creek Tree Service.
That’s the second nomination battle Hobbis has lost. He recently sought, without luck, to represent the Yukon Party in Porter Creek South.
Hobbis lost to Mike Nixon, a landlord and former party president, who unsuccessfully sought the Whitehorse Centre seat in November’s byelection.
Contact John Thompson at email@example.com.