De Jong takes over Green Party leadership as candidates step forward

Frank de Jong has taken over as the Yukon Green Party’s interim leader, following former leader Kristina Calhoun’s decision to step down for personal reasons in August.

Frank de Jong has taken over as the Yukon Green Party’s interim leader, following former leader Kristina Calhoun’s decision to step down for personal reasons in August.

Party members will elect their new leader at an annual general meeting in 2017.

De Jong was the federal Green Party’s Yukon candidate during the 2015 election, and now plans to run territorially in Pelly-Nisutlin, which includes the communities of Teslin, Faro and Ross River.

The Green Party has five candidates running in this year’s territorial election so far, up from just two in 2011, the first election held since the party was created in 2010.

Calhoun still plans to run in Riverdale North, while Mike Ivens will run for a second time in Porter Creek North.

De Jong said Philippe LeBlond will also run in Copperbelt South and Julie Anne Ames is running in Lake Laberge.

According to de Jong, he and Ivens both sought the interim leadership of the party, but he believes he won five of the six votes cast at a meeting on Aug. 25.

He said he won’t decide whether to seek the full leadership until after the election.

Despite the increase in candidates, the total number of Green Party members is down to just a few dozen from about 250 in 2011. De Jong said he hopes for an uptick in the number of members as the territorial election nears, but agreed with previous comments made by Calhoun suggesting the party has suffered a blow from a number of former supporters who plan to vote strategically this time to try and unseat the Yukon Party.

“That’s why we need a functional electoral system that gets rid of strategic voting,” he said. He suggested that if the federal Liberal government follows through on its campaign promise to dispense with the current first-past-the-post voting system, the provinces and territories might “fall like dominoes” and do the same.

De Jong said the Yukon Green Party has also suffered from former federal Green candidate John Streicker’s decision to run for the Yukon Liberals.

Aside from electoral reform, de Jong said, carbon pricing will be a major focus of his campaign.

“We have to start planning now to address and reduce our carbon emissions as dramatically as possible to avert possible catastrophe,” he said.

He advocates a $10-per-tonne carbon tax that would increase by $10 per tonne each year, as British Columbia’s did until it was frozen at $30 per tonne. But he said the revenue from the tax should be distributed to Yukoners in the form of monthly cheques to offset an overall increase in the cost of living.

De Jong also said the Yukon government should end funding for Catholic education in the territory, which he called “homophobic and sexist.” The Green Party has been calling for an end to the funding of Catholic schools since May.

On the natural resource front, de Jong believes the massive Casino mine should have to dry-stack and cover all of its tailings, instead of building a tailings pond that could spill contaminated water if the dam were breached. The project is currently in the environmental assessment process, and the company’s president has said that some form of tailings pond will be required.

“If the mine is that viable, let’s make sure it’s safe for our water systems,” de Jong said.

He also believes the government should create a publicly run minibus service between Whitehorse and Faro, Ross River and Watson Lake, to reduce the number of “white-knuckle drives down the Campbell Highway” in the winter.

He would also like to see trails and backcountry facilities developed along the South Canol Road to attract more tourists in the summer. The seasonal road connects Ross River to the Alaska Highway at Johnsons Crossing.

De Jong has lived in the Yukon for about two years, and is a teacher in Faro. He was the leader of the Ontario Green Party from 1993 until 2008. In the 2015 federal election, he won 577 votes, about three per cent of the total.

Pelly-Nisutlin is currently held by the Yukon Party’s Stacey Hassard, who is seeking re-election. Ken Hodgins is seeking the NDP nomination, while Blair Hogan wants to run for the Liberals. Elvis Presley is also running as an Independent.

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

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