Doug Graham is back in the game.
After announcing in June he wouldn’t seek re-election in Porter Creek North in this fall’s territorial election, the Yukon Party MLA now says he wants to run against NDP Leader Liz Hanson in Whitehorse Centre.
Graham, who currently serves as education minister, said recent work negotiating education agreements with First Nations has made him rethink plans to retire from territorial politics. He’s also been involved with plans to overhaul the territory’s entire education curriculum.
“I haven’t been excited about new projects in a long time, and this is one and I’m really excited about it,” he said when the News reached him at the golf course on Thursday. “So I thought I’d love to see it through.”
He also said the party asked if he’d be willing to run in Whitehorse Centre when it seemed that nobody else was “leaping at the chance to run downtown.” Hanson won the riding handily for the NDP in 2011, with 63 per cent of the vote.
“I’m up for a challenge,” he said.
Graham claims that he genuinely had no plans to run again when he announced his departure in June. Back then, he said he wasn’t interested “in a full-time position anywhere anymore.”
On Thursday, he said that’s still true. “I’d love to see this education (negotiation) through, but I don’t want to work full-time. Like, I just don’t want to,” he said.
He said he’s discussed “several options” with Premier Darrell Pasloski that would allow him to work in education and continue negotiating agreements with First Nations without working full-time “for any length of time,” but he wouldn’t give any details.
He also said he’d be interested in continuing as education minister if the Yukon Party were re-elected, but with a caveat.
“I guarantee that I would not be a cabinet minister for five years,” he said.
Despite these conditions, Graham insists he is in this to win it. “I would never enter something without making the effort to win,” he said. “Honest to God.”
At first, he claimed he’s running in Whitehorse Centre simply because it was the only riding where the Yukon Party didn’t already have a prospective candidate. But he eventually acknowledged that giving Hanson a run for her money “had something to do with it.” Until he made his announcement, Hanson’s only rival was Liberal candidate Tamara Goeppel.
Graham said he used to joke about running against Hanson before he decided not to seek re-election in Porter Creek North.
“I’m going to give it a real good try, that’s for sure. You know, Tamara’s down there and she’s no slouch, either,” he said. “It’ll be fun.”
The news seems to have come as a surprise to Hanson, who tweeted yesterday that Graham told her last week “how much he was looking forward to ‘retirement.’”
Back in June, Graham said he was interested in returning to city council, where he sat from 2000 to 2011.
This week, he didn’t rule out that possibility.
“It depends what happens in this election,” he said. “Never say never, I guess.”
Then he had to get back to his round of golf.
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