Doug Graham to leave territorial politics

Doug Graham, Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek North and the territory's education minister, has announced he will not be seeking re-election this year.

Doug Graham, Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek North and the territory’s education minister, has announced he will not be seeking re-election this year.

Graham says he likely won’t return to territorial politics, though he is interested in running for city council in the future.

“My wife and I have no intentions of leaving the territory. We’re going to retire and … I would like to have a lower workload so I can spend more time with her and the grandchildren,” he said. “I’m really not interested in a full-time position anywhere anymore.”

Graham’s political career spans several decades. He was first elected to the legislature in 1978, during Yukon’s first election with political parties. He represented Whitehorse Porter Creek West until 1982 for the Progressive Conservative Party, which later became the Yukon Party.

Graham later moved into municipal politics, and sat on city council from 2000 until he was re-elected to the legislature in 2011 for Porter Creek North.

Since then, he has served first as health and social services minister, and has been education minister since January 2015.

Looking back over his career, Graham said one of his greatest achievements was helping to bring French immersion programs to the territory during his first term as an MLA.

More recently, he said, he’s proud of the work he’s done to prepare for an overhaul of Yukon’s school curriculum.

He said the new curriculum will include a greater emphasis on First Nations culture and languages. Already, last fall the government rolled out a new unit on residential schools to be taught to all Grade 10 students.

Graham said he thinks the major curriculum changes will take place in the next two years.

He also referred to the Whistle Bend continuing care facility as one of his biggest accomplishments as health minister. Construction began on the controversial facility last month.

“I just think that that is something that is needed in our community,” he said. “It’s absolutely essential that we get working on it, because by the time it’s ready in two years, the current nursing homes in Whitehorse are going to be completely inundated.”

Graham made headlines last September when he showed up at a charged town-hall meeting hosted by the NDP and conceded that the location of the new facility in Whistle Bend is “not that good.” Critics of the facility have argued that the centre is too large and will be isolated in an undeveloped community far from downtown Whitehorse.

Today, Graham stands by his comments about the location.

“I said it then and I’d say it again. It wasn’t the best,” he said. “But all of the other places that we looked at had even bigger drawbacks than did Whistle Bend.”

He said people had similar concerns before the Copper Ridge facility was built, but that centre ended up at the heart of a thriving community. He believes the same will be true of Whistle Bend.

“People have a tendency to cry wolf,” he said. “Anybody that says we could have built it downtown doesn’t know what they’re talking about, quite frankly. They’re wrong.”

As education minister, Graham has also presided over negotiations between the Yukon government and the French school board over the construction of a new francophone high school.

The school board sued the government in 2009, claiming it hadn’t been protecting minority language rights. The Yukon Supreme Court sided with the school board, but the decision was later overturned. The two parties are now working together to avoid going back to court.

Last month, the government announced that the new school could be built on the site of the old F.H. Collins Secondary School. For the previous year, the proposed site had been the Second Haven Skatepark in Riverdale.

But Graham said traffic would likely be worse if the school were built at the skate park site, because buses would be turning immediately after crossing the bridge into Riverdale.

“You couldn’t do it unless you added at least a third lane to the bridge, and that would mean you’d have to then double-track the boulevard into Riverdale,” he said. “And that was an expense that we just couldn’t see.”

Graham said what he regrets most from his time in office are the court cases the government is involved in, including the lawsuit from the French school board and the Peel watershed dispute. But he claims that neither of those cases would have ended up in court if the current government had been in power before the issues came to a head.

“Especially on the Peel, we would have made our intentions known sooner,” he said. “And that seems to be the big sticking point.”

Still, Graham said he believes Yukoners will rally to the Yukon Party in this year’s election. He said the Yukon Party has shown that it’s capable of managing the economy.

“I’m predicting that they will be the government again, but then, you know, I’m saying that from a bit of a prejudiced point of view,” he said.

Graham said he will support whomever becomes the Yukon Party candidate in Porter Creek North. On Thursday, Geraldine Van Bibber announced that she plans to seek the nomination. Francis van Kessel is seeking the nomination for the NDP, while the Liberals have yet to announce a potential candidate for the riding.

Graham said he plans to do more running and to play hockey as he moves out of territorial politics. He and his wife are also looking for a place downtown.

“It’s been a wonderful experience these last five years and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”

Contact Maura Forrest at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An avalanche warning sigh along the South Klondike Highway. Local avalanche safety instructors say interest in courses has risen during the pandemic as more Yukoners explore socially distanced outdoor activities. (Tom Patrick/Yukon News file)
Backcountry busy: COVID-19 has Yukoners heading for the hills

Stable conditions for avalanches have provided a grace period for backcountry newcomers

Several people enter the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Coast High Country Inn Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Jan. 26. The Yukon government announced on Jan. 25 that residents of Whitehorse, Ibex Valley, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne areas 65 and older can now receive their vaccines. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Vaccine appointments available in Whitehorse for residents 65+

Yukoners 65 and older living in Whitehorse are now eligible to receive… Continue reading

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read