Elias meets with Old Crow after party switch

Darius Elias continues to feel supported by his constituents after his recent move to the Yukon Party, he said. The MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin held a public meeting in Old Crow on Monday evening.

Darius Elias continues to feel supported by his constituents after his recent move to the Yukon Party, he said.

The MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin held a public meeting in Old Crow on Monday evening.

Formerly the interim leader of the Liberal party, he defected to stand as an independent last year before joining the reigning Yukon party two weeks ago.

“Obviously it’s not going to be 100 per cent, but I feel that I have the support from the majority of my constituents in Old Crow,” said Elias during a telephone interview Tuesday.

About 30 people attended Monday’s meeting, estimated NDP Leader Liz Hanson, who was also in attendance.

The community of Old Crow is on the front line of many of the Yukon’s most heated debates, from the fate of the Peel watershed to whether fracking will some day be permitted in the territory.

Some Old Crow residents are concerned that Elias’ switch to the Yukon Party weakens his stance on environmental protection.

“Some of my constituents just simply do not see eye-to-eye with the Yukon Party’s policies in certain areas,” said Elias. “I respected that.”

The Yukon Party has angered many by insisting that it will not accept the final recommended plan for the Peel watershed, which calls for 80 per cent of the area to be protected from roads and industrial development.

As recently as October of last year, Elias told the Yukon News that the Yukon Party was headed down a “dangerous path” on the Peel that would end up being fought out in court.

He said he supported the final recommended plan and the process that led to it.

Now, he says consultations between the Yukon government and First Nations, still ongoing, will lead to the correct outcomes.

“All the governments are following the process, under the (Umbrella Final Agreement).”

“I’m not going to be the decision-maker on this. It’s going to be the governments.

“I’ll be at the decision-making table, I’m going to express my opinion, like I always have. I expect everybody to be satisfied here.

“I expect a large protected area, especially within the main arteries of the Peel. I told that to my constituents in front of the leader of the Official Opposition. I wasn’t afraid to do that.”

Elias sits on the select committee on hydraulic fracturing, charged with assessing the potential risks and benefits of fracking in the Yukon.

He told his constituents that he has yet to come to a conclusion on whether fracking is a good idea.

“I am glad that I have not expressed an opinion for or against hydraulic fracture stimulation in this territory. I’m not going to pre-empt any public consultation.”

Elias asked his constituents to trust him to prove the move to the Yukon Party was the right one.

“I told them, ‘Give me some time. I’ve only been here for two weeks.’ It’s an exciting time for me. I’m in the government caucus, at the decision-making table.”

He has not been offered a cabinet position as part of the switch, he said.

“In my discussions with the party, I didn’t ask for anything, and they didn’t offer anything.”

Regardless of party affiliation, his primary obligation is to serve his riding, he said.

“I told my constituents, I’m not a socialist, I’m not a liberal, I’m not a conservative or a capitalist or an environmentalist. I’m Vuntut Gwitchin. And that’s what the Yukon Party is inheriting, and they know it.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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