Elias to lead Liberals

Darius Elias is the new interim leader of the Yukon Liberal Party. But the 39-year-old MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin isn't interested in the job becoming permanent. "I don't have the mandate from my constituents to do so," he said.

Darius Elias is the new interim leader of the Yukon Liberal Party.

But the 39-year-old MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin isn’t interested in the job becoming permanent.

“I don’t have the mandate from my constituents to do so,” he said.

“I had a very frank discussion with someone who said, ‘Be a leader for a while. But we need you to help raise the standard of living in Old Crow and provide the programs and services that are lacking.’

“I have no mandate to put my time and energy into rebuilding a political party in the territory. I understand that wholeheartedly.”

Elias replaces Arthur Mitchell, who resigned as leader following the Liberals’ dismal electoral showing.

What was once the official Opposition, manned by five MLAs, is now relegated to third-party status, with just two MLAs standing.

Elias is beginning his second term in office. That makes him the Liberals’ most seasoned elected politician. Elias’ elected colleague, Klondike MLA Sandy Silver, is a high-school math teacher who is new to politics.

It remains unclear when the Liberals will hold a leadership convention.

But, if they decide to pick someone new, he or she may spend a long time watching legislative proceedings from the visitors’ gallery.

The Yukon Party is just beginning another five-year term.

The Liberals are still reeling from their defeat. Fewer MLAs means a smaller budget, so some support staff will have to be let go.

And Elias will face his own challenges now that he’s leader.

It can be a fowl… er, a foul job.

“Being in the official Opposition is the hardest job in legislature,” he said. “It’s like being mauled to death by a duck, really.

“Just imagine a duck following me around. And it’s pecking at me. It’s a bothersome little animal, but before you know, it’s pecking out your liver.”

Elias promised to bring a “balanced” approach to the legislature.

“Women in this territory need to compromise their dignity just to find a place to sleep. That matters to me. And it matters to me if a business wants to continue to prosper from the rise of mineral prices.”

He worries that economic turmoil in the United States and Europe may drive up the cost of lumber, fuel and food. All of this is pricey enough in Old Crow already.

And Elias will continue to take the federal Conservative government to task for its reform of the Foodmail program. The changes remain deeply unpopular in his home community, he said.

But all’s not glum. Old Crow recently had a new water well drilled, which is “just great to see,” said Elias.

And he’s happy to be working with Silver.

“I consider myself a pretty good judge of character, and this guy is going to be a great ambassador for the Klondike. He’s got this fearlessness about him that demands respect. I think we’ll be a great dynamic duo in the legislative assembly.”

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