Yukon MLA Darius Elias says he has a problem with alcohol and is seeking help.
The MLA for Old Crow was charged early Friday morning with failing to provide a breathalyzer sample after police pulled him over at a check stop in Whitehorse for using a cell phone while driving. He will be in court on June 30.
At a news conference on Wednesday morning, Elias admitted to struggling with alcohol addiction and said he is seeking “professional help.” He wouldn’t specify what that means.
Reading from a prepared statement, Elias said, “First of all, to my family and friends, constituents and Yukoners, I apologize to all of you.”
Flanked by Premier Darrell Pasloski and cabinet spokeswoman Elaine Schiman, Elias said it was difficult for him to admit he has a problem, but the breathalyzer incident has opened his eyes.
“I want to send a message, to the youth especially, who have been contacting me to ask what happened. I want to say that when you make a mistake, the first step is to take responsibility for your actions,” he said minutes before walking out of the media conference without answering a single question.
Premier Pasloski said that Elias will remain part of the Yukon Party caucus while he “works through these serious personal issues.”
“He is a strong MLA for his community … this doesn’t make him immune to problems. People can and do make mistakes,” Pasloski said.
When the statements were finished, both Elias and Pasloski walked away briskly in separate directions while reporters shouted questions at their backs.
Last Thursday was the last day of the Yukon legislature’s spring sitting, but Elias missed part of that afternoon. According to reliable sources, Elias was at the Edgewater Hotel’s bar and restaurant between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. He went back to the legislature without paying his bill in time to vote on the government’s 2014 budget. After Edgewater staff let him know, he returned around 5:30 to settle up.
Elias declined to speak to this, as he has for all related matters.
The Yukon Party backbencher became interim leader of the Liberals in 2011, but left the party to sit as an Independent in August 2012 and later joined the government in July 2013.
Elias refused to address questions about his sobriety when he announced he would cross the floor. The premier similarly dodged the issue, merely saying at the time that all members of the Yukon Party caucus are expected to uphold the party’s code of ethics.
During last spring’s sitting of the legislature, Elias suggested mandating special licence plates for people convicted of drunk driving.
He urged the government to consider programs like vehicle plate impoundment, which involves visually distinct licence plates for people caught drinking and driving more than once, he said.
“Nobody wants to have a bright pink or yellow licence plate on their vehicle saying that they’ve been charged with impaired twice,” Elias said.
Contact Jesse Winter at