More than half the population of this southwest Yukon riding lives in Haines Junction, a village of about 800 sitting on a powerful resource — a warm-water aquifer that could potentially heat the entire village and provide it with pristine drinking water.
It is also home to the Champagne/Aishihik First Nations.
Drive about 110 kilometres up the Alaska Highway from Haines Junction to find Destruction Bay, a tiny settlement used mostly for highway maintenance. Another 20 kilometers on you’ll hit Burwash Landing, home to the Kluane First Nation.
And further up the highway is Beaver Creek, just a few kilometres shy of the Alaska border. It’s the most western settlement in Canada and home to the White River First Nation.
For the past 10 years Kluane has voted NDP, but in the upcoming election the incumbent MLA Gary McRobb is running under the Liberal banner.
Like most of the Yukon, government is the biggest employer, followed at a distance by tourism, retail, construction and education.
The Kluane region needs a sustainable economy, said McRobb.
He says the area has been largely ignored over the past half-dozen years.
“The region is famous for developing plans that sit on the shelf,” said McRobb.
And with a sustainable economy will come more high-paying jobs that will keep young people in the area.
Unfortunately, also like most of the Yukon, the communities in the Kluane riding are facing problems with alcohol and drug use, said McRobb, who would like to see the facility at Aishihik Lake reopened and more resources put into programs like those run by Yukon Family Services.
The riding is divided on what to do with the more than 350,000 hectares of spruce beetle kill forests.
In June, the Champagne/Aishihik First Nations and the Yukon government asked forestry companies for submissions on how to harvest one million cubic metres of the area over 10 years.
Some say the harvest is a good first step in opening timber resources in the area, others say it’s too much too soon.
The riding also includes Champagne, a tiny community between Whitehorse and Haines Junction, where residents have been ordered not to drink the water after tests found high levels of uranium in its wells.
Gary McRobb, Liberal, incumbent, was elected in 2002 under the NDP banner but switched to the Liberal Party in the spring.
Lil Grubach-Hambrook, NDP, also the party’s election campaign co-ordinator and the executive director of the Yukon International Storytelling Festival, she lives in Whitehorse.
Jim Bowers, Yukon Party, retired serviceman for the Yukon Energy Corp., moved to the Junction 15 years ago.
How Kluane voted in 2002:
Gary McRobb, NDP, 442
Michael Crawshay, YP, 124
Paul Birckel, Liberal, 109
Did you know?
Haines Junction is located on an early trade route used by the coastal Tlingit and Chilkat peoples and an area used by the Northern Tutchone as a temporary staging area for trapping, hunting and fishing.
The village was established in 1942 during the construction of the Alaska Highway.