Sandy Silver will be Yukon’s next premier.
The Liberal leader easily won his own seat in Klondike, and watched as Liberals elsewhere in the territory knocked off incumbent MLAs left and right.
The Liberals won eleven seats, sweeping the Yukon Party from power and reducing the NDP, who made up the official Opposition going into the campaign, to just two seats.
“Yukoners have been heard and the Yukon Liberals are ready to lead the positive political change in our territory,” Silver told an ecstatic group of supporters in Dawson City. “I’m extremely proud of the diverse, experienced team who have come together to run for the Yukon Liberals in this election.”
Silver won Klondike with nearly 60 per cent of the vote, easily dispatching challengers Brad Whitelaw of the Yukon Party and Jay Farr of the NDP.
Liberal candidates scored some major upsets Monday night. Jeanie Dendys defeated Premier Darrell Pasloski in Mountainview, finishing six votes ahead of New Democrat Shaunagh Stikeman. Richard Mostyn edged out longtime Yukon Party cabinet minister Elaine Taylor in Whitehorse West, and Tracy McPhee upended popular NDP incumbent Jan Stick in Riverdale South.
“We’re pumped,” said Nils Clarke, who won Riverdale North for the Liberals. “We’re excited.”
Mostyn, a former editor of the News, said his win in Whitehorse West was the result of months of work. “I’ve been working for literally 40 weeks and four days,” he said.
The result ends 14 years of unbroken Yukon Party rule. Speaking to supporters in Whitehorse, an emotional Pasloski announced he would step down as leader of the Yukon Party. “The Yukon Party is made up of remarkable individuals, and I look forward to the next wave of leaders who will come forward to lead our party,” he said.
“For tonight, let’s celebrate the wins that we got and let’s comfort those who weren’t successful and let’s look forward to mounting the strongest, most principled Opposition this territory has ever seen.”
Currie Dixon, the Yukon Party’s campaign chair, said his party was doomed when the NDP’s vote “collapsed.”
“In some of those ridings where we predicted the NDP would hold some ground they did not, in a big way, and it cost us the election,” he said.
The Yukon Party will now have to navigate the waters of Opposition for the first time since 2002 without Pasloski, Taylor, Darius Elias in Vuntut Gwitchin, or Minister Mike Nixon, who lost in Porter Creek South. They did elect one new MLA, Geraldine Van Bibber, who easily won Porter Creek North.
Van Bibber said she’s up for the challenge. “I love gaining new experiences. So as I get older you’re still able to learn,” she said. “I don’t think we could have done anything differently. We worked very hard, we had our platform which I thought was very solid, but I think it’s just the wish of the people.”
It was also a tough night for the New Democrats, who lost two-thirds of their caucus as the anti-Yukon Party vote coalesced around the Liberals. Stick, Jim Tredger in Mayo-Tatchun, Kevin Barr in Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes and Lois Moorcroft in Copperbelt South all went down to defeat.
That leaves Takhini-Kopper King MLA Kate White and party leader Liz Hanson, who survived a strong challenge from Liberal Tamara Goeppel in Whitehorse Centre, as the NDP’s only MLAs.
Speaking to supporters at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, Hanson made no mention of her political future. But she said the NDP ran a strong campaign centred on climate change, health care, education and reconciliation with Yukon First Nations.
“Although the result may not be what we hoped for — and we know it’s not what we hoped for — we have accomplished so much,” she said. “I am so proud of the campaign we ran.”
White said the NDP got squeezed by an electorate that wanted to oust the Yukon Party. “The NDP, we’re known as the underdog,” she said. “It’s never stopped us before, it won’t stop us now. Rebuilding starts on Wednesday.”
For the Liberals, who had in Silver a single MLA when the legislative assembly dissolved, it is a stunning political turnaround. They will form the first Liberal government since Pat Duncan’s fractious and short-lived administration in 2000.
Silver immediately reiterated his pledge to meet with all Yukon chiefs within 30 days of taking office. Kwanlin Dun First Nation Chief Doris Bill said she’s glad to see the election of a government that has promised to work with First Nations.
With reports from Ashley Joannou, Maura Forrest and Pierre Chauvin