House Speaker Patti McLeod seeks re election in Watson Lake

Watson Lake MLA Patti McLeod is hoping to serve another term with the Yukon Party after this year’s territorial election.

Watson Lake MLA Patti McLeod is hoping to serve another term with the Yukon Party after this year’s territorial election.

McLeod said she decided to seek re-election because she’s passionate about representing her community, where she’s lived for more than 35 years.

“My focus has always been to represent the needs and desires of the people of the Watson Lake riding,” she said.

Since being elected in 2011, McLeod has had a lower profile than many of the other Yukon Party MLAs, as she has never held a cabinet portfolio.

Instead, she was chair of the committee of the whole – the assembly of all MLAs that considers new bills before they’re passed.

In May 2016, McLeod was abruptly named Speaker of the Yukon Legislative Assembly after former Speaker David Laxton resigned over an allegation of sexual harassment.

McLeod said the new position was “quite unexpected,” but the transition wasn’t difficult.

“Being chair of the committee of the whole is really a training position, I guess, for being Speaker,” she said.

During her term in office, McLeod also chaired the all-party select committee on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which was created in 2013. In January 2015, the committee released 21 recommendations regarding thecontroversial technology, including that First Nation consent should be required for any fracking development.

However, the group could not agree on some basic questions, including whether the technology should be allowed in the Yukon at all.

When the government’s draft strategy for hydraulic fracturing was accidentally released to the media two months later, the opposition parties were quick to accuse the Yukon Party of having made up its mind to promotefracking even before the select committee was convened.

But McLeod rejects that idea. “At the end of the day, the committee as a whole came up with 21 different recommendations for government, which government has decided to accept,” she said. “So I guess I don’t agree withthat statement that has been made that we went in with a preconceived notion.”

Within her riding, McLeod said she’s worked hard to improve health care in Watson Lake.

“It’s quite a challenge to attract doctors to rural communities throughout the country,” she said. “And I think we’ve been quite successful.”

In April, Ernie Jamieson announced he’s seeking the Liberal nomination in Watson Lake. The NDP has yet to announce a potential candidate for the riding.

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