Klondike MLA downplays leader’s Peel ponderings

No decision has yet been made to soften the Liberal stance on the Peel Watershed, says Klondike MLA Sandy Silver. "It's the first I'd heard we're going to change our Peel position," said Silver.

No decision has yet been made to soften the Liberal stance on the Peel Watershed, says Klondike MLA Sandy Silver.

“It’s the first I’d heard we’re going to change our Peel position,” said Silver. “We have so many people to talk to first.”

Silver was responding to comments made earlier this week by Darius Elias, the Liberals’ interim leader and MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin.

“There’s a lot of ways you can protect an ecological region without locking it up and throwing away the key,” Elias told the News in an interview earlier this week.

“I don’t want to handcuff Yukoners 50 years from now.”

Elias said he wants the party executive to review its support for protecting four-fifths of the vast swath of northeast Yukon.

That would be a dramatic change from the party’s staunch support of Peel protection during the fall territorial election. And this potential flip-flop doesn’t sit well with Yukoners who want the watershed protected and voted Liberal.

“It hit like a ton of bricks, that story. My phone’s been ringing off the hook,” said Silver.

But the proposed policy change isn’t a foregone conclusion, said Silver.

“We’re in third place right now. Of course we’re going to relook at all of our policies.

“We may take a look, we may do all this research … and we may come to the conclusion that we like our current stance on the Peel. That could be reality.”

Silver supports Elias’ broader plans to tilt the Liberal party to the right to win back voters.

“I don’t think I would have been elected in Dawson if I hadn’t at least been a blue Grit. I’ve always been right of centre. People voted for me because of that,” said Silver.

“What we’re trying to do is re-establish the fact that we’re a centre party. We need to make sure Yukoners have three distinct choices in the elections. The Liberals were all over the map, in a way.

“One of the criticisms I heard during the last election was that you couldn’t differentiate between our stance and the NDP’s stance. That’s something we need to think about.”

The newly-elected Silver could become the next interim leader within a year, Elias said in this week’s interview.

When Elias took the job, he made it clear he didn’t want rebuilding the party to trump his own efforts to look out for the unique needs of his Old Crow constituents.

Chiefs of the Yukon’s three northern First Nations are to meet with Premier Darrell Pasloski to discuss the Peel by mid-month. They’ll talk about when to hold a final round of public meetings about the draft plan to protect the Peel.

At some point, Pasloski is also expected to spell out what sort of protection he proposes. So far, the government has taken pains to avoid specifics.

“With this new government, we have no idea which way they’re going to turn,” said Simon Mervyn, chief of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun. “We haven’t got a clue.”

Mervyn continues to hold the gloomy view that, in the end, the Peel talks will end with First Nations suing the territorial government. “Unfortunately,” he said.

The NDP stands by its support of the Peel plan, said Jim Tredger, the party’s mining critic.

“We made a commitment to the people of the Yukon, and we’ll stand by that,” he said.

As for Elias’ comments, he was “somewhat disillusioned that they’d change their minds so quickly.” Arthur Mitchell, the former leader of the Liberals, wouldn’t criticize Elias’ calls for a new Peel policy. But it’s clear he doesn’t agree.

“I always thought the stand we took on the Peel had to do with long-term values, and those were the values I espoused,” he said. “It’s now time for those people in the political arena to make their case for their decisions, and I respect that.”

Mitchell watched the Liberal vote collapse on election night and lost his own seat. Like others in the party, he faults the implosion of the federal Liberals and the hot Yukon economy for the party’s humbled state.

“A whole series of events can conspire in how elections turn out. Obviously I’m not happy with how this one worked out. I’m tremendously disappointed to lose my own seat, no doubt about it. But I went through all the stages of grieving about that, and I moved on.”

After the election, Mitchell hopped into his Jeep and spent the next two weeks driving to Baja, California, where he has a condo. He then spent a month “just decompressing.”

“I did a lot of reading, walked several miles a day at low tide on the beach, swam in the ocean, and said, ‘There’s life beyond politics.’”

The former realtor, land developer and storeowner is now hanging out his shingle as a business consultant. He also intends to become a director for Habitat for Humanity and is active with his Rotary club.

“If the right job comes along, I’ll apply for it,” said Mitchell. “But the wolf’s not at the door yet.”

Contact John Thompson at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read