Liberals looking for new leadership

The Yukon Liberal Party is looking for a new leader. Arthur Mitchell stepped down last night, after serving more than six years in the legislature. As he walked into a room of roughly 25 Liberal party faithful at the Yukon Inn...

The Yukon Liberal Party is looking for a new leader.

Arthur Mitchell stepped down last night, after serving more than six years in the legislature.

As he walked into a room of roughly 25 Liberal party faithful at the Yukon Inn, Mitchell was met with a standing ovation.

“The territory voted, and it may not have ended the way we’d hoped,” said Mitchell, who lost his Copperbelt North riding to the Yukon Party’s Currie Dixon.

“But Yukoners have charted the course of the next five years and we have to respect their decision.”

The Liberals won only two seats in yesterday’s election: Sandy Silver is the new Liberal MLA for Klondike and Darius Elias was re-elected in Old Crow.

Mitchell took the blame for the poor Liberal showing.

“We had an amazing team, and it’s not any fault of theirs,” he said.

“It was up to the leader to get us there, and I didn’t quite do it.

“It’s only right to tender my resignation as leader.

“It’s been the greatest honour of my life to be your leader for the last six years,” he said, unsuccessfully holding back tears.

 

                               
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The Liberals had an excellent team, said former Yukon senator and commissioner Ione Christensen.

“The calibre of their candidates was the best.

“It’s too bad they didn’t win, the Yukon would have been better as a result.”

The Liberals ran a good campaign, added former Yukon MP Larry Bagnell.

“And they had good policy ideas.”

It’s difficult to defeat a government when the economy is strong, said Mitchell.

“But we also have to look after those people who are not benefiting from a strong economy,” he said.

“And we have to look after our environment.”

That’s why the Liberals promised to protect the Peel.

“It was a divisive issue for some,” said Mitchell.

“But we don’t regret it.

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“Mining is important and we want to see it flourish – but some places need to be protected.”

Mitchell called on re-elected NDP Leader Liz Hanson and her team, as well as Elias and Silver to “advocate on behalf of the Peel.”

It’s up to “Sandy and Darius to do their best to keep the flame alive,” he said.

Mitchell also congratulated Premier Darrell Pasloski.

“While we have some philosophical differences, everybody comes to this career because they believe in the Yukon and that’s what’s important,” he said.

Mayo-Tatchun Liberal incumbent Eric Fairclough lost his seat to the NDP’s Jim Tredger, while Porter Creek South Liberal incumbent Don Inverarity lost his seat to the Yukon Party’s Mike Nixon by only 14 votes.

“It was a cliffhanger,” said Inverarity.

Porter Creek Centre Liberal incumbent Kerry Huff also lost to the Yukon Party’s Dave Laxton.

“People were happy with the economy and afraid of change,” said Huff.

“The issues were polarized, and there was no room in the middle for us.”

Yukon politics have taken a radical turn, said Whitehorse West Liberal candidate Cully Robinson, who lost to the Yukon Party’s Elaine Taylor.

“A clear choice was offered to voters and they chose in decisive numbers,” he said.

“The only people who get what they deserve in an election are the voters.

“We now have a very radical government, and a very radical opposition – they probably need each other.”

As the election results rolled in, more than one losing candidate opted to head home and crack open some scotch.

“I’ve had a bottle of scotch sitting on my shelf for the last five months,” said Mountainview Liberal candidate David Sloan, who lost to Pasloski.

But it wasn’t only Liberals who were cracking into the hard stuff.

Riverdale South Yukon Party candidate Glenn Hart, who dropped by the Liberal gathering to pay his respects, also planned to pour a tumbler.

“Then I’ll sit and figure out what to do next,” said the former Health Minister, who lost to the NDP’s Jan Stick.

It’s was a pleasure to serve in the assembly, said Mitchell, as the night wound down.

“And no one serves forever.

“We’ve been down before, and risen back up – and we’ll do so again,” he said.

The Mitchells have a saying: “We’re not very lucky, but we’ve sure been fortunate,” he said.

“We don’t win the lottery, and sometimes we don’t win elections.

“But I’ve won the biggest prize I could ever have – my wife.

“At times like this I know what’s really important, and what’s important to me is that I have the love of the woman I’ve loved all my life and the woman I intend to love for the rest of my life.

“And because of that, I can do anything.”

Mitchell’s not sure what he’ll do next.

But on Wednesday he already had his work cut out for him.

Mitchell was heading to the Old Fire Hall to volunteer at Whitehorse Connects, a day when service providers offer the homeless and those living in poverty everything from haircuts and massages to counselling services, immunizations, internet access, live music, and hot food.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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