Liberals to soften stance on Peel

The Yukon Liberals are revisiting their push to protect four-fifths of the Peel Watershed, says interim leader Darius Elias.

The Yukon Liberals are revisiting their push to protect four-fifths of the Peel Watershed, says interim leader Darius Elias.

“There’s a lot of ways you can protect an ecological region without locking it up and throwing away the key,” said Elias. “I don’t want to handcuff Yukoners 50 years from now.”

It’s a dramatic about-turn since the autumn territorial election when the Liberals campaigned heavily in favour of protecting the vast swath of wilderness in northeast Yukon.

But the Liberals are in a far different position now after they were clobbered at the polls and left with just two seats and Elias as interim leader.

It’s not a job he intends to permanently hold. The 39-year-old MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin said he’s worried that rebuilding the Liberal party would take away from his efforts to lobby for his home community of Old Crow.

Sandy Silver, the Liberal’s greenhorn MLA for the Klondike, may end up becoming interim leader over the next year, said Elias.

“Don’t be surprised if the leadership reins are passed to Mr. Silver,” said Elias. “He said – and this shows the calibre of man we’re dealing with -‘no problem.’”

It would be a speedy promotion for Silver, who was elected for the first time in October. But Elias would continue to help, he said.

“I’ll be right there beside him. It’s a team effort.”

Before Elias hands off the leadership, he intends to tilt his party to the right in an effort to woo back former members who now support the Yukon Party.

Scott Kent and David Laxton are two former Liberals who now sit as Yukon Party MLAs. Both pointed to the Liberals’ position on the Peel as their main reason for departing.

The Liberals haven’t yet overhauled their Peel policy, but Elias intends to discuss the matter with the Liberals’ newly-elected executive soon.

Elias remains opposed to “commodification of the main arteries of the watershed,” he said.

Rethinking the Peel will be part of a broader effort “to be standing that moral, right-of-centre ground,” said Elias.

“I’m going to keep that canoe on the right side of the river, and keep that canoe steady.”

Elias has also tried to moderate his tone as a politician. Before the last election, he’d often offer angry condemnations of the government.

Now Elias has gone as far as to say he trusts Premier Darrell Pasloski – not something you hear often from an opposition politician.

Elias made the remark in support of Pasloski’s efforts to negotiate a better health transfer agreement with the federal government. “I said, ‘I trust his judgment on this issue, as it stands right now,’” said Elias.

“When I see a leader doing something I support, I’ll say it, because it’s in the interest of all Yukoners. I’m not just here to point fingers and criticize.”

He also said he won’t engage in “gotcha” politics. “I’m not here to pick on any of the MLAs,” he said.

Nor does Elias sugarcoat the state of his party. “We understand we got our asses kicked. We understand it’s an uphill battle.”

His goal is to make the Yukon Liberal Party “fun and sexy again.”

Elias failed to show up at the party’s annual meeting on Saturday. Nobody in attendance seemed to know where he was.

Since the Yukon News reported this on Monday, he’s been inundated with angry phone calls, he said.

Some Yukoners assumed he had been out partying. Others wondered if he planned to join the Yukon Party.

Wrong on both counts, said Elias.

Instead, he had to deal with an “urgent family matter.” Some members in attendance knew this, he said, but to avoid any confusion he’s taking “complete responsibility” for his failure to show up.

Liberals overwhelmingly voted at the meeting to put off a leadership convention until after 2012, with members now leaning towards having a leadership race in mid-2014.

A new executive was acclaimed. Cully Robinson is president, Kyla MacArthur is vice-president, Krysta Meekins is secretary, and Brad Weston is treasurer. The new directors are Brandon Kassbaum, David Black, Viki Paulins, Angie Charlebois and May Blysak.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Kimberly Armstrong, creator of Glimmer of Hope, poses for a photo with examples of toys for packages she is putting together. The care packages are for children who have suffered abuse, trauma, illness or sudden loss. (Kimberly Armstrong/Submitted)
Kids experiencing trauma will receive gifts from new charity

A Whitehorse woman is compiling care packages for children who have suffered… Continue reading

Sport Yukon held its 45th annual Member Awards on Dec. 3, recognizing the achievements of nearly 80 athletes, coaches, volunteers and administrators from 16 different organizations. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Sport Yukon hands out the hardware, virtually

Awards ceremony recognizes athletes, coaches, volunteers and administrators

Commissioner of Yukon Anglique Bernard, in her role as Chancellor of the Order of Yukon, announced the 2020 Order of the Yukon inductees in a statement Dec. 2. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Order of Yukon inductees announced

Ten Yukoners will receive territory’s highest honour

The primary goal of the new relief package for tourism operators is to support the tourism sector, whether they’re private industry or not-for-profit organizations, said Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Relief program offers funds for businesses that rely on tourists for more than half their revenue

Two new streams of funding, in addition to the accommodation relief program, were announced

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: Climate emergency, lite edition

Back in September 2019, Whitehorse City Council declared a climate emergency, to… Continue reading

A sign outside the Yukon Inn Convention Centre indicates Yukoners can get a flu vaccine inside. As of Dec. 4, the vaccinations won’t be available at the convention centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse Convention Centre ends flu vaccination service early

Flu vaccinations won’t be available at the Whitehorse Convention Centre after Dec.… Continue reading

In 1909, Joseph Kavetzki took over Brown’s Harness Shop, depicted here, reconstructed, 90 years later. Third Avenue in Dawson, south of Princess Street, was the heart of the blue collar industrial section of gold rush Dawson. (Michael Gates/Yukon News)
History Hunter: The Yukon is rich in hidden history

I had worked for a few months in my new position as… Continue reading

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Kindness, shingles and speed limits

Letters to the editor published Dec. 4, 2020

ASDF
COMMENTARY: Land use planning must include industry

Carl Schulze Special to the News This commentary is a response to… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White River First Nation to run for councillors in the 2021 election. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News File)
White River First Nation to elect new chief and council

Nominations continue to be open for Northern Tutchone members of the White… Continue reading

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new councillor in a byelection held Dec. 3. (Wikimedia Commons)
Watson Lake elects new councillor

The Town of Watson Lake has elected John Devries as a new… Continue reading

The new Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation council elected Dec. 1. (Submitted)
Little Salmon Carmacks elects new chief, council

Nicole Tom elected chief of Little Salmon Carcmacks First Nation

Most Read