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Minister Ranj Pillai announces candidacy for Yukon Liberal Party leadership

Winning Yukon Liberal Party candidate will effectively replace Premier Sandy Silver
Ranj Pillai officially announced his candidacy for Yukon Liberal Party leader in front of family and a crowd of supporters at NorthLight Innvoation on Nov. 25. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Ranj Pillai is vying to become the next Yukon Liberal Party leader. Whoever wins the party’s leadership race will also replace Premier Sandy Silver at the helm of the territory.

In the moments following the end of the fall session of the Yukon Legislative Aseembly, Pillai’s campaign team issued a “Ranj for premier” branded press release on Nov. 24 inviting media to an announcement on Nov. 25 at NorthLight Innovation.

A few dozen of Pillai’s family, friends and supporters gathered together for the campaign launch.

“I believe this is what vision, leadership and results look like,” he told the room.

Pillai said he will seek common ground with opposition parties and the federal government but will “fiercely defend” the territory’s interests and priorities.

Pillai said he will commit to being a premier that works hard, thinks strategically and serves all Yukoners.

“Although I hold Liberal values very close to my heart… I do not undertake my work with a partisan lens,” he said.

His focus will be on “leading the territory through our economic and social recovery”.

“We have the opportunity to be positioned as a global leader when it comes to reconciliation, climate change response and quality of life. I commit to action that will meet the challenges of today and the pressures of tomorrow,” he said.

“That means responsible investment in infrastructure, and looking to future demands when it comes to our children’s education and our access to health care here in the territory. I commit to leading a government that has a relationship of mutual respect when working with our First Nation governments as we continue the important work we have undertaken around land use planning and modernization of legislation.”

After his speech to the crowd, Pillai told reporters he had been pondering a lot about the decision to run.

“I feel that I, over the years, have been able to build a base of skills that are very suited for this role,” he said.

“I’m comfortable making tough decisions, and I’m comfortable having courageous conversations with people.”

Pillai said he will be rolling out some new concepts while sticking to items the party has committed to.

“I’m certainly not out of ideas, and I don’t think our party’s out of ideas,” he said.

Pillai told reporters he will not vacate his ministerial portfolios.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said.

“We’re in a really unique position where we have a very small cabinet, and, you know, the work on behalf of the Yukon government has to continue.”

After the last question period of the sitting, Silver signalled that was his final day as premier in the Yukon Legislative Assembly. He announced Sept. 9 he will be stepping down as premier and will not be seeking re-election for a fourth term as MLA.

Silver has not directed cabinet ministers to step down from their ministerial roles if they choose to put their names forward in the party’s leadership race.

The date of the party’s leadership convention has yet to be set.

READ MORE: Yukon Premier Sandy Silver stepping down

READ MORE: No new rules for cabinet ministers seeking Yukon Liberal Party leadership

Pillai was first elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the 2016 territorial election.

Pillai is the current MLA for Porter Creek South and the minister of Economic Development, minister of Tourism and Culture, minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation and minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation and the Yukon Lottery Commission.

Pillai has previously served as the deputy premier, minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, minister of Economic Development and minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.

The former Whitehorse city councillor whose term ran from 2009 to 2012 spearheaded the first anti-racism and discrimination bylaw North of 60, according to his biography on the party’s website.

After Pillai’s tenure as councillor, he worked as the vice president of business development at Northern Vision Development LP and in 2015 he became the executive director of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Government.

Pillai told reporters a “tremendous amount” of Yukoners from across the board have reached out to him since September.

“We’ll probably see more of my colleagues run,” he said.

“That’s a good thing. The more people that are involved in this process, I think, the better.”

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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