Yukon’s northernmost MLA could soon have a rival in Pauline Frost, a Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation employee.
Frost announced her candidacy for the Yukon Liberal Party nomination on July 19 for the Vuntut Gwitchin riding that covers Old Crow.
She’s been working for the past five years as the First Nation’s negotiator and coordinator of intergovernmental affairs.
“It seems to me the logical next step in terms of contribution to the community is getting involved with the territorial government,” she told the News Thursday.
If elected, her priorities would be education, infrastructure and social programs.
The community critically needs better infrastructure, she said.
And unlike other communities, Old Crow is unincorporated, she said, which means it can only rely on the Yukon government and the First Nation government.
Municipalities like Haines Junction, for example, can rely on the Association of Yukon Communities.
But Old Crow, which is home to about 300 people, still has big plans.
Last month, the First Nation applied to build the biggest solar array in the territory.
Currently, most of Old Crow’s energy comes from diesel generators, which is costly.
Old Crow is Yukon’s only fly-in community.
That isolation means citizens have less access to programs for dealing with drug and alcohol issues, Frost said.
“We want to access better programming, to address the needs of our community.”
She also wants to improve graduation rates for Old Crow’s high school students, who currently have to leave the community to go to high school.
“It’s very unfortunate … our children leave the community for Whitehorse, as young as age 13,” she said. “Those days should have ended a long time ago.”
Frost said she wants to run for the Liberal Party because she “absolutely respect(s)” the party leader, Klondike MLA Sandy Silver.
Frost also said the issue of the Peel Watershed is a big one for her. About three per cent of the Vuntut Gwitchin traditional territory lies in the watershed.
At stake is the Yukon government’s 2014 decision to scrap a land use plan that would have protected the majority of the watershed.
Two other Yukon First Nations and environmental groups sued the government over the decision.
The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation later joined them in May 2015.
The Yukon Supreme Court and the Yukon Court of Appeal both ruled the Yukon government couldn’t scrap the plan that was the result of lengthy consultation with First Nations, but offered different remedies.
The case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada sometime within the next year.
“The community has spoken quite strongly about protecting the environment,” Frost said. “It wouldn’t make sense for my community to continue to support a party that is opposed to the direction of the people.”
The case is a big concern for the community, she added.
“We are trying to protect the integrity of our (final) agreement.”
When asked what she thinks about the current MLA, the Yukon Party’s Darius Elias, she refused to criticize him.
“That’s not my role,” she said. “It’s up to the the community to do that.”
He’s been there a long time and dedicated a lot of his life to the community, she said.
“The community is a very humble community and they’re not going to get out there and start bashing one another and that’s not what I’m prepared to do at this point.”
Elias was first elected in 2006 as a Liberal Party MLA, then re-elected in 2011, with 64 per cent of the vote.
In August 2012 he quit the Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent. At the time he said the people of Old Crow elected a person, not a party. A year later he joined the Yukon Party.
In 2014, he was fined $1,000 and received a one-year driving ban after getting arrested for refusing to provide a breath sample.
Old Crow has always had strong voter turnout, with 94 per cent of eligible voters showing up to the polls in 2011 to cast their votes.
The NDP hasn’t announced a candidate for the riding yet.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org