Health Minister Glenn Hart and Justice Minister Marian Horne are supporting Darrell Pasloski’s bid to become the Yukon Party leader.
Their endorsement, announced Friday, further complicates a three-way race that’s produced a tangled web of allegiances.
Pasloski, a 50-year-old pharmacist who carried the Conservative banner during the 2008 federal election, is also backed by Brad Cathers, MLA for Lake Laberge, and Craig Tuton, a party heavyweight and past campaign organizer.
Pasloski has also lined up a slate of eight potential candidates willing to run in the next territorial election. Among them is Dean Hassard, who served as MLA for Pelly-Nisutlin from 2002-06.
The chief threat to Pasloski’s bid is Rod Taylor, a 51-year-old dog musher and businessman. He’s supported by four government members: Tourism Minister Elaine Taylor, Community Services Minister Archie Lang, Environment Minister John Edzerza and Speaker Ted Staffen.
Then there’s Jim Kenyon. Before the leadership race, the 64-year-old veterinarian was responsible for the Department of Economic Development and the liquor, lottery and housing corporations.
But, shortly after declaring his leadership aspirations, Kenyon was sacked by Premier Dennis Fentie, he says, for criticizing the premier’s heavy-handed leadership style and confirming that Fentie had tried to sell off Yukon Energy’s assets, contrary to claims otherwise.
Kenyon caused the biggest commotion by disclosing that Fentie has sat on nearly $18 million in federal affordable housing money, allegedly to help plump up the territory’s savings account. But, to date, he hasn’t received any public endorsements.
The Yukon Party’s membership has swollen fivefold since the leadership race started, to 1,509, as of Tuesday. Members vote for a new leader on Saturday.
Pasloski has run a safe campaign. True-blue conservatives are impressed by his claims that he’s on friendly terms with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Miners like his promise to not meddle with Yukon’s free-staking method of exploration.
Taylor has offered the boldest ideas. He wants to champion connecting the Yukon to British Columbia’s energy grid—a scheme that would cost upwards of $1 billion.
He promises to not stoop to sarcasm in the legislature and co-operate more with the opposition.
And he’s touted by his backers as an opportunity to broaden the party base and lure in centrist voters who may otherwise vote Liberal.
But the Yukon Party’s conservative core questions whether he’s one of them. Taylor only joined the Yukon Party last month, although he says he voted for the party in the past two elections.
Not long ago, as head of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, Taylor slammed the government for showing “contempt” towards planning to protect the Peel Watershed. He’s since eaten those words and now avows he never wanted to see an area “the size of Scotland turned into a park.”
Liberals assert Taylor offered to run for their party, provided he became their leader. He disputes this, instead saying he was simply unwilling to serve under Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.
Fentie promised to trigger this leadership race one year ago, to appease party members unhappy with his handling of the ATCO affair. He hasn’t endorsed a candidate.
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