Premier Darrell Pasloski called Yukon’s 38th general election on Friday morning before a crowd of Yukon Party candidates, staff and onlookers at Bigway Foods in Whitehorse.
Voters will go to the polls on Nov. 7.
Pasloski spoke about wanting to support Yukon families and business owners during his announcement. But his central focus — in fact, his only real platform plank — was his opposition to a carbon tax.
“I promise every Yukoner in every community that we will make the decisions and choices required to create jobs, to keep life affordable for families, while standing up for our true North,” he said.
“I promise to fight the carbon tax tooth and nail.”
Even the location — a local grocery store — seemed to be a symbolic choice in his fight against carbon pricing.
“I want to protect the ability of local business owners to be able to succeed,” he said.
He went so far as to say that the coming election “isn’t about the past five years,” but is instead about creating jobs, keeping taxes low … and fighting a carbon tax.
After the election announcement, the party issued a news release promising not to increase taxes and to avoid net debt.
NDP Opposition Leader Liz Hanson had fighting words for Pasloski after his announcement.
“If the premier wants to make his opposition to seriously addressing climate change … the central point of this election, then let him bring it on,” she told the News this morning.
She said the NDP will highlight its opposition to fracking and its support for renewable energy, affordable childcare and education during the campaign.
Liberal Leader Sandy Silver said his party will focus on growing the economy while protecting the environment, and collaborating with First Nations.
“We are the only party that supports sustainable resource development and can forge the relationships with First Nation governments that are necessary to create good jobs for Yukoners,” he said in a statement.
The election call hardly comes as a surprise. The current government has now been in power for five years — the maximum allowed — and Pasloski had to drop the writ by Oct. 14 at the latest.
But it’s a campaign that risks being dominated by a single issue — carbon pricing — particularly if the Yukon Party has its way. Pasloski has made political hay out of his opposition to carbon pricing for months, without offering any evidence of how he plans to fight a tax if one were imposed by the federal government.
Meanwhile, the Liberals are toeing a fine line, insisting that a federally mandated carbon tax is coming and they will put the revenue back into Yukoners’ pockets, while claiming that they themselves would never impose such a tax.
The NDP seems more favourably disposed toward carbon pricing, and says it would like to see half the revenue go back to Yukoners and the other half used for renewable energy investments.
But the opposition parties will likely try to draw attention to the Yukon’s sagging economy and to the Yukon Party’s track record on relationships with First Nation governments.
Yukon’s GDP declined for three years in a row before 2016, the only jurisdiction in Canada with that dubious distinction. A recent Conference Board of Canada report estimates that the economy will shrink again in 2017 and 2018.
The NDP and the Liberals both blame the Yukon Party for failing to diversify the territory’s economy in the face of slumping mineral prices that have left the Yukon with just one operating hard rock mine.
They also claim that conflicts with First Nation governments have stalled economic growth. The Yukon government is still mired in a court battle with First Nations over the Peel watershed land use plan, which will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.
But the Yukon Party has launched a number of major capital projects in recent years, including the new F.H. Collins school, an expansion to the Whitehorse General Hospital and the construction of a new continuing care centre in Whistle Bend.
It has promised to build a redundant fibre optic line up the Dempster Highway with Northwestel, though construction has not yet started.
And it has pledged to improve procurement practices, to help local businesses compete for government contracts.
All sitting MLAs are seeking re-election this fall, except for Copperbelt North MLA Currie Dixon, who is now chairing the Yukon Party’s campaign, and former Yukon Party MLA David Laxton, who has yet to announce if he will run as an Independent after leaving the party over an allegation of sexual harassment in May.
The Yukon Party has been in power since 2002, and under Pasloski’s leadership since 2011. The party is now seeking its fourth consecutive mandate.
Hanson has led the NDP since 2009, and has been leader of the official Opposition since 2010. Silver has led the Liberals since 2012, after former leader Arthur Mitchell lost his seat during the last election and interim leader Darius Elias left the party.
The Yukon Party, the NDP and the Liberals have full slates of candidates heading into this fall’s election.
The Green Party, under party leader Frank de Jong, has announced five candidates so far. Yukon’s own Elvis Presley will run as an Independent in Pelly-Nisutlin.
Contact Maura Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org