After 14 years on top, the Yukon Party has been knocked out of power.
As poll results came in Monday night, supporters at the Gold Rush Inn saw their party slip from a majority government to the territory’s official Opposition.
The night marked the end of Darrell Pasloski’s leadership. He resigned from the position he’s had since 2011 after finishing third in his home riding of Mountainview.
“Clearly tonight didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. We would much rather be celebrating a victory tonight. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be proud of what we’ve accomplished, both over the past five years and in the last 31 days.” Pasloski told the crowd while being interrupted multiple times for applause.
“Our principles will not change, our values will not change, and the Yukon Party remains committed to championing those principles and values.”
Had the party maintained power it would have continued the longest uninterrupted reign since party politics started in the Yukon in 1978.
The Yukon Party’s mantra during the campaign was that it was the only party that would stand up against a carbon tax and protect Yukon businesses and the resource sector.
As numbers started coming in, candidates and party faithful maintained an air of confidence, though maybe with a little less enthusiasm than if the projections had been more solid.
“I think it’s going to be a horse race…. Everybody said it was going to be,” said Conservative Senator Dan Lang as he watched Yukon Party candidate Michelle Kolla take an early lead in Porter Creek Centre.
Prior to his senate career, Lang represented part of Porter Creek for more than a decade in the Yukon legislature.
Kolla would end the night losing to the Liberals’ Paolo Gallina by 75 votes.
As the night progressed it became clear that Lang’s horse race comparison was appropriate. The Yukon Party did not get obliterated. Though the party went from 11 seats to six, many of the territory’s ridings went to the Liberals by the slimmest of margins.
In Pasloski’s riding, Liberal Jeanie Dendys finished ahead of the NDP’s Shaunagh Stikeman by six votes. In the Vuntut Gwitchin riding in Old Crow, the Liberals won by seven votes. There will be recounts in both ridings.
In Whitehorse West, Liberal Richard Mostyn unseated longtime Yukon Party cabinet minister and deputy premier Elaine Taylor by 22 votes.
Campaign chair Currie Dixon pointed to the “collapse” of the NDP, which has now been reduced to two seats in the assembly.
“In some of those ridings where we predicted the NDP would hold some ground, they did not, in a big way, and it cost us the election.”
One of the first Yukon Party members to secure his seat was Brad Cathers in Lake Laberge.
Cathers said he was grateful to be re-elected for a fourth time but disappointed to see his colleagues go.
“You never like to see a friend lose in their riding.”
Cathers will be joined in the official Opposition benches by other experienced politicians and Geraldine Van Bibber, who won in Porter Creek North and is the party’s only first-time MLA.
After winning in Copperbelt South, Scott Kent joked that his four-year-old son, Eli, was “going to get his daddy back.”
This was Kent’s fourth campaign, first as a Liberal and then with the Yukon Party. He’s never once been the incumbent.
In 2011 he won for the Yukon Party in Riverdale North.
“It’s a bittersweet night, obviously,” he said.
Despite his experience, Kent said he wasn’t ready to reflect on what the party could have done differently.
Candidates focus on their individual ridings, he said. The time for reflecting on the election as a whole will come later.
“I’m excited to be part of a strong Yukon Party Opposition and we’ll look forward to what the next chapter is.”
That next chapter will have to be decided soon, now that their leader is on the way out.
Pasloski told the crowd he’ll be sitting down with the party executive and caucus “in the coming days” to map out the next steps.
Neither Kent nor Cathers would say if they’re interested in taking over the leadership.
“It’s far too soon to start talking about anything other than tonight,” Cathers said.
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org