Darrell Pasloski won the Yukon Party’s leadership race Saturday evening.
He won 767 votes, handily defeating Rod Taylor, who garnered 436 votes, and Jim Kenyon, who received just 47 votes.
Pasloski is expected to be sworn in by Yukon’s commissioner within several weeks. With that, he will become the territory’s premier, at least until the next general election, which must be triggered by the autumn.
Addressing a crowd of more than 250 party supporters at the Gold Rush Inn, Pasloski pledged to lead the ruling party into a third mandate. Outgoing Premier Dennis Fentie expressed his confidence in the new leader.
“We will be one hell of a formidable force to be reckoned with,” he said.
In choosing Pasloski, party faithful picked principles over pragmatism.
The 50-year-old pharmacist, who carried the Conservative banner during the 2008 federal election, offered a cautious, stay-the-course approach.
He was backed by true-blue Conservatives, who championed his claim to being chummy with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and miners, who cheer his promise to not meddle with Yukon’s free-staking method of mineral exploration.
He offered few new ideas during the race. But that left little for his opponents to attack.
Taylor, a 51-year-old dog musher and businessman, billed himself as a chance to build a big-tent party that would lure centrist voters away from the Liberals.
Of all the candidates, he offered the most razzle-dazzle, with bold ideas, such as his plan to connect the Yukon to British Columbia’s energy grid – a scheme expected to cost upwards of $1 billion.
But he also had the most to explain.
At one point he considered running for the Liberals. And, 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.”
Both Taylor and Pasloski garnered endorsements from cabinet ministers and party bigwigs throughout the race. With the establishment split between the two, there was no clear frontrunner, although the prospects seemed dim for Kenyon, who failed to win any public endorsements.
The 64-year-old veterinarian and former cabinet minister offered the most open criticism of Fentie during the campaign. For that, he says, he was sacked from his job as minister responsible for the Department of Economic Development and the liquor, lottery and housing corporations.
He caused the biggest splash of the campaign by disclosing that Dennis Fentie, the outgoing premier and Finance minister, has sat on nearly $18 million in federal affordable housing money, allegedly to shore up the territory’s savings account.
Fentie remained out of public sight throughout the campaign, but he nevertheless cast a shadow across the race. All three candidates vowed to not meddle with their ministers’ business, as Fentie is accused of doing during the ATCO scandal, by planning to sell-off Yukon Energy’s assets without cabinet’s knowledge.
But there was few signs of bitterness towards Fentie at Saturday’s event, where he received a standing ovation.
The race has given the Yukon Party a surge of support. Its membership swelled fivefold during the campaign, to 1,516 elligible voters. The turnout was 82.7 per cent.
With the campaign now over, a big question is whether the ruling party can mend its internal divisions and present a common front during the coming election.
Kenyon intends to run in the next election. “I have no plans not to.”
Taylor’s still mulling his options. “I’ve always said I have to have a long chat with whoever is leader.”
Contact John Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.