Premier Sandy Silver speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 16, 2020. Silver wouldn’t confirm on Feb. 11 whether the party was planning on calling a spring election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Premier Sandy Silver speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 16, 2020. Silver wouldn’t confirm on Feb. 11 whether the party was planning on calling a spring election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Premier won’t confirm or deny possibility of a spring election

Elections Yukon says they are prepared to run a COVID-19-safe operation

Despite plenty of pre-election activity taking place this month, Premier Sandy Silver wouldn’t confirm on Feb. 11 whether the party was planning on calling a spring election.

“I have nothing in my notes right here about a spring election. We’re concentrating right now on deliveries and vaccines,” he said, responding to a question during the weekly COVID-19 update.

Addressing a follow-up question that referred to a Yukon Party accusation that not announcing an election date was creating “uncertainty during a pandemic” Silver defended his stance.

“The opposition has been asking about an election since August. That’s interesting. It’s not like I have a date in my head that I’m withholding from anybody, it’s not that simple. There are lots of moving pieces,” he said.

“The opposition, they can continue to talk and speculate and drum up whatever they want to do as far as election speculations. We’re gonna continue to work hard here for Yukoners on the vaccine and get that figured out,” he said.

The Liberal party is required by law to call an election on or before Nov. 19, 2021. Normally ruling parties will choose strategically, picking the date when they believe public opinion is in their favour.

With many Yukoners — particularly those in seasonal industries — busy or elsewhere over the summer, it is likely the sitting government will call an election in the spring or fall. If an election is not called beforehand the government will return to the legislature in March.

All three main parties have been busy this month choosing candidates to run in each of the territory’s 19 ridings.

In the 2016 election the Liberals secured a majority with 11 seats and around 40 per cent of total votes cast, upending 14 years of the Yukon Party in power. Voter turnout was relatively high at nearly 80 per cent.

Both the NDP and the Yukon Party now have new leaders.

The Yukon’s Chief Electoral Officer Maxwell Harvey said whether the election is called in the spring or not, Elections Yukon will be prepared to operate safely in the pandemic.

The organization has removed restrictions on special ballots for the upcoming election and expects many people will take advantage of alternative voting methods in order to avoid line-ups on polling day.

The organization also began a new campaign to register voters on Dec. 7, 2020.

Harvey said they are projecting the next election will have close to 30,000 registered voters by the end of the election period. Compared to last election that means an additional 5,000 potential voters — something he noted could be an important factor in a jurisdiction as small as the Yukon.

Harvey notes that 15 of the 19 ridings in the territory were won by less than 100 votes. Twelve of those ridings were won by less than 50 votes. Vuntut Gwitchin and Mountainview were won only by seven votes.

“If you have 10,000 to 11,000 electors who didn’t vote at the last election, who will be at the next election, it will make it an interesting dynamic for everyone,” Harvey noted.

The increase in voters has a couple of contributing factors. Population growth is one — the number of people living in the Yukon has gone up since the previous election in 2016.

Harvey said it is also attributable to people who were not registered in the last election. Normally electors are registered door-to-door or at the polls when they arrive to vote. If they are missed in the door-to-door campaign and choose not to vote, they won’t be registered.

“Registering is important for a number of reasons,” he said.

Registered voters also receive a voter information card and are provided with updated information on when to go and where to go to cast a ballot.

“It’s as simple and as convenient as can be, and you can register online by doing it by mail or email,” Harvey said.

To register as a voter, Yukoners can visit electionsyukon.ca and check if they are already registered. If not, they can create a new registration. Voters on polling day must be at least 18 years of age, Canadian citizens and a resident of the Yukon for at least one year.

Registration can be completed by email or phone by providing an address, legal name and proof of government ID.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Elections

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