Yukon’s long-serving house Speaker won’t seek a third term.
Ted Staffen, the Yukon Party’s MLA for Riverdale North, announced Friday he plans to retire from politics.
“I never wanted to be a career politician,” said Staffen, 63. “I spent most my life in business. We have a great economy and I look forward to getting involved in it.”
“A typical Yukoner,” he adds. “Anything for a buck.”
He frowns as a reporter scribbles down these words.
“Don’t say that,” he said. “It’s not nice.”
Is that a ruling, Mr. Speaker? “It’s a suggestion.”
And a characteristic one. For eight years, Staffen has admonished his colleagues to behave better.
“He’s certainly improved decorum in the house,” said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell. “He’s been pretty strict about that.”
Mitchell hasn’t always agreed with Staffen’s rulings. But he never disputed them.
He knew there was no point. “There’s a saying,” said Staffen. “The Speaker is never wrong.”
Each Speaker brings his own style, and hopes he delivered his rulings “with gentle humour.” He’s proud he never booted an MLA from the legislature for misbehaviour, “nor did I want to.”
He concedes during legislative debates, “once in a while, passion overcomes reason”- an understatement, if there ever was one. But, “if you look at other jurisdictions, our legislature is really well behaved,” said Staffen.
Take the Northwest Territories, where one MLA hurled a cup at his debating opponent, said Staffen. “That’s never happened here.”
Staffen moved to the territory at age 20. He’s worked in mining, forestry, retail and insurance industries.
A policy wonk, he wrote most of his poli-sci undergraduate papers on the political evolution of the territory. Once elected, he immediately sought to be Speaker.
“It’s not the most glamorous position. But it’s something I’ve enjoyed immensely.”
Dealing with a Yukon Party majority throughout his tenure has simplified the job. In minority governments, when a vote is tied, the Speaker casts the deciding vote.
One perk of being Speaker is a junket to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s annual meeting. Through this, Staffen’s visited Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and Tanzania.
This summer, he’s bound for England.
Once, Staffen provided information on Yukon’s land claims to a Papua New Guinea politician. “She said it actually helped her,” he said, noting a small jurisdiction can contribute to the Commonwealth.
Two other government MLAs have bowed out of the coming election, which must be held by October: Dennis Fentie, Yukon’s outgoing premier and MLA for Watson Lake; and Patrick Rouble, minister of Education and Energy, Mines and Resources, and MLA for Southern Lakes.
As well, Environment Minister John Edzerza’s future is in question. He’s bedridden in Vancouver being treated for leukemia.
Staffen supported Rod Taylor’s failed bid to become the Yukon Party’s leader. Darrell Pasloski’s win did not play into his decision to bow out, said Staffen.
“He wasn’t my first choice,” he said of Pasloski. “But I support him 100 per cent. I think he’ll do a great job.”