Submitted photo Kaori Torigai is running to be the Yukon’s NDP candidate in this federal election.

The race to become Yukon’s federal NDP candidate gets another contender

Kaori Torigai announced her plans late last month

A second contender is vying for the Yukon’s federal NDP nomination.

Kaori Torigai, a seasoned Yukoner, announced her plans to do so in February, roughly a month after Justin Lemphers, a labour rights worker, did the same.

“I’m concerned about all the things that are happening in our country, especially with the situation that’s happening in Ottawa right now,” she said in an interview, referring to the bombshell testimony of the former attorney general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on Feb. 27.

Wilson-Raybould claimed then she received “consistent and sustained” pressure from officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and others to green light a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin – to intervene politically, in other words, to insulate the engineering company from a criminal trial. The scandal has rattled the federal government.

On Mar. 4, the fallout continued, with Jane Philpott resigning from cabinet.

“Unfortunately, the evidence of efforts by politicians and/or officials to pressure the former Attorney General to intervene in the criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin, and the evidence as to the content of those efforts have raised serious concerns for me,” she wrote in an official statement that was shared on social media. “Those concerns have been augmented by the views expressed by my constituents and other Canadians.”

Though indirect, the reign of President Donald Trump was another reason why Torigai turned to politics, she said.

“It’s been quite alarming, and it reminds me that we really need to work together and encourage people to get out there and make their voice heard, so we can make the changes we want to see,” she said.

Torigai sees issues like these as an opportunity to bring about greater checks on politicians – to work harder to keep them in line.

While she says she has a wealth of experience in the community, Torigai is a political newbie, admittedly.

Asked for one issue that she wants to bring greater attention to and advance, she said, “There are a lot of issues, and I would really like to hear from Yukoners, as well, what their biggest issues are in order to decide which ones I think are important that I should focus on. I really want to listen and discuss what is concerning people and bringing those concerns forward.”

Torigai currently works at the Yukon Department of Community Services, where she works to deliver land development projects, according to a biography on her website.

She originally moved to the territory to work as an exploration geologist, then changed gears, joining the public service to manage the contract for mine maintenance in Faro, it says.

Aside from her government work, Torigai founded the Yukon Beer Festival, opened the now-closed Social House and has worked in theatre, among other things, the biography says.

“I have a varied background and I think that will work to connect with a lot of different people in the Yukon,” she told the News. “I’m really hoping that that will be something that attracts people to me.”

She said she’s been hunting for something that holds more social value, issues like homelessness and affordable housing.

“We need to make sure there are the basic standards for everyone in the Yukon: food, shelter and the basic necessities. …” Torigai said. “The divide that we have between mining and environmentalists, as well, is something that we could perhaps work towards finding a common ground.”

NDP members are to vote for the best candidate by Mar. 28, roughly six months before the federal election this fall.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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