The Yukon Party race is on

What do you call a race with no runners? The Yukon Party’s leadership election. Premier Dennis Fentie triggered the race on April 14, two days before the party’s annual meeting on Saturday.

What do you call a race with no runners?

The Yukon Party’s leadership election.

Premier Dennis Fentie triggered the race on April 14, two days before the party’s annual meeting on Saturday. He’s now the “interim” leader of the governing party, until the election is held on May 28.

Candidates have until May 7 to submit nomination papers. So far, no one has put their names forward, including Fentie. He won’t say whether he wants to keep the job.

“You’ll all have to have some patience, because that announcement will be coming,” he told reporters outside Saturday’s closed-door meeting at Hellaby Hall.

“These aren’t easy decisions. They’re not career choices, they’re life choices.”

Fentie has led the Yukon Party since 2002. He’s currently Canada’s longest-sitting premier.

If he intends to keep the leadership, the Yukon Party faithful must weigh Fentie’s charisma and gift of the gab against the damage done by recent scandals of his making.

The party has been wracked by infighting since it came to light that Fentie started talks with Alberta-based ATCO to sell-off Yukon Energy’s assets.

Fentie initially denied this happened. Then paperwork surfaced that proved him wrong.

Brad Cathers, Fentie’s Energy minister, had a noisy falling-out with Fentie over the scandal in the autumn of 2009. As Cathers tells it, Fentie lied to the public, then asked Cathers to do the same.

Instead, Cathers quit. He now sits on the far side of the legislature as an independent. He remains a Yukon Party member and would like to return to the government side of the house – once Fentie leaves.

Supporters of Cathers threatened to turf Fentie as leader at last year’s annual meeting. The uprising was quelled by an eloquent apology by Fentie, and a promise that he would voluntarily trigger a leadership election this spring.

But, outside of Helleby Hall on Saturday, Fentie didn’t dwell on any of this controversy. Instead, he talked about how the leadership election would be a good opportunity to sell party memberships.

And he couldn’t resist taking a poke at the Liberal Opposition, as he compared his tenure against the short-lived reign of a former Liberal premier.

“You’d better have a plan and vision for what you intend to do, if you choose to take on such tremendous responsibility. If you want to see the counter to that, ask Pat Duncan.”

The new Yukon Party executive, elected on Saturday, had to pick an election date as soon as 45 days and no later than six months. They picked an early date to give a new leader time to prepare for the upcoming territorial election.

Mike Nixon, who ran as the party’s candidate for the downtown byelection in December, is the party’s new president. Jonas Smith, a Whitehorse heavy-metal musician, is vice-president.

Linda Hillier is treasurer. Debbie Younker is secretary.

The new directors are Tammy Pasloski, Wayne Hrynuik, Ray Falle, Dean Hassard, Currie Dixon, Kathleen Burke, Andre Fortin and Shirley Ford.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

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