Time to pick

Tomorrow evening, Yukon Party members pick a new leader.

Tomorrow evening, Yukon Party members pick a new leader.

And, as two of the three contenders don’t hold a seat in the legislature, the odds seem good Yukon’s next premier will remain unelected until a general election is triggered by this autumn.

That’s unusual. Typically, a government MLA would resign and trigger a byelection to make room for the new leader.

But, because Yukon’s legislature isn’t expected to meet before the next general election, this isn’t necessary. The commissioner can simply swear the new leader in.

“There’s no problem whatsoever,” said Norman Ruff, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Victoria. “None at all.”

There’s no hard rule for when a premier must be elected. “But, in terms of maintaining responsible government, there’s a sense they should get a seat in the legislature as soon as practical,” said Ruff. “Since the legislature isn’t meeting, I don’t see a problem until October.”

Look to British Columbia, where Premier Christy Clark has reigned for nearly two months without a seat in the legislature. She recently won a byelection, but she won’t technically possess a legislative seat for another week, when the writ is returned.

But if the Yukon Party won the next election, but its leader failed to secure a seat, that would be a problem. “That’s when the pressure’s on,” said Ruff. “At that point, they’d need to find someone to resign their seat for them.”

Otherwise, the commissioner could decide to fire the premier. “That would create a bit of a crisis,” said Ruff.

But that remote scenario is probably far from the minds of most Yukon Party members, who are currently preoccupied with the three-way leadership race that ends Saturday.

Voters are being asked whether they want to grow the party or stay the course. Supporters of Rod Taylor, a 51-year-old dog musher and businessman, argue their candidate would be their best bet to lure away centrist voters from the Liberals.

But true-blue conservatives have rallied behind Darrell Pasloski, a 50-year-old pharmacist who carried the Conservative banner during the 2008 federal election. They maintain Pasloski has a cozy relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and that his politics have remained consistent – unlike Taylor, who once considered running as a Liberal.

The establishment is split behind these two candidates.

Pasloski is backed by Lake Laberge MLA Brad Cathers, Health Minister Glenn Hart, Justice Minister Marian Horne and Craig Tuton, a longtime Yukon Party campaign organizer.

Taylor has won the support of Tourism Minister Elaine Taylor, Community Services Minister Archie Lang, Environment Minister John Edzerza and Speaker Ted Staffen.

Jim Kenyon is also in the race, but he hasn’t secured any prominent endorsements. Before the leadership race, the 64-year-old veterinarian was responsible for the Department of Economic Development and the liquor, lottery and housing corporations.

But, shortly after declaring his leadership aspirations, Kenyon was sacked by Premier Dennis Fentie, he says, for criticizing the premier’s heavy-handed leadership style and affirming that Fentie had tried to sell-off Yukon Energy’s assets, contrary to claims otherwise.

Kenyon caused the biggest commotion of all three candidates by disclosing that Fentie has sat on more than $17.5 million in federal affordable housing money, allegedly to help bolster the territory’s savings account. Kenyon has promised to put the money to good use if elected.

Taylor has offered the boldest ideas. Among them is a plan to connect the Yukon to British Columbia’s energy grid – a scheme that would cost upwards of $1 billion.

But he’s also attracted the most criticism. 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.”

The Yukon Party’s membership list grew fivefold during the race, to 1,509 eligible voters.

Polls open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. at the Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre. Members from outside Whitehorse can phone in their ballots by calling 867-456-3167.

It’s one member, one vote.

Doors to the leadership reception open at 7:30 p.m. at the Gold Rush Inn’s Townhall. Ballots are expected to be counted between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.

A report on who won will be posted to www.yukon-news.com later that evening. Or follow us on Twitter, @yukon_news.

Contact John Thompson at