More than 70 Yukon Party supporters listened to Premier Dennis Fentie give a pre-election pep talk during its annual general meeting on Saturday.
Fentie’ speech echoed his address to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce last week, painting a rosy economic portrait in which he took credit for decreasing unemployment and increasing private-sector investment.
“There is no doubt our economy is on the rebound,” Fentie told his fellows in a conference room at the High Country Inn in downtown Whitehorse.
“We do have record unemployment stats, the lowest ever. Hundreds more Yukoners today are working in this territory and, once again, population is increasing.
“The trends show that we will soon be at an all-time high in this territory.”
Past governments left a number of “challenges” for the Yukon Party — the “cleanup crew” — to take care of, he said.
“The most recent Liberal government had mismanaged the Yukon’s finances to the state that the Yukon was cash poor, paying overdraft charges to deliver programs and services to Yukoners.
“Clearly, there was a need for change.”
Despite the large turnout, two cabinet members were absent.
Education minister John Edzerza, who has had discussions with the Yukon New Democratic Party about crossing the floor, did not attend the meeting.
Neither did Tourism and Culture minister Elaine Taylor, who was attending a conference in Ontario.
As he was before the chamber, Fentie was in full campaign mode.
“Yukoners wanted us to build a healthy, vibrant future for their families, as outlined in our party platform, ‘Together, we will do better,’ and together we have done better,” he said, to sudden applause.
“We have gone from $6 million in (mining) exploration in 2002 to estimates ranging as high as $100 million to be spent this coming year in the Yukon Territory.”
“Yukoners want an end to political instability that past governments delivered, where the Yukon Party returns the territory to health and prosperity, only to have the NDP or the Liberals spend its time reversing the positive trends.”
When Fentie finished his spiel, party president Darrell Peters asked everyone who wasn’t a Yukon Party member, including reporters, to leave.
The rest of the agenda would be held “in camera,” since the treasurer’s report and policy issues weren’t open to the public, Peters explained.
“If you pay $5 and buy a membership, you can stay,” he said.
Fifty-five attendees were delegates with power to vote on the question of a leadership review, which the Yukon Party holds every year.
The membership did not ask for a leadership election, Peters said Monday.
A new executive was chosen. Peters resigned as president.
“I just couldn’t dedicate all my time, which is needed for the election run here,” he said.
Dan MacDonald, a local teacher, was elected as the party’s new president.
Former Yukon Party cabinet minister Dan Lang was elected as vice president, and Alexia McKinnon, Fentie’s assistant, was elected as secretary.
Meanwhile, across town, the Yukon Liberal Party was holding its annual general meeting and policy convention.
“Only 16 per cent of Yukoners think this government is ethical,” said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell in his address.
“Yukoners don’t trust the current government, and with good reason.
“Issues such as unpaid loans, high-profile favours for government-friendly people, the long overdue resignation of the former member for Copperbelt and constant trips to the conflicts commissioner have lowered the ethical bar.”
Mitchell offered three other platform planks: partnership with First Nations, “jobs now, with a healthy environment,” and learning needs for children and youth.
Mitchell also outlined three possible election scenarios.
Fentie could call for an election in the fall, later this spring, or as soon as next week, he said.
“I hope you’ve got your campaign shoes on because we are going to be on our way shortly.”
He introduced youth justice worker Dale Cheeseman as a Liberal candidate for Porter Creek North, a riding currently represented by the Yukon Party’s Jim Kenyon.
More than 60 people — 47 of them delegates — attended the Liberal meeting, including key supporters like former premier Pat Duncan and former leadership contender Ed Schultz, said Mitchell.
Kluane MLA Gary McRobb, fresh from his defection from the Yukon New Democratic Party, was also there.
“I’m much more comfortable,” McRobb said after the meeting, as he sat around a table with Mitchell and party president Ted Dean.
The party’s entire executive was acclaimed, said Mitchell.
The NDP have their annual general meeting scheduled for April 22nd at the Kwanlin Dun First Nation potlatch house.
Jorn Meier, former president of the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce, is seeking the NDP nomination for the Klondike.