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Yukon Party returned for second term

The 10-5-3 split result of the Yukon territorial election is good enough for Premier Dennis Fentie.“It’s nice, it’s a good…

The 10-5-3 split result of the Yukon territorial election is good enough for Premier Dennis Fentie.

“It’s nice, it’s a good balance for an assembly,” Fentie said Tuesday night in Watson Lake, once the slim Yukon Party majority was confirmed.

“As we go forward in the days ahead, you will see that the Yukon Party will demonstrate a willingness to work with the opposition and all Yukoners to build a better and brighter future for all of us.”

The victory made the Yukon Party the third government in the 28-year history of party politics in the territory to win back-to-back majorities.

It will hold power until 2011.

“We dedicated ourselves in 2002 to lead this territory into the future, with an objective of winning another election,” Fentie said during his victory speech.

“We have done that,” he said with an uncontrollable grin.

“We have won another majority government to lead this territory for the next five years.

“I couldn’t be prouder than I am to work with the Yukon Party team.”

During his congratulations to all candidates, Fentie recognized two opponents in Watson Lake — Liberal Rick Harder and independent Dale Worsfold — but pointedly excluded NDP candidate Rachel Lewis.

Lewis was critical of Fentie and Watson Lake’s economy at two public forums during the campaign.

However, some Yukon Party members in Watson Lake stood to applaud when NDP leader Todd Hardy made his concession speech.

“I want to express what a privilege it’s been to work with you, Todd,” Fentie told Hardy in a broadcast phone call.

“Considering the circumstances you have found yourself in over the last number of weeks to months, I couldn’t express more the tremendous amount of respect I have for Mr. Todd Hardy.”

Despite the victory, the Yukon Party suffered the loss of veteran MLA Dean Hassard to Liberal Don Inverarity in Porter Creek South.

Hassard lost by only six votes — the narrowest margin of the election, according to unofficial results.

But the incumbent government added two neophyte politicians to its ranks.

Marion Horne won for the Yukon Party in Hassard’s former riding of Pelly-Nisutlin.

And Steve Nordick, an 11th-hour candidate, succeeded Peter Jenkins as the Yukon Party MLA for the Klondike.

Southern Lakes MLA Patrick Rouble was returned for a second term, as were all seven cabinet ministers of the previous government, including Fentie.

“I understand that lots of people didn’t vote for me,” said Riverdale North MLA Ted Staffen, who fought a slugfest against Liberal candidate Lesley Cabbott and ultimately won by 52 votes.

“But as the MLA for everybody I listen to everybody.”

The biggest winner of the election was Fentie, who won 64.8 per cent in Watson Lake.

The numbers in the opposition benches evened out to essentially the same weight they were before the election.

No independents were elected.

Arthur Mitchell’s Liberals retained Official Opposition Status with Inverarity, who replaced Pat Duncan, and the addition of Darius Elias, who ousted Yukon New Democratic Party incumbent Lorraine Peter in Vuntut Gwitchin.

Mitchell won the most votes of any candidate — 632 in Copperbelt, or 52.8 per cent.

However, the NDP retained three seats.

Former Yukon Party minister John Edzerza, who resigned in August to run as an NDP incumbent in McIntyre-Takhini, beat Liberal candidate Ed Schultz by eight votes.

“I’m certainly surprised that a government such as the one that we have…” said Schultz.

“Some of the inappropriate things that they have done have got them another majority.”

A raft of candidates — 15 NDP, 13 Liberals and eight Yukon Party — didn’t make the cut.

When the legislative assembly sits again — possibly this fall, according to Fentie — the Yukon Party will be the only party with women in its ranks — Horne and Whitehorse West MLA Elaine Taylor, who was returned to her seat with 511 votes, second only to Mitchell.

Voter turnout was roughly 72 per cent — down from the 78 per cent Yukon elections have typically enjoyed.

 “I gauge a lot on the voter turnout,” said Fentie.

“When there is a public sentiment of discontent and negativity, there usually is a large turnout at the polls.”

Contentment often leads to a lower turnout, he said.

Fentie’s next task is to lead his team through transition, and name a cabinet.

“There is no cabinet right now. In fact, delegation of authority took place at the drop of the writ, and that rests right now with two deputy ministers.

“Until the swearing in (of all MLAs) and a new cabinet is in place, government operations will work through this transition period.”