Yukon Party sworn in as new official Opposition

The Yukon has a new official Opposition. The six-member Yukon Party caucus was sworn in on Tuesday in the legislative assembly before a crowd of Yukon Party faithful, including a few former MLAs.

The Yukon has a new official Opposition.

The six-member Yukon Party caucus was sworn in on Tuesday in the legislative assembly before a crowd of Yukon Party faithful, including a few former MLAs.

The ceremony was presided over by Commissioner Doug Phillips, himself a former Progressive Conservative MLA, who cautioned the incoming Opposition members to stay close to their families over the next five years.

“As you move forward in the next years, the public scrutiny will be close and unrelenting,” he said. “Be fair and open, honest and truthful.”

After the ceremony, interim leader Stacey Hassard said it was a “great day.”

“I’m really glad that it went well and we had a lot of supporters out here today.”

But there was a note of defiance in his comments, too. He pointed out that the Liberals won a number of ridings with such small margins that a few dozen votes cast differently could have produced a Yukon Party minority government instead of a Liberal majority.

“The reality is the election was very close and we have six very strong MLAs,” he said. “And you know, I think we’ve started rebuilding already and when the Liberals call the next election, it’ll be back to the Yukon Party.”

Asked if it was bittersweet to see a number of his former colleagues watching from the gallery — including former MLAs Doug Graham and Currie Dixon and former chief of staff Michael Hale — Hassard said he didn’t look at them during the ceremony.

“I didn’t want to cry.”

The Yukon Party caucus has only one rookie MLA in Geraldine Van Bibber, who represents Porter Creek North. She said she found the ceremony nerve-racking.

“I’m excited. Nervous,” she said. “This is a new role for me, and being the rookie on the team, it’s going to be interesting and challenging.”

Outgoing premier Darrell Pasloski didn’t make an appearance.

The Yukon Party has also released its shadow cabinet appointments, which will see some of the MLAs acting as critics of the departments they once oversaw.

Brad Cathers, outgoing justice minister, will act as critic for justice and finance. Outgoing environment minister Wade Istchenko will be critic for environment and the housing, liquor, energy and development corporations.

Scott Kent will be critic for community services, economic development, and energy, mines and resources, while Hassard will take on highways and public works and the executive council office.

Watson Lake MLA Patti McLeod will be critic for health and social services and the women’s directorate, while Van Bibber will handle education, aboriginal relations, and tourism and culture.

The two remaining members of the NDP caucus, Leader Liz Hanson and Takhini-Kopper King MLA Kate White, were sworn in as the third party last Friday.

“Yukon’s new government must put its words into actions that help all Yukoners,” Hanson said in a statement. “Kate and I are excited to hold them to their word and to keep advancing issues that matter to Yukoners.”

The NDP is highlighting a focus on affordable housing, minimum wage, and the need to modernize resource legislation to advance reconciliation with First Nations.

The Liberal government and cabinet will be sworn in at the main administration building in Whitehorse on Saturday, Dec. 3. Premier-designate Sandy Silver will take his oaths in Dawson City on Thursday, Dec. 1.

It’s unlikely the incoming Liberal government will announce a legislative session before January. Legislature clerk Floyd McCormick said it’s possible the Liberals could hold a shortened sitting early in the new year, with the approval of the other parties. He said the Yukon Party government held a 12-day session after it was elected in 2006 and a nine-day session after the 2011 election. A normal sitting lasts for a minimum of 20 days.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com