Yukon party trounces its opponents

Tuesday night, the Yukon Party surprised itself, winning a second majority government. At the start of the night, facing what was considered a tight…

Tuesday night, the Yukon Party surprised itself, winning a second majority government.

At the start of the night, facing what was considered a tight race, party faithful milling around the near-empty High Country Inn conference room seemed apprehensive.

And, though the party got off to a slow start, by 8:45 p.m. it was clear momentum was swinging its way.

The CBC declared it the winner around 9:20 p.m.

“It was one of the toughest campaigns,” said jubilant premier Dennis Fentie via speakerphone from Watson Lake.

“We have one hell of a team, and that’s why we’re a majority today.”

Cheers reverberated in the now-packed conference room, where re-elected cabinet ministers celebrated with family, supporters and several defeated Yukon Party candidates.

The Yukon Party added one seat to its pre-election tally, winning a total of 10. It garnered 40 per cent of the popular vote.

“We are set to lead the territory into a brighter future because of you,” said Fentie.

“Although it’s always difficult to see those who did not make the slate — we had women and First Nations and youth and I wanted them all to win.”

“I was proud to be able to run,” said defeated Mount Lorne candidate Valerie Boxall, who was one of five women running for the Yukon Party.

“I really enjoyed it — it pushed me out of my comfort zone.”

Of the 16 women running in the territorial election, only two were elected, both for the Yukon Party.

A dapper but disappointed Todd Hardy arrived and congratulated Fentie by phone while Queen’s We Are the Champions played in the background.

“It was a close one,” said Hardy.

“I thought it was going to be a minority.”

The NDP leader does not think the Yukon Party will still be in power in five years, he said.

And he has no plans to form a coalition with the Liberals against the government.

“We don’t form coalitions — we represent the people and we do it well,” said Hardy.

While many re-elected cabinet ministers, including, Glenn Hart, Elaine Taylor and Speaker Ted Staffen praised their opponents, Archie Lang took a different approach.

“I wiped the floor with them,” he said of his competitors.

“I don’t even know why they ran — they’re called filler.”

In Watson Lake, the filler wasn’t even an option, said Fentie supporter Meaghen Kimmitt.

“There was nobody else to vote for,” she said.

“Even those who weren’t happy with Fentie voted for him, because they didn’t really have an option.”

This is the first time since ‘89 that a party has won a second territorial term.

The Yukon party’s last election campaign was quite different, said Staffen.

“It was all about the economy.”

But this time, if there was any type of theme, it was continuity, he said.

“Even if not everyone agrees with (Yukon Party) politics, it’s good to stick with one party,” said supporter Jonas Smith.

“Yukoners are a fickle breed, and you don’t get much done when you keep switching parties.

“With two mandates, hopefully they’ll get something accomplished.”

Former Champagne-Aishihik chief James Allen, chatting with Taylor, was happy with the results.

“Now we have the continuity that has eluded the Yukon for years,” he said.

“It’s good to see some of the issues they’ve worked on continue, and see the prosperity of today continue.”

But Allen also thinks the Yukon Party has some major hurdles to clear.

“They have lots of work ahead in terms of building relationships with First Nations and First Nations’ leaders,” he said.

The Yukon Party’s platform is amazing, said defeated McIntyre-Takhini candidate Vicki Durrant.

“And I respect their business sense — how they address the economy.

“We need someone to manage the family fortunes or there will be no money for social programs.”

The platform secures funding for both Whitehorse youth centres, said Durrant, the executive director of Bluefeather Youth Centre.

So, it offers some much needed security.

Gathering in the front of the room to listen to their leader speak from Watson Lake, the candidates exchanged hugs and condolences accordingly.

“I’m completely overwhelmed,” said a teary Taylor.

“I’m just trying to get through this night.”

The party has an ambitious agenda to carry forward, she added.

“We outlined a vision and we want to carry forward with lots of initiatives and carry out this vision.”

Taylor campaigns all year, said her official agent Percy Cullen.

“She’s attentive to her riding constituents and walks around the community three times a year, not just during elections,” he said.

“Everybody knows who she is.”

Like Taylor, Hart hopes to represent all his constituents regardless of their politic bent.

“We’re here to deal with everybody,” said Hart.

“Not just one entity — we’re going to deal with all the stakeholders and try to come up with a solution that’s viable.

“We have $1.3 million already in our budget, but it may take more to achieve it.”

Milling around amidst the suits and leather jackets at the High Country was a flash of colour.

Captain Incredible, with long black hair hanging to his bum, spent all Tuesday on the highway by Porter Creek championing Yukoners’ right to vote.

“People honked and waved,” said the spandex-clad Yukon Party supporter.

“There’s a huge positive feeling, with all the investments in business,” said Peter Wojtowicz, the man under the costume.

“We’re all benefiting from the returns now and we want to keep it going,” he said.

The campaign wrapped up under budget, said campaign manager Craig Tuton.

It was under $90,000, he said.

“Against all odds, we stuck to the high road and stuck to our plan,” said Fentie by phone.

“And it paid off in spades.”