The Yukon Party won a historic third mandate last night - and a majority of the legislature’s seats to boot.
Premier Darrell Pasloski promised to seize the opportunity to “make the best place in the world even better.”
The Yukon Party needed to win 10 seats for a majority government. It ended up with 11.
The NDP, with six seats, will form the Official Opposition, while the Liberals have been reduced to a two-seat rump.
One of Pasloski’s first orders of business will be to push forward with plans to have private developers build a new neighbourhood in Mountainview. This, and enticements for developers to build new apartment buildings, ought to ease Whitehorse’s acute housing crunch, he said.
Pasloski won’t support the plan to protect four-fifths of the Peel Watershed.
Instead, he aims to persuade chiefs - who staunchly support protecting the vast swath of northeast Yukon - that allowing mining in the area is crucial to the territorial economy.
“It’s time for us to work together. It’s time to get going to the table.”
Both opposition parties spent much of their campaign focusing on the fate of the Peel. But this evidently didn’t persuade Yukoners to switch governments.
The Yukon Party happily claimed credit for the territory’s booming economy. It’s a theme supporters returned to throughout last night.
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“I can put all those pink slips back in my drawer again,” chuckled mining magnate Jon Rudolph, as he congratulated a re-elected Brad Cathers, MLA for Lake Laberge.
This is the first time a returning government has won a third mandate from Yukon’s voters since party politics was established in 1978. It’s also Pasloski’s first electoral victory, as the new MLA of Mountainview.
The retired pharmacist ran unsuccessfully for the federal Conservatives in the 2008 election, before becoming the Yukon Party’s leader this summer.
At the time, party faithful wagered that a new leader, untainted by scandal, would be enough for them to win another term in office. They were right.
The governing party enjoyed a healthy lead over its competition as soon as early voting results were announced shortly after 8 p.m. last night, and the gap only widened as the evening continued.
After an hour and a half, it was all over. Rock ‘n’ roll by Led Zeppelin blared over the speakers inside the conference room of the Gold Rush Inn as candidates and supporters cheered.
One of the big surprises of the night was the trouncing of Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell by Currie Dixon, a 26-year-old greenhorn to electoral politics who, at a glance, could have been mistaken as a sacrificial lamb this election.
Not so. Dixon garnered 520 votes, giving him a 113-vote lead over Mitchell in Copperbelt North.
Dixon will be one to keep an eye on. He is smart, articulate and handsome. In the Yukon’s shallow pool of political talent, it’s a rarity to find all three qualities in one person.
He also has a ton of hockey buddies in his riding. And it must have helped to have Craig Tuton as a campaign manager.
The political heavyweight previously managed the Yukon Party’s territorial campaigns.
Dixon has his Masters in political science. He’s worked as an executive assistant to Cathers and as a policy wonk for Pasloski.
He frames the Peel debate as an issue contrived by well-funded, meddling, Outside conservationists. And he makes himself sound like an underdog against them.
“I’d like to see their advertising budget,” he quipped, noting that he didn’t have radio or newspaper advertisements (although his party certainly did).
“I think Yukoners saw through that. I think they saw it was up to them to choose their government.”
The Yukon Party’s next cabinet will look very different from the last one, with only two incumbents returning: Brad Cathers, MLA for Lake Laberge, and Elaine Taylor, MLA for Whitehorse West.
Three government MLAs lost their seats. Health Minister Glenn Hart lost Riverdale South to the NDP’s Jan Stick by 66 votes.
Justice Minister Marian Horne, who ran in the downtown after being ousted from her old riding, lost to NDP Leader Liz Hanson by 323 votes.
And Steve Nordick lost the Klondike to the Liberals’ Sandy Silver by 126 votes.
Pasloski secured Mountainview with 480 votes. The NDP’s Stephen Dunbar-Edge received 376, followed by the Liberal’s Dave Sloan, with 216.
Wade Istchenko, an outdoor outfitter, is the Yukon Party’s MLA for Kluane. He received 287 votes, against the NDP’s Eric Stinson, with 220, and the Liberals’ Timothy Cant, with 219.
Stacey Hassard, a Teslin businessman, represents the Pelly-Nisutlin riding. He won handily, with 275 votes. The closest rival was the NDP’s Carol Geddes, who garnered 178 votes.
David Laxton, a former Liberal candidate, holds the Porter Creek Centre seat. He won 298 votes, against the Liberals’ Kerry Huff, with 245, and the NDP’s Jean-Francois Des Lauriers, with 230.
Doug Graham, a popular city councillor, represents Porter Creek North. He swept in with 400 votes, far ahead of the NDP’s Mike Tribes, with 253.
Mike Nixon, a landlord who unsuccessfully vied for the downtown seat in December, is MLA for Porter Creek South. He narrowly beat Liberal incumbent Don Inverarity by 14 votes: 257 to 243.
Scott Kent, a former Liberal cabinet minister, holds Riverdale North. He won 366 votes, against the NDP’s Peter Lesniak, with 296, and the Liberals’ Christie Richardson, with 289.
And in Watson Lake, Patti McLeod, a former municipal councillor, eked out a narrow victory in against the NDP’s Liard McMillan. She received 276 votes, giving her a 34-vote lead.
The Yukon Party is contesting Valerie Boxall’s loss of Copperbelt South to the NDP’s Lois Moorcroft by just three votes: 394 to 397.
One of the big unexpected changes last night occurred behind the scenes.
Much of the gruntwork of the Yukon Party’s campaign was handled by Jonas Smith, a long-haired, heavily-tattooed metal musician, who could be seen at his desk at all hours, twiddling with a Blackberry or pecking away at a laptop.
Smith was hard to recognize last night when he sauntered in. He had a haircut. And he wore a suit.
“I’m almost 40,” he said. “I don’t want to be the guy walking around cabinet offices wearing a ponytail.”
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