Yukon commissioner Doug Phillips and members of the RCMP Musical Ride at Taylor House on August 13. After seven years on the job, Phillips will be wrapping up his tenure at the end of the month. (Alistair Maitland Photography)

Yukon’s commissioner, Doug Phillips, wraps up seven years on the job

No word yet from Ottawa when a replacement will be appointed

After seven years on the job, Yukon’s commissioner Doug Phillips will be wrapping up his tenure at the end of the month.

A representative of the territory at everything from the royal visit to his annual youth showcase, Phillips said he has enjoyed his time on the job but is ready to move on.

“It’s now time to do some family time with my wife and grandkids and kids.”

Normally, commissioners are appointed by Ottawa for a five-year term. Phillips’s was extended to seven in 2016.

In his seven years he said he’s proud of his creation of the annual youth showcase. He estimates more than 250 young Yukoners have had the chance to take the stage and perform for the community over the years.

“From dance groups to singing groups to visual artists to performers of all kinds.”

Phillips said he always tried to bring youth performers along to other events he attended.

“I was always struck by the incredible talent of these young people and I wanted to give them an opportunity to perform and give the people an opportunity to hear them,” he said.

“My job gave me that stage, allowed me to invite them to an event and have them perform.”

At this year’s New Years levee — Phillips’s last public event as commissioner — some alumni from youth showcases of the past performed.

“You can see the incredable development of their musical careers,” he said.

Phillips is also responsible for giving the commissioner’s office a new, more central and permanent home.

In 2015 the office was moved into the Taylor House in downtown Whitehorse. Before that, it had “really moved around,” he said.

“It was in some government offices, it was in the corner of commercial buildings, eventually it moved into the corner of Closeleigh Manor, a senior citizens’ complex.”

The move was not without some criticism. The Taylor House was chosen after the Yukon government of the day told the Yukon Heritage Resources Board that it had to move out.

“One of the criticisms at the time was ‘well, the building will lose its heritage prominance when the commissioner’s office takes it over,’ and in fact the exact opposite has happened,” Phillips said.

He said his office has had historical talks on the lawn, and had hundreds of people through to hear about the building and its heritage.

“I think its really focused on and emphasized the heritage of the building and brought it back to life.”

Phillips said the job of commissioner is more than just a ceremonial one, it’s “a part of our democratic structure.”

When asked by the territorial government, the commissioner signs orders-in-council, commissioner’s warrants and statutory appointments.

He or she swears in MLAs after they are elected and reads the speech from the throne.

“One of the main roles of the commissioner is to ensure that we have a government sitting in office at all times,” Phillips said.

Before he was appointed commissioner, Phillips spent 15 years as Yukon Party MLA for Riverdale North from 1985 to 2000. His portfolios included tourism, education, and justice.

He said he hopes he will be remembered as a commissioner who was busy and spent his time boosting the territory.

“It always was and still is the greatest place in the world to live in my view.”

His appointment as commissioner will officially run out Jan. 31. There’s no word yet on when Ottawa will announce his replacement. Phillips said he has no say in the matter but hopes the new appointment happens soon.

“In the Northwest Territories it took them 14 months to pick a new commissioner and I made it pretty clear to everybody that that’s inexcusable,” he said.

“It shouldn’t take that long, they’ve known for two years when my term expires.”

Between commissioners, duties like signing cabinet documents will be managed by his office’s administrator. The administrator’s term is slated to expire in early March, Phillips said.

“By then they should have appointed a commissioner, I hope. If they haven’t, it will be an interesting situation but I will be on a beach in Australia.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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