EDITORIAL: Time for the Yukon Party’s opening act

Having a competitive leadership race could be good for the party

With the announcement this week of a second person vying to become leader, the Yukon Party officially has a race on its hand.

Assuming Brad Cathers, Currie Dixon (and any others who might choose to join them) avoid the pitfalls of their federal counterparts, and the loser doesn’t skulk off to form his own fringe party promising to build a fence around the territory, having a proper leadership race is good for the Yukon Party.

If done right, a leadership race is a chance to discuss issues that matter to party faithful and potential voters. It’s an opportunity to gain momentum and demonstrate to anyone watching that your party has the kind of policies and enthusiasm to make it a viable option the next time Yukoners are filling out a ballot.

This race will presumably have more opportunities to flush out issues and positions than the NDP got when Kate White was acclaimed as their new leader earlier this year.

The Yukon Party has been without a formal leader since Darrell Pasloski stepped down following the 2016 election. Waiting this long for someone to officially take over the reins pushed the decision closer to the next election.

Hopefully the competition will force candidates to not waste the opportunity.

Dixon is young and charismatic and could signal a shift away from the party’s old guard. That could be valuable to the Yukon Party against someone like Sandy Silver whose party won the 2016 election largely based on his likability.

Dixon’s a former cabinet minister who did not run in 2016 but was campaign chair for the Yukon Party when it went from a majority government to official Opposition status.

Though the Yukon Party lost that election, many of the ridings were very close.

While Dixon may be framing himself as a new option, choosing to take a few years out of the spotlight does not absolve him of some of the skeletons he collected while he was a minster.

Dixon was environment minister during key moments of the Yukon Party’s losing battle over the Peel watershed.

He was the minister who rather unadvisedly informed this paper that “the numbers don’t matter” after it was revealed the Yukon Party had omitted data from its consultation report on the Peel plan.

It’s unlikely party faithful will care about Dixon’s history with the Peel — he was, after all, touting the party line — but it might make it difficult to chip votes away from the Liberals or the NDP.

After more than a decade and a half in politics, Cathers won’t be able to play up a “new guy” persona. He’s more likely to frame himself as a consistent presence with years of institutional memory and — for those who haven’t been paying close attention — an impressively encyclopedic knowledge of policy, procedure and political history.

While Dixon chose not to run Cathers stayed in the trenches and has had a front row seat to the Liberals’ struggles and soft spots which would be beneficial in the next campaign.

Cathers has shown a knack for getting under the Liberals’ skin, even if it is sometimes through immature chirping from the opposition benches in the legislative assembly.

His career hasn’t been without its own struggles.

In 2015 then-minister Cathers was shuffled from Community Services to Justice after Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis said he couldn’t work with him. The year before, Whitehorse city council voted unanimously to ask that Cathers be removed.

As it turned out, Dixon took over the portfolio.

In 2009 Cathers resigned from former premier Dennis Fentie’s cabinet alleging Fentie misled the public and ministers about plans to privatize the Yukon Energy Corporation.

Cathers sat as an independent but remained a member of the Yukon Party. He returned to the fold under Darrell Pasloski.

We will have to see how long of a memory Yukon Party members have and whether any of that will influence their decision.

The possibility of Silver calling an early territorial election has already been discussed in these pages. That means that Cathers and Dixon are not just campaigning to those with a Yukon Party membership card. They have a small window where other people will be paying attention.

On your mark, get set, go.


Yukon politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read