Pelly-Nisutlin is one of the largest rural ridings and has a regularly high voter turnout. It encompasses the traditional territory of the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Ross River Dena Council of the Kaska Dena.
Candidates have been spending lots of time on the road in order to access its diverse communities, including Teslin, Faro, Ross River, Little Salmon and Johnsons Crossing. When the riding was first created the residents of Teslin and Teslin Tlingit Council protested the boundaries as not representing natural ties between communities.
Since the riding was created in 2002 it has consistently voted blue.
There are three candidates running in this riding. They are profiled in alphabetical order.
George Bahm – Yukon New Democratic Party
Teslin’s George Bahm has had plenty of interesting jobs — trapper, former bush and medevac pilot, entrepreneur and educator — and he’s now hoping to add MLA to the list.
“The community members must be involved in decisions that affect them. I want to be part of that change,” Bahm said.
Bahm was born and raised in Teslin, operates his family trap line on the south Canol Road and is a member of Teslin Tlingit Council. He said each place in the riding is unique and has different concerns.
“You can’t jet into a small community that’s remote like [Ross River] and then in one or two days get a feel of what the community is about. We’re trying to spend a fair bit of time in each and allow people that want to talk to us that time,” he said.
“There’s some common threads in the communities. One of those is the need for better mental health and addiction support. That’s pretty unanimous,” he said.
Like everywhere else in the territory, safe and affordable housing is also a major concern. He said he has also heard about highway upgrades, old infrastructure, medical travel, options for seniors to live rurally and transportation difficulties.
Bahm, who currently works in First Nations education, said the quality and options for education are also very limited in the community. He said rural youth in the territory need more support in order to excel.
“There’s also mental health support that needs to happen as well. Having a healthy community will allow us to hold down those meaningful jobs,” he said. “When they feel valued they can thrive in our Yukon communities.”
Katherine Alexander – Yukon Liberal Party
Katherine Alexander has lived in the Yukon since 1996 and has worked mainly in the non-profit sector, specifically in agencies addressing social justice. She has previously taught at the Yukon College Campus in Teslin and now lives in Marsh Lake.
“My interest is actually being an advocate for people in the government,” said Alexander. “My interest is pushing forward the relationships that the Liberal government has created with Yukon First Nations. I’ve seen them in action, and I know that they’re trying, so that’s another reason why I put my name forward,” she said.
Alexander is currently the Director of Policy and Analytics at the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate. She also worked closely with the Ross River Kaska on community economic development projects.
She said despite the differences between Faro, Ross River and Teslin, she’s heard many common themes in her conversations with residents over the campaign. Those concerns include economic development, health care for seniors, mental health and addiction services and affordable housing.
“Everyone wants to make sure that they can provide for their families, that they can grow their businesses and just be able to participate. I’m hearing a lot about the wonderful ideas each community has, the visions they have for their community and how can the Yukon government help them achieve those goals,” she said.
Stacey Hassard – Yukon Party
Current MLA Stacey Hassard and his brother, Dean Hassard, have won three out of four elections in Pelly-Nisutlin. This year Hassard said he wants to keep going and said his extensive experience means he is better equipped to navigate government — as opposition or majority.
“It honestly takes the better part of two years to really understand how the process works and how to be effective in getting things done,” he said. “Neither of the candidates running against me have that experience. They are both great people but I think that experience is really the key factor.”
Hassard has lived in the riding almost his entire life. He currently lives in Teslin, but said he has been door-knocking across the riding so far in the campaign.
He said the two biggest issues he’s hearing about is frustration around COVID-19 uncertainties and the need for better mental health supports.
“Why hasn’t the government given us some metrics and timelines on when things are going to change?” said Hassard. “I think it’s important that if we form a majority government that we are able to provide metrics and timelines to people, so that they can plan their life going forward.”
Hassard said he also believes the steps the Liberals have taken to address rural mental health is still not working.
“I think mental health is partly related to COVID. The government has really touted their mental wellness hub, but I don’t think that it works for a lot of communities,” he said. “Unless the person is based out of the community that they’re dealing with, it’s challenging to build that rapport and that trust. That’s certainly been a big concern.”
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org