The Whitehorse Centre riding encompasses downtown, from the dam on the Yukon River in the south to the edges of the industrial district in the north. About 3,000 people live downtown, according to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics’ 2020 population report.
Downtown’s residential district contains a combination of old and new homes, with few higher-density apartment buildings. The majority of the city’s hotels and restaurants are in the downtown core, as well as the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter.
The riding has been represented by an NDP MLA since its inception in 1992. Liz Hanson, MLA and former NDP leader, has been the Whitehorse Centre MLA since 2010.
She won her seat with 44, 62 and 51 per cent of the vote in the last three elections. Hanson retired from politics this year. Three new candidates are running in the 2021 election. They have been profiled here in alphabetical order.
Dan Curtis – Yukon Liberal Party
Dan Curtis has been the mayor of Whitehorse since 2012, during which time he prioritized collaboration with First Nations, as well as the territorial and federal governments.
He hopes to bring that collaborative spirit into a new position as the Liberal MLA for Whitehorse Centre.
“Something that I want to bring to the table is, really, a good working relationship with everyone,” Curtis said. “I have a good track record of that — team-building, and working together, and having that one-government approach of respectful dialogue and compromise.”
Curtis’ platform focuses on climate change and affordable housing as key priorities for the downtown community.
“I think everyone is concerned about the environment, everyone is concerned about vulnerable people, everyone is concerned about safety,” Curtis said.
Curtis worked with both Liberal and Yukon Party governments during his term as mayor, and says the contrast between the two pushed him to join the red team in this election.
“I see such a stark contrast of values and the ability to really pull everyone together,” Curtis said. “I didn’t have the same experience in my first four years as mayor, compared to my next four years, so it wasn’t very difficult to see that my values line up with the Liberal Party.”
Curtis said he wants to utilize territorial and federal funds to update some of downtown’s aging infrastructure, and develop better plans for safety at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to use the skills and knowledge that I’ve been afforded during my time as mayor, and I’m looking to put some of that into practice,” Curtis said.
Eileen Melnychuk – Yukon Party
Eileen Melnychuk is an educational assistant and president of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre. She also serves on the board of the Whitehorse Community Thrift Store and Volunteer Benevoles Yukon. She has been nominated twice for the city’s Volunteer of the Year award.
“The fact that I’m a born-and-raised Yukoner, I have a really strong, vested interest in the future of Whitehorse and the Yukon,” Melnychuk said.
Melnychuk is running on a platform focused on tackling the cost of living, electrical rates, housing and education.
“The Yukon Party has some really strong plans to bring affordable land to market, by working hand-in-hand with Yukon First Nations and municipalities,” Melnychuk said.
As an educational assistant, Melnychuk is an advocate for better supports in the public school system.
“I see, on a daily basis, the needs of our students, and I see that those needs are not being met,” Melnychuk said. Melnychuk wants to see stronger mental health support for students and teachers, and a reversal of the recent decision to move special needs students off IEPs.
The Yukon Party candidate is also prioritizing economic diversification, which she says is a strong aspect of the party’s platform that will lead the territory out of the pandemic with support for the private sector.
“I have seen first-hand the boom-and-bust economy that we have had forever,” she said. “I think that the Yukon Party has some really solid plans to explore initiatives putting the focus on local technology and local talent … With the creativity of Yukoners, there’s a real opportunity here to explore.”
Emily Tredger – Yukon New Democractic Party
Emily Tredger is a speech-language pathologist and the executive director at Teegatha’Oh Zheh, which supports Yukon residents with disabilities. She is also the president of Queer Yukon. She said that in her work, she often hears of the problems Yukon families face, and that inspired her to run for office.
“I really love doing that work, but it was not uncommon for me to call a family and say, ‘Do you want to do some speech therapy?’ and they would say, ‘Yes, but what we really need is a place to live,’” Tredger said. “As a speech therapist, I couldn’t help them with those things like housing and food security.”
Tredger hopes to tackle those issues as an elected official. Her platform focuses on housing and mental health support.
“Having more affordable housing and better protections for tenants is a really big priority for me,” she said, noting the NDP’s plan to cap rent increases.
“I’m also really proud of our plan to have a walk-in mental health clinic … I think when you’re in crisis, it’s not a good time to be trying to navigate systems. There are so many barriers to accessing health care, and this is a way that we could really reduce them.”
Tredger said the NDP’s inclusive mandate inspired her to run for that party.
“I knew right away I wanted to be on Kate (White)’s team, I have so much faith in her as a leader, and I think a lot of people in the Yukon really connect to her,” she said.
“I really think that NDP values are what will make the Yukon the best place it can be, for everybody.”
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org