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What happens if a party wins but a leader doesn’t?

Yukon’s Elections Act does allow for an unelected premier
Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

What happens if a party wins a minority or majority amount of seats in the election, but the leader of the party loses in their riding?

“The short answer is in the Yukon, it’s happened infrequently,” said Dan Cable, clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.

It could happen. Under Canada’s electoral system, the leader of the party is also an MLA running to win their own riding. In the Yukon, if they lose the riding they are not entitled to sit on the floor of the legislature like elected MLAs.

It’s a scenario most parties try to avoid. Generally, party leaders run in “safe” ridings, where the odds favour them winning the riding. But it’s not a guarantee. In the case of an upset, Yukon statute does allow for an unelected party leader to become premier.

“They could remain as leader, assuming that’s their party’s plan, or their party constitution allows that, and they could sit outside the House until one of the members agrees to vacate their seat. Then he or she could run in a by-election, presumably in that riding. If they won it, then they’d be a member of the House,” said Cable.

The Yukon has also had premiers who sat outside the House for a time.

In 2011 the Yukon Party, with a majority in the Legislative Assembly, elected leader Darrell Pasloski as party leader — and as follows, as premier. He did not sit in the assembly until the 2011 election, when we won the district of Mountainview.

“It was too close to the election for someone to vacate a seat for him to run in. Because six months or less, you don’t actually have to have a by-election in the Yukon under the statute, the Elections Act,” Cable said.

“As a premier you have to be responsible to the House for your government. That’s one of the big jobs. In order to do that, you have to be able to have members ask questions of you for the house. So you know, it’s advisable to get in there just as quickly as you can,” he said.

In 2013 British Columbians elected a Liberal government but party leader Christie Clark lost her own seat in Vancouver-Point Grey. According to the rules in that province, Clark remained premier but had to win a by-election in order to sit in the assembly. To rectify the situation, an elected member of her party resigned his safe Liberal seat and she ran in his stead.

The leaders in the 2021 election are Liberal leader Sandy Silver in Klondike; Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon in Copperbelt North and NDP leader Kate White in Takhini-Kopper King. All three have previously won the ridings by large margins.

Contact Haley Ritchie at