Yukon Premier Sandy Silver's call of an April 12 election is criticized

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WHITEHORSE — Yukon residents will go to the polls on April 12 after Premier Sandy Silver called an election Friday, but the decision to do so during the pandemic is being criticized by opposition parties.

Silver has been the premier of Yukon since 2016 when his Liberal party formed government with a majority, beating the Yukon Party, which had ruled for 14 years.

"We're confident with the vaccination schedule ... that we are prepared and at the same time cautiously optimistic that now is probably a good window," Silver said in an interview.

But it's been five years since the last election and time is running out on Silver's mandate. The latest the territorial vote can be held is Nov. 18.

Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon said he questions why the election couldn't wait.

"Up until recently, the Liberal government has been telling everyone they're entirely focused on the rollout of the vaccine, and while we've made good strides in that respect, now is not the time to take their eyes off the ball," he said in an interview, noting 25 per cent of Yukon residents have been fully vaccinated.

Dixon said the Liberals are ignoring the greater well-being of Yukon residents in their bid to secure another chance to form a majority government.

"They've called the election with the explicit interest of the Liberal party in mind," he said.

Silver disputed the claim, saying he's confident the territory and its health system are prepared for a vote.

Voters will be able to mail in their ballots and many facilities in the territory remain open, he said.

The Liberals have never formed back-to-back governments before, and Silver said Friday that the party will be campaigning on its track record.

"We have massive work left to do," he said.

New Democrat Leader Kate White said in a statement that the Liberal party has not lived up to its promises since taking power.

All three of the major Yukon political parties have spent the last few months announcing candidates either seeking re-election or running for election as a vote loomed.

Max Harvey, Yukon's chief electoral officer, said elections officials have worked to implement several safety precautions ahead of the election, including holding voting outside or in much larger spaces than normal.

Harvey said he and his team are aware of COVID-19 safety concerns and believe their precautions are "respectful and responsible."

At the time of dissolution, the Liberal party had 10 seats, the Yukon Party had six, the New Democrats had two and there was one Independent.

- By Nick Wells in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had the wrong seat allocations when the legislature was dissolved.