'Force of nature': Peter Jenkins, former Dawson City mayor and deputy premier of Yukon, has died

·4 min read
Peter Jenkins, former Dawson City mayor and former deputy premier of Yukon, died last weekend. The owner of Dawson City' Eldorado Hotel was a 'force of nature' who spent more than 25 years in politics. (Government of Yukon/CP - image credit)
Peter Jenkins, former Dawson City mayor and former deputy premier of Yukon, died last weekend. The owner of Dawson City' Eldorado Hotel was a 'force of nature' who spent more than 25 years in politics. (Government of Yukon/CP - image credit)

Yukon has lost one of its most colourful and longest serving political leaders.

Peter Jenkins, the former two-time mayor of Dawson City and MLA for Klondike who served as deputy premier of the Yukon for three years, died last weekend. He was 77 years old.

Also a well-known owner of Dawson City's Eldorado Hotel, Jenkins was first elected mayor of Dawson City in 1980.

During his time as mayor, he earned the nickname "Pirate Pete" for his scheme to buy a residential satellite subscription under the name of dead local pioneers and then share the television signals with Dawson City residents for free.

He served as mayor until he was defeated in 1994.

Dawson City's current mayor, Wayne Potoroka, who had just moved to the city around that time, remembers watching Jenkins' concession speech on TV that night.

"He might have been the owner of the Eldorado Hotel to a lot of people but for me, from the moment I arrived here, he was just this larger than life presence in the community and the political scene here and remained that way for lots of years," Potoroka said.

Territorial politics

In 1996, Jenkins ran to become the MLA for Klondike under the Yukon Party banner. He won that election and was re-elected in 2000.

Sitting as the only member of his party in the Yukon Legislature in 2000, he was party leader until 2002 when Dennis Fentie won the leadership and the subsequent territorial election a month later.

According to Brad Cathers, who has been serving as a Yukon Party MLA in the Yukon legislature since 2002, Jenkins deserves "huge credit" for holding the government accountable from 2000 to 2002.

"And really, it's to Peter's credit that the Yukon Party went from Peter as the lone MLA to a majority government," said Cathers, who added Jenkins was a "force of nature."

(CBC)
(CBC)

From 2002 to 2005, Jenkins served in the cabinet as deputy premier, minister of health and social services, minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, and minister of the environment. He resigned from cabinet in 2005, when he was forced to either repay his company's government loan of more than $300,000 or quit, and did not run in the 2006 territorial election.

Doug Graham, who served as a Yukon Party MLA from 2011 to 2016, said Jenkins was "an interesting person."

"He could be frustrating as heck sometimes, but he was a really generous person. He had a good heart," Graham said.

Graham said Jenkins always had the best interests of the territory in mind.

"You know, his heart was in the right place. And I know a lot of people thought that he was abrupt and very outspoken, but I always found him to be a good friend."

He said that whenever he went to Dawson City, he'd go out of his way to make sure he spent some time with Jenkins.

"He was entertaining to talk to," Graham said.

Premier Sandy Silver said Jenkins was always ready to share insights and knowledge with others.

"I value the advice he offered me from when I first became the MLA for Klondike right through to serving as premier," he said.

Eldorado Hotel

Cathers knew Jenkins before they worked together as MLAs in 2002, when Cathers' father and sister ran the Yukon Quest.

He said Jenkins was always very courteous to his clients.

He said one time, Cathers and his sister were patching a window on their truck on the side of the road as they were headed to Dawson City. They thought, because they would be arriving late into the city and everything would be closed, that they'd have to cobble something together for dinner.

Turns out Jenkins had driven past them on the road and had made plans for the kitchen staff at his hotel to prepare a meal for them upon their arrival, even though the restaurant was closed.

"Peter would go the extra mile to try and help out people that he knew and were in a position that he could help them," said Cathers.

Back in Dawson City

Jenkins returned to municipal politics in 2009, when he ran for mayor of Dawson City once again. He won that election by seven votes.

Potoroka was first elected to town council that year and served with Jenkins until 2012 when Potoroka defeated Jenkins to become the new mayor.

Potoroka said working with Jenkins on the town council from 2009 to 2012 was "a wonderful experience."

"His approach to things was very much, make a decision, right or wrong, and live with it. I like that about him."

Potoroka said that while Jenkins was very outspoken, he was the type of person who was always helping people out behind the scenes, not seeking any recognition for it.

"There might be at least a couple of people in town who might be surprised, just how kind and generous he could be when no one was looking," said Potoroka.

"Maybe people wouldn't be so shocked by that because I'm sure there's plenty of people in town who've experienced this generosity."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting