Ranj Pillai, Yukon's new Liberal leader, sworn in as territory's 10th premier

Ranj Pillai, right, Yukon's new premier, and cabinet members pose for a photo after being officially sworn in on Saturday in Whitehorse. (Leslie Amminson/CBC - image credit)
Ranj Pillai, right, Yukon's new premier, and cabinet members pose for a photo after being officially sworn in on Saturday in Whitehorse. (Leslie Amminson/CBC - image credit)

Ranj Pillai, Yukon's new Liberal leader, has officially been sworn in as the territory's 10th premier.

Pillai and his cabinet took the oath of office before Administrator of Yukon Adeline Webber during a public ceremony in Whitehorse on Saturday.

Speaking to a packed crowd in the lobby of the Jim Smith Building, Pillai said he would focus on serving the interests of all people in the territory.

"I firmly believe that, as our former premier Sandy Silver has said many times, good ideas come from all sides," he said.

Housing, access to health care among priorities

In his remarks, Pillai highlighted the previous work of the current Liberal government. He said the Yukon had come out of the pandemic strong, noting it's one of the fastest-growing jurisdictions in the country.

He also acknowledged ongoing challenges, such as increases to the cost of living, access to health care and secure housing, and climate change.

"I know that there are a lot of things Yukoners want to see from this government," Pillai said. "And I've heard from you about where my priorities should be."

Uncontested in leadership race

Pillai assumes the premiership after former Liberal leader Sandy Silver announced he would step down from the role in the fall.

Pillai was the only one to put his name forward in the subsequent leadership race. He took the helm of the Yukon Liberal Party after the contest officially ended with his acclamation on Sunday.

Julien Gignac/CBC
Julien Gignac/CBC

Before entering territorial politics, Pillai was a Whitehorse city councillor. In 2016, he was elected MLA for Porter Creek South.

He's since served as minister of energy, mines and resources, economic development, and tourism and culture. He's also been deputy premier.

CASA faces uncertain future

Pillai is assuming leadership of a party that struggled to hang onto power after the territory's most recent election.

In 2016, former premier Silver took the Yukon Liberals into a  majority government. But in the territory's 2021 election, the Liberals could only tie the Yukon Party for seats, each of them finishing with eight.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Liberals were able to maintain power through a confidence and supply agreement (CASA) with the Yukon's NDP. That agreement led to such policies as the Yukon's rent cap, a minimum wage framework and, most recently, a new territory-wide dental care plan.

The CASA is set to expire at the end of this month, and it remains uncertain whether it will be renewed.

Silver to stay on as cabinet minister

Pillai will remain minister of economic development and minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.

John Streicker, MLA for Mount-Lorne-Southern Lakes, will take over the Department of Tourism and Culture from Pillai.

Silver will stay on as a cabinet minister. Among his portfolios, he'll head the Department of Finance and the Public Service Commission.