Still just 1 contender, as deadline looms in Yukon Liberal leadership race

Liberal cabinet minister Ranj Pillai announced in November that he wanted to be the party's next leader. He's so far the only declared candidate. The nomination deadline for the leadership race is Saturday afternoon. (Julien Gignac/CBC - image credit)
Liberal cabinet minister Ranj Pillai announced in November that he wanted to be the party's next leader. He's so far the only declared candidate. The nomination deadline for the leadership race is Saturday afternoon. (Julien Gignac/CBC - image credit)

Barring any last-minute entries, it's looking like the Yukon Liberal leadership race could be over before it begins.

With just a day left before the nomination period closes, MLA and cabinet minister Ranj Pillai was still the only declared candidate. And if nobody else jumps into the race by Saturday, Pillai is set to become the territory's next premier.

Premier Sandy Silver announced in September that he would step aside and make way for a new leader. He's been Liberal leader for a decade, and premier since 2016. Silver said he would continue to serve as MLA for the Klondike until the next general election.

Pillai said in November that he wanted the job of leader and premier. He was first elected MLA for Porter Creek South in 2016, when Silver led the Liberals from third-party status to majority government. Before that, Pillai had been a Whitehorse city councillor.

He's served in Silver's cabinet as minister of energy, mines and resources, and economic development. He's also been deputy premier.

The party laid out the rules for the leadership race in November. Candidates will each have to pay a $7,000 fee to the party to run, and need 10 party members to sign their nomination form. They need to be a member of the party and eligible for election to the Legislative Assembly, under the Elections Act. The party's steering committee must also approve the person's candidacy.

Contenders have until 5 p.m. on Saturday to get their nomination papers in.

Speaking to CBC News in the fall, party spokesperson Paolo Gallina said he believed there was "a lot of interest" in the leadership and that he was "encouraged to see who brings their name forward."

Pillai also suggested when he launched his leadership bid that some of his colleagues would "probably" run, and that that was a good thing.

"The more people that are involved in this process, I think, the better," he said.

But on Friday morning, Gallina confirmed that Pillai was still the only candidate. If nobody else jumps into the race before Saturday's deadline, Pillai would be acclaimed as party leader and then later sworn in as the territory's tenth premier.

If other candidates enter the race, party members will vote at a leadership convention scheduled for Jan. 28 in Whitehorse.

"Shortly after nominations close, our announcement could be: there are multiple candidates, or, there is only one candidate, here's the process," Gallina said on Friday.

"We do want to share it with people as soon as possible."