Yukon Liberals to reveal details on coming leadership race

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver in a file photo from 2017. Silver announced in September that he would stay on as premier until the Yukon Liberal Party finds a new leader, and he will not seek re-election.   (Fred Chartrand/CP - image credit)
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver in a file photo from 2017. Silver announced in September that he would stay on as premier until the Yukon Liberal Party finds a new leader, and he will not seek re-election. (Fred Chartrand/CP - image credit)

The Yukon Liberal Party is set to reveal "important details" this week on its looming contest to replace leader Sandy Silver.

On Friday, the party will hold a dinner at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse where details of its leadership race will be announced.

Tickets cost $200 each, or $1,400 for a table of eight.

Paolo Gallina, a Liberal spokesperson, expects the dinner to sell out. He said members will get to meet with potential candidates, the party brass and express their vision for the party's future.

"I think that will be a good indicator of what the membership is looking for in a leader. You'll have a lot of people come together, you'll have people able to talk about what's important to them and they'll be able to connect with executive leadership," Gallina said.

The leadership race is being held to find a successor to Silver, who announced in September that he will step down as premier and Liberal leader. He will remain the MLA for Klondike until the next election, when he will exit politics.

While the Liberals' trek to a post-Silver future is still just starting, Gallina said it has already animated the party, with volunteers stepping up to help out with the coming convention.

"I've certainly heard of people that are looking forward to being a part of the journey, a part of this process that the party is going through because there will be a change," he said.

"And that change will come with great responsibility, and challenges that lie ahead in governing a territory in a minority government situation."

A call for 'clear rules'

Philippe Morin/CBC
Philippe Morin/CBC

As the fall sitting of the legislature began, Yukon's opposition parties released a joint statement calling the Premier to set "clear rules" for the contest.

Both the Yukon Party and Yukon NDP demanded that cabinet ministers be required to resign from their posts before running for leadership. They flagged the need to ensure ministers would not use their positions nor government resources to campaign.

Silver declined, saying his office consulted with the Conflict of Interest Commissioner who did not raise any issues. That said, the Conflict of Interest Act is silent on the matter of elections and party leadership campaigns.

To date, none of Silver's ministers have announced intentions to seek leadership.

Floyd McCormick, former clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly who also holds a PhD in political science, said it's important those who vie for leadership don't use their portfolios to advance their leadership aspirations. He added that time and effort spent on a campaign would divert attention from cabinet responsibilities.

However, he also said having ministers step down to campaign would disrupt the functioning of the government.

Unlike larger jurisdictions, where government caucuses have more members, every Yukon Liberal MLA except for Speaker Jeremy Harper holds multiple cabinet portfolios. Ministers resigning would mean existing ones would have to pick up the slack for the duration of the campaign.

"That might not be too much of a problem if you've only got one cabinet minister who is running for the leadership and decides to resign their cabinet responsibilities. But you know, if you get two or three of them running, I mean, it could become rather unworkable," McCormick said.

McCormick said another issue the Liberals will have to prepare for is the chance that multiple ministers run for leadership, with some choosing to step down while others remain in cabinet.

"You create an uneven playing field. That's another thing that they might have to discuss internally. If people are going to do this, then there has to be the same set of rules for everybody," he said.

'Rules of engagement' to come

Gallina said more details on "rules of engagement" will come when the party releases candidate packages. He said this will answer questions about the voting system, when people need to become members to be eligible to vote, and methods for casting ballots.

He said the party wants to make voting "as accessible as possible" for members, to include the most people possible in the selection process. In the past, Gallina said that has included allowing vote by proxy. He added that mail-in voting is being considered this time around.

"We'll want to help people make an informed vote that is as easy as possible. So there's a number of mechanisms to be able to do that," he said.

"We're in the process of looking at ways in which we've conducted votes in the past with our AGMs and with past leadership conventions and at this point, we are analyzing different ways that make sense for our membership."