Yukon Premier Sandy Silver to step down, asks Liberal Party to find a new leader

·4 min read
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver speaking with reporters in Whitehorse Friday.  (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver speaking with reporters in Whitehorse Friday. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver has asked his Liberal party to find a new leader, but says he will stay on as premier until then.

Silver also announced Friday he will not be seeking a 4th term as MLA in the 2025 election.

Visibly emotional, Silver told reporters Friday his tenure as premier has been "the best job of my life."

"The Klondike Liberals, we did what people said was impossible, and we did it with precision," he said.

According to a Liberal caucus news release, Silver has asked the party to launch a leadership convention.

The Yukon Liberal Party "is pleased that Sandy has committed to continue representing the people of Dawson City and working tirelessly with his Liberal colleagues to make the Yukon a better place to live," the release states.

The party will hammer out rules and timing for a leadership election, it states. "An update on that process will be provided as soon as possible."

Deliberate timing

Silver said when he realized he wasn't prepared to run again, he needed to tell the Liberal Party so it could begin planning for a leadership race. "The timing is about giving the party the respect it deserves to have a new leader in place and to build up some support," he said.

Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon thanked Silver for his service as premier, particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic. But Dixon said the Yukon government has been adrift since the last election.

"Over the last six months we've seen the premier largely checked out from his position and the government has been in a period of stasis," Dixon said.

Wayne Vallevand/ CBC
Wayne Vallevand/ CBC

Back in May, the Yukon Party issued a news release calling on Silver to lay out protocol for any cabinet ministers who might vie to replace him. Dixon repeated that call Friday, saying it's inappropriate for ministers to use their position to boost their leadership campaigns.

NDP Leader Kate White said the most important work done by the Liberals since the last election were the result of a confidence and supply agreement with her party, including a minimum wage increase and a cap on residential rent hikes.

White said she was "partially surprised and not surprised" that Silver announced his resignation.

"I don't think anyone would be surprised at this point in time if anyone who's currently elected chose not to run in the next election...," she said. "I know I'm committed and I'm here for a number of years still, but I do understand where he's coming from."

A teary goodbye

John Streicker, minister of energy, mines and resources, said he heard the news that Silver was stepping down just before the media conference.

He said, with obvious emotion in his voice, that the first thought that came to mind was gratitude.

"It's been an honour to work with him," Streicker said. "I just think that he gave a lot for the Yukon and [it's] really a privilege to get to work with him."

Streicker said many of his colleagues were similarly emotional.

Chris Windeyer/CBC
Chris Windeyer/CBC

"We have a strong relationship as a group and we think that he's done a lot for this place," Streicker said. "He's made us proud."

Richard Mostyn, minister of community services, was also visibly teary, calling Silver "an extraordinary leader."

""I have seen leaders since '89, when I first came here, and there are a few that stand out," Mostyn said.

"He's taken the territory into a place where we're actually leading the country on so many fronts."

Asked whether they would be throwing their hats in the ring for the party leadership, both Mostyn and Streicker declined to respond.

"It's not the time," Mostyn said. "I'm processing this."

Back to Dawson City

Silver said he plans to return to Dawson City, his home for 25 years. A former teacher, he said he gave a grad speech at Dawson's Robert Service School this year, and estimated he knew only 20 per cent of the students.

"My friends have always been by my side but their kids are growing and I don't get to see that," he said.

Northern Vision Development
Northern Vision Development

Silver was first elected as MLA for Klondike in 2011. He is currently on his third consecutive term for the riding. Silver is the first MLA for Klondike to serve as premier.

In 2012, Silver took over a Yukon Liberal Party that was on life support. Previous leader Arthur Mitchell lost his own seat in the 2011 election. Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias later left caucus to sit as an independent, then joined the governing Yukon Party.

Four years later, Silver and the Liberals swept to power, ending 14 years of Yukon Party rule. The Liberals jumped from one seat to 11.

In 2021, the Liberals called a snap election, hoping to grab a second majority as premiers elsewhere had done. The move backfired: the Liberals were reduced to eight seats, tied with the Yukon Party.

By convention, the Liberals were entitled to continue in power. They did so by signing a confidence and supply agreement with the NDP, which runs until next January.