Yukon's political party leaders reflect on 2020, look ahead to an election year

·6 min read

Few will miss the year that was 2020, and what's coming in 2021 is uncertain. But we do know one thing for sure: there will be a territorial election some time in 2021 before early November.

Yukon Morning host Elyn Jones spoke with the three main party leaders to get their thoughts on the events of 2020, and their hopes and goals for 2021.

Sandy Silver, Yukon Liberal Party

Chris Windeyer/CBC
Chris Windeyer/CBC

How are you feeling at the end of what's felt like a long year?

I don't know. It's been a lot. A lot of positive emotions, you know, of a year that really didn't have a lot of positive overtones. It's conflicting emotions, relief, lots of that, lots of pride. Very proud of Yukon. You know, we have zero cases right now of COVID-19 in the North. And that's because of Yukoners.

Take us back to to March. What were those first few weeks like when it became official that there was COVID-19 in Canada?

Devastated and confused. But the day we turned the corner downstairs into the press gallery, you're used to seeing members of the media there. We saw coaches, volunteers, parents, athletes, all devastated in athletes wear for the Arctic Winter Games. And it was the hardest thing I ever did, was to cancel [the games].

What pandemic decisions did you make that maybe you would want to do over if you had the chance?

I wouldn't change anything as far as the strategy. We go with the best information that science can give. I would say the system worked really well in that you make decisions based on the science and then you augment and change based upon the realities of your decisions.

The Moderna vaccine has been approved. So will we see Yukon open up more for tourism and for business this spring after the vaccine?

Time will tell. We are battling against misinformation on the science and the vaccine. These are safe vaccines. We're in the last days before the vaccine. So we will be able to communicate how we get from this last stage before the vaccine into the final stage, on what it means to be vaccinated and what it means to Yukoners as far as mobility.

An election will be called in 2021. Will we see a spring election here in the territory?

A lot of people have been asking that. We're thinking about vaccines right now. That's where my mind is.

Currie Dixon, Yukon Party

Chris Windeyer/CBC
Chris Windeyer/CBC

2020 has been a big year for you. What stands out?

In May, I was elected as leader of the Yukon Party, and I've spent my time since then putting my mark on the party and doing my best to get out there and connect with folks and let them know that there's some new management in the Yukon Party.

Why did you want to be leader of the Yukon party, especially during a year like we've had?

I think that the current government has had some success with this, but they've also had some areas where I think they could have done better. And so when I announced just over a year ago that I wanted to run to be the leader, I thought that I had the right sort of skills that would make me well suited for the position. And over the course of the leadership election, we had this small little issue called COVID-19 come up and we've all been trying our best to navigate it since then.

How would you say the government has performed handling the pandemic here?

I think that the early response in terms of the economic situation was pretty good. The convening of the Business Advisory Council was a good idea. And some of the early work on the initial business relief fund was welcome. More recently, though, as things of have worn on, we've become a little more concerned about the lack of consideration of the business community over the past few months. We've seen challenges with the tourism support packages.

What should be the first priority once the vaccine is rolled out?

The logistics of getting the vaccine out are incredibly complex and something that's going to take a lot of attention from the government. The most difficult part of this will be the last mile, getting the vaccine to the communities and getting people in the priority line vaccinated. So there's a lot of moving parts.

Is the Yukon Party ready for an election?

Well, there was some speculation that the election may have been this fall and we were ready to go then. Now there's some speculation it could be in the spring. And if that's the case, we'll be ready to go then. And of course, the longest it can go would be, you know, into the fall. And if that's the case, we'll be ready then.

Kate White, NDP

Chris Windeyer/CBC
Chris Windeyer/CBC

How are you feeling at the end of this most unusual year?

I think like everyone I'm going to be looking back at 2020 and and looking towards 2021 because it was one heck of a year. I don't think everything was all bad. But I mean, there's obviously been tons of hard things and complications and definitely loss. But I feel like in that shadow we've seen kindness bloom, and people have really stepped up to try to help each other out.

The long fall sitting has just wrapped up. How did you feel about your party's performance and what went on over the last, you know, in those 45 days of that sitting?

Just for folks to know, 45 days is actually closer to three months. And that's about a month longer than normal. So it was a bit of a haul. I'm super proud with what the NDP have done. I feel like we did a really good job of amplifying the concerns and suggestions and voices of the community: talking about the essential worker top-up program, knowing that lots of people have been left behind. Talking about rent increases, talking about environmental issues like the wetlands strategy or species legislation.

What do you think it will mean for Yukon once people are vaccinated here in the territory?

I think it'll all give us an opportunity to have a sigh of relief. Although we've been sharing the same space, people have missed each other deeply. So I'm excited about the vaccine and excited to try to do my part. I think it's really important that we know that although 14,000 people get vaccinated with the flu shot this year, we need more. We need a critical mass to get vaccinated against COVID-19. So I encourage everyone to do that.

There will be a territorial election that has to be called before mid-November. What are you thinking as far as that, looking ahead to an election next year?

I was hoping that there would be a Christmas gift at the end of the sitting where we are told when the election was going to be held. I've been working towards being ready and I'm ready for spring. And if it isn't until fall, then I'll be really by fall. My hope is that the government calls the election when it's best for Yukoners as opposed to when it's best for the Liberals.

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.