WHITEHORSE – There’ll be many new faces in the Yukon legislature after the Liberals swept to power in Monday’s election.
Liberal Leader Sandy Silver will go from being the lone elected member of his party to becoming the territory’s premier.
Unofficial results from Elections Yukon show the Liberals won 11 of the territory’s 19 seats Monday, with about 39 per cent of the popular vote.
They will replace a number of incumbents, including former premier and Yukon Party Leader Darrell Pasloski, who came third in his Mountainview riding.
The Yukon Party, which has governed the territory for 14 years, won six seats and about 33 per cent of the popular vote. The party won 12 ridings in 2011.
The NDP held on to two seats, down from six, and garnered about 26 per cent of the popular vote.
Speaking to supporters after the votes had been tallied, the premier elect said the new members of the assembly are ready to serve.
“We are ready to hit the ground running,” said Silver, who also won his Klondike riding.
He said he intends to meet with all of the chiefs of Yukon First Nations within 30 days. Improving relations and honouring existing treaties and self-governance agreements is the way to improve the territory’s economy, Silver said.
“If we sit down together, we can grow the economy, we can protect the environment, we can create good jobs that benefit all Yukoners,” he said.
During the campaign, the Liberal leader accused Pasloski of ignoring negotiations with First Nations government in favour of mining interests.
Yukon’s economy has depended on ore extraction, but its one operating mine — the Minto copper mine — is expected to temporarily close next year due to low prices.
Pasloski said during the race that the territorial government needs to support mining to turn the economy around.
Mining and relations with First Nations were just two of the hotly contested issues throughout the campaign.
Candidates also butted heads over how to protect the environment and fight climate change during the course of the campaign, with Pasloski promising to fight a federally-mandated carbon tax.
He said the levy would put undue financial pressure on Yukoners, and vowed to use his experience working with federal politicians to earn an exemption.
Silver and NDP Leader Liz Hanson both promised to work with the federal government on carbon pricing to make sure the levy worked for residents of the territory.
In his conciliation speech Monday, Pasloski said he will step down as leader of the Yukon Party because new leadership would best hold the government accountable.
“Clearly, tonight didn’t go the way we wanted it to go. We’d much rather be celebrating a victory tonight. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be proud of what we have accomplished, both in the last five years and the last 31 days,” he said.
Hanson also found reasons to be proud when speaking to supporters Monday night.
“Although the result may not be what we hoped for — and we know it’s not what we hoped for — we have accomplished so much. I am so proud of the campaign we ran,” she said.
The NDP leader, who held on to her Whitehorse Centre seat in a close race, said the party will continue to fight for many of the issues it campaigned on, including a ban on fracking, a $15 minimum wage and reconciliation with First Nations.
Silver told his supporters that the Liberals are ready and willing to work with the other parties to best serve Yukoners. There is no monopoly on good ideas, he said.
“The Yukon Liberals have a vision for Yukon where we all have a voice, a choice and a place. Yukoners will be heard,” he said.