Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff


Big Red Machine steamrolls NDP

Now, ’tis the spring of their discontent. That was the sentiment from the voters in Whitehorse Monday as every one of the city’s 10 ridings was awash in Liberal red to create the defeat of the reigning New Democratic Party.

By Whitehorse Star on April 18, 2000

Only four of the Whitehorse ridings belonged to the Grits going into the vote. The Liberal party scooped four seats from the NDP and two from the Yukon Party.

The 10 seats, out of the total of 17, were enough for the Liberals to win a history-making majority government.

Meanwhile, in the Yukon’s communities, the status quo won the day, as all seven rural seats remained with the same party that held them heading into the election. The NDP took six and the Yukon Party took its only seat of the night.

In Whitehorse, the Liberals snared 49 per cent of the vote, the NDP had 26 per cent and the Yukon Party had 25 per cent.

The communities were a mirror image as the NDP took 49 per cent of the vote there. The Liberals had 29 per cent and the Yukon Party received 22 per cent of ballots cast in rural ridings.

The victory makes Liberal Leader Pat Duncan only the second-ever woman to lead a party to an election win in federal, provincial or territorial politics and hold her own seat. Prince Edward Island Liberal Catherine Callbeck was the first to do so, in 1993.

The victory is also a first for the Yukon Liberal Party since party politics arrived in the Yukon in 1978. The party, although having been in every election, has never come close to victory.

Before last night, the most seats the Liberal party had ever scored on an election night was the three it took on Sept. 30, 1996. The Grits added a fourth seat in the October 1999 byelection in Lake Laberge.

Besides the Liberals’ four seats, going into last night, the New Democrats had 10 and the Yukon Party had three.

The Liberal party held all four of its seats, with the three incumbents who ran keeping their seats — Duncan in Porter Creek South, Sue Edelman in Riverdale South, and Pam Buckway in Lake Laberge. Scott Kent held onto Riverside for the Grits. The seat was vacated by the retiring Jack Cable.

The other six ridings were all gains. Of those victors, two knocked off the other party leaders. Retired school principal Don Roberts eliminated Yukon Party Leader John Ostashek by 181 votes in Porter Creek North. Roberts lost to Ostashek in 1996 by 19 votes.

After the defeat, Ostashek announced to supporters he is resigning as party leader effective today.

The other leader to go down, and the big shock of the evening, was New Democrat head Piers McDonald. The government leader going into the election, McDonald had held his riding of McIntyre-Takhini since 1992 and had been an MLA for the last 18 years.

But the 44 year-old McDonald saw his dreams of a sixth term in the legislature crushed by political newcomer Wayne Jim of the Liberals. Jim, who took an early lead in the poll returns, held off a late charge by McDonald to win 376 votes to 337. The Yukon Party’s John Edzerza was third at 265.

McDonald’s defeat marks the first time the sitting government leader has ever lost his own seat.

Despite losing his seat, McDonald did not officially resign as the NDP leader, a post he has held since 1995. Instead, McDonald told the media, after his concession speech, he would look at his leadership over the next few days.

Duncan was the only leader to keep her own seat. She did so easily with a 372-vote victory over the Yukon Party’s Larry Carlyle, who was in second place. She took 64 per cent of the vote in her riding.

The last time a sitting leader lost his own seat was in 1989, when then-Liberal leader Jim McLachlan lost his Faro riding.

The last time two leaders were ousted from their own seats was in 1978, the very first partisan election, when New Democrat Leader Fred Berger and Progressive Conservative Leader Hilda Watson both lost.

McDonald and Ostashek were not the only big name members to get the boot. Two other cabinet ministers were also knocked out of their seats.

Education and Justice Minister Lois Moorcroft was turfed from the Mount Lorne riding she held for 7 1/2 years. Moorcroft lost by 141 votes to Liberal Cynthia Tucker.

The other cabinet minister to be eliminated was Health and Social Services Minister Dave Sloan. Sloan lost in his Whitehorse West riding to Liberal Dennis Schneider by 141 votes.

The only cabinet ministers to survive were all in the communities.

Economic Development Minister Trevor Harding won his seat in Faro; Tourism Minister Dave Keenan held his Ross River-Southern Lakes riding; and Renewable Resources Minister Eric Fairclough maintained his hold on Mayo-Tatchun.

The New Democrats also lost back bencher Todd Hardy in Whitehorse Centre to Liberal Mike McLarnon.

The Liberals’ other pick up in Whitehorse was Riverdale North — the riding vacated by the retiring Doug Phillips of the Yukon Party. Dale Eftoda easily snatched that riding for the Grits.

The only new MLA from rural Yukon is Vuntut Gwitchin’s Lorraine Netro of the NDP. Netro succeeds outgoing New Democratic MLA Robert Bruce, who retired when the election was called in March.

The Yukon Party, which was in power only 3 1/2 years ago, was reduced to a single seat — Klondike incumbent Peter Jenkins.

One seat is the lowest ever scored by the Yukon Party, formerly the Yukon Progressive Conservative Party. Its previous low was the three it scored in 1996.

The next order of business for the Liberals is to organize a cabinet and pass a budget for the 2000-01 fiscal year which began on April 1.

Currently, there is no budget for this fiscal year because the election was called before it was passed.

That budget died when the election was called, but the Liberals said during the campaign it would implement most of the NDP’s budget for this year.

By Jason Small

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