Whitehorse Daily Star

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SEEKING THE TOP JOB – Liberal cabinet minister Ranj Pillai announces his bid to become the territory’s next premier this morning. He cited infl ation, the climate crisis and shifts for Yukon energy sources as among the biggest issues he expects the Liberals’ next leader will have to grapple with.

A premier Pillai wouldn’t call a snap election

Ranj Pillai is the first candidate in the Yukon Liberal Party leadership race to replace Premier Sandy Silver.

By Ethan Lycan-Lang on November 25, 2022

Ranj Pillai is the first candidate in the Yukon Liberal Party leadership race to replace Premier Sandy Silver.

In an announcement this morning, the cabinet minister and MLA for Porter Creek South, who previously served as deputy premier, said he was throwing his hat in the ring for the premiership itself.

Silver announced in September he will step down from his role once a replacement was found.

Since then, there’s been speculation about when that might happen and who that replacement might be. Pillai was considered a likely candidate for the job, and today’s announcement came as little surprise.

Speaking before a packed room in the NorthLight Innovation building in Whitehorse, Pillai said years of political experience have given him the skills to be the next leader of the Liberals, and by extension, the next premier.

“I commit to being a premier that works hard, a premier who thinks and acts strategically, and a premier that serves absolutely all Yukoners,” he said.

He wants to lead without partisanship, he added, and would work with the other two parties to legislate in the best interest of the territory.

Though the announcement had few specifics, Pillai shared a number of issues a party under his leadership would pursue.

“Every day I hear from Yukoners concerned about the cost of living, how we address climate change in a way that doesn’t bankrupt our future generations, how we ensure stable and secure housing and access for health care for everyone.”

Though Pillai is the first to announce, there will likely be other candidates in the race for the party leadership, and there’s still some time before a replacement for Silver is chosen.

Pillai said he’s unaware whether any of his caucus colleagues will join him in the race, but all party members have created an “extremely supportive” environment in the leadup to the contest.

Pillai told reporters he is grateful to Silver for his decade of work as party leader, and had received words of encouragement when he decided to run. He said that decision came late in the fall sitting. 

“I’ve been pondering it a lot,” he said. “There’s some really tough files to deal with.”

He then listed inflation, the climate crisis, and shifts for Yukon energy as among the biggest issues he expects the future leader will have to face.

“There is a lot of work that has to be done,” he said. “But, again, I’ve been working in the community and in a number of different roles for a long, long time.

“I feel comfortable in a leadership role. I’m comfortable making tough decisions, and I’m comfortable having courageous conversations with people.” 

Asked what he’d focus on first if he won the leadership, Pillai said he couldn’t talk specifics just yet; he said he’s just focused on the leadership convention and his party’s transition for the time being.

He did say maintaining his party’s relationship with the NDP will be a priority though. 

The two parties have a Confidence and Supply Agreement that will expire after January.

It gives the minority Liberal government a working majority and could be essential to staving off a non-confidence vote for the party before another election is called. 

Relations have been rocky through the fall sitting, with the Liberals voting against amendments the third party proposed to the Oil and Gas Act. They would have required First Nations’ consent for oil and gas exploration.

NDP Leader Kate White wasn’t happy with the lack of support, and has been critical of the government for its refusal to commit to permanent rent control. Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said this month that rent caps will end in January 2023.

Pillai said he hopes to negotiate and keep the relationship strong between the two parties.

Pillai can’t get ahead of himself just yet though; the leadership race is still in its early stages.

The Liberals only released rules for the campaign this week.

Candidates have to pay a $7,000 fee and get 10 party members’ signatures to run. Party members will cast votes on a ranked ballot at a party convention that has yet to be scheduled.

The party’s president must announce a convention date 42 days ahead of time, and nominations will close 21 days after that announcement.

The winner of the leadership will become premier. The government has until 2025 until another territorial election has to be called.

Some, like Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon, say the Liberals should call a general election once a new leader is in place, so all Yukoners can decide who leads the territory.

Pillai said this morning he would not do that if he won.

“I think at this point, people want stability,” he said.

“It’s really about staying the course, getting work done (and) bringing some new ideas to the table that haven’t been there.”

The other parties have made other requests that likely won’t be accepted.

At the start of the fall sitting in October, the Yukon Party and NDP released a joint statement asking the Liberal party to require candidates step down from cabinet positions should they decide to run for the leadership.

The parties were concerned cabinet positions and government resources could be “abused and used to campaign.”

But Silver said last month the cabinet is small – most ministers hold multiple roles, as the Liberals only hold seven seats – and are held to a high standard of conduct by law, including a conflict of interest act. 

Party rules don’t require ministers to relinquish their cabinet positions, and Pillai told reporters today he doesn’t intend to step away from his.

He heads the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Tourism and Culture. He is also the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corp., the Yukon Liquor Corp. and the Yukon Lottery Commission. 

Born in Nova Scotia, where he attended high school with Silver, Pillai moved to the Yukon after finishing his university studies in Halifax.

He became involved in politics soon after his arrival in 2001, becoming the president of the Yukon Liberal Party five years later, a role he would hold on and off from 2006 to 2016.

He also became a Whitehorse city councillor in 2009, and served until 2012. He’s also served as executive director of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations government.

Since 2016, he’s represented Porter Creek South for the Liberals.

In his time in the legislature, through his cabinet positions, Pillai has played key roles in developing the Yukon’s Agriculture Policy and Climate Change/Green Economy strategy, as well as Yukon Energy’s 10-year renewable electricity plan.

Comments (37)

Up 1 Down 0

Completely Asinine Sheister’s Agreement - CASA on Dec 2, 2022 at 2:49 pm

Dear - I wonder why better people don't run? on Nov 29, 2022 at 2:01 pm:

Mi CASA es non tu CASA… In fact, the L-NDP wants your CASA too!

They should be criticized at every turn. They should be reminded that they work for all peoples - Not just the ones they favour. Your idea that we should cheer lead for people who are committing grievous wrongs against the people is insanity - It is inherently wrong when people are rewarded for poor performance. This is the problem with L-NDP’ism - It is inherently wrong!

Up 4 Down 4

Hey, Kyle I totally agree on Nov 30, 2022 at 10:27 am

A new leader, no legislation, an election within 90 days ... Would love to see that happen in Alberta, with their new boz...I mean 'premier'

Up 23 Down 5

don't like it on Nov 29, 2022 at 8:21 pm

The Yukon Liberal Party is harming a lot of good hardworking people by manipulating the supply of lots to build homes on. I won't vote for them in the next election.

Up 8 Down 3

Erwin Glock on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:04 pm

Mr. Pillai - when you are premier are you taking finally your promotional little film for Joe's Wood Fired Pizza down?

Up 22 Down 2

Heathen on Nov 29, 2022 at 2:08 pm

“Every day I hear from Yukoners concerned about the cost of living, how we address climate change in a way that doesn’t bankrupt our future generations, how we ensure stable and secure housing and access for health care for everyone.”

Well, I'm relieved to hear he's at least heard of the issues. But would it be too much to ask to do some work to solve these issues?

Up 25 Down 11

I wonder why better people don't run? on Nov 29, 2022 at 2:01 pm

Maybe because they take a look at comments like these, and social media, and think why on earth would they put themselves and their families through the insults and the nastiness? Some of you should put your name forward for City council, or as an MLA, if you're tired of the people who are currently in office. I'm not a huge fan either, but hats off to anyone who runs for public office these days

Up 11 Down 28

No bozo on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:54 pm


Has it ever occurred to you that working together (like the Libs and the NDP) is for the best for all Yukoners? They control the Ledge while you cry about Marxism (the 1950s are looooooong over) from the side lines.

I suggest you hide in your bomb shelter or move to a Stone Age province like ‘berta or Sask.

Up 9 Down 8

Hurr on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:50 pm


You lost the last 3 elections. Cope with the fact you are not on the right side of history.

Up 25 Down 8

bonanzajoe on Nov 28, 2022 at 8:35 pm

@Courage on Nov 26, 2022: There is no difference between the Liberals and NDP these days. They both espouse to Marxism left wing doctrine. POWER AND CONTROL. Fear for the future's children. But I want them to know, you can vote your way into communism, but you will have to fight your way out.

Up 23 Down 6

bonanzajoe on Nov 28, 2022 at 8:28 pm

He wouldn't call an election, simply because he knows the Libs would lose. So, no need to explain.

Up 21 Down 6

melba on Nov 28, 2022 at 7:21 pm

Does anyone know why Sandy Silver is resigning halfway through this term? That seems highly unusual.

Up 36 Down 15

Poncho villa on Nov 28, 2022 at 3:45 pm

If he doesn’t call an election maybe it’s time for a revolution, after all that’s how a democracy works, time to sharpen up my pitchfork….

Up 43 Down 10

Thomas Brewer on Nov 28, 2022 at 3:33 pm

He's not as dumb as some - he knows the Liberals are going to be turfed at the next election and he wants some time at the trough first.

Up 48 Down 10

Kyle on Nov 28, 2022 at 11:43 am

Personally I think that when a party leader is replaced through a leadership race the new leader ought to be obliged to call an election within 3 months and not introduce substantial legislation in the meantime.

Up 51 Down 8

melba on Nov 28, 2022 at 11:32 am

Really interesting that he buried his employment with Northern Vision Development! He gives a biography from high school to the present day, went to school with Sandy in Nova Scotia, was a Whitehorse city councillor, ED of a First Nation... but neglects to mention that he worked for NVD. Now why would that be?

Up 35 Down 12

Resident on Nov 28, 2022 at 8:42 am

The Yukon Party and the Liberals are identical. It doesn't matter what one proposes, the other is against it. If the Liberals promised everyone a free dog, the Yukon Party would protest because it wasn't cats. If the Yukon Party promised everyone a free car, the Liberals would protest because it wasn't trucks.

The only thing consistent between both parties is the enrichment of large donors above all else.
If the Yukon Party was in power, it would be the Liberals demanding the Canada Games proceed. These two parties bicker like children.

Up 69 Down 14

TMYK on Nov 27, 2022 at 7:59 am

Looks like NVD has their puppet candidate picked already.

Up 14 Down 8

Take me to Cooo-ba on Nov 26, 2022 at 10:15 pm

Is that Alejandro Mayorkas? Lol

Up 17 Down 56

Yukoner32 on Nov 26, 2022 at 10:11 pm

@Groucho If you think inflation is bad under the Liberals, just wait until the Yukon Party gets back into power. If you listen in to the legislature you will hear them demanding everyday that the Liberals increase funding for this or that, or build new roads, or fix more expensive stuff etc. Oddly, they almost never suggest that the government cut spending anywhere. So if you understand basic economics, you will know this is a recipe for financial ruin. Luckily the Libs aren't giving in to these high spending demands and are instead posting budget surpluses. As for taxes, the Liberals cut the small business tax down to zero, and the carbon tax is rebated, so I'm not sure which taxes the Liberals have increased?

@Bozojoe How do you figure the economy is so bad here? Anyone who wants a job has one, there is actually a labour shortage so maybe that is what you are referring to. That can be solved by massively increasing immigration, so I'd love to know your thoughts on that lol.

Up 46 Down 15

In bizarro world great power comes with great irresponsibility… on Nov 26, 2022 at 12:40 pm

In response to BNR’s question - “why would anyone but a sociopathic narcissist want to get involved?”

This is the political system that we the electorate have voted to receive governance from, self-interested, sociopathic, narcissists incapable of working for the common good.

Just look at what these political cl’asses have done around the globe. I don’t understand how anyone, in good conscience, can vote for these people - This L-NDP Alliance should be the straw that breaks the democratic camel’s back.
They have erode every normative standard of a functioning and coherent society based on exaggerated notions of the incivility of Canadianess - Hence the references to post-nationalism while the despots concentrate further power into the hands of nationalistic despots like China, Russia, and the Middle East.

Seriously, as the conflict intensifies globally you have North American leadership dissembling the military psychologically - Thanks for your service but your toxic masculinity is not longer tolerated - Have you heard about MAID? And financially, here’s your ball and musket - We’re still trying to track down ethically sourced gun powder, we’ll get back to you!

But in the meantime, vote Liberal, if not it’s okay because immigration and Liberal handouts to newcomers will insure that the head of the snake gets to hiss forever… POWER!

Up 67 Down 21

Hall and Oates on Nov 26, 2022 at 12:11 pm

So, Pillai will not call a snap election eh? Here you have it people! Another member of the Liberal-Non-Democratic-Party denying the wants and needs of the electorate - Not in the job yet and he is already out of touch with the people.

You’re out of touch, I’m out of time…

Up 64 Down 11

Courage on Nov 26, 2022 at 8:55 am

As a long time liberal who is leaning more conservative these days I hope Ranj has the courage to put an end to this relationship with the NDP that is making the liberals look horrible. I am dying for this party to get back to the middle instead of the far left.

Up 66 Down 17

KP on Nov 26, 2022 at 6:32 am

An angry person who talks down to women.

Up 63 Down 16

Dallas on Nov 26, 2022 at 5:39 am

Another hog at the trough.

Up 72 Down 28

Mr Facts on Nov 25, 2022 at 11:30 pm

The slimy liberals just introduced an 11th hour amendment to Bill-C21, literally banning all guns in Canada. No matter what spectrum of the political side you are on this should concern everyone. And everyone should ask one simple question? Why are they trying to disarm, legal and vetted gun owners who aren't the ones causing any problems?

There is almost a media blackout on this. I wonder why?
I'm glad Alberta and Saskatchewan are standing up to this.

Up 80 Down 20

Ranj for Egomaniacal Premier on Nov 25, 2022 at 9:45 pm

I wish there was a barf emoji to indicate how gross this is is an an option for Yukon tax payers.

Up 82 Down 15

Outsider on Nov 25, 2022 at 8:54 pm

Telling he doesn’t want an election. Almost like he’s afraid he’ll lose.

Up 73 Down 17

Not! on Nov 25, 2022 at 7:08 pm

I guess it’s only fitting for Ranj to make his announcement at Northern Light Innovation. One of the places where he flushed away tax dollars to one of his larger gifts to NVD, his former employer. That seems to be omitted from his brief history in the Yukon. Of course an election would be the farthest thing from his mind. He’s going to want to nurse the new found power as long as he can. The Liberals track record for representing all Yukoners is a very dismal one. All you have to do is look at who their policies are geared towards and the lack of consultation on many files.

Up 38 Down 16

Roy on Nov 25, 2022 at 6:28 pm

@Joe who said “For sure NVD will vote for him, please call an election, this sideshow has gone on too long.”

Don’t be too sure. Piers also has an ally in Currie:
“ Leader Currie Dixon also announced a Yukon Party government would issue a bid for Whitehorse to host the 2027 Canada Winter Games as a way to boost tourism. “While this may seem a way off, it is planning like this that will give Yukoners certainty that a Yukon Party government is not only looking at today, but we were looking at the future,” Dixon said.

I guess that’s why Currie can’t stop complaining about the canceled bid.

Press thumbs down if you too are in denial about Currie’s ongoing support for hosting these expensive games.

Up 47 Down 11

Juniper Jackson on Nov 25, 2022 at 6:16 pm

No surprises here. Another poster called this one 10 seconds after Silver's announcement.

Up 64 Down 14

Of course on Nov 25, 2022 at 6:00 pm

Of course he’s running… deep into the pockets of NVD. Heaven help us if he wins this race. Please, anyone Liberal with ethics, come forward to challenge this guy - please!

Up 30 Down 40

bonanzajoe on Nov 25, 2022 at 5:23 pm

Well, the Libs have screwed up the country, Yukon and the economy so bad, I can't see how Pillai couldn't possibly make worse. And why doesn't Yukon just join Nova Scotia as a part of their province.

Up 16 Down 4

Lol on Nov 25, 2022 at 4:49 pm


That’s not how any of this works

Up 48 Down 18

Groucho d'North on Nov 25, 2022 at 3:48 pm

The only stability the Liberals are offering is a continued inflation and high taxes- maybe some new ones too. If you do win Mr. Pallai call an election, let the electorate decide what we want and when.

Up 53 Down 7

BnR on Nov 25, 2022 at 3:46 pm

I'm not "brand loyal", I've voted for all three of our parties over the past 50 years.
All Im looking for is good governance by MLAs who can get along with the rest of the legislative assembly, and leave party politics at the door. That is, leave the petty bickering and sniping behind and act like the adults we're paying you to be.
Pillai, c'mon, honestly, I don't know why he's running as a Liberal. He'd be a better fit with the YP, but he'd never get into that old boys club given that he's one of the Nova Scotia crew along with Silver.
Honestly, I'm a bit jaded with all our political party members these days.
Bickering, no fresh ideas, entrenched loyalties to outside interests.
Id love to see a clean sweep and a bunch of new faces, but really, given the public comments our politicians have to face these days, why would anyone but a sociopathic narcissist want to get involved?

Up 31 Down 26

Dixons duramax on Nov 25, 2022 at 3:30 pm

I’m just waiting for the next group chat leak from YP.

Up 109 Down 28

Joe on Nov 25, 2022 at 3:14 pm

For sure NVD will vote for him, please call an election, this sideshow has gone on too long.

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