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THREE APPOINTEES – Bev Buckway, Jean-Sébastien Blais and Jessica Lott Thompson (left to right) are the members of the first-ever Independent Commission on Electoral Reform, it was announced Monday.

Electoral reform commission members appointed (Revised)

A former Whitehorse mayor is among three Yukoners appointed to the territory’s first-ever Independent Commission on Electoral Reform.

By Whitehorse Star on July 16, 2019

A former Whitehorse mayor is among three Yukoners appointed to the territory’s first-ever Independent Commission on Electoral Reform.

They are ex-mayor Bev Buckway, chair Jessica Lott Thompson and Jean-Sébastien Blais.

The announcement was made Monday.

The commission is responsible for investigating and assessing options on three main areas of electoral reform:

• the system we use to elect the territorial government;

• the ways Yukoners participate in democracy both during and between elections; and

• how territorial political parties and elected officials operate before, during and after elections.

The commission’s work will also be informed by the priorities of Yukoners as identified through a public engagement on electoral reform that took place in the fall of 2018, the government said in a statement.

The commission will receive administrative and research support to carry out its mandate from the Electoral Reform Secretariat.

The Secretariat is comprised of public servants who will receive their guidance and direction from the commission.

The commission will be responsible for setting its own work schedule in order to provide a final report with recommendations by Jan. 31, 2020.

Lott Thompson is the director of the Yukon Human Rights Commission, president of the Yukon branch of the Canadian Bar Association, and holds an LL.M. Master of Laws in Constitutional Law. 

She is a former criminal prosecutor, has worked as an international election observer and is an experienced mediator.

Buckway is the former executive director of the Association of Yukon Communities.

She served as the mayor of Whitehorse from 2006 to 2012 and as a Whitehorse city councillor from 2003 to 2006.

She holds a Master of Arts in Professional Communication and her experience includes executive governance roles on a number of local, territorial, and national bodies.

Blais is the president of the Commission Scolaire Francophone du Yukon and a policy analyst with the Yukon Housing Corp.

He has served as the vice-president of the Association franco-yukonnaise. He holds a Master of Arts in Political Science and is a joint-author of a published article on governance innovation.

This past spring, the Yukon Party and New Democrats criticized Premier Sandy Silver for making the appointments unilaterally, as opposed to having the legislature determine the commission’s makeup.

Silver said he had consulted with both parties’ representatives, and accused the parties of wanting to exert control over the process.

It’s not ciear if any of the recommendations will be accepted and implemented in time for the 2021 election.

“Thank you to the commission members for offering their valuable time, passion and energy to further improve our democracy,” Silver said Monday.

“I am very pleased to have three qualified and respected leaders from our territory to take on the important and complex task of working with Yukoners on their priorities for electoral reform.

“I look forward to receiving the final report with recommendations for how to strengthen Yukon’s democratic systems.”

Lott Thompson also commented.

“The Independent Commission on Electoral Reform is keenly aware of this responsibility and the historic importance of our inquiry into the fundamental elements of our democratic system in Yukon; as well as the essential need for our inquiry and engagement process to be broad, robust, open, transparent, inclusive, and accessible,” she said.

“We will exercise our duties with care, diligence and impartiality, on behalf of all Yukoners.”

The selection process hasn’t impressed Brad Cathers, the Yukon Party’s critic of democratic institutions.

Speaking to the Star Tuesday afternoon, the MLA expressed concern that the Liberals are stacking the deck on the commission. He said this is contrary to the premier’s promise to appoint non-partisan candidates.

“This is very clearly the opposite of what he (Silver) promised,” Cathers said.

He specifically pointed out that Blais has clear ties to the federal Liberals, through donations and serving four years as a policy chair.

According to Blais’ LinkedIn profile, he has been a Liberal policy chair since October 2014.

Cathers also pointed out that Lott Thompson had made donations to the federal NDP over several years.

Buckway, meanwhile, is the sister of former territorial Liberal cabinet minister Pam Buckway, who served in ex-premier Pat Duncan’s government from 2000 to 2002.

Cathers clarified that these are not criticisms of each appointee personally, as they are free to associate with any party they choose.

“This is not about the people,” Cathers said.

He said his criticism stems from the structure of the selection process.

He emphasized that democracy belongs to Yukoners, and not a party which received less than 50 per cent of the vote in the November 2016 election.

– With a file from Gord Fortin

Comments (19)

Up 7 Down 5

Juniper Jackson on Jul 22, 2019 at 6:24 am

Al: I totally agree with you. I couldn't say it better myself. Electoral reform by Liberals really? And that's unbiased? That said, my personal opinion is.. 1 person.. 1 vote. Period. Best man wins. That is the only fair way to capture the 'will' of the people. In Germany, every vote counts. 1/1. AND they have 7 parties! I think the United States might be the only country in which you can fire any elected representative. We desperately need a recall or an impeachment system here. Kenny is doing it in Alberta. We need to do it here.

Up 7 Down 2

Seth Wright on Jul 21, 2019 at 9:40 pm

Mr. Stanley - Electoral reform in a fiefdom is of course one of those comforting illusions...

Up 23 Down 4

Allan Stanley on Jul 21, 2019 at 11:46 am

Why does a 40,000 people fiefdom even need an Electoral Reform Commission ?

There are easily 500 better things to spend this money on.

Up 11 Down 5

Wilf on Jul 21, 2019 at 5:02 am

These are three that do not fit on the commission for election reform.

Up 29 Down 4

Seth Wright on Jul 19, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Thumbs up Al - A very real conflict of interest... Unethical even... But hey, it is YG...

Up 25 Down 4

Ginger Johnson on Jul 19, 2019 at 12:31 pm


Yet another "navel gazing exercise" that will produce a report that most of us
could write this afternoon.

How long before they ask for an extension ?

Up 36 Down 4

Al on Jul 19, 2019 at 10:28 am

I find a few things just a tad disturbing about the make up of the commission:

1. All three members are from Whitehorse - no rural representation.
2. No FN participation.
3. Two of the members are government employees, or if you will a crown corp and the other a commission paid for by the government and reporting administratively to YTG.
4. All three have "had" strong ties to political parties - two liberals and one NDP. Two have disavowed any current affiliation (right - hm). Remember you can change the spots on the leopard but it is still a leopard.
5. Remuneration is not even mentioned for two of the members. Are they going to be double dipping (paid by YTG and Commission) ? Will they have to take leave without pay from YTG?
6. Two members have not been in the Yukon very long with the danger being they are importing a bias from south of 60.

The commission members must not only be fair but must be seen to be fair. Given there current employment I simply think it is inappropriate to have two members who are in essence government employees. The appearance smacks of partisanship. In fact given all three "past" allegiances I do not believe there is no bias that will creep in philosophically. That in itself is a real danger - or surely one that may/will be perceived.

I have great difficulty with the whole structure whereby elected officials in the end get to decide how our electoral system/structure should function. The direction of how it is to be rests "with the People of Yukon". In simple terms "we" choose the methodology of the process. It should never be left to politicians to decide.

Given the direction this is all headed to I am very concerned and very wary that we have chosen a path whose outcomes will be suspect by a great many people. Simply put there are way too potholes in the road.

Up 17 Down 18

Moose on Jul 18, 2019 at 8:58 pm

I love how Mr. Cathers says his criticism is not "about the people" after he criticizes the people. Similar to how he constantly attacks government workers while saying he isn't "really criticizing them" but rather the politicians even though it is clearly an attack on the workers. Would a little positive attitude now and then hurt him? Good god what a downer of a guy, nothing but negativity.

Up 31 Down 3

Yukoner79 on Jul 18, 2019 at 3:55 pm

No moves without a referendum. Period.

Up 21 Down 4

Wilf on Jul 18, 2019 at 1:52 pm

No decision should be without a vote in the next election if there is a change, which I would be surprised of many changes. In other parts of the world things were tried but did not work and went back to one vote one person.

Up 22 Down 4

Groucho d'North on Jul 18, 2019 at 9:55 am

I would like to see some clear goals and objectives for this group and the work they will be undertaking. Will they be trying to make elections more fair for all of the electorate or provide greater support for factions that are said to be under represented?
Democracy is a numbers game, altering the rules about who can vote and how is a slippery slope. Manipulating the process to give one faction advantage over others is not reinforcing democracy, its pandering.

Up 15 Down 19

Steven on Jul 18, 2019 at 7:51 am

I love Cathers' final comment... like he forgot all about how Ryan Leef squeaked in with only 33.7% of Yukon's vote back in 2011, and the Cons squeaked in for the past three terms in Yukon with only 40% of the votes.

Up 29 Down 5

Yukonmax on Jul 17, 2019 at 8:46 am

As usual...some people just can't remain in the shadow.

Up 34 Down 6

Seth Wright on Jul 16, 2019 at 9:26 pm

We need electoral reform... What the Yukon needs to do is remove the politics from the civil service... It is absolutely appalling the level of unethical behaviour that goes unchallenged by the Union and the membership because of the imbalance of power between the employer and the victim... Raise your head... Have it lopped...
The Yukon needs stronger processes. There should never be a fear of reprisal for raising concerns because you did not do it the right way - You disclosed wrong - Off with your head!

Open and accountable... You betcha... We are gonna “open” a can of whoop-ass on the informant and hold them “accountable” for their betrayal of our trust... Fair, absolutely we are fair... Any employee who informs of wrongdoing can expect to receive a “fair” amount of harassment!

That real impediment to the democratic process in the Yukon... Political interference... Let us hope that we get more than a pony walk around the ring for our money because it is our circus and they are, our monkeys... Let’s train them to stop throwing s**t at the electorate... Demand accountability through reform!

Up 42 Down 7

Lost In the Yukon on Jul 16, 2019 at 5:57 pm

This is interesting ... Yukon First Nations represent between 20 to 25% of the population whereas those that identify as Francophone are less than 15% .... The announcement makes it quite clear in identifying the francophone background and experience of one member that this was obviously a criteria for selection yet there is no one from our First Nation community a significantly more impactful group both economically and culturally.

Up 43 Down 8

BnR on Jul 16, 2019 at 4:30 pm

The Francophones are represented over our FN brothers and sisters?
Give me a break.

Up 18 Down 13

Rod McCandless on Jul 16, 2019 at 3:53 pm

What happened to Dave Brekke on this file? He was the pioneer push for this stuff for what seemed like an era. You'd think he'd be some kinda overseer or such like.

Up 32 Down 10

Mick on Jul 16, 2019 at 3:03 pm

Buckway? God help us all.

Up 32 Down 8

What a waste of time on Jul 16, 2019 at 1:17 pm

The only one on this "independent" committee with any impartiality is Buckway. Expect this to go nowhere.

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