The number of MLAs endorsing Rod Taylor's bid to be the Yukon Party's next leader has climbed to four.
Deputy premier Elaine Taylor, Speaker Ted Staffen and Community Services Minister Archie Lang formally announced their support during a press conference at the Edgewater Hotel on Thursday. That wasn't a surprise, because they attended Taylor's candidacy annoucement several weeks ago.
The fourth MLA endorsing Taylor is Environment Minister John Edzerza, who attended Thursday's news conference.
"I have great respect for each of these individuals and I am incredibly flattered to have their confidence,” said Rod Taylor, no relation to Elaine.
The endorsements do not necessarily mean the four MLAs will be running in the coming election, however.
"It's a lifestyle decision,” Lang said. "It's a family decision. So those things will unfold as they should over a period of time.”
Staffen said the decision to run is not made in a vacuum.
"We work for our constituents,” he said. "None of these jobs are guaranteed. Nor should they be. Each and every one of us are beholden to the people who elected us. They are who we're responsible to.”
Even if the MLAs do want to run again, they will have to be selected at a nomination meeting.
"Quite frankly, myself, I think I can say quite safely that I'm really looking at running, but nothing's guaranteed,” said Edzerza, noting that someone could challenge him at a nomination meeting.
Rod Taylor said the nomination process is something he has "great respect” for. Though he's spoken with several potential candidates, he said, he doesn't want to announce their names because he doesn't want to deter others from pursuing candidacies.
Lang said Taylor's leadership bid "reflects well” on what the Yukon Party has been doing during its nine years in power.
"I'm really pleased that Rod put his name forward, and I'm certainly looking forward to working with him in the future,” said Lang.
Edzerza said he is impressed with Taylor's compassion and the fact he wants to support mental health issues as well as development.
"I think he's a very approachable individual and to date. I have heard nothing but praise and admiration for this gentleman. I think he would do a real good job as party leader,” said Edzerza.
"I think with Mr. Taylor as a leader, we're going to become a real strong party. People will come and want to be a part of something good,” he said.
Several of the MLAs endorsing Taylor said they were impressed with the number of new members he has brought to the party.
"He's broadened our base,” said Staffen.
Said Lang: "I think it's important we don't do this for ourselves, we do this for Yukon. Rod is the best individual in place to lead the Yukon Party into the next Yukon government.”
Darrell Pasloski, who's also running for the party's leadership, believes it's connecting with members that will win this race, not endorsements.
"Right now, at this point, it's about membership; it's about people,” he said in an interview today.
"When you have a leadership race, it's about who has the most members voting for them, which really boils down to trying to convince a lot of people to be a part of the process, which makes us stronger coming into an election later this year,” he said.
He noted there are some "very dynamic people from very different backgrounds” who are excited to join a "rejuvenated, re-energized” Yukon Party led by Pasloski.
MLAs have every right to endorse candidates, said Pasloski. He has received endorsements from estranged Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers and Craig Tuton, a longtime campaign fixer for the federal Conservatives and the Yukon Party.
"Really, it is a democratic process, and choosing to support someone is their democratic right, and I absolutely respect that right,” he said.
Not everyone views the endorsements as positive, however.
Jim Kenyon, a leadership challenger and the Porter Creek North MLA , believes endorsements may actually do more harm than good in this race.
"You look at (B.C. Premier) Christie Clark's run in B.C.,” Kenyon said Thursday.
"Only one person endorsed her and that was a backbencher, Harry Boyd. There was enough anger over HST and (former premier) Gordon Campbell's issues that suddenly people — major ministers, etc. — endorsing the candidates was probably a detriment.
"And I think it's probably the same thing here.”
The big issue people are upset about is government secrecy, said Kenyon.
"For the people who have been a part of that (secrecy), to endorse a candidate, I think what (the candidate) to a large degree is saying, is that they don't see that as a problem. Whereas I see that as a huge problem.”
Instead of seeking endorsements, Kenyon said, he's just offering his experience.
"I'm just running my campaign and offering myself. I've talked to a number of others, including some ministers, and I've specifically asked them not to endorse me.
"Here I am. I know I'm more than capable. I've done an 8 1/2-year interview. The others are saying what they'd like to do; I've done it.”
In a statement, Taylor laid out his goals.
"In order to win in the fall, we will need to broaden the base of our party, attracting voters who share our desire of continuing the robust growth of our economy while at the same time ensuring that the growth does not diminish the incredible quality of life which we have come to enjoy,”he said.
"It's my belief that I am uniquely positioned to attract outstanding candidates who share this balanced vision.”
The candidate added he is "no stranger to Ottawa.
"I was chosen by Prime Minister Harper and (former Environment minister Jim) Prentice to be the representative for both Yukon and B.C. on the Canadian Tourism Commission, and I have no problem working and walking in those circles,” said Taylor.
"There is an opportunity to take the strong relationship Mr. (outgoing premier Dennis) Fentie has always had with Prime Minister Harper and turn that into more great things for Yukoners.”
Party delegates will choose their new leader May 28.