It appears the summer silly season for news is upon us – and earlier than expected.
The official Opposition Yukon Party and the governing Liberals are sniping at each other after the Yukon Party issued a news release Wednesday afternoon suggesting Premier Sandy Silver is preparing to retire this year.
The evidence provided by the party as to that reasoning is a bit dubious – but has provoked a snarky response from the Liberals.
“As Liberal cabinet ministers appear to be ramping up their respective campaigns to replace Sandy Silver as leader of the territory’s Liberal party, it is important that he publicly set out rules for ministers who are seeking the leadership,” the Yukon Party wrote.
“There is a long-standing convention in Canadian politics that cabinet ministers who are running for the leadership of a party step away from cabinet duties during the leadership campaign.
“This is to ensure ministers cannot use public resources or their position to assist with their campaigns.”
When the Star pressed the Yukon Party for evidence of its claims, officials provided this response.
“The minister of Community Services has been writing letters to the editor critical of the official Opposition, and addressing Yukoners about the merits of this year’s budget. Not the premier/Finance minister,” the party said.
“The minister of Economic Development (Ranj Pillai) flew to Vancouver and signed an MOU with another country (the Philippines). Why not the premier or deputy premier?” the Yukon Party asked.
“The Housing minister (Pillai) also attended a housing announcement in Watson Lake (last Friday), then zipped back to Whitehorse the same day to attend a Chamber Business After Hours,” the official Opposition noted.
“The premier has been noticeably absent at a number of high-profile community events around the territory – including those in his own riding (Klondike).
“Actions inside and outside the legislative assembly – including social media – seem to indicate some jockeying is going on.”
Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers added, “Any ministers who are seeking the leadership of the Liberal party should not be allowed to misuse their roles in cabinet, or use government resources to campaign.”
Cathers is the official Opposition critic for democratic institutions.
“Yukon taxpayers need to know government resources will not be used to help pay for campaign costs of anyone seeking the leadership of the territorial Liberals,” he added.
Recent examples of ministers stepping away from cabinet during a leadership campaign include Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, the Yukon Party noted.
She resigned from the cabinet in August 2021 to seek the leadership of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives.
As well, Iain Rankin resigned from the cabinet in October 2020 to seek the leadership of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party.
“Here in the Yukon, the last time a party in government held a leadership election was in 2011,” the Yukon Party recalled.
“During that election, the only minister who entered the campaign, Jim Kenyon, was not allowed to continue to serve in cabinet.”
Darrell Pasloski won that leadership convention and became the premier.
“With Premier Silver widely expected to announce his retirement later this year, it is important that he be open and transparent with the public,” added Cathers.
“Premier Silver needs to lay out the ground rules for cabinet ministers who are seeking to replace him, to ensure that government resources are not used in the Liberal leadership election.”
Silver himself did not respond directly to the Yukon Party’s remarks.
However, the cabinet communications office stated, “The member for Lake Laberge obviously has too much time on his hands, and we will not be taking career advice from this failed Yukon Party leader.”
(Cathers ran for the party’s leadership, but lost to current leader Currie Dixon in the spring of 2020.)
“Obviously, the Yukon Party is projecting their own leadership struggles and trying to distract from the division within their party,” the cabinet communications office added.
“The entire Yukon Liberal government remains committed to serving Yukoners for the duration of its mandate.”
The agreement the Liberals have with the NDP to sustain the minority regime is slated to expire in January 2023, but could be extended for an undetermined period.