Whitehorse Daily Star

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READY FOR ACTION – Premier Darrell Pasloski and his wife, Tammie, lead a procession of Yukon Party MLAs through the large crowd of family members and well-wishers who attended Saturday afternoon's swearing-in of the new cabinet. The Yukon Party won a record third straight term in the Oct. 11 election.

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Premier taps experience in crafting cabinet

It appears experience was at the top of Premier Darrell Pasloski's list when he chose his ministers from his newbie caucus.

By Nadine Sander-Green on November 7, 2011

It appears experience was at the top of Premier Darrell Pasloski's list when he chose his ministers from his newbie caucus.

Pasloski told the large crowd in the Yukon government administration building lobby Saturday afternoon that it is with "great humility” that he and his colleagues accept the responsibility to serve the Yukon.

Elaine Taylor and Brad Cathers, the only two governing MLAs to win third terms, were the first to be called up.

Taylor holds the largest portfolio as the new Minister of Community Services, Public Service Commission, Women's Directorate and French Language Services Directorate.

Taylor will also hold onto her position as deputy premier, but loses her longtime Tourism portfolio.

Cathers is back in cabinet after a two-year hiatus, taking over as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and minister responsible for the Yukon Development and Energy corporations.

He quit the Yukon Party caucus and cabinet in August 2009 over the ATCO scandal, when then-premier Dennis Fentie was accused of seeking to sell off Yukon Energy, and sat as an independent, promising to return to his party once Fentie left the premier's seat.

The Lake Laberge MLA has previously been Minster of Energy, Mines and Resources and has held a handful of other portfolios as well as being house leader, a position he is set to hold onto for the next five years.

Doug Graham, who was first elected to the legislative assembly in 1978 where he held education and justice responsibilities, was appointed Minister of Health and Social Services and minister responsible for the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.

Scott Kent is the new education minister. He is also responsible for the Yukon Housing Corp. and the Yukon Liquor Corp.

Kent seemed less surprised than Graham — who worked as the registrar at Yukon College for 28 years — to get the education portfolio. He told the Star this morning that the premier "carefully weighs” everything before coming to a decision on a cabinet position.

"Excited is the best word to describe it,” Kent said of his new position. "Education is an important department, as it touches so many lives.”

Kent said his experience in education, as well as with the housing and liquor corporations, comes from his time in former premier Pat Duncan's Liberal cabinet from 2000 to 2002. He was then responsible for energy, mines and resources, infrastructure and the development and energy corporations.

But Graham said his two new responsibilities come as a surprise.

"If someone would have asked me before Friday which responsibilities I would least likely get, it would have been these,” he told the Star this morning.

He couldn't explain why Pasloski chose him as Minister of Health and Social Services, saying that's a matter between himself and the premier.

He did say his background is not in that department, but perhaps Pasloski appointed him for the portfolio because he's always up for a challenge.

As for why he's not the new education minister, Graham could only guess that he was a "little too close” to the department.

"The premier had to make the decision on who would be able to do the job best for him,” he said.

Out of the remaining six MLAs who have never held office before, three were appointed to cabinet.

Currie Dixon, the youngest of the bunch at 26 years old, was appointed Minister of Economic Development and Minister of Environment.

Dixon received his masters degree in political science last spring and went on to defeat former Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell in his Copperbelt North riding on Oct. 11.

He called his two responsibilities an "excellent pairing”.

"I think I have a firm understanding on government operations and how to get things done,” he said this morning.

"And being a younger guy who was born and raised in the Yukon, I have a deep appreciation for both the environment and the economy.”

Mike Nixon, the former president of the Yukon Party, is the new Minister of Justice and Tourism and Culture.

Wade Istchenko is responsible for the Department of Highways and Public Works.

Istchenko made noise last Wednesday when he admitted to fudging a government document, but it didn't hurt his chances of getting into cabinet.

At the time, the premier would not say whether his confession would deter him from giving him cabinet responsibilities.

Pasloski did say the confession shows Istchenko's honesty and integrity — two traits his new government hopes to move forward with.

Patti McLeod, David Laxton and Stacey Hassard, all new to territorial politics, were the only three Yukon Party MLAs not appointed to cabinet.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson said today that if each minister is willing to be be open-minded and really listens — something she said they haven't done very well during the past nine years — her caucus is willing to work with them.

"I'll give them the benefit of the doubt,” she said.

But Hanson's biggest push right now seems to be pressing the government to just get going.

In a press release sent this morning, Hanson said, as she has been for months, that the government needs to address the housing crisis before it gets too cold for those who don't have a roof over their heads.

"Now's the time to provide immediate assistance to those in need of winter shelter and to start to tackle the broader availability and affordability issues,” she said. "The question is whether or not this government has the political will to get the job done.”

The NDP will announce its shadow cabinet tomorrow.

Commissioner Doug Phillips gave advice to the new ministers Saturday afternoon.

He said that although it may seem like they have "the best ideas in the world to solve Yukon's problems,”they shouldn't be surprised when others try to change them.

"You'll learn quickly that politics is a game of compromise, and the best way to get things accomplished is to work with others,” he said.

"They say that patience is a virtue. You're going to need lots of it. Change in government takes time.”

The premier, in his speech, reiterated his party's four pillars: the economy, the environment, quality of life and good governance.

He thanked the hard work of public servants and the families of politicians for helping keep the territory on the right track.

"Yukon has experienced nine years of unprecedented economic growth and clearly is on the pathway to prosperity,” he said. "We are committed to continuing this trend for the next five years.”

There is still no word on when the legislative assembly's fall session will begin.

Comments (2)

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Francias Pillman on Nov 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Yea, a kid fresh out of school running the environment and ED? Having a masters degree means nothing in today's world. Where is the real life experience? Oh right, the kid has none. Have fun buddy. The voters want a kid playing a grownup games. Seems this new Yukon Party is comprised of the blind leading the blind.

Up 0 Down 0

mike w on Nov 7, 2011 at 10:57 am

some interesting choices mr premier elect... Especially with graham as minister of h & s and minister nixon for justice. We shall see how it goes i guess.

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