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Unexpected defeat for Yukon New Democrats

Running for office is hard work anywhere, but campaigning in the Yukon may be hardest of all. The territory's tiny population is spread over a vast area, and the campaign trail leading to the voters is sometimes 60 below. The voters can be as unforgiving as the climate, with wildly divergent interests and fickle party allegiances. From the introduction of political parties in 1978 to responsible government and stumping by computer, CBC Archives looks at elections in the land of the midnight sun.

Few people are more surprised to see the Yukon New Democratic Party tumble from power than CBC Radio host Peter Gzowski. As we hear in the introduction to this Morningside item, Gzowski was in the Yukon this summer, and even the opposition candidates told him privately they didn't think they could win. But they did - sort of. The new Yukon Party has taken seven of 17 seats, and now it's a mad scramble to woo the independents.
• Before the 1992 election, the Yukon Progressive Conservative Party decided to sever ties with the federal Progressive Conservatives, distancing itself from the increasingly unpopular government of Brian Mulroney. The name was changed to the Yukon Party.
• In opposition since 1985, the party looked to leader John Ostashek, a former outfitter, to right the Yukon Party ship. Ostashek had worked for the party since it formed in 1978, but had not run for office.

• Ostashek inherited a party in turmoil. He was the Yukon Party's third leader in a year (Willard Phelps and Chris Young were both dogged by conflict, and stepped down.) And when the party split from the Progressive Conservatives, MLAs Bea Firth and Alan Nordling quit to run as independents. Once elected, Ostashek tried and failed to persuade the opposition parties to form a coalition.

• In the 1992 election, the Yukon Party garnered 35.9 per cent of the popular vote, for seven seats. The New Democrats had 35.1 per cent of the popular vote for 6 seats. The Liberals took one seat, and three independents were elected.

• John Ostashek decided not to use the title of premier that had been adopted by Tony Penikett, reverting to the traditional title of government leader. The right-leaning independents helped keep Ostashek in power. After being elected, Ostashek finalized four previously negotiated native land claim agreements, and began welfare reform and reducing public services.
Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: Oct. 20, 1992
Guest(s): Leonard Linklater
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 7:30

Last updated: September 19, 2013

Page consulted on February 6, 2014

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