Fentie prepares to take power, form cabinet
The newly-elected leader of Yukon will soon choose his Cabinet. Dennis Fentie and the Yukon Party won enough seats to form a majority government Monday night, taking 12 of the legislature's 18 seats and almost wiping the governing Liberals off the political map.
The vote last night sees the Yukon Party returning to government after a six-year hiatus. The party suffered a Liberal-style defeat itself in the last election, with one member returned to the legislature. But voters gave the party, under new leader Dennis Fentie, an overwhelming victory in both the rural areas and the city of Whitehorse.
Fentie celebrated his victory from his home riding in Watson Lake last night. He becomes the first premier of the territory to come from a rural area. Fentie will travel to Whitehorse today to begin what he called the "business of government," including discussions on setting up a cabinet. However, that's something that may present a challenge to the new Premier.
Fentie will have little experience to draw from in his caucus. Few of his elected members have any political experience, some are completely new to public service. He has 15 portfolios to fill under the current government structure.
Fentie says one of his first priorities is to set up a good working relationship with First Nations.
Meanwhile, Yukon Liberals are trying to absorb the magnitude of the defeat. While the loss raises questions about Pat Duncan's leadership, party organizers like Shayne Fairman say there's no debate about that now.
"Pat's the leader and she'll remain the leader for as long as she wants," he says. "I don't hear any Liberals talking about that at all. We've been very happy with Pat and very proud of the work that she's done and very proud of her leadership."
Other Liberals are waiting in the wings to rebuild the party, including defeated cabinet minister Scott Kent.
"I'm pretty young. I'm 34 years old and I have a lot of fight left in me and I'm pretty competitive," he says.
For now, Kent says the day belongs to the Yukon Party and the Liberals have four years to regroup.
Meanwhile, the NDP were celebrating a strong showing in the polls, after starting the campaign disorganized and demoralized after a divisive leadership race. The NDP won five ridings yesterday, including a seat for the party's new leader, Todd Hardy.
The NDP will form the official opposition. Hardy told supporters they will keep the Yukon Party government on its toes.
"My brothers and my sisters, we were not successful in forming government this time but have elected five new MLA's to fight the fight for social justice, for working people of this territory," he says. "We will form a strong opposition caucus to keep this government accountable to the people."
Hardy cautioned the Yukon Party to learn from the Liberals massive defeat. He says they should listen to all Yukoners during their mandate or suffer the same fate in four years.