North

Clerk of the Yukon Legislature hangs up his robe

He's not quite a household name in Yukon, but Floyd McCormick — who retired on Friday — helped keep the wheels of government running smoothly for many years.

Floyd McCormick retired Friday after 12 years as clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly

'One of the things about being the clerk is that you essentially have 19 bosses — like, all the MLAs,' said Floyd McCormick, who retired as clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly on Friday. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

Floyd McCormick is not quite a household name in Yukon, but he's played a central role in keeping the wheels of government running smoothly over the last two decades.

"There's probably a preference amongst the parliamentary clerks to maintain a kind of low profile," McCormick mused on Friday, his last day before retiring as clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. 

"We like to just kind of lurk in the background."

As clerk, McCormick served as the legislature's in-house expert on how the legislative branch is supposed to operate. He offered procedural advice and information to MLAs, to ensure "the institution is there in order to help the members do what they were elected to do.

"One of the things about being the clerk is that you essentially have 19 bosses — like, all the MLAs. You are accountable to all of them."

He'd been in the role since 2007. Before that, he served for six years as deputy clerk.

Over the years, he won the respect and appreciation of colleagues, and politicians of all stripes.

The Yukon Legislature building in Whitehorse. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

"Dr. McCormick is also held in high esteem by his peers across Canada and the Commonwealth," said government House Leader Tracy-Anne McPhee in a statement.

"His colleagues knew him as a supportive leader and mentor who was always encouraging, patient and measured with a precise memory."

'An interesting view of how the place works'

McCormick says being clerk just seemed to fit his personality and interests. He has a background in political science, but was never drawn to partisan politics. He's interested in the institutions of politics.

"It's an interesting position in the sense that it's largely process-oriented. It's not goal-oriented, like the politicians are ... you get kind of an interesting view of how the place works."

McCormick says he's thinking about writing a book about 'everything... I should have known when I took this job.' (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

He feels that among the three branches of government — executive, legislative, and judicial — the legislative branch is often the "forgotten child." There's often a lot of public attention on the premier and cabinet, as well as the courts, he says, but less so on legislative institutions.

"The role that we play, in terms of the accountability role ... to a certain extent it's designed to slow down the process, so that questions can be asked and, you know, policies and laws can be justified and all that stuff," he said

"But you're operating in a milieu where people want more, and they want it quickly." 

Now that he's hung up his clerk's robe, he's ready to try something new. He's just not sure what that is, yet.

He plans to do some travelling this summer, and he's thinking about writing a book about "everything... I should have known when I took this job."

One thing's clear, though — he's not likely to try to return to the legislature as an MLA.

"After years and years and years of approaching it from a particular perspective, you know, it's kind of hard to switch that off and say, 'I'm going to go join these people instead of those people," he said. 

Written by Paul Tukker based on an interview by Elyn Jones

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