Liberal minister Ranj Pillai launches leadership bid
Other candidates have yet to come forward. Whoever wins, will go on to replace Premier Sandy Silver
Yukon government Minister Ranj Pillai has announced he is going after the premiership.
This makes him the first sitting minister to do so, but he may not be the last.
Pillai, whose chief portfolio is economic development, launched his bid to be the next leader of the Liberal Party on Friday morning in downtown Whitehorse among roughly 60 supporters, which included Larry Bagnell, former member of parliament for the territory.
Pillai said he's spent years honing skills and building bridges across the territory, including with business owners and First Nations leaders.
"That's very fitting for this role," he said. "I've had a tremendous amount of Yukoners reach out to me since September."
Premier Sandy Silver announced in September he will step aside and make way for a new leader. He will continue to serve as MLA for the Klondike until the next general election.
Following Pillai's announcement, he seemed to suggest other Liberal MLAs would also run for premier.
"We'll probably see more of my colleagues run — that's a good thing," he said. "The more people that are involved in this process I think the better."
'Out of steam'
Thursday marked the end of the fall sitting of the legislature. With that, leaders from every political stripe had something to say about how things went, and there appeared to be some sniping, particularly from Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon, who said ministers are running "out of steam."
Pillai shot back at this Friday among reporters, saying while he can't let on too much right now, he has plenty of ideas, adding the next two months will be an absolutely critical time, politically speaking.
"Just wait for the next 60 days and we'll see. I'm certainly not out of ideas, and I don't think our party's out of ideas."
One idea of Pillai's is to "find common ground with both opposition parties."
Pillai may need to, particularly with the NDP.
On Jan. 31, a critical agreement between the governing Liberals and the third party will expire. Without it, the government will have a hard time making progress on its agenda. That's because following the last election, the government failed to secure a majority government. The agreement solidifies NDP support for various Liberal aspirations, and vice versa.
Pillai told reporters he's long considered NDP Leader Kate White a friend, outside the legislative assembly.
"Inside the assembly, I immensely respect Kate," he said.
"It takes two to dance on this, and I'm coming to the table to make sure the relationship with the NDP can continue to be positive."
A leadership contest has yet to be formally called, but one is expected to be called any day.
Many of the mechanics for such a race seem in place.
On Wednesday, the party caucus released a number of rules, including who's eligible to run, how they can campaign and how the vote will be conducted. A dinner is slated for Friday night, where Liberal MLAs, supporters and hopefuls will gather to, reportedly, discuss the direction of the party. It seems to be catered to the well-heeled — plates are $200.
First elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly in 2016, Pillai has held various roles in the Yukon over the years, including as a City of Whitehorse councillor and executive director of the Champagne Aishihik First Nations.