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Winter arrives with the Yukon conservatives

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The conservative Yukon Party has swept to a third majority government in the Yukon Territory this week.

As if to confirm this grim news the sun did not come out yesterday morning in Whitehorse, the Yukon's capital, preferring to remain hidden behind some very dark snow-laden clouds.

This was the election that actually saw issues being discussed.

Protection of the Peel Watershed was, on the environmental front, the defining point.

The Yukon Party refused to commit to implementing an almost-finalized land use management plan that would have seen eighty per cent of this watershed protected.

The Liberals and the New Democrats did commit to this, and the voters did reward them with a combined sixty per cent of the vote.

But thanks to vote splitting, the Yukon Party got a majority of the seats.

In the 19-seat legislature the Yukon Party has eleven seats, of which at least seven they won through the magic of vote splitting.

If the Liberals and Dippers had somehow united and run a single candidate, the Yukon Party would have been down to four seats.

Or actually three, but that would have to assume that the votes cast in an eighth riding for the independent candidate Elvis Presley (yes, that's his legal name) would also have gone to a centrist or leftist candidate.

The big social issue of this election, the lack of affordable housing, is not going to go away.

There is still a tent city in front of the Yukon legislature although it is uncertain how long the residents will be able to inhabit it due to the cold and wet weather.

What is next for them is anyone's guess. A winter of couch surfing, trying to get a spot in the Salvation Army shelter each night or even winter camping are not a pleasant prospect.

The Dippers did well, winning six seats. Liz Hanson, the leader, is relatively new, having only been elected less than a year ago in a by-election.

The fortunes of the Liberal Party took a plunge. Their leader, Arthur Mitchell, lost his own seat and the party only won two seats.

However, one of the seats they won was a bit of surprise.

The Liberals got elected in the Klondike riding, often perceived as being the home of the placer miners who typically vote conservatively. The main community is Dawson City, home of the Klondike gold rush.

The demographics of that riding have changed, though. The establishment of the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture has ensured a large and vibrant artistic community there.

While a bit of a generalization, it is somewhat rare to find an artist who votes for neo-cons. They are much more likely to vote centrist or leftist.

So, there are the results.

The Yukon is in for a right-leaning pro-business government for another five years.
Instead of dealing with land use planning and addressing pressing social issues one does wonder what the new government will be getting up to.

It brings to mind the words of Robert Service, the bard of the Yukon, from the poem The Cremation of Sam McGee: "There are strange things done 'neath the midnight sun, By the men who moil for gold…"

Let us just hope the new government doesn't destroy too much of the land or neglect too many of those in need while they pander to the gold moiling crowd.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist. His work centers on Yukon recycling, energy and mining issues. When he is not winter camping or summer hiking, he collects stamps and spoils his two cats.

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