Sold-out dinner marks 30 years since first Yukon NDP government

Nearly a hundred Yukon New Democrats packed into the Wheelhouse restaurant on Saturday afternoon to salute former Yukon premier Tony Penikett, who formed the first Yukon NDP government 30 years ago in May, 1985. Looking ahead to the imminent Yukon elections, many speakers noted the similarities between the undemocratic tenure of Penikett’s predecessor, the Progressive Conservative premier Willard Phelps, and the modern-day Yukon Party’s unwillingness to listen to partners in municipal and First Nation governments.

“Premier Tony Penikett was instrumental in making progress for Yukon that we can still recognize today,” said Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson. “Both the Human Rights Act and the Education Act were groundbreaking bills for their time whose legacy is still felt in today’s Yukon. And the Umbrella Final Agreement negotiated between the Penikett government and Yukon’s First Nations remains the cornerstone of our ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship.”

Tony Penikett’s ascension to the Premier’s Office overcame controversial Progressive Conservative policies. PC premiers Chris Pearson, and later Willard Phelps, governed under a climate of disrespect for Yukon First Nations, whose voices regarding natural resource development, education and other significant issues were routinely ignored. By the time Phelps was elected PC leader in early 1985, four of his caucus colleagues had already had to resign from cabinet over various scandals. By campaigning on a platform of respect for Yukoners and progressive growth, the Yukon NDP were elected with a plurality of seats to form the first NDP government in the territory’s short history of partisan politics.

“It is unfortunate that the Yukon Party has failed to heed the lessons of the past,” added Hanson. “Yukoners won’t stand for governments that don’t listen to the community. We heard loud and clear that Yukoners oppose the Yukon Party’s unilateral decisions to approve fracking and make non-negotiated changes to YESAA through Bill S-6, yet the Yukon Party government is determined to proceed with its own agenda at any cost to our environment and to our relationship with First Nation governments.”

“Yukoners want change. And in 2015 as much as in 1985, the Yukon NDP is ready to offer positive leadership for Yukon’s future.”


Photo (left to right): Piers McDonald, Art Webster, Tony Penikett and Liz Hanson at the Wheelhouse.