Written by By Cialdini
Editor’s Note — The map above represents the degree to which Yukon has fallen behind other Yukon locals when it comes to communication. A steady decline in the use of landline phones and the introduction of cell service in 2009 has created a disconnect between government and residents.
(CNN) — With the focus back on the Yukon Legislative Assembly in Haines this week, the momentum has shifted toward forcing the resignation of one of its senior politicians.
On Wednesday, Republican legislators proposed a non-binding motion calling on Yukon’s deputy premier, Michalis Iliopoulos, to step down.
Introduced by Denise Brywood, a Republican legislator from Yukon, the motion comes in response to a troubling development in the Yukon’s mining industry, which has triggered an economic crisis and left many residents in poverty.
To help alleviate the situation, Brywood proposed a motion that would attempt to keep Iliopoulos from leading the next provincial government, although she isn’t allowed to introduce a vote until she receives approval from both Yukon’s senate and Iliopoulos himself.
‘He’s a one-man wrecking crew’
According to Brywood, “I believe (Iliopoulos is) the driving force behind trying to ruin mine families and drive them out of the mining industry.”
Iliopoulos, however, is denying all the allegations.
“I don’t want to sell mine families and I don’t want to destroy the mine industry,” he told the CBC News. “There are people who think (Iliopoulos) should go… he’s a one-man wrecking crew.”
The motion proposed by Republican Denise Brywood would ask Michalis Iliopoulos to resign.
Iliopoulos was previously made premier in 2017 after Premier Brent Snyder stepped down.
“It’s likely that some of this will be legitimate,” Iliopoulos said, adding that he had heard no evidence to support Brywood’s charges.
This isn’t the first time the Yukon legislature has been in turmoil. Earlier this year, 24 Republican legislators resigned in protest of the then-current premier, Dean Cameron.
Cameron resigned shortly after. It was the largest rebellion against the government since World War II.
Paige Craig, a Democrat from Inuvik, also recently announced plans to resign in protest of the government.
Former Premier Brent Snyder (center) gestures to the crowd at the Legislative Assembly on August 1, 2017.
Fear the effects of globalization
The Yukon is Canada’s northernmost province and, like much of the rest of Canada, it finds itself at a crossroads.
Although isolated by geography, the region has decades of mining history and is home to the largest known gold deposit outside of Western Africa.
It has also been valued as a viable export market for Canadian goods, but now faces stiff competition from booming trade with countries like China.
“We’re not even getting enough people to mine to make our current demand go through,” Iliopoulos said, suggesting that the industry was at risk of becoming a “glorified hunting and gathering industry.”
According to Iliopoulos, the Yukon is losing 18% of its mining companies each year.
“There’s that uncertainty in terms of where the profits are going,” he said. “Those companies aren’t up to their business plans anymore because we have a belief that the industry’s going to be a net positive, but at the rate that we’re losing out these companies are not going to be.”
While Iliopoulos believes that government is in the best position to ensure the long-term viability of the mining industry, he said that the effectiveness of Yukon’s government depended on its ability to create a package of policies that would make mining attractive for new investment.
“People coming here want to take their projects and have high-paying jobs. We can have good mining companies with good mining employees, but we can’t have good jobs for everyone if they have to go work at a pulp mill.”
While Iliopoulos found support among his colleagues during the first legislative meeting held on Wednesday, he admitted that he was nervous ahead of a second meeting scheduled for Friday.
If the motion passes, Iliopoulos will be asked to resign as premier. Iliopoulos would then have the option of either staying on as deputy premier — a position he has not yet relinquished — or resigning altogether.
If he chooses to remain, his final speech as the leader of Yukon’s government will likely be one of his last public appearances as an elected politician.