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The Yukon Riding

April 2011
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Note: This is the first of my submissions to CBC’s Your Take blog.

People often have a little trouble grasping the expanse of the Yukon, a single riding located in the northwest corner of Canada. We are 85 times the size of Prince Edward Island, the smallest province, yet have less than one quarter of their population. People of First Nations origin represent about 25% of the population.

The topography of the Yukon is as varied as one can expect. The eight highest mountains in Canada are located in the St. Elias Mountain Range, located within Kluane National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Above the Arctic Circle, tundra abounds, along with the Porcupine Caribou herd, one of the largest in North America. Subarctic boreal forest also covers much of the territory. Large lakes and rivers are common. The Yukon River, with a length of 3,185 km, is the second longest river in Canada. We do things big here.

There are 14 communities in the territory, ranging from Watson Lake at the gateway to the Yukon on the Alaska Highway to Beaver Creek, the most westerly community in the country, to Old Crow in the north. That being said, our total population, from the December 2010 estimate, is just under 35,000. (I realize that there are towns with a smaller population in many parts of Canada. Consider that Whitehorse, the capital city, has an estimated population of 26,000, if you include the surrounding bedroom communities.) Think in these terms: there are two moose and six caribou for every person in the territory. We also have a grizzly bear for every family of five.

A number of prominent Yukoners have served in the House of Commons, including George Black, He served in the House from 1921-1935 and 1940-1949. In the period between , the seat was held by his wife, Martha Louise Black, during a period of illness. He was Speaker of the House following the 1930 election and reputedly kept a .22 caliber pistol in his chambers to hunt rabbits on Parliament Hill. 

In 1957, Erik Neilson was elected as the Yukon MP and served until 1987 when he resigned. He held a variety of cabinet positions, including Deputy Prime Minister, President of the Privy council and Minister of National Defense.

From 1989-1995, the member was Audrey McLaughlin. She was the first female leader of a political party with a seat in the house and the only federal leader to represent a riding in one of the territories.

I also find it interesting that most people from outside the region often don’t know where we are. The usual response that makes the lights come on is “we’re right next to Alaska.” I do explain that Skagway, AK, is about 2½ hours drive away. I try not to tell them that I have to drive south to get there…

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