FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 12, 2023
WHITEHORSE – The chaotic start to Premier Pillai’s tenure continues with the appointment of another Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office. The premier’s latest appointment follows the abrupt departure of the previous deputy minister on May 1. He resigned after less than four months in that top job.
The number of deputy ministers who retired were fired, or quit since the territorial Liberal party acclaimed Ranj Pillai as leader has risen to five. Twelve Yukon government departments have new deputy ministers since the start of 2023, including two departments that have had two new deputies in that time.
A Whitehorse Star article dated April 29, 2016, quoted Klondike MLA Sandy Silver saying, “It doesn’t inspire much confidence in the leader of government when there’s turnover at a senior level of staff.”
In addition, the territorial Liberals have previously raised the issue of severance for departing deputy ministers. The same Whitehorse Star article quoted now Chief of Staff Jason Cunning saying, “…if Silver is elected premier in the pending election, severance deals would be made public.” Cunning then added, “We think the public deserves to know what those numbers are, and we’d make those numbers available.”
“Experienced and professional deputy ministers provide a stabilizing influence on government operations and ensure that services are delivered to Yukoners,” said Official Opposition Finance Critic Brad Cathers. “The departure of so many deputy ministers in such a short period of time raises questions about the work environment under Premier Pillai, and may reflect a growing lack of confidence in him by senior leadership in the civil service.”
The instability in the Yukon public service is not limited to senior positions.
The upheaval in senior civil servant ranks comes as Yukon government employees appear headed toward job action. They have been without a collective agreement since January 1, 2022, and union reps are preparing for a strike. If employees strike, it would be the first Yukon public servant labour disruption since teachers walked off the job under the Liberals in 2001.