1909 Yukon Nuggets
First Elected Territorial Council
In the summer of 1909, the Yukon was in the midst of an election campaign for what would become the first wholly elected territorial council. Ten men, eight from Dawson city and two from Whitehorse, were elected. But political power still remained with the commissioner.
On the afternoon of July 15th, 1909, 11 men posed on the steps of the Administration building in Dawson. Ten were members of the first all-elected Yukon Council. The eleventh was C.B. Burns, the clerk of the council. In the previous election, only five of 11 councillors were elected. The other five, plus the commissioner, were appointed by the federal government.
Back in 1898, the entire council of six members was appointed. In 1899, two elected members were added. Then in 1902, three more elected members were added, bringing the council to 11, including the commissioner. Now in 1909, the Yukon was making political gains with its wholly elected council. But the commissioner would still introduce legislation and retained the power of veto over any bills introduced by the elected councillors.
Still this council was taking on the trappings of a real legislative assembly. Willard L. Phelps, councillor and businessman from Whitehorse, was elected government leader. Robert Lowe, councillor and businessman from Whitehorse was elected speaker of the House. They both had arrived the previous day on the riverboat Selkirk, and were staying in local hotels.
The council would now sit twice a year instead of just once for 10 days, as it had in previous years. On that first sitting in July of 1909, the council received a short statement from Commissioner Henderson which said that an ordinance for the revision of statutes, and a few other matters would be presented. He also informed council that the Yukon budget was being prepared and would soon be ready for study.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.