Yukon Nuggets

1953 Yukon Nuggets

Politics and Population


The Yukon's political evolution has always been closely tied to the territory's population growth or decline, which, until recent times, has been tied to the state of the mining industry.

When the Yukon became a territory in 1898, the best guess at the population would be somewhere around 40,000. Three years later, in 1901, the official census revealed that 27,000 people called the Yukon their home. By 1908, there were but 10,000 people in the territory. Yet that year, federal legislation for the first time allowed for a fully elected council of 10 members.

However, the council wouldn't last long. By 1919, the population had dwindled to a mere 4,000residents, and the elected council was reduced to three members. Also that year, the office of commissioner which had been established in 1898, was abolished. The legendary George Black was the last commissioner until the office was re-established in 1948. The duties were transferred to the gold commissioner, the first being G.P Mackenzie. This remained the all powerful political position in the Yukon and controlled all money bills and legislation.

In the 1930s, there was a further decline in the Yukon's population, and the gold commissioner's position was abolished. In 1932, control of the territorial government came under the office of the Yukon's comptroller George Jeckell, who held the position until 1947. Though the title had changed, the powers, if anything, were greater. Jeckell almost single-handedly ran the Yukon's affair for 15 years.

With the coming of the Alaska highway, however, and the post-war growth of the mining industry, the population was once again on the increase, especialy in the southern Yukon. The office of Commissioner was re-established in 1948. In 1951, the territorial council was increased to five elected members. In 1953, the growing town of Whitehorse became the Yukon capital.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.