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Piers McDonald, OC (born August 4, 1955) is a Yukon politician and businessman. Born in Kingston, Ontario, McDonald, originally a miner by profession,[1] is a long-time MLA, Cabinet minister, and Premier of Yukon. He was leader of the Yukon New Democratic Party from 1995-2000.

Piers McDonald
5th Premier of the Yukon
In office
October 19, 1996 – May 6, 2000
CommissionerJudy Gingell
Preceded byJohn Ostashek
Succeeded byPat Duncan
MLA for Mayo
In office
June 7, 1982 – October 19, 1992
Preceded byPeter 'Swede' Hanson
Succeeded byriding dissolved
MLA for McIntyre-Takhini
In office
October 19, 1992 – April 17, 2000
Preceded byfirst member
Succeeded byWayne Jim
Leader of the Yukon New Democratic Party
In office
1995 – April 27, 2000
Preceded byTony Penikett
Succeeded byTrevor Harding
Personal details
Born (1955-08-04) August 4, 1955 (age 64)
Kingston, Ontario
Political partyNew Democratic Party
ResidenceWhitehorse, Yukon

Post-politics, McDonald became a businessman and community developer. He is a founding member, and currently Chair, of Northern Vision Development, which has focused on residential and property revitalization, commercial real estate, and hospitality services in Yukon.


Political careerEdit

25th Legislative AssemblyEdit

McDonald was elected in the rural riding of Mayo as part of the New Democrat caucus in the 1982 election. Taking more than half the vote, he defeated incumbent Progressive Conservative MLA Swede Hanson. McDonald had been an underground miner, labour leader, and Vice-President of the Yukon Federation of Labour before his entry into territorial politics.

The New Democrats, under the leadership of Tony Penikett, formed the Official Opposition in the 25th Legislative Assembly. McDonald acted as critic for Rural Development, Labour, Occupational Health and Safety, and Workers' Compensation.

26th Legislative AssemblyEdit

In the 1985 election, Tony Penikett led the New Democrats to a narrow minority government. McDonald was sworn in as a member of the Yukon Executive Council as Minister of Education, Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and Minister of the Yukon Housing Corporation. During that time, McDonald oversaw a significant agenda for his portfolios, ushering in the creation of the Yukon College and the establishment of the Yukon Arts Centre and the Whitehorse Public Library.

Other initiatives of his included: the Native Teacher Education Program; the opening and paving of the South Klondike Highway, which provided tidewater access for Yukon mines; the transfer of private-sector municipal airports and the Alaska Highway to the Yukon Government; and the establishment of the first home ownership programs and homesteader policies in the territory.

27th Legislative AssemblyEdit

McDonald was re-elected in Mayo in the 1989 election, which saw the New Democrats attain majority status in the legislative assembly. He was once again sworn into Cabinet, this time as Government House Leader, Minister of Education, Minister of Government Services, Minister of Economic Development, Mines and Small Business, Minister of the Public Service Commission, and Minister of the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

During the 27th Legislative Assembly, McDonald oversaw the creation of the Yukon's first Education Act, as well as a new Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Act. He oversaw the signing of an oil and gas accord with the Government of the Northwest Territories and an economic development agreement with the Government of Canada. Within the public school system, he also established policies on busing, computers, special needs education, and experiential learning. Yukon's only French First Language school, École Emilie Tremblay, was opened under his mandate.

28th Legislative AssemblyEdit

In the 1992 election, McDonald ran for election in the newly created Whitehorse riding of McIntyre-Takhini. His riding of Mayo had been amalgamated with the neighbouring riding of Tatchun. He was elected to McIntyre-Takhini that election, but the Penikett government was narrowly defeated by a minority Yukon Party government led by John Ostashek and propped up by three independent MLAs. Penikett subsequently resigned as Leader of the Yukon New Democratic Party and McDonald succeeded him as Leader. He assumed the critic portfolios of Finance and Economic Development and served as Leader of the Official Opposition.

29th Legislative AssemblyEdit

McDonald defeated the government of John Ostashek in the election of September 30, 1996, his government elected with a large level of support in rural Yukon. McDonald's party captured 11/17 seats, then the largest majority in Yukon history, and McDonald was once again re-elected in McIntyre-Takhini. He became Premier of the Yukon, then referred to as ‘Government Leader’, and assumed the responsibilities of Minister of Finance and Minister of the Executive Council.

During his premiership, McDonald's government oversaw significant restructuring of the Yukon's governance. The Umbrella Final Agreement, jointly established through the mandates of Penikett and Ostashek, began to usher in final land claims negotiations for many Yukon First Nations. With the federal government, a devolution accord on the Transfer of Lands and Resource Management to the Yukon was negotiated (ultimately implemented in 2003). McDonald also emphasized intergovernmental and circumpolar relations, established new territorial parks and community schools, and created new government strategies for restorative justice, protected areas, trade and investment, forestry, and energy.

While his government left a $60 million budget surplus and earned a good reputation for promoting social programs and protecting the environment, the Yukon had suffered from a decline in the territory's economy due to a fall in world metal prices and the closure of several mines. This became a major campaign issue in the 2000 general election, along with a resulting mass exodus of nearly one-in-ten people from the Yukon.

Ultimately, these economic hardships fueled the rise of the Pat Duncan Liberals and in the 2000 general election, McDonald's NDP government was defeated and McDonald himself lost his own seat of McIntyre-Takhini. NDP support had largely held in rural Yukon, but it was the Liberals' sweep of the territory's Whitehorse ridings that ensured the NDP's defeat. McDonald resigned as party leader on April 27, 2000.

Personal lifeEdit

Since leaving territorial politics, McDonald has developed a career as a businessman and management consultant. He became one of the founding members of Northern Vision Development in 2004 and served as its Chief Executive Officer until 2009. Northern Vision Development is one of the Yukon's most extensive commercial and real estate investors and has focused on project management, property revitalization, commercial real estate, and hospitality services in the Yukon. McDonald continues to serve as Chair of its Board of Directors.[2] He was named the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce's Businessperson of the Year in 2007.

Shortly after his exit from politics, McDonald was appointed the Volunteer President of the 2007 Canada Winter Games Host Society for the upcoming Whitehorse event - the first held north of the 60th pararell.[3] McDonald focused on using the Games to promote a vision of pan-northernism and collaboration and he successfully oversaw the modernization of much of Whitehorse's sports infrastructure. McDonald continues to serve on the Canada Games Council as its Vice-President.[4] He was named the Yukon Commissioner's Volunteer of the Year in 2007 in recognition for his volunteerism and leadership of the Canada Winter Games.

In September 2008, McDonald was appointed to the Board of Directors of Northwestel, the communications company providing service to the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.[5] He also served as Chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation's Board of Directors and Governance from 2009-2014.[6]

Following the tenth anniversary of the creation of Nunavut, McDonald led a review of the Government of Nunavut. The ‘’Government of Nunavut Report Card’’ compiled and analysed the opinions of 2,100 Nunavummiut and produced 93 recommendations on how the Government of Nunavut could improve its services and operations. Focus included land claims, decentralization of government, housing, education, and economic development.[7]

In September 2016, McDonald was appointed as Chancellor of the Yukon College.[8]


In 2008, in recognition for McDonald’s volunteerism and pan-northern focus in leading the 2007 Canada Winter Games, as well as his ongoing role in Northern economic development and a lifetime of service to the Yukon, McDonald was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. He is one of only four Yukoners to be appointed Officer of the Order.[9]

In June 2011, Queen's University presented McDonald with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws,[10] in recognition of McDonald's work in education, aboriginal land claims and devolution during his political career in Yukon. He is also credited for spearheading construction of Yukon College's Whitehorse campus, the Yukon Arts Centre, the South Klondike Highway, and schools in Dawson City, Old Crow and Watson Lake.[11]

Electoral recordEdit

2000 general electionEdit

Party Candidate Votes % ±
     Liberal Wayne Jim 376 37.9% +17.7%
     NDP Piers McDonald 338 34.1% -14.9%
Yukon Party John Edzerza 265 26.7% -1.2%
Total 991 100.0%

1996 general electionEdit

Party Candidate Votes % ±
     NDP Piers McDonald 441 49.0% +6.3%
Yukon Party Scott Howell 251 27.9% -11.7%
     Liberal Rosemary Couch 182 20.2% +3.9%
     Independent Clinton Fraser 21 2.3% +2.3%
Total 900 100.0%

1992 general electionEdit

Party Candidate Votes % ±
     NDP Piers McDonald 313 42.7%
Yukon Party Scott Howell 290 39.6%
     Liberal Larry Bill 126 16.3%
Total 733 100.0%

1989 general electionEdit

Party Candidate Votes % ±
     NDP Piers McDonald 210 62.3% +6.9%
Progressive Conservative Mike McGinnis 93 27.6% -12.7%
     Liberal Wilf Tuck 34 10.1% +6.1%
Total 337 100.0%

1985 general electionEdit

Party Candidate Votes % ±
     NDP Piers McDonald 251 55.4% +3.1%
Progressive Conservative Ken Cooper 183 40.3% +1.0%
     Liberal Rob Andison 18 4.0% -4.0%
Total 453 100.0%

1982 general electionEdit

Party Candidate Votes % ±
     NDP Piers McDonald 230 52.3% +29.1%
Progressive Conservative Swede Hanson 173 39.3% +12.5%
     Liberal Eleanor Van Bibber 35 8.0% -16.0%
Total 440 100.0%


  1. ^ "Long time NDP Leader packs it in". April 27, 2000. Retrieved December 3, 2009.
  2. ^ Board of Directors and CEO. Northern Vision Development. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  3. ^ "Bitter cold marks opening of Canada Winter Games". February 23, 2007. Retrieved December 3, 2009.
  4. ^ Board of Directors Des Jeux du Canada Games. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  5. ^ "Northwestel Appoints Piers McDonald ..." Northwestel Inc. September 11, 2008. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ Piers McDonald picked for Yukon Energy Board seat. Yukon News, May 7, 2010
  7. ^ Blunt report recommends sweeping changes to GN. Nunatsiaq News (Jim Bell). October 1, 2009. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  8. ^ Piers McDonald is Yukon College's New Chancellor Yukon College, September 22, 2016.
  9. ^ Piers McDonald Investiture Office of the Government General of Canada.
  10. ^ Denise, Heather (2011-05-25). "Chief Justice & Local Marathon Swimmer Among Queen's Honorary Degree Recipients". Kingston Herald.
  11. ^ "Former Yukon leader McDonald receives doctorate". CBC. June 6, 2011.
  12. ^ Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Yukon on the 2000 General Election Elections Yukon, 2000. Retrieved January 21, 2017
  13. ^ Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Yukon on the General Election Held on September 30, 1996 Elections Yukon, 1996. Retrieved January 21, 2017
  14. ^ Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Yukon on the 1992 General Election Elections Yukon, 1992. Retrieved January 21, 2017
  15. ^ Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Yukon on the 1989 General Election Elections Yukon, 1989. Retrieved January 21, 2017
  16. ^ Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Yukon on the 1985 General Election Elections Yukon, 1985. Retrieved January 21, 2017
  17. ^ Yukon Elections Board Report on the 1982 Election Elections Yukon, 1982. Retrieved January 21, 2017