a premier loses control

Election timing is always a gamble. In March 2000, then-Premier Piers McDonald pulled the pin on his government.

Election timing is always a gamble.

In March 2000, then-Premier Piers McDonald pulled the pin on his government.

The election came early, on the heels of the release of a fat budget that was to keep McDonald’s team in office.

Most were optimistic.

But not backbencher Dennis Fentie.

He made no secret of the fact that he believed holding the election in April was a mistake. A big one.

The election should be held in September, he argued, aggressively, to anyone who would listen.

The summer economy still has some mileage, and the public is happy, relaxed and content after a Yukon summer.

In March, people are worn out by the winter and angry at the sluggish economy, he said.

McDonald should wait until the end of summer, he said.

Nevertheless, McDonald dissolved the government — he didn’t want to bump up against the end of his mandate.

McDonald lost.

And you can imagine Fentie’s response.

And that’s the key to his strategy coming into this election.

Those who know him, and his history, have been expecting a September election call.

But there are dangers.

And Fentie’s learning about them firsthand.

Friday he was widely expected to call the election.

The Yukon Party has been rolling out a string of pre-election announcements for weeks now.

And it’s probably all for naught.

Fate has intervened, and New Democrat leader Todd Hardy sits in a Vancouver hospital fighting for his life against cancer.

Can Fentie call his election?

No way.

That’s why he flew to Vancouver on Friday to visit Hardy instead of dropping the writ.

He had to assess the situation.

To call the election without doing so looks as if he’s exploiting his former colleague’s illness.

But now that he’s done that, what next?

Hardy has made no secret of the fact he wants the election delayed as long as possible — preferably until November — to give him time to get back on his feet, provided he continues to respond well to his treatments.

If Fentie calls it before Hardy gives his assent, then he’s going to look like an opportunist.

So he can’t win.

He’s lost control of the timing.

And every week he delays takes people further into the fall.

The economy weakens, the placer miners leave, the weather turns bad and the municipal elections begin to heat up.

People begin to forget the long list of announcements the Yukon Party has rolled out.

The opposition continues to hammer the government, and who knows what other traps lurk the longer the campaign runup drags on.

This is exactly why McDonald pulled the pin in March, on the heels of a fat budget.

He was in control.

And, despite the result, it was a better position than the one Fentie finds himself in today. (RM)