The year 2016 may seem a long way away, but it’s not if you’re marking time by politics.
You should circle that year on your calendar.
Because it is looking like the earliest opportunity opposition parties have to defeat the Yukon Party in an election.
The legislature has resumed its fall sitting, but the dog-and-pony show is of little consequence.
Neither opposition party is currently in a position to govern the territory, let alone defeat the Yukon Party.
And that is not good for the territory. More about that in a minute.
The Yukon NDP is a spent force.
Todd Hardy, the party’s doctrinaire leader, has proved incapable of building a populist party.
He’s not a big-tent politician, like his premier predecessors Piers McDonald and Tony Penikett — leaders who were willing to bend their principles to advance the socialist cause in a conservative society.
Hardy won’t do this. He only fraternizes with like-minded folks. And there aren’t many of those around.
Talking shop with folks who agree with you may be comforting and allows you to remain true to your principles. But it’s hard to see what good that does you when you’re spiralling into oblivion.
Hardy has proved incapable of building his party’s support.
The New Democrat share of the popular vote has fallen in every election since 1996, but it fell precipitously under Hardy’s watch.
It hit 23.6 per cent of the popular vote in 2006, down from 26.9 per cent on 2002. It was 32.8 per cent in 2000. It was 39.9 per cent in 1996, when McDonald formed government. For New Democrats, the trend is deeply disturbing.
What’s happened is the moderates who once filled out the party’s ranks, who ran the successful election campaigns, have fled.
And the territorial party has proved incapable of recruiting new talent.
Hardy remains true to his principles, but the result is the New Democrat machine of the ‘80s and ‘90s is now a fringe party incapable of affecting its agenda. Any agenda.
It now boasts just two politicians besides Hardy — John Edzerza and Steve Cardiff. Neither were around to support Hardy’s leadership ambitions. Everyone else is gone.
At this point, rebuilding the organization will take a monumental effort.
Gary McRobb and Eric Fairclough fled the caucus for the Liberals — that party is now the only viable place for moderate socialists to park their support.
Unfortunately, things are not that healthy in the Liberal camp either.
And, once again, leadership is the issue.
The Liberal caucus is not happy with Arthur Mitchell’s performance. Things are so bad, members of his caucus confronted him about his shortcomings last spring, demanding change.
If the ultimatum had any effect, it hasn’t manifested itself publicly. Mitchell still seems self absorbed.
The party’s rank and file are not united either.
Mitchell seized the reigns from Pat Duncan and, in doing so, split the party into factions.
They are still fighting.
A more galvanizing leader would have worked to unite the tribes. But Mitchell hasn’t mended the rifts.
And he hasn’t put forward a compelling vision of the territory to sell to voters.
The result — strong Liberal supporters are stepping aside from the organization in favour of more rewarding volunteer gigs, sapping the party’s strength and talent.
During the recent federal election, we’ve heard more than a couple of Bagnell supporters vow never to work for Mitchell’s territorial Liberal Party.
They are not supporting Hardy’s New Democrats either.
So where does that leave us?
The weak opposition is not good for the Yukon.
Parliamentary majorities are powerful, but their power is magnified when there is no viable shadow government in waiting.
Such is the case in the Yukon right now.
Premier Dennis Fentie can govern as he chooses.
And he’s doing a questionable job.
The civil service has ballooned under his watch, spending is out of control and pork-barrelling is rampant, as seen by plans to spend $70 million in his own riding on a hospital and a road that sees fewer than a dozen vehicles a day.
This, in a town of 800 people badly in need of sewer and water works and better education facilities.
The problem? Voters see no alternative — so these issues have no traction.
But the territory needs an alternative.
Last week, Fentie laid out how he’s going to shepherd the territory through the worsening global financial crisis.
He’s going to spend money.
The knee-jerk, prime-the-pump scheme will be personally overseen by him and a few handpicked department heads.
It’s a model rife for abuse.
And that’s disconcerting, given Fentie’s record. Tons of money has been blown in the last few years and the territory has little to show for it.
People should be concerned.
But they’re not. Because they don’t have confidence anyone on the territorial stage could do any better.
Welcome to the one-party state.
Hardy’s New Democrats have been laid so low, there is little chance of the party mounting a serious challenge by 2011, the latest date for the next territorial election.
Many disaffected Liberals are resigned to a second Mitchell loss in 2010 or ‘11, and are preparing to rebuild for the next election — 2016.
Mark it on your calendar.
And batten down. There’s a storm coming and things are going to get rough.