There is a magic in numbers.
If you don’t believe it, take a close look at the Whitehorse Centre byelection.
Newly minted New Democrat Leader Liz Hanson received 356 votes on Monday night.
She inherited the riding from Todd Hardy, who died of cancer earlier this year.
In 2006, Hardy pulled 357 votes, one fewer than were cast for the NDP on Monday night.
And that missing vote? Well, it becomes a poignant reminder of the well-liked politician the riding just lost.
In the end, the incumbent NDP kept the riding. And the vote involved the party leader.
For that reason, you can’t read too much into the win. The status quo was upheld, right down to the vote tally.
Still, the win does signal change.
With it, Hanson moves out of the shadows and into the full glare of the limelight.
The Yukon NDP will soon become a different animal than the one the territory has grown accustomed to.
And so the political landscape is shifting, too.
Had Hanson’s team lost the riding, the NDP would have been seriously on the ropes.
The Liberals were hoping to deliver such a blow to the organization. Doing so would have changed the electoral map, making the Liberal party the sole alternative to the Yukon Party.
Instead, it is the Grits who are reeling.
Cameron, a high-profile candidate, pulled fewer votes than the last Liberal in the riding, Bernie Phillips. In fact, he pulled fewer than relative unknown Yukon Party candidate Jerry Johnson, who got 190 votes in 2006.
On the eve of the byelection vote, Liberals thought they were going to win. Their campaign team had identified more than 300 solid votes for Cameron.
And then ….
So now the Liberal camp is in a state of self-reflection.
And then there is the Yukon Party, which played the byelection differently.
Mike Nixon was nominated at the last minute, so he came late to the game.
He ran hard, trying to make up for lost time but, in the end, conceded “there wasn’t anything we could have done differently.”
It’s a disarming remark, designed to blunt the sting of losing in an NDP riding. But it’s not entirely true.
The governing Yukon Party controlled the election call, and should have had all its ducks lined up when the writ was dropped. Yet it seemed to be scrambling in the leadup to the byelection.
Bottom line, there was much that could have been done. And wasn’t. It is up to the Yukon Party’s members to ask why.
This was the dry run for the upcoming general election.
The NDP has just shown it can run a clean, crisp election.
The Liberals and Yukon Party are left with a bunch of questions. And they’ll be hunting for answers.
Elections are a numbers game.
In 2010, the NDP got 357. In 2006, 356.
And, for Hanson’s team, there has to be some magic in that result.