welcome to the monkey house

We wish Elizabeth Hanson luck. The newly annointed NDP leader has an extremely tough job ahead of her. The retired civil servant became the NDP leader-elect this week when nobody else stepped forward to challenge her for the post.

We wish Elizabeth Hanson luck.

The newly annointed NDP leader has an extremely tough job ahead of her.

The retired civil servant became the NDP leader-elect this week when nobody else stepped forward to challenge her for the post.

When officially sworn in on September 26, she’ll assume control of a party that’s a shadow of its former self.

Outgoing leader Todd Hardy will pass on an organization that has little money and anemic membership lists. Its once-formidible election machine has rusted out.

Worse, there are already divisions in the caucus.

Hanson wants the party to work with the current scandal-wracked Yukon Party. Hardy, the outgoing leader, has publicly stated he wants to bring down Dennis Fentie’s minority government.

For years, he’s tried to work with Fentie’s cabinet, without success, he said.

The assertion is laughable.

Over the past couple of years, he’s worked better with Fentie’s cabinet than with his Liberal colleagues on the opposition benches.

Hardy initiated the Fentie government’s controversial Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation, which can evict people from their homes without charge.

Also, he was able to convince Fentie’s cabinet to pass his Smoke-Free Places legislation.

So Hardy and Fentie, who were both backbenchers in Piers McDonald’s NDP government, worked together surprisingly well.

Hanson, unlike Hardy, wants to continue that working relationship.

For her, delaying an election makes sense.

The party is in no state to fight an election, and she hasn’t had any time to put her stamp on the organization.

But Fentie’s now been exposed for doublespeak, interference in the Peel Watershed planning process, and secret Yukon Energy privatization plans, and Hardy wants to bring him down.

And Fentie’s not backing down.

So Hardy’s put his successor in a difficult spot.

She’s unwilling to force the issue. She’ll let her MLAs vote their conscience – that is, they can do what they want.

It’s not a good beginning.

It suggests Hanson’s not strong enough to convince her MLAs to support her –

and that simply erodes public confidence in her leadership abilities.

Worse for her, Hardy probably has a better read on the public mood.

Public confidence in the Fentie government is at an all-time low.

Brad Cathers, his lieutenant, quit the caucus to sit as an Independent, calling Fentie a dishonest bully who was unwilling to tolerate other people’s opinions.

Cathers urged his colleagues to follow suit.

On principle, Hanson wants her MLAs to make government work.

But, at the moment, with the public wary of the government’s actions, that’s a tough case to make. She’ll have to explain herself better.

Leaders are often shaped by the events they find themselves in.

She’s landed in a political maelstrom, and will be judged by how she deals with it. So far, she’s stumbling.

But that’s not all.

Hanson also has to learn to be a leader, build a party, fund an election and, in the process, position it to win an election.

And she’s never run for office before.

As we said, she’s got a tough job. And we wish her luck. (Richard Mostyn)