Who knew that NDP Leader Liz Hanson could soar through the air, shoot lasers from her eyes and pull off wearing a miniskirt with orange, spandex tights?
Krysta Meekins, that’s who.
At least, these are all things Hanson does in Meekins’ imagination, brought to life with the help of an illustrator accomplice, in political cartoons that have been distributed online in recent months with the help of Twitter and other social media tools.
A CBC Yukon report called the drawings “attack ads.” Meekins prefers to describe them as “public service announcements.”
Either way, the comics have a decidedly anti-NDP slant. In Meekins’ world, Hanson employs her superpowers to blast the mining industry and, in turn, wreak havoc on the Yukon economy – a jab at the NDP’s campaign promise to make miners pay more royalties.
The real Hanson doesn’t appear to be amused. She declined to comment.
When the cartoons first appeared online in January, their authors remained a mystery. They were distributed by “Queen Liz,” a haughty and sanctimonious caricature of Hanson, complete with a crown atop her head.
Meekins said she kept her identity as the fake Hanson a secret for fear it would cause trouble for the political parties for which she was stumping.
The 32-year-old, born-and-raised Yukoner now considers herself to be a “hyper-partisan” Yukon Party supporter. But when Meekins decided to start spoofing Hanson online several months ago, she was still a longtime member of the Yukon Liberal Party and even sat on the party’s executive.
She stressed that spoofing Hanson was her idea, rather than that of any politician or staffer.
She said she’s never been paid for the work.
But it’s hard to think of the Yukon Party being anything but pleased by the cartoons. It invariably looks good while the NDP is portrayed as being either incompetent or hypocritical.
Meekins’ abandonment of the Liberals shortly after the party’s dismal electoral showing opens her up to charges of opportunism. But she insists she switched teams because the Yukon Party offers the best match to her views.
“I’m a conservative,” she said. “I always have been.”
She’s a fan of Sun News, the Alberta oilsands, Ottawa’s tough-on-crime policies, the Queen and the military.
Meekins is against the Occupy movement, deficit spending and the Yukon’s conservationists.
She cheered the demise of Katimavik, noting that members of the youth camp participated in the tent city that sprang up on the lawn of the legislature to protest the territory’s housing shortage.
And she expressed regret when Brad Cathers nixed the oil and gas industry’s wishes to explore the Whitehorse Trough.
She joined the Liberals at age 14 “before I really had an understanding of my own philosophy.” But Meekins stuck with the Liberals even after a tilt to the right during her teenage years.
“Once you become a part of a team, sometimes the gamesmanship and camaraderie becomes more important than the political philosophy,” she said.
During the territorial election, she took a month off work to volunteer for the Liberals, toiling until the early hours to produce campaign materials. On election night, as it became clear that then Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell had lost his seat, Meekins tweeted, “My heart has been ripped out tonight with the downfall of my leader.”
In mid-February, she quit the Liberals and joined the Yukon Party.
“Even during the election I realized I was pretty supportive of the Yukon Party and Premier Pasloski,” she said. “I realized I didn’t mind if they formed a majority. It didn’t make sense to fight them when I supported them.”
She remains friends with Liberals, she said. Among them are her two young children, who still count themselves members of “team red.”
Most people need to be paid to sit through the drudgery that occurs when the legislative assembly convenes, but not Meekins.
She’s in the gallery almost every day, carefully watching the daily exchanges during her lunch break from her job as a printer.
The actual drawing is outsourced to Dan MacKinnon, a Cape Bretoner who Meekins describes as “a friend of a friend.”
“He isn’t even political,” she said. “He draws to my specs.”
Meekins counts as inspirations the fake Dennis Fentie that popped up on Twitter as a satirical version of the territory’s former premier, and the political cartoons of the Yukon News’ own Wyatt Tremblay.
Some drawings have been packaged into videos, accompanied by captions and dramatic music, then uploaded to YouTube.
One takes a swipe at the NDP’s dependence on union money. Another cites Hanson’s promise of offering “positive leadership” to the territory, then quotes negative comments she’s made about the Yukon Party.
And a string of cartoons portrays the NDP’s MLAs in bunny rabbit form, after Hanson made an off-the-cuff remark about how her members were left sitting “like stunned bunnies” while the Finance minister rattled off numbers, without referring to the page numbers of budget documents.
Yukoners may be represented by a conservative territorial government and a Tory MP and senator, but right-leaning residents remain inadequately represented online, she said. Her work is meant to compensate for that.
“Conservatives are generally quiet. They aren’t throwing protests and waving signs,” she said. “It’s a small, vocal minority that’s responsible for all the noise.”
Earlier this month, Meekins shuttered the Queen Liz Twitter account after she outed herself. But she still tweets as WhseGrl and she recently launched her own blog, northernpolijunkie.blogspot.ca.
A comic book is also in the works. It’ll be professionally printed and bound, in full colour, she said.
“We’re going to take our time with it,” she said. “We both have full-time jobs. This is a hobby.”
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