A fighter hangs up his gloves

Gary McRobb won't seek another term as the Liberal MLA for Kluane. And he sounds relieved. He answers the question of how he feels with one word: "Better.

Gary McRobb won’t seek another term as the Liberal MLA for Kluane.

And he sounds relieved. He answers the question of how he feels with one word: “Better.”

He’s held the seat since 1996. Just how long that’s been – 15 years – hit McRobb in January, when he realized he had represented the riding longer than his predecessor, Bill Brewster.

“He seemed like he was there forever. To realize I had been MLA longer than Bill was a real wake-up call.”

And the past two years have offered McRobb, 55, a few reminders to not squander his remaining years. During that time he lost his younger brother, aged 50, and then his father, aged 89.

Over the past year, he’s also seen two colleagues felled: first, foremr NDP Leader Todd Hardy, who succumbed to leukemia, and then the NDP’s Steve Cardiff, who died in a car crash.

McRobb worked with both men until 2006, when he was expelled the from the New Democrats and joined the Liberals.

“It’s too bad both Steve and Todd won’t be able to enjoy post-MLA life,” said McRobb.

“All of this is a reminder how short life is. You have to enjoy it while you can. I’m looking out the window: it’s a nice sunny day. Hopefully, there will be lots of blue sky ahead.”

McRobb entered public life to protect Aishihik Lake from further hydroelectric projects. As he retires, he expects to spend a lot more time at his cabin on the lakeside.

As the Liberals’ energy critic, McRobb served as the party’s attack dog during the ATCO energy privatization scandal and other matters.

Occasionally, he would over-reach, with accusations never quite substantiated in fact. But McRobb always reckoned it was better to hit too hard, rather than too soft.

“If you take a lackadaisical approach, you’re going to get nothing.”

Premier Dennis Fentie usually replied in kind, offering his most withering rebukes to McRobb.

“I’d appreciate his attention,” said McRobb. “When they stop mentioning your name, you know you’re in trouble.”

Sometimes McRobb’s heavy criticisms would come back to haunt him.

“When you vote Liberal, you’re prepared to throw your values out the window,” he told the legislature in the winter of 2001, while sitting with the NDP. The Yukon Party never let him forget those words once he switched teams.

And McRobb doesn’t deny that he occasionally caused strife within his own party.

“Quite often I don’t get along with anybody – including reporters,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t get along with my mother too, OK? Sometimes I’m hard to get along with.”

McRobb sees this as only being natural, in the “pressure cooker” of politics.

Yet now he’s doing what would have been unthinkable a short time ago. He’s pulling his punches.

The Liberals remain “the best choice” for voters in the coming election, he said. But, uncharacteristically, he won’t elaborate.

“I don’t want to get too political on my way out. I’m going to leave it at that. If I go further, it’ll cause hard feelings on the part of members of the other parties. This is not a time for me to score political points.”

In Piers McDonald’s NDP government, McRobb never broke into cabinet, instead serving as a cabinet commissioner for Energy, Mines and Resources. It would prove the closest he’d come to wielding direct political power, following the Yukon Party’s rise to power in 2000.

Had he wished he’d had a cabinet post? Certainly.

“Then I wouldn’t have to argue a case to people in another party and be subject to their roadblocks and refusals. I’d be able to work directly with the deputy minister.”

McRobb also admits to growing tired with sitting in opposition for three terms. Over the past three years, he often sounded weary while he recited political boilerplate.

“The job became monotonous years ago. It was just like watching the same movie over again. A lot of it was the same routine.

“After 15 years, I’m saying, ‘Which way is out?’”

Many politicians put on pounds after winning office. McRobb, after initially plumping up, dropped more than 100 pounds, thanks to a diet regime. The weight loss was evident from his baggy suits.

He still struggles with his weight, “but it’s a hell of a lot less of a fight than Todd Hardy went through. It proves if you put your mind to something, you can succeed.”

McRobb will spend a lot less time commuting between Haines Junction and Whitehorse soon. During his career, he’s weathered criticism for collecting travel expenses upwards of $35,000, second only to the Klondike’s Steve Nordick.

To this, McRobb offers the same rebuttal he recalls Peter Jenkins using -“It proves I’m doing my job.”

Besides, there are more important things in life than worrying about the shenanigans of politicians. Just ask McRobb.

“It’s time for you to let go too. I tell you, it really feels good. Look outside. The sun is shining. There’s lots of blue sky. You can put down that clump of mud, wash your hands and be free.”

Contact John Thompson at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.


Wyatt’s World for May 5, 2021.… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speak at a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. They formally announced that as of Nov. 20, anyone entering the territory (including Yukoners returning home) would be required to self-isolate with the exception of critical service workers, those exercising treaty rights and those living in B.C. border towns
Vaccinated people won’t have to self-isolate in the Yukon after May 25

Restaurants and bars will also be able to return to full capacity at the end of the month.

An RV pulls into Wolf Creek Campground to enjoy the first weekend of camping season on April 30, 2021. John Tonin/Yukon News
Opening weekend of Yukon campgrounds a ‘definite success’

The territorial campgrounds opened on April 30. Wolf Creek was the busiest park seeing 95 per cent of sites filled.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: rent caps and vaccines

To Sandy Silver and Kate White Once again Kate White and her… Continue reading

Most Read