Monday night was a rough one for the Yukon NDP.
The party lost most of its seats, going from six to two, and losing official Opposition status. It will be the third party when the Legislative Assembly reconvenes.
“It hurts,” said Kate White, one of the only two NDP MLAs to be elected, Monday night. “It feels terrible.”
NDP Leader Liz Hanson was equally surprised.
“Who would have thought?” she told reporters after her concession speech. “I think we ran a good campaign.”
Hanson said strategic voting proved fatal for the party, whose share of the popular vote fell from 32 per cent in 2011 to 26 per cent.
The Liberals, she said, told voters only they could defeat the Yukon Party.
“The premise of voting in fear was more dominant than voting positively,” she said.
“It didn’t allow people to make the conscious choice they wanted to based on what was being put forward to them in a positive platform.”
White echoed Hanson’s statement.
“People’s biggest concern was they didn’t want the Yukon Party government,” she said.
The night started well for the NDP, with supporters trickling in the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre where the party had established its headquarters for the night, as the first results came in.
Most NDP candidates were in the room, watching the CBC broadcast.
About an hour and a half after the polls closed, former federal NDP leader Audrey McLaughlin cautioned to wait until all the results were in before making a determination, as races in the territory can be won by fewer than 10 votes.
“I always like to wait until the end before I get too happy or too sad,” she told the News.
Fifteen minutes later it was clear the NDP was in for a heavy loss.
Jim Tredger lost his seat in Mayo-Tatchun to Liberal candidate Don Hutton.
Mount Lorne-Southern Lakes MLA Kevin Barr was teary-eyed after learning from reporters that he lost his seat by 14 votes to Liberal John Streicker.
A stunned Barr told the News he didn’t expect the election to go that way.
“There are some great people I think should still be MLAs,” he said.
He thanked his supporters and the volunteers who worked with him during the campaign.
“We couldn’t do anything more,” he said.
But the biggest blow for New Democrats came with Jan Stick’s defeat.
The former health critic lost Riverdale South to Liberal Tracy McPhee by 37 votes.
As results that Liberal candidate Jeanie Dendys beat Premier Darrell Pasloski in Mountainview came in, supporters were still holding out hope a recount would favour the NDP’s Shaunagh Stikeman. Only six votes separate the two.
On Tuesday Stikeman told the News she wouldn’t comment about the election until a recount — automatic when a margin is 10 votes or fewer — has taken place.
Despite the heavy defeat, both White and Hanson intend to continue their work in the opposition.
They pledged to hold the Liberals to account.
“We will continue to work for you every day in the legislature,” Hanson told supporters.
She said she plans to stay on as NDP leader, though she noted party members will decide at a convention next spring.
White is already looking forward to the next territorial election. “We will come back from this,” she told cheering supporters.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org