Fairclough joins Liberals

Eric Fairclough joined the Liberal ranks on Monday. The move strips the NDP of its Official Opposition status.

Eric Fairclough joined the Liberal ranks on Monday.

The move strips the NDP of its Official Opposition status.

With four members, Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell, Pat Duncan, Gary McRobb and Fairclough, to the NDP’s three, the Liberals will get better seats in the Yukon legislature and a substantial pay raise.

Fairclough brings a research fund of $27,724 with him for the remainder of the year, and, as the Official Opposition, the party receives a $75,683 secretarial allocation — that’s $34,000 more than the third party NDP will receive.

NDP members Todd Hardy, Lorraine Peter and Steve Cardiff are left with a little less clout and less cash in the caucus coffers.

The shift gives the Liberals a higher profile during the daily Question Period — they’ll get to ask more questions of the government.

And Mitchell will see a pay hike.

As Opposition leader he’ll pocket an additional $21,147 on top of the MLA base salary of $38,183 and the $16,669 expense allowance, taking his total pay to $75,999.

As leader of the third party, Hardy’s salary drops $16,918 to $59,081.

Despite the blow, Hardy remains undeterred.

“We may lose our Official Opposition status, but we’re in election mode and we’re going to win it back,” he said.

In March, Hardy sacked Fairclough and Gary McRobb, now a Liberal member, after they publicly consulted their ridings about crossing the floor.

Since then, Fairclough has been sitting as an independent.

After consulting his Mayo-Tatchun riding, where he has sat for the NDP since 1996, Fairclough decided to jump to the Liberals.

Fairclough will bring two key skills to the party — experience in rural Yukon and knowledge of First Nations relationships, Mitchell said on Monday.

“As much as I can understand them intellectually, I’m not of First Nations background so I haven’t lived through these issues,” said Mitchell.

“I haven’t lived in a situation where the housing is substandard and where my friends and relatives and neighbours have been through the residential school experience.”

He’ll help make the party a “Yukon Liberal Party and not what it’s been referred to in the past — a Whitehorse Liberal Party,” said Mitchell.

Although Hardy opened the door for Fairclough to rejoin the NDP last week, Fairclough was dissatisfied with Hardy’s direction.

“I’ve lost faith in Todd’s leadership,” Fairclough told reporters Monday from his new digs in the Liberal caucus.

“I feel he was leading the party too far to the left, and many of my constituents felt that way too.”

Fairclough attacked Hardy for supporting changes to placer mining authorizations that would have hurt the Yukon.

His accusations were vague.

“He’s shown a lot of weakness,” Fairclough said, but had to reach back four years for an example to back up the statement.

“Right at the beginning, when there was a change in the party president, fingers were pointed at myself and at Gary and at Lorraine and the support wasn’t there from the leader.”

Despite Fairclough and McRobb’s dissatisfaction with Hardy, his leadership went uncontested at the NDP’s annual general meeting last weekend.

“From what I’ve been hearing, a lot of them are writing off this election and feel that (the NDP) are going to lose,” said Fairclough. “They’re keeping Todd in there to handle the next election, basically, but I believe they will make a change down the road.”

Hardy says the two vacillating politicians were looking for a target and it just happened to be him.

“These two guys continue to attack me personally and that’s fine, I’m the leader of this party and they can do that, but I’m not going down that road,” said Hardy on Monday.

“They’re trying to justify their actions so that I’m the bad person and they’re good for betraying their party.”

But Mitchell was telling a different story about his two new converts.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the way they handled it and I know how difficult it has been for both of them.

“Both McRobb and Fairclough went out to speak to their constituents rather than just announcing it as a fait accompli.” 

The move comes two weeks after Hardy introduced a change to the legislative assembly act to stop Yukon’s MLAs from changing stripes.

Under the amendment, any member elected under a party banner and leaves, or is ejected from caucus, must sit as an independent or resign and run again in a byelection.

Fairclough plans to run under the Liberal banner in Mayo-Tatchun in the next territorial election.