Long after the polls closed and the results tabulated, NDP leader Todd Hardy ended his speech to party supporters at the Yukon Inn with direct messages for both the Yukon Party and Liberal Party leaders.
“Mr. Fentie, you’re not going to get away with the stuff you got away with before; we’re going to hold you accountable.
“And Mr. Mitchell, no more poaching,” Hardy added, garnering some hearty laughs sprinkled with hoots and hollers, and an extended round of applause.
Tuesday evening’s election count began with independent candidate Elvis Presley in the lead but ended with a clear Yukon Party majority, leaving the NDP to lick its wounds after winning three seats — no worse, but no better off than they were going into the vote.
Supporters gathered at the Yukon Inn were calling early numbers “too close to count,” but as ballots were tallied it was clear the NDP would keep its third-party status with Hardy’s win in Whitehorse Centre, Steve Cardiff’s triumph in Mount Lorne and John Edzerza’s razor-thin victory in McIntyre-Takhini.
A happy Hardy sauntered into the joint at around 8:30 p.m. bundled in a scarf and cap, after claiming an early easy victory with 357 of 756 votes.
“Thanks to my riding, Whitehorse Centre, for electing me without me being in the riding,” said Hardy.
Although the leader, recently returned from Vancouver where he underwent treatment for leukemia, made calls during the campaign he didn’t pound the pavement door to door.
“It takes a while to get my strength back and it’s coming back,” said Hardy.
Some NDPers gathered to watch the numbers come in were still smarting from the party’s slow start in this campaign, which some blame on Premier Dennis Fentie’s election call timing.
“Todd being away for the early part of the campaign helped the Liberals take votes away from the NDP,” said David Hedmann, who called the timing of Fentie’s election call “opportunistic.
“It looks like the Yukon Party have a majority and that means five more years of Tory rule in the Yukon and that’s going to be very disappointing and cause a lot of distress,” said Hedmann, who took 191 votes to Arthur Mitchell’s 632 in Copperbelt.
“Most people who held out some hope for environmental protection and women’s issues and the plight of the homeless; it’s going to be tough sledding under another Yukon Party government,” added Hedmann.
“Quite frankly I’m a little disappointed; obviously we would have liked a better result but at least with the Yukon Party you know what you’re going to get,” said Cardiff, after his big victory in Mount Lorne.
Although the NDP claimed five seats in the 2002 vote, two party converts, Gary McRobb and Eric Fairclough, left the NDP ranks to fly the Liberal banner in the spring.
Both handily held their seats in Kluane and Mayo-Tatchun respectively, giving the Grits two big victories.
On the other hand, Yukon Party turncoat John Edzerza squeaked by with an eight-vote victory for the NDP over Liberal rival Ed Shultz in a nail-biting race for McIntyre-Takhini.
Edzerza’s was the third NDP win to be declared and garnered a boisterous round of applause from the NDP supporters.
The greatest disappointment of the night came when Lorraine Peter lost her Vuntut Gwitchin seat to Liberal Party hopeful Darius Elias.
It’s never easy to lose a valued colleague, said Cardiff, who called Peter a “powerhouse.”
“She’s been an amazing support and a guidance for us on many fronts, spiritual and cultural, and we’re going to miss her dearly,” said Hardy, noting it was difficult to see her go.
While disappointment reigned, some candidates concentrated on the party’s little victories.
“I have exceeded my expectations tremendously, considering that I’m a rookie and that I had so much to learn; I congratulate myself for doing so well in a tough riding that the NDP has never held,” said Riverdale South candidate Peter Lesniak, who garnered 226 of 907 votes in the riding to place third.
“I’m remarkably encouraged by this; you’ll see me again as they say,” added Lesniak with a wide smile.
“I feel totally great,” said party newbie Kate White, who took 159 votes and third spot in Porter Creek Centre.
“There was a snowball’s chance in hell but that was good for me; I have the most votes ever for an NDP in my riding, I doubled and a bit more than last year’s and that’s awesome.”
Others say that simply getting important issues, like the environment, into the public eye during an election was a victory for the New Democrats.
“Just getting the Yukon Party on the record and off their economy-is-everything grandstanding is a success,” said James McCullough, who placed third in Riverdale North.
“We have a lot of ammunition to not just attack the Yukon Party with, but to make sure they live up to their promises, however little we believe them,” said McCullough.
As for creating alliances with another party, Hardy says, “absolutely not.”