It’s been two months since Todd Hardy stepped down as leader of the NDP to make way for his successor, Elizabeth Hanson.
Yet Hardy remains the focus of the party’s publicity.
In a newsletter mailed out two weeks ago, for example, Hardy only mentions Hanson in his front-page letter as an afterthought, when he explains, in the final paragraph, that he will continue to serve as the party’s leader in the legislature until Hanson wins a seat.
By comparison, Hardy’s seven-year-old granddaughter receives bigger play than Hanson. She and Hardy are seen in a photo on the inside pages, with a caption that claims Hardy is explaining “the dangers of privatizing our energy assets” to her.
Similarly, in the news releases issued by the NDP since Hanson’s coronation, there’s been nary a reference to their new leader.
There’s a simple explanation for all this, said Hardy: “We’re not allowed.”
This is because both the newsletter and the salary of the NDP’s legislative assistant, who produces their news releases, are paid for with public money that’s solely intended to be used by the NDP’s two elected members, Hardy and Steve Cardiff.
It would be inappropriate to promote Hanson in the party’s “caucus report” newsletter until she is elected, said Hardy.
Helen Fitzsimmons, who handles the legislature’s finances, confirms this.
The NDP asked her if they could include Hanson’s personal contact information in the newsletter. She said no.
Instead, the newsletter tells residents to contact the NDP’s legislative office, which would put them in touch with Hanson.
Similarly, if the NDP wanted to promote their leader in news releases, this work would either have to be done as unpaid labour by their legislative assistant, Peter Lesniak, or by someone who isn’t on the legislature’s payroll, said Fitzsimmons.
But this doesn’t explain everything. After all, if it’s permissible to publicize a photograph of Hardy posing with someone, why not pick Hanson, rather than Hardy’s granddaughter?
And it remains difficult at times to escape the impression Hardy remains the de facto leader.
When the NDP drafted a letter this week that calls on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to be more ambitious in fighting climate change, it was signed by Hardy, not Hanson.
He’s identified as “Leader, Third Party.” That remains his title in the legislature until Hanson is elected.
Hardy’s name is on the letter because “it was initiated in the legislature,” said Lesniak.
It was also easier to put Hardy’s name on the letter, he said.
“It’s easier for me to deal with someone who works out of the offices,” Lesniak added. “It’s much more problematic to deal with someone who is only around for question period. It’s a logistical problem as well.”
Hardy could have given up his seat and allowed Hanson to run in a byelection. But he hasn’t done this. Doing so would cede power to Premier Dennis Fentie, he said, as Fentie would decide the timing of the byelection over the next six months.
Hanson says she’s doing her best to work around the constraints she faces. She’s in the legislature gallery almost every day, boning up on the House rules. And she’s begun to make appearances at public meetings to try to connect with potential voters—most recently, on November 25, she joined a panel of Yukon politicians to discuss climate change with students at FH Collins.
Hanson admits her public profile hasn’t grown as quickly as she had hoped. But her plan has never been to win votes through splashy media events. Instead, she’s working on meeting Yukoners, one-on-one or in small groups, and listening to their ideas.
In the coming months she expects to visit Yukon’s communities in an effort to shore up support for her party and rebuild riding associations. It’s through this pavement pounding she hopes to build support.
“The name of the game is patience,” she said.
As for the photo caption in the NDP newsletter that describes Hardy chatting with his granddaughter, Ellazora, about the intricacies of power privatization?
“That was my tongue-in-cheek,” Hardy said. “I think we were talking about the movie across the street.”
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