McRobb abandons orange for red

For Kluane MLA Gary McRobb, all that’s missing is a little Ella Fitzgerald. It’s nothing but blue skies and sunshine ahead, he said…

For Kluane MLA Gary McRobb, all that’s missing is a little Ella Fitzgerald.

It’s nothing but blue skies and sunshine ahead, he said yesterday, announcing his decision to join the Yukon Liberal Party.

“The main challenges? I don’t see any,” McRobb told a media conference on Thursday.

“I see a lot of blue sky ahead for the riding, for Yukoners, and for the party.”

The clear skies come after a stormy month.

For 10 years, McRobb held an NDP seat. However, about a month ago he wrote constituents asking them a crucial question — should I stay or should I go?

It outlined three options: remain with the NDP, join the Liberals or sit as an independent.

On February 28, after seeing the letter, NDP party leader Todd Hardy gave McRobb the boot.

The eviction limited his options to two.

“The purpose of consulting with people in my riding was to find out what would best suit our needs both now and into the future,” he said Thursday.

“I believe the open exercise of seeking their counsel was the right approach and the honest way to proceed.”

Over two weeks, McRobb talked to 125 of his 681 Kluane constituents.

Of those, 45 per cent wanted him to join the Liberals. Another 35 per cent pledged support regardless of his political affiliations, 10 per cent threw their weight behind his sitting as an independent and the final 10 per cent wanted him to stick with the NDP, or were undecided, he said.

The switch to the Liberals doesn’t worry McRobb.

“We share the same principles and views on social issues, employment opportunities, responsible mining, the environment and caring for seniors.”

Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell, who sat beside McRobb inside the MacBride Museum, where the announcement was made, agrees with his newest MLA.

“(McRobb) is both very knowledgeable and very thoughtful about a lot of issues,” said Mitchell.

“And, quite frankly, in opposition we’ve tended to agree on most issues.”

Mitchell’s main concerns in accepting McRobb into the party fold were two-fold — did Kluane constituents support the move and were Liberal MLAs comfortable with the switch?

“Of course, it’s not unanimous on either question and I don’t expect it ever would be,” said Mitchell.

“But the people I spoke to in Kluane, the overwhelming majority of them are comfortable with this decision.

“And a strong majority of people in my party are supportive as well.”

Hardy’s leadership was his main concern for leaving, said McRobb.

“The current NDP leader is taking the NDP on a sharp turn to the left,” he said.

“That left both (Mayo-Tatchun MLA) Eric Fairclough and I somewhat to the right of where the party was going.”

Responsible mining, and the placer mining authorization in particular, is one example of where we saw things differently, said McRobb.

“If not for (Fairclough) and I, the NDP would have sided with the federal government, which would have put half the territory’s placer miners out of business,” he said.

The New Democratic Party’s shift to the left has been eroding its chances of forming government, and constituents would like an MLA in government, said McRobb.

With McRobb in the roster the Liberals now have three seats in the legislature, matching the NDP.

The NDP will remain the Official Opposition, said Mitchell.

“The tie goes to the winner,” he said. “The incumbents hold that position.”

And what of Fairclough?

He’s still consulting his constituents, said Mitchell, who shared a coffee with Fairclough in Carmacks on Tuesday.

“He has not come to me and said, ‘I want to join the Liberal party,’” he added.

“I’ve been consulting with my constituents and, basically, I’m in the default position of independent right now because of being kicked out of caucus,” said Fairclough in a phone interview on Thursday.

“I was given very good feedback on my consultation process. And right now (roughly 35 per cent of those consulted have) suggested I remain as independent for the time being.”

Hardy suggested Fairclough sit as an independent after he booted him from caucus.

That had nothing to do with his decision, said Fairclough.

“There’s a lot of anger at Todd,” he said. “And there’s a lot of support for me out there.”

Fairclough is particularly surprised by the support.

“There’s a lot of people that are really supportive of me and would support me because of me, and not because of a party,” he said.

“It’s actually like a mini-campaign for me, and I am enjoying how open everyone is.

“But I’m open with them, so there’s no reason for them not to be. And that’s made it a really interesting little consultation process.”

Although he’ll be sitting as an independent for the upcoming legislative sitting, Fairclough hasn’t ruled out joining a party in the future.

“What I want to get out of this is how do people feel about me running again? And I’ve got very positive feedback on that — a lot of people want me running again.

“And, there’s a lot of people I haven’t gotten back to yet and they also want to see me, so in fairness that needs to happen too.”

However, Fairclough did concede his future in a party could be compromised by his choice to remain independent for the time being — parties have to line up candidates for the riding.

“To the public, maybe, everybody feels they have to make decisions right now,” he said.

“But I really feel that Dennis (Fentie) will not be calling an election until the fall.

“I don’t think he feels he has a chance to win government by calling one before the sitting is over.

“But, I’m still in discussion with people and I think they really appreciate having some insight into how things would go in the Yukon as far as elections and stuff.”