The Yukon New Democratic Party is falling apart at the seams.
Kluane MLA Gary McRobb is gone. The 10-year veteran and Opposition house leader was ejected from caucus by leader Todd Hardy on Tuesday after publishing a letter soliciting input from Haines Junction constituents on Monday.
Also in doubt is the status of former NDP leader Eric Fairclough, who has represented Mayo-Tatchun since 1996. Fairclough is in his riding sussing out his constituents as well.
Both MLAs intend to run in the upcoming election. The question, however, is where they will park their support.
McRobb’s missive to his constituents says that some have “suggested that I change my political affiliation by running as an independent or for the Yukon Liberal Party instead of the NDP.
“I am open to change provided it would benefit the riding and meet with your approval.”
But Hardy does not approve.
“Regrettably I’ve had to remove Mr. Gary McRobb from our caucus,” Hardy said during a news conference on Tuesday.
“It’s my understanding that he has been in discussion with the Liberals, possibly the leader, and if that’s the type of direction that he’s gone in, that does violate the trust that we have built up in this caucus.
“We were both elected in 1996, and every leader has had to struggle with some of the actions of Gary.
“It’s never been a good fit for him.”
Fairclough was not expelled, despite having similar conversations about his political future with his constituents.
Last week, Fairclough and McRobb announced they were considering their political options in a joint letter to Hardy.
“I told (Hardy) that we’ve had conversations with the Liberal Party, with (leader) Arthur Mitchell,” Fairclough said Wednesday.
“I said that some of my constituents have expressed interest in me as a Liberal.
“I’ve made no decision to leave (the NDP). I said I’m taking it to the people.”
If Fairclough is considering jumping to the Liberals he will also be expelled from caucus, said Hardy.
“I treat people equally,” he said.
“I talked to Eric yesterday and I talked to Gary today, and there is a substantial difference in the actions that have been taken.
“I contacted Eric in regards to Gary’s actions in Kluane, and he said he was not part of what Gary is doing.”
But the only difference seems to be that McRobb published his intentions while Fairclough has not.
“(McRobb and I) called Arthur just to feel him out, just to see what kind of person he was,” said Fairclough.
“Arthur expressed interest in me. He would like to me be part of that team. And I told Todd that too.
“I’m not trying to hide anything from anyone; I’m trying to be as open as I possibly can.
“Going out to the people is the only way I can possibly do it.”
Mitchell confirmed that McRobb and Fairclough jointly approached him about switching parties.
“They talked to me about being unhappy in their present caucus, and we discussed everything from the possibility that they might run as independents to the possibility that they might join our caucus,” Mitchell said Tuesday.
“I indicated to them that that wasn’t a decision that was solely my decision to make, either.”
Mitchell has to consult with his party to see if the membership would accept McRobb or Fairclough, or both, he said.
Traditionally, the Liberals have lacked support in rural Yukon, and they need it to win the 2006 election.
McRobb was impressed with Mitchell’s debut in the Yukon legislature after winning the Copperbelt byelection in November.
“I have been observing Arthur Mitchell studiously since day one,” said McRobb on Tuesday.
“He’s got what it takes; he needs more experience.
“He’s the only one of the three leaders you can put your faith in and who can be trusted.”
Both McRobb and Fairclough said their concern was not with the NDP per se, but with Hardy’s leadership.
They both requested a leadership convention.
But Hardy cancelled the NDP’s territorial leadership council that was slated for October or November 2005, said McRobb.
“We’ve heard a lot of concerns, with the party and the leadership, especially in the Kluane riding,” said McRobb.
“I’ve been hearing them constantly. Todd Hardy just isn’t very well liked in rural Yukon, period.”
And Hardy’s decision to expel him was premature, he said.
“Why am I being singled out when Eric and I are in this together?” said McRobb.
“(Hardy) took the gloves off and he stuck the knife in my back, so I’ve got to react to that.
“There are obvious problems with the NDP. Todd is taking it further to the left than it has ever been before. The number-one issue is, where is the leadership?
“A lot of people can’t fathom the idea of Todd Hardy as premier.
“The NDP has no presence in business circles, and (Hardy) is anti-mining.”
The NDP would have opposed the Yukon’s new placer mining authorization if he and Fairclough had not vigorously supported it in caucus, said McRobb.
If McRobb is dissatisfied with the NDP he should resign his seat and run in a byelection as an independent or whatever political banner he finds most suitable, said Hardy.
“There’s going to be many people that are going to say that the NDP will be stronger because of this action, and there are others who are going to say we are weaker, because we’re losing a caucus member,” he said.
“There are people that want to run for us in all ridings.
“Does it make us stronger? That’s what the electorate will have to decide.
“But I can assure that I believe that the NDP is the party that is most ready to form the next government, if we’re given the opportunity.”
If both McRobb and Fairclough defect to the Liberals, the party will become the Official Opposition of the legislative assembly.