For the first time, the Yukon NDP machine placed fourth in an election.
The sombre mood betrayed volumes during the party’s election night get-together at the Westmark Hotel.
There were few conversations and the mood was far from chatty in the run-up to the results being released. Most party members had their eyes glued to the national tally on CBC.
Candidate Ken Bolton focussed on the positive as he addressed the 20 or so people who attended the event.
“We’ve made a big push nationally,” he said. “We had a great message with a great messenger in Jack (Layton).”
On the home front, Bolton acknowledged the defeat.
“I recognize our results aren’t what we hoped for.”
The NDP were hoping for at least a third place finish, he said.
A climb to 37 seats in Parliament was the only silver lining in an evening that revealed the once powerful Yukon NDP machine is little more than a skeleton of its former self.
The party of Tony Penikett and Audrey McLaughlin was brought down at the hands of Greens, among other reasons, said Bolton.
“The Greens were a factor this time, and that hadn’t happened before,” he said.
The party must rebuild.
“We need to reach out to those people who share our view and earn back their trust,” he said.
“I’m quite sure some people who voted for Green were usually NDP supporters and some people who voted Green were usually Liberal supporters and even Conservatives.”
Bolton also blamed his late start in the election.
He began his campaign four days after the writ was dropped.
“I would like to have been out a lot more,” he said. “I would have started a lot earlier with the four qualified candidates who had their names out longer than myself.”
An uphill battle lies ahead for a party bent on restoring its former glory.
“I think the NDP base vote is still there,” said Bolton. “But I would suspect that having a credible Green candidate made a difference this time.”
It also isn’t easy in a riding which seems to favour incumbents.
“It’s fairly conventional wisdom that people here tend to vote for the person,” he said.
“Larry has been able to developed a certain reputation that works well for him. I wish I could have been out more to let people know that I’m a good guy too. And that I’m a hard-working guy.”
Refreshments and snacks were offered to party members as they watched the national results pour in. Attendees cheered as seats were added to the NDP tally.
Some even cheered for the separatist Bloc Quebecois.
“I’m happy the Bloc is at 50 (seats). It keeps Harper from getting his majority,” said Yukon NDP Leader Todd Hardy.
“They’re the real opposition in the house of Commons,” he said.
Locally, results trickled in showing the NDP behind the Greens in almost all polling stations.
At around 8:30 p.m., Bolton made his concession speech with 54 of 93 polling stations reporting.
While Bolton blames a failure to get his message out for the poor showing, there is also a question of what kind of effort the NDP made in this election.
“I’m not overwhelmingly surprised at the results,” he said.
“Our donors were very generous, but a decision was made to not spend elaborately, partly because we knew there would probably be another minority government,” he said.
The economic crisis was a turning point in the campaign, he said.
“It took an election that was about leadership and the environment and made it about the economy.”
Bucking conventional wisdom, the economic turmoil actually helped Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Bolton.
“People would rather go with the devil they know rather than with someone new.”
He has faith the party can rebuild territorially as well as federally, but asked if he would run were another election to be called in the next year, he said he didn’t want to talk about it.
“I’m just going to savour and enjoy this moment.”
However, as he left the interview he joked about his future plans.
“Tomorrow I’ve got to figure out what retirement is.”