The chant was easy to memorize.
“Who was calling for government employees to be treated fairly and with respect?” interim New Democratic Party leader Steve Cardiff asked at the Yukon Inn Monday night.
“Todd Hardy and the NDP!” about 60 of the party faithful, seated in ranks before Cardiff’s podium, cried in unison.
“Who has consistently taken the lead on calling for action on climate change, for protection of the Porcupine caribou herd, for the protection of wildlife habitat in special places?” Cardiff cried.
“It wasn’t the Yukon Party, it wasn’t the Liberals, it was…”
“Todd Hardy and the NDP!”
So began an hour-long nomination meeting that saw four NDP candidates, including Hardy, acclaimed to run in the October 10 territorial election.
Hardy is currently receiving chemotherapy in a Vancouver Hospital.
“(Fentie) could have waited at least another month,” Cardiff said at the rally.
“The timing seems a little strange to me, considering the fact that Dennis went to Vancouver; he spoke to Todd’s doctors. Todd’s doctors said that he would be back in the Yukon around the beginning of October.”
The meeting was more a political rally than a simple series of acclamations.
Candidates were announced. Applause. Nominated. Applause.
The candidates accepted. Applause. They gave speeches. Applause.
Hardy, Samson Hartland, Dave Hobbis and Rhoda Merkel were all acclaimed to repeated clapping that bordered on fanatical.
The climax came when Hardy’s three adult children — Janelle, Tess and Tytus — accepted the NDP nomination for Whitehorse Centre on Hardy’s behalf.
“We all wish the election could have been called when he could have been here for the whole thing,” said Tess Hardy.
“As a family, we will represent him to the best of our abilities.”
The standing ovation lasted 20 seconds once the three Hardys finished speaking.
Though there was plenty of enthusiasm, it couldn’t cover some basic deficiencies in the NDP campaign that had clearly been caught flatfooted by Fentie’s call.
“There are a few more needs in the office; we need more tables, more chairs, a few more lamps,” veteran party organizer Max Fraser told the crowd.
“An important part of any campaign is people giving what they can of their time and their financial resources to make our organization succeed during an election campaign.
“It’s an intense period of time. It’s an intense 30 days.
“I won’t ask you to dig more deeply than you can. I will ask you to dig as deep as you can, and give what you can of your time and your money.”
Of the three party headquarters, the NDP’s was the most barren on Tuesday, with only a few desks, chairs and computers lining the walls inside the old Unitech Building on Second Avenue.
A barren space big enough to park a dump truck filled the middle of the room.
The NDP assumed they had another month to prepare, after Fentie visited Hardy in late August, said Fraser the morning after the rally.
“We thought there would be a significant delay, a period of weeks,” he said.
“We’re not 100-per-cent ready.
“It’s a very unusual situation, with the leader 1,000 miles away.”
The NDP have nominated or announced 13 candidates for the Yukon’s 18 ridings, while the Liberals and Yukon Party both have 17.
Fraser was certain the NDP would have a full slate by the candidacy deadline of 2 p.m. Monday.
But the NDP also has yet to announce a campaign manager.
It won’t be Fraser, who last managed Piers McDonald’s campaign in 2000, but stepped into the background afterward, citing work and health reasons.
“We have a few holes in our campaign,” said Fraser.
“They’ll be filled by Friday.”
The NDP is budgeting about $75,000 for this election, he said.
That’s less than the $100,000 the NDP had in the 2000 election.
The Liberals and the Yukon Party are probably budgeting in the $100,000 range, said Fraser.
New Democrats tend to have less money than Liberals and Conservatives because they come from lower to middle-income backgrounds, and it’s party policy not to accept donations from banks or large corporations, he added.
Also, the federal and territorial branches of the NDP pool their resources, and there have been two federal elections and a territorial byelection during the last two years, noted Fraser.
However, the NDP vision and platform are intact, said Cardiff.
“The Yukon Party is running currently on a slogan of ‘imagine tomorrow,’” he said during the rally.
“You can imagine more sole-sourced contracts, more partisan appointments to boards and committees, more conflict with other governments, more privatization of public services, more secrecy and more reckless spending of public funds.
“Now try and imagine what a Liberal tomorrow might look like.
“It’s not very easy. The problem is, you don’t know who they are; you don’t know what they stand for.
“Who is Arthur Mitchell? What does he stand for? We don’t know. He hasn’t told us.
“Everybody in this room and most Yukoners know who Todd Hardy is. We know what he stands for.
“He stands for honesty. He stands for integrity. He stands for hard work.”
“He’s the only one of the current three leaders of the political parties who stayed with the same party.”
“Who took the lead on substance abuse and on safer communities?
“It wasn’t the Yukon Party; it wasn’t the Liberals, it was …”