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NDP’s local support ebbs, but party makes national inroads

Monday marked a bittersweet loss for New Democrat Pam Boyde.Her Yukon campaign foundered, but the party advanced nationally.

Monday marked a bittersweet loss for New Democrat Pam Boyde.

Her Yukon campaign foundered, but the party advanced nationally.

In Whitehorse, the NDP’s low-key election night party attracted a sedate group of 50, which gathered in a High Country Inn conference room to watch the numbers roll in.

“Here we go,” said Boyde’s campaign manager Rachael Lewis at 6:55 p.m.

As the results trickled in, the nervous excitement in the room was palpable.

Everyone was fixed on two large-screen TVs streaming results from across the country.

Campaign staffers, with cellphones pinned to their ears, milled around banquet tables stacked high with goodies and adorned with orange NDP streamers.

“We’re already up to 23 and that’s without BC,” said NDP spokesperson Ken Bolton, citing national results posted on CBC TV.

“Or the Yukon,” he added with a wry smile.

Then Pelly Crossing’s numbers were posted.

“Yea Pelly, they know how to vote!” yelled Yukon NDP leader Todd Hardy.

In Pelly Crossing, Boyde took 65 votes to Bagnell’s 45.

(Boyde also took Keno Hill with three votes, while Bagnell and Green candidate Philippe LeBlond took two votes a piece.)

But excitement waned as results from the rest of the ridings trickled in and were recorded on a huge grid covering a far wall.

A little after 8 p.m., a stoic Boyde, draped in a long silk shirt of NDP orange, joined the party, and the crowd erupted in applause.

“Pam! Pam! Pam! Pam!” they chanted between handclaps.

The result was clear, and Boyde conceded well before all the results had been posted.

“It wasn’t meant to be this time, folks,” she said with a sad smile. She thanked those who worked on her campaign and her opponents — including LeBlond, whom, she joked, she’d like to join in New Zealand.

“Certainly I’m disappointed. I really thought I had it this time,” she told reporters.

“The incumbent generally has the advantage and I take my hat off to Larry.”

Despite an aggressive NDP campaign, a national Liberal scandal and a Conservative resurgence, Bagnell took more votes than Boyde and Conservative Sue Greetham combined.

And only 25 votes separated Boyde and Greetham.

Boyde won 151 more votes than she did in 2004, but her percentage of the popular vote dropped 1.7 per cent.

She took 3,366 of the 14,113 votes cast, or 23.9 per cent of the popular vote. In 2004, she took 3,215 of 12,583 votes cast, or 25.6 per cent of the vote.

The NDP’s defeat was tempered with a national victory — 29 MPs elected under the NPD banner, 10 more than in 2004.

That means the party will hold the balance of power in the Conservative-led government, said Hardy.

Throughout the evening, supporters offered a mixed bag of opinions on Bagnell and his campaign.

“Bagnell brings home the bacon,” conceded one supporter. “And that’s important to Yukoners.”

“Everybody loves Larry,” said another.

But some comments were more biting.

“It’s a shame the Yukon is not returning another NDP member of Parliament because, if they did, they would see significant action taken on many fronts, including the environment, including aboriginal issues and the economy,” said Hardy.

“It’s the NDP that fight for their principles and values and, in many cases, we still don’t know what Mr. Bagnell stands for because he tries to be everything to everybody, and that doesn’t wash.”

Hardy accused Bagnell of not having a campaign.

“It was hide and duck and hope nobody notices you, and, hopefully, people will vote for you because you show up at every function there is on the taxpayer’s dollar.

“Well I’m sorry, at some point that gets a little thin,” said Hardy.

“He tried to downplay his association with Martin. What kind of a person does that?

“If you run under a banner of the Liberals, you should be proud of that. I wouldn’t, that’s why I’m not a Liberal.”

The New Democrat’s scrappy campaign didn’t cost the party votes, said Boyde.

“I wouldn’t call it aggressive, I was just calling the shots as they are,” said Boyde addressing a suggestion the NDP ran a negative campaign.

“The negative campaign was not so much against Larry as against the Liberals,” added former MP and vocal Boyde supporter Audrey McLaughlin.

“They certainly were not able to weather it nationally, but he weathered it here.”

The defeat could be chalked up to the fact the New Democrats decided not to knock on every door in the Yukon, said Boyde.

“I know I didn’t speak to every person in the territory,” said Boyde.

“When you are not the incumbent you don’t have the recognition and you have to work that much harder.”

“I think what we had in the Yukon was a Bagnell vote, instead of a Liberal vote,” said campaign volunteer Max Fraser.

Yukoners have rewarded Bagnell for his constituency work, the Liberal flaws seem to slide off him like Teflon, added Fraser.

“It’s a door-to-door, community-to-community election, as opposed to an election with substantive debate on the real issues.”

Despite the local loss, Hardy is optimistic about the party’s future.

“What I see in the territory is a shift back to the NDP — maybe not this time, but in the future.”

“Maybe next…” Boyde starts to say and then stops herself before committing to run again.

“We’ll see what happens next time.”

For now, Boyde will get back to work at her consulting company Touch the North.

“I’ve got a lot of catching up to do,” she said, indicating with her hands the sky-high pile of papers that’s accumulated on her desk.

After Boyde left the party to offer Bagnell a quick congratulations, staffers wasted no time in passing the hat for party contributions.

Hardy passed his toque around the room and it was returned to NDP official agent Luigi Zanasi brimming with $20 bills.