Party of one

Steve Cardiff wants to lead the NDP. Todd Hardy, the current leader, announced last week he would resign this autumn because of his declining health. He has leukemia. Cardiff, MLA for Mount Lorne, faces little competition.

Todd Hardy, the current leader, announced last week he would resign this autumn because of his declining health. He has leukemia.

Cardiff, MLA for Mount Lorne, faces little competition. He’s the only NDP member left.

John Edzerza was until recently the party’s third member. But he left in late January to sit as an independent, for reasons that remain unclear.

That leaves Cardiff, a 51-year-old sheet metal worker who was first elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006.

He announced his intention to run for the leadership during a news conference outside the legislature on Thursday afternoon.

“I want to come forward now so I can be open and up front about my long-term commitment to this party,” he said.

Between now and the leadership convention, Cardiff plans to spend a lot of time listening to the concerns of Yukoners, he said.

“I don’t have all the answers. So what I’m looking forward to is helping Yukoners develop a vision for a sustainable future and quality of life we can all enjoy.”

Cardiff promised to make representing youth his “first priority” as leader. “My promise is to work with you to ensure your voices are heard,” he said.

He would also fight to provide care for the elderly, he said. Cardiff pointed to Watson Lake’s new hospital project – once planned to be an extended care facility for the elderly – as an example of how the current government has not lived up to its commitments to senior residents.

“That project, in my mind, is farther behind that when they started,” said Cardiff.

First Nations would be treated more fairly by an NDP government than at present, said Cardiff.

“I don’t believe ending up in court is due process. I believe it’s an admittance of failure.”

And businesses could look forward to government contracts being tendered on a more fair basis, he said.

Cardiff faces a huge challenge in helping to rebuild the NDP, which once enjoyed a majority government under the leadership of Tony Penikett from 1989 to 1992,  and Piers McDonald, from 1996 to 2000.

Then popularity plummeted.

McDonald lost his seat in the 2000 territorial election, but the party formed the Official Opposition until may of 2006, when longtime members Gary McRobb and Eric Fairclough lost confidence in Hardy’s leadership and joined the Liberal Party, reducing the NDP to third-party status.

The party was reduced to six from nine seats in the 1992 election and lost power to the Yukon Party.

It formed the official opposition until May of 2006, when NDP members defected to the Liberals and reduced the New Democrats to third-party status.

During the general election later that year, the NDP failed to win any additional seats.

It was just Hardy, Edzerza and Cardiff.

Now Edzerza is gone. Hardy is leaving.

Then there was one.

Cardiff wouldn’t speculate about the reasons behind the NDP’s implosion.

“I don’t really have a good answer for that,” he said. “But I’m not looking backward. I’m looking forward.”

It’s possible that an NDP member without a seat may contest Cardiff for the leadership. But, so far, none have stepped forward.

The exact date of the leadership convention has not yet been announced by the party executive.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.