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Stop party hopping: Hardy

Yukon New Democratic Party leader Todd Hardy wants square-dancing politicians to sit down.Hardy introduced a change to the Yukon Legislative…

Yukon New Democratic Party leader Todd Hardy wants square-dancing politicians to sit down.

Hardy introduced a change to the Yukon Legislative Assembly Act on Thursday, to stop Yukon MLAs from changing their political stripes.

Under the proposed amendment, any member elected under a party banner who quits or is ejected from caucus must sit as an independent, or resign and run in a byelection.

Changing parties breaks the public’s trust in elected officials, Hardy said Thursday.

But the Yukon Liberal Party disagrees.

“It’s a sour grapes bill,” said party-hopper Gary McRobb on Thursday.

“It suits a leader who wants complete control over members of his caucus at the cost of democracy.”

In March, Hardy ousted McRobb, now a Liberal, after the Kluane MLA publicly consulted his constituents about changing parties.

The proposed legislation gives the leader power to say, ‘You’re going to buckle to my demands, or you’re going to sit as an independent,’ said McRobb.

“That’s not right.”

Giving MLAs the freedom to switch parties gives them options to best represent their constituents, he added.

But what about constituents who vote for the party, rather than the politician?

“Out of hundreds of constituents I’ve talked to, only one raised that concern with me,” said McRobb.

Forcing members to sit as independents only hurts constituents because their MLA has “diminished power.”

The lone voice of an independent is not heard as loudly in Yukon’s legislature, he said.

“I put people before party. Anybody who supports this bill puts party before people.”

The proposed amendment will make politicians more accountable to the people who elect them, said Hardy.

“It’s a simple amendment that will comfort voters in the upcoming election, that the vote they cast will be honoured by the next government,” he said.

“Shopping your vote to another party is unacceptable and leaders need to say enough is enough.”

The proposal mirrors an NDP-backed bill tabled on Monday in Manitoba’s legislature, making it the first province to consider such regulations.

The Yukon NDP hopes its proposed amendment will come forward for a vote on Wednesday.

Hardy also ejected Mayo-Tatchun MLA Eric Fairclough from NDP caucus in March.

Fairclough currently sits as an independent.