Todd Hardy succumbs to cancer

Todd Hardy, MLA for Whitehorse Centre, succumbed to a long battle with leukemia this morning, surrounded by his family in the home they built.

Todd Hardy, MLA for Whitehorse Centre, succumbed to a long battle with leukemia this morning, surrounded by his family in the home they built.

Besides being a long-time New Democratic Party politician, Hardy was a carpenter, karate instructor, hockey coach, Buddhist, father of four and grandfather. He was 53.

Hardy led Yukon’s NDP for almost six and a half years, until February 2009.

One of his legacies is the clean air found in Yukon’s restaurants. The territory’s no-smoking laws were one of several NDP initiatives that won the support of the Yukon Party government.

Hardy’s leadership of the NDP was not without its controversies. As he steered the party leftwards, centrist supporters balked and fled for the Liberals, causing the NDP to slip from official opposition to third party status.

With Hardy now gone, the NDP holds just one seat, belonging to Steve Cardiff.

Born in a farming community in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland on May 17, 1957, Hardy moved to Whitehorse at the age of 10 with his family in 1967. He graduated from FH Collins Secondary School and became a carpenter by the mid-1980s.

Trade unionism led to politics, and he was first elected in September of 1996. He lost his seat in the next election only to regain it the following term. He never lost it again.

As a self-avowed socialist, he was often inflexible in his demands for anti-poverty measures, such as a guaranteed annual income that was unlikely to find traction with the nominally conservative Yukon Party government.

But he was also fond of calling on fellow MLAs to rise above partisan politics, and occasionally did so himself.

When it was revealed that Premier Dennis Fentie had been convicted as a young man for selling heroin, Hardy refused to capitalize on the damaging revelation and instead gave Fentie, a former NDP running-mate, a hug.

Outside the legislature he championed causes such as Yukon’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, which is now working towards completing its second affordable housing building.

Hardy was diagnosed with leukemia in August of 2006. He fought the territorial election that year from his hospital bed in Vancouver, talking to reporters by telephone almost daily.

Chemotherapy helped beat the cancer into remission, but it returned during federal election in autumn of 2008. Following the relapse, in February of 2009, he gave up the leadership of the NDP to Elizabeth Hanson.

By February of this year, Hardy was bed-ridden with illness and doctors had given him several weeks to live. He decided to stop his cancer treatment, which induced wild temperature swings and erratic breathing.

And he hung on. Against all expectations, he took his seat when the legislature reconvened in April.

“I should have been dead a couple months ago,” he announced at the time.

Hardy was long at peace with death, buoyed by his Buddhist beliefs. He had stood at the brink of this life at least three times in the past few years, and this let him speak of the matter with a certain nonchalance. He was not afraid.

“This is only one part of my journey,” he told the News in April. “My spirit will continue, though my body will die. It’s just my body that we’re dealing with here.

“If you live your life fully and with a lot of compassion you’ll never fear death because you can look back at your time, and I’ve had 52 years, and say I’ve done good here, I’ve helped others.

“I’ve had an absolutely full life. So if I only get 52 years, then I’m thankful for that.”

He got more than that. He lived to see his next birthday.

With Hardy’s seat as an MLA now empty, a byelection will have to be called in the next six months. Its date has yet to be announced by Premier Fentie.

Funeral services will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre.

Hardy is survived by his wife, Louise; their four children, Janelle, Tytus, Tess and Lymond; and one granddaughter, Ellazora.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

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