Two down, but the NDP’s not out

Eric Fairclough and Gary McRobb are not the only politicians to contemplate switching sides lately. At least one Yukon Party MLA has investigated…

Eric Fairclough and Gary McRobb are not the only politicians to contemplate switching sides lately.

At least one Yukon Party MLA has investigated joining the ranks of the Yukon New Democratic Party.

NDP leader Todd Hardy expelled Fairclough and McRobb from the NDP caucus this week after they publicly mused about joining the Yukon Liberal Party.

If an MLA is unhappy with his party he should resign from caucus to sit as an independent, said Hardy.

“I have had other MLAs come and approach me about joining the NDP,” he said Tuesday.

“I said no, and that they have to sit as an independent.”

Hardy wouldn’t identify which MLAs have approached him.

But Fairclough and McRobb both confirmed that Education and Justice minister John Edzerza talked to Hardy about joining the NDP.

“You’re probably right there,” Fairclough said Thursday, when asked if Edzerza had spoken with Hardy about joining the NDP.

“(Hardy) talks about ethics when he himself is involved in discussions with another MLA to come over to the New Democrats from the Yukon Party,” said Fairclough.

“Is there much of a difference between what we’re doing and what he’s doing?”

Edzerza would not confirm or deny having the conversation with Hardy.

“My political future will be unraveled when an election is called,” he said Friday.

“I have a mandate to complete and I will do that. I’m happy in my job.”

Edzerza said he would probably seek re-election in his McIntyre-Takhini riding, but wouldn’t confirm his status with the Yukon Party.

“I’m not confirming anything about anything,” he said.

“I have made no commitments to nobody, to no party.”

Last year, when McRobb asked Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Lorraine Peter if she would consider switching political affiliations, Peter was aghast.

Unlike McRobb and Fairclough, Peter is a staunch Hardy ally and would never consider switching parties, she said.

“For me, I’m pretty solid NDP, and there’s no way I would even consider going anywhere,” Peter said Thursday, in the wake of Hardy’s decision to boot out McRobb and Fairclough for their flirtations with Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell.

Peter applauded Hardy’s decision.

“If you have weak links in your team then you’re not going to perform as well,” said Peter, who plans to run under the NDP banner in the Old Crow riding.

McRobb’s contention that Hardy is not well liked in rural Yukon is unfounded, she said.

“(Hardy) has travelled to the communities a number of times, he has come to Old Crow and attended key gatherings.

“We attended the (Council of Yukon First Nations) assembly in Pelly this past June, and we were the only political representatives there.”

But McRobb never asked Mount Lorne MLA Steve Cardiff if he wanted to switch teams.

Cardiff is too much of a “teacher’s pet,” said McRobb.

“Mr. McRobb was a disruptive force within the party and I’m happy to see him go,” said Cardiff, who also intends to seek re-election with the NDP.

“You can only put up with so much for so long, and there comes a time when you have to show leadership, and I believe that Todd has done that and I’m quite happy with the outcome.”

McRobb duped Fairclough into a scheme to defect from the NDP, added Cardiff.

“Eric got sucked in by Gary’s gamesmanship, or whatever you want to call it. It’s unfortunate that Eric fell for it.

“I feel that caucus now is stronger. We’re probably more focused as a team and we’re ready to get on with the next sitting of the legislature, and do our jobs.

“We have people interested in running in just about every riding in the territory.”

The NDP has ample support in the Kluane and Mayo-Tatchun ridings that McRobb and Fairclough represent, said Cardiff.

“There are people who have indicated, in the past, their interest in running for the NDP, and they viewed sitting MLAs as impediments to them being able to run.

“Hopefully this will provide an opportunity for those people to come forward.”

But Fairclough thinks the NDP needs to take a long, hard look at itself.

“We’re gone, and that means a slip in their support,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the membership calls for an immediate leadership race.

“Things will happen. Things have got to happen in that party.”

The NDP has its spring convention in Whitehorse slated for April 22, 2006.

But things will happen “quicker than that,” said Fairclough.

For years, Hardy has failed to reach out to his caucus, he said.

“It steadily went downhill from the last election.

“There hasn’t been any involvement with us in any of the decision-making. We just seem to be out of the loop.

“If we were included more, as a party normally includes their MLAs, things would be different.”

McRobb and Fairclough both asked Hardy to request a leadership review in recent months.

But the NDP constitution says that any member of the party can request a leadership review, which means McRobb or Fairclough could have asked for one at any time, said Hardy.

“They asked me last week for a leadership race,” Hardy said Wednesday before departing on a two-week trip to visit family in Kelowna, BC.

“I told them that we have gone up nine per cent in the polls. We’re leading the other parties.

“We have been predicted by the polls and many people to either form a majority or minority government.

“We have a great number of people wanting to run for this party and we’re working on our platform, and you want a leadership race right now?

“The question I have to ask is, would this strengthen the party? Would this be a good thing?”

The NDP executive made a united stand behind Hardy’s leadership after a meeting Thursday night with a motion “in full support of our duly elected leader for his consistent support of NDP principles, values and policies” that passed unanimously.

McRobb wouldn’t criticize the NDP, but said he is no longer a member of the party.

“Your membership is as good as cancelled when the leader tosses you out of caucus,” he said.

“I’ve heard from a few members that they’ll be leaving the NDP over this.”

In the February 27 letter that outlined his options, and ultimately led to his expulsion from caucus, McRobb gave his constituents until March 10 to offer their advice about his political affiliation.

So far, 63 voters have contacted him, he said.

“The majority have said they’ll vote for me no matter what party I run for,” said McRobb.

“The second-largest group said they’ll support me if I run for the Liberals.”

Five voters said McRobb should go back to the NDP, and four said he should run as an independent, he said.

Mitchell has not yet invited either McRobb or Fairclough to join the Liberals.

He hasn’t had “meaningful discussions” about switching parties with any other MLAs, but said there has been some “idle chatter.”

About 90 per cent of the Liberal supporters contacted by Mitchell have said they would be in favour of bringing McRobb and Fairclough into the party fold, he added.

“If either, or both of them came and said that they would like to sit in our caucus, that’s where I’m leaning,” said Mitchell.

“But they have to actually say that that’s what they want to do.

“It’s really up to them, at this point.”