It’s a safe bet that the leaders of the Yukon’s three political parties will face off in an election this year.
The same can’t be said for all MLAs.
As the dust settles on the spring session, which ended Wednesday, the political futures of many members are in doubt.
On the government side, only Community Services minister Glenn Hart has publicly confirmed he’ll seek re-election.
That said, Brad Cathers, the newly anointed Health and Social Services minister, is bound to seek a second term.
However, Resources minister Archie Lang and Tourism minister Elaine Taylor are sitting on the fence.
Liquor minister Jim Kenyon is also waffling, citing health concerns. (He’s also spurned Yukon Party meetings and has floated his membership in other parties, though he publicly denies it.)
John Edzerza has been less discreet than Kenyon, openly musing about his status as a “free agent” once the election is called.
Edzerza has approached NDP leader Todd Hardy about switching teams, and Hardy now expects Edzerza will seek the NDP nomination in McIntyre-Takhini. (Funnily enough, the opposition failed to get to Edzerza’s Education department during budget debate).
Backbencher Patrick Rouble and Speaker Ted Staffen will also seek the Yukon Party nomination in their ridings.
Pelly-Nisutlin MLA Dean Hassard is another mystery.
“Stay tuned,” he said.
In contrast, the opposition benches are looking solid.
After Hardy forcibly ejected Gary McRobb and Eric Fairclough from the NDP caucus, his two remaining MLAs, Lorraine Peter and Steve Cardiff, publicly announced they’ll seek a second term under the NDP banner.
Unlike the Yukon Party and the NDP, incumbent Liberals don’t have to seek their party’s nomination in their ridings.
So the Liberal caucus, bolstered by McRobb and Fairclough, is well defined.
Well, with one exception.
Former premier Pat Duncan is keeping her options open.
Ditto for independent MLA Peter Jenkins, who was considering dropping out of the legislative assembly to run for mayor in Dawson City’s June 15 election.
But Jenkins decided against a municipal run, saying the territorial government’s $3.43 million debt-relief plan, its $1 million capital injection and its promise of assistance for Dawson’s sewage system and recreation centre are insufficient remedies to the town’s financial woes.
“I’ve heard too many government promises for the Klondike,” he said.
So there could be as many as six ridings without incumbents this fall.
And some sitting MLAs are already facing challengers.
Jon Breen, former executive director of the Yukon Council on Disability, recently won the Liberal nomination in Cathers’ Lake Laberge riding.
And, even as Breen was announcing his run, Yukon Quest musher Frank Turner dropped out of the Laberge race, where he was going to run for the NDP.
He cited business and personal reasons.
Then, in a curious statement, he whacked Hardy’s NDP. Or, possibly, just commented on its chances in the next election.
“I didn’t have a great sense that I would be able to be part of a change process,” Turner said Friday.
“I found that fairly discouraging. That was the bottom line.”
There is an “unholy alliance” between the NDP and the Yukon Party, says McRobb.
“They see the Liberals as the threat,” McRobb said Wednesday.
“It’s politics 101. You attack the party that threatens you most.”
There has certainly been more discord within the opposition ranks during this legislative session than in recent memory.
It would be hard to miss it, especially once Official Opposition status changed hands because McRobb and Fairclough, both 10-year MLAs, joined the Liberals after being kicked out of the New Democratic Party by Hardy.
“You’re still struggling, brother,” Hardy told McRobb as the Kluane MLA stormed out of the house in a huff, annoyed with Hardy’s lament about “letting down so many people in this territory” as the budget debate rushed to a close.
“I found great interest in the shifts and changes that were taking place in the opposition benches,” said Fentie.
It was a strange remark — Fentie fired deputy premier Jenkins early in the session and ejected him from caucus. And, he continues to watch — a political cuckold — as Edzerza openly carries on a dalliance with the NDP.
“Frankly, from where we sit as the incumbent government, we like what we see in terms of where the political spectrum is at.”
The Yukon Party and the NDP have been more conciliatory towards each other this session than in the past. Witness the safer communities legislation that the NDP proposed and the government adopted as its own.
Yukon Party members have often lauded Hardy for his efforts in getting the legislation to the table.
“I will give credit where credit is due,” said Fentie.
“The NDP were ready to go to work (on whistleblower legislation).
“The Liberals were not, but that’s par for the course.”
There have been jokes across the floor between the Yukon Party and the NDP — both of which have lost two members over the last year — and snipes at the expanded Liberal caucus, especially McRobb.
“(Hardy) has something worked out with the premier to ask questions,” McRobb said during a debate over floor-crossing legislation introduced by the NDP.
“It’s true!” McRobb, shouted, slapping his hands against the arms of his chair as he was ruled out of order and forced to sit down.
The party-hopping conversation never concluded, since the NDP forfeited the opportunity to pursue the debate in favour of scrutinizing the budget.
Both Fentie and Hardy have a long history of working together.
They were backbenchers in Piers McDonald’s NDP government.
And Hardy publicly defended Fentie’s character during the last election campaign.