Commentary: What to look for in the next Yukon NDP leader

Hanson indeed an ideal role model for any who may follow

Darren Parsons

Last week Yukon’s legislative assembly was able to provide us all with a bit of entertainment.

Not particularly effective, not particularly efficient, though a tad entertaining nonetheless. Some of you may have been left thinking it was nothing more than a waste of time. You may even be right.

Ordinarily I’d be prone to agree, save for one event that really stood out. Liz Hanson, leader of the Yukon NDP, announced her resignation as leader.

Obviously, for any of you that have been paying attention for the last decade, Hanson and I have not exactly subscribed to the same political playbook.

That said, I have always had the utmost respect for her as a candidate, as an MLA and as a leader within our community.

Potential leadership candidates, or political candidates at any level, need not look far for a first class role model to fashion themselves after. Liz Hanson is that role model.

Though not rewarded by way of seats in the legislative assembly, Hanson has stood tall both literally and figuratively on the Yukon political landscape.

She has proven herself an articulate, intelligent and strong leader whose commitment and dedication to this territory is above question. She is indeed an ideal role model for any who may follow.

I have spent my entire adult life as a political insider. Working within the political machinery across the country at all levels.

I have had the privilege of working alongside many political personalities. Some have displayed extraordinary leadership ability. Others not so much.

Liz Hanson is one of those extraordinary individuals. She will be difficult to replace.

Members of the Yukon NDP are now tasked with a difficult challenge: find a suitable replacement for leader.

For members of the NDP, the outcome of the next territorial election will be decided by your choice for leader — no pressure.

Across the modern-day political landscape, far too often successful candidates actually believe they’ve won something. For their benefit, I’d like to point out that’s simply not the case.

The reality is voters are far more likely, and motivated, to vote against someone than they are to vote for someone.

The tricky part for any political party, or candidate, is to navigate a path where voters are less likely to vote against them rather than for them. Though subtle, understanding the difference is critical to electoral success.

Leadership matters. The perceived absence of leadership ability for any leader, or leadership candidate, is fatal when presented to the voters.

A lack of leadership ability leads to a lack of belief, a lack of trust, a lack of confidence and ultimately a lack of credibility.

This perception of little or no real leadership ability has become a growing problem for the current premier and the Yukon Liberal Party.

If left unattended and allowed to fester, this flaw in leadership would dramatically shorten the lifespan of any governing party.

The political environment in Yukon has reached a point where the NDP is no longer the group to vote against while at the same time the Liberal Party has become that group, effectively trading places since the 2016 territorial election.

This is where the NDP’s selection of a new leader becomes so important.

A well-spoken charismatic NDP leader who is able to display true leadership potential will place the Yukon NDP within striking distance of re-taking the premier’s office.

There are, I believe, many talented Yukoners with the ability to fill this leadership role. Though convincing them to take on the challenge may require some encouragement.

To avoid adding public pressure it’s probably not helpful to shine a spotlight on any one individual who may be considering a run for the NDP leadership. Nor appropriate to name names. So I won’t.

Kate White. Shaunagh Stikeman. Steve Roddick.

I expect to hear more from these folks, and likely others, as the NDP leadership election process unfolds over the coming months.

The timeline is important.

It would not be in the best interest of the Yukon NDP to have its leadership election overlap with the federal election expected within the next 12 months.

Move to soon and any uptick in support created by the attending media attention could evaporate before the next election.

Move too late and run the risk of not having enough time to complete the work necessary to prepare for the next election.

The new leader will need time to focus on party organization, messaging, fundraising, candidate selection and drafting an election platform.

The NDP executive and membership have much to consider. At the same time understanding that they may be selecting our next premier.

This is why highlighting Liz Hanson’s resignation, as leader of the NDP is important. The NDP membership may very well be selecting more than just a new leader.

I know some folks out there may snicker a bit at the possibility of an NDP majority win in the next territorial election.

They may wonder how the NDP, with third Party status, could ever have a real chance at winning a majority government next time around.

Perhaps there are many folks out there who cannot remember the last time, if ever, a third place political party has vaulted to majority status in a single election cycle.

Ask Sandy Silver. I’m quite sure he remembers.

Darren Parsons is a is a long-time political advisor and consultant with some three decades of experience across Canada at all levels of government

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