Whitehorse Daily Star

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TRIBUTES POUR IN – Former Yukon NDP leader Todd Hardy is seen at a public event on Oct. 31, 2002. The funeral for the late MLA will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Mt. McIntyre Recreation Centre.

Current, ex-NDP leaders reflect on MLA's legacy

MPs past and present reflected this week on the contributions of former Yukon NDP leader Todd Hardy, who died Wednesday morning at the age of 53 following a four-year battle with leukemia.

By Jason Unrau on July 30, 2010

MPs past and present reflected this week on the contributions of former Yukon NDP leader Todd Hardy, who died Wednesday morning at the age of 53 following a four-year battle with leukemia.

"I certainly admire what he was able to achieve, politically and personally,” said Audrey McLaughlin, former leader of the federal NDP who, with Hardy's help, was elected the Yukon's MP in 1987.

"I've known Todd for many years, probably the 30-some years I've been in the Yukon,” she told the Star.

"He worked on my own campaign as a volunteer and, of course, as the years went on, he entered politics himself.”

Hardy was first elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly in 1996 and sat as a backbencher in Piers McDonald's NDP majority government.

In the territory's 2000 general election, Hardy lost his Whitehorse Centre seat to the Liberals' Mike McLarnon as the New Democrats lost power to Pat Duncan's Grits. Hardy later ran an unsuccessful campaign for Whitehorse mayor.

But in 2002, Hardy would make his big return to territorial politics, winning the Yukon NDP's leadership, as well as his seat in the November 2002 and October 2006 elections. He fought the latter campaign from his hospital bed in Vancouver.

In August 2006, Hardy was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent a series of drug treatments and chemotherapy.

While McLaughlin marveled at Hardy's fortitude – not only winning re-election during a grave illness but his dogged determination to sit in the legislature right up until the end – it was his dedication to help the downtrodden and improve his community that impressed her most.

"He stood up for the things he believed in, and certainly, in terms of trying very hard to represent those who were more marginalized in society,” McLaughlin said.

"He took on the drug issues in his riding ... followed his principles and worked on the issues that were important to a lot of people.”

Despite losing two MLAs to the Yukon Liberals and official Opposition status in 2006, as well as a third MLA at the beginning of 2009, the Yukon NDP under Hardy's guidance was instrumental in bringing anti-smoking and the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods legislation to fruition.

The later legislation allows authorities to boot tenants for using property for criminal activity and is credited for ridding the downtown of a notorious drug house.

The Yukon's current MP, Larry Bagnell, who defeated Hardy's wife, Louise, the New Democratic Party incumbent in the 2000 federal election, said Thursday Hardy was an innovative politician, and also lauded his volunteer spirit.

"He could see a problem occurring from the Yukon and look for solutions from elsewhere, whether that was Habitat for Humanity or in dealing with the problem of drugs in his community,” said Bagnell

"And he was part of the Yukon in being a hockey coach and karate instructor. It's important to show support and help out where you can, and Todd certainly did that.”

At the beginning of the decade, Hardy was instrumental in establishing Habitat for Humanity Yukon – its aim to build affordable housing – and in 2006 he witnessed, and lent his carpentry skills, to build the non-for-profit organization's first home in the territory.

Hardy was also the founding member of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition, coached the men's midget hockey team in 1996 and 2000 for the Arctic Winter Games, coached the midget team for the national games in 1999 and for the Canada Winter Games in 2003.

On Thursday, federal NDP Leader Jack Layton evoked these contributions to Yukon society that Hardy made outside the realm of politics.

"His commitment to young people, his work on sport was another whole side of Todd that was pretty special,” said Layton, who is battling prostate cancer.

"Also a determined competitor, going back to his martial arts days, he came to being a coach in the world of hockey. Todd always emphasized strong team play and the importance of succeeding in something together – that's a strong message.”

The federal NDP leader, whose wife, Olivia Chow, also serves as a member of Parliament, acknowledged the special bond between Todd and Louise.

"I know Louise well, her having served as a member of Parliament, and (the Hardys are) a special family.

Olivia and I, as two people involved in elected political work, certainly appreciate the kind of relationship they had,” said Layton.

"They were a real partnership, and we're sharing her sense of loss.”

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