Brian Mason announced he is resigning as the leader of Alberta NDP.

Mason, 60, says the party needs new blood and he needs to step down by Oct. 19th to allow time for a leadership race prior to the next provincial election.

"It's been an honour and a privilege to serve the party and the public in this role," he told reporters this morning. "But I believe it is time for a new leader to tackle the changing political landscape.

"I've enjoyed it, though it's been challenging and frustrating at times," he said.

Mason has not decided whether he will stay on as an MLA into the next election, but pointed out he is now the longest serving NDP MLA in the province's history.

"You can't stay forever, though some days you'd like to think you could."

No word on future leadership

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Premier Dave Hancock thanked Mason for his years of service.

“Brian has always been a dedicated and passionate member of the assembly, a skilled debater and a tenacious parliamentarian who was utterly unafraid to stand up for what he believed in and hold the government accountable,” he said.

“His quick wit and sense of humour often brought much-needed levity to our exchanges in Question Period, and he certainly knew how to keep us on our toes.”

As for the future of NDP leadership, Mason said he hopes his caucus colleagues Rachel Notley, Deron Bilous and David Eggen all consider running.

Speaking Tuesday, Bilous was hesitant to comment on his own future plans.

“This is a definitely a day about Brian and he's provided incredible leadership over the last 10 years for our party and also for the province,” he said. “Wherever I go throughout the province, Brian is highly respected."

Like Bilous, Notley refrained from talking about future party leadership, preferring to comment on Mason’s legacy.

“He’s brought tremendous stability and professionalization to the NDP, and as well has been a brilliant legislator,” she said.

“Brian probably has the most sophisticated sense of politics of any person in the province of Alberta right now, I think that any party would benefit greatly from having him at their table analyzing the issues.”

The party has scheduled a leadership convention for the fall.

Father, grandfather were Conservatives

Mason, the son of an electrical engineer and one of four children, was born Oct. 12, 1953 in Calgary, but moved to Edmonton at age 21 to continue university.

His mother was a Liberal and his father a red Tory who later helped found the Reform party. His grandfather was a Tory senator.

At the University of Alberta, Mason studied politics and ran for arts rep on student council.

He served as director of the Federation of Alberta Students and pushed then-premier Peter Lougheed on reforms for tuition rates and student loans.

After post-secondary schooling, he drove a transit bus through Edmonton's lower-income north end to support his wife and young family.

It was during this time that he came to see the challenges of those living on the fringe. He left his job after winning a seat on city council in 1989.

Mason was first elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood in a 2000 byelection.

He became leader of the NDP following the resignation of Raj Pannu in 2004.

Below is a timeline of Mason's political career

With files from The Canadian Press