Willard Phelps says he is giving up his plans to lead the United Citizens Party of Yukon, citing a dwindling urge to take on outgoing Premier Dennis Fentie.


Willard Phelps, seen in a November 2009 interview, says he does not know if anyone will want to take over as leader of the United Citizens Party of Yukon. ((CBC))

Phelps conceived the idea of a new political party in 2009, with the goal of unseating Fentie and his Yukon Party government in the wake of political controversy that surfaced that year.

But while the United Citizens Party of Yukon was officially registered as a political party late last year, members have yet to hold their first meeting.

The party's first convention has been postponed  since Phelps broke his leg in May 2010. Phelps, 69, told CBC News on Monday that he was not able to work on party matters while he was recovering.

Then late last month, Fentie announced that he will retire from politics, meaning he will not lead the Yukon Party into a territorial election later this year.

"My sense of it has been that there's not an overwhelming urge at this time to go with something new," Phelps said.

3 vying for Yukon Party leadership

Three men are in the running to replace Fentie as Yukon Party leader: Jim Kenyon, Darrell Pasloski and Rod Taylor. Party members will select their new leader in Whitehorse on May 28.

"We can see the membership definitely growing right now," Yukon Party president Mike Nixon told CBC News.

"There's a lot of excitement from the executive. There's a lot of talk within the membership about the leadership election coming on May 28."

The leadership contest will mark the first time the Yukon Party will choose a new leader since Fentie was elected in 2002.

Whoever wins the leadership race will become premier sometime after that. It will be up to that person to decide when to call the election, said legislative clerk Floyd McCormick.

"Two years have gone by, I'm not getting younger, and it's very unlikely I'll be getting back into politics."

Phelps, a former Yukon MLA and government leader, founded the United Citizens Party of Yukon following his public fallout with Fentie in 2009, in which he accused the premier of holding secret talks  aimed at privatizing Yukon Energy Corp. assets.

"Being a critic is always a hell of a lot easier than doing the work. And at my stage in life, the easier the better," Phelps said.

Even though Fentie will soon be leaving territorial politics, Phelps said he remains concerned about Yukon's leadership through the current economic boom.

"We're going to require excellent stewards to guide us through all this in an open and a forthright manner," he said.

"In the old regime under Fentie, things were done in secret, and that just won't do in the future."

As for his own party, Phelps said he is not sure if anyone else will want to take over the leadership.