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Yukon MLA and former NDP leader Todd Hardy, seen speaking to reporters in Whitehorse in February 2009, died Wednesday morning at the age of 53. ((CBC))

Yukon MLA and former NDP leader Todd Hardy died on Wednesday morning in Whitehorse at age 53 after a long fight with leukemia.

"He was such an inspiration," NDP MLA and longtime colleague Steve Cardiff told CBC News. "He started a lot of different initiatives in order to improve the lives of Yukoners and that's the work that he leaves us to do.

"He was working right up until the end, too. He was a hard worker. He had a lot of courage and enthusiasm."

Premier Dennis Fentie, who leads the Yukon Party but started his career as an NDP MLA, said Hardy was a principled man, and a friend.

"I cannot think of, in all the years, one example of where Todd deviated from those principles," Fentie said.

Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell said Hardy leaves big shoes to fill.

"We all learned from that passion and that commitment and, regardless of our party affiliations, I think we knew that that was genuine on his behalf, and I think the Yukon public knew that. Their love and admiration of Mr. Hardy reflected on that."

Hardy was diagnosed in 2006 with acute lymphoid leukemia, a blood cancer.

In February 2009, Hardy announced he would step down as Yukon NDP leader. He was replaced by Elizabeth Hanson in September.

"As a younger person, I used to say I may have lost, but I've never been beaten, ever. And I don't say that anymore," Hardy told reporters when he announced his resignation.

"Maybe I was a little bit too arrogant in that kind of statement … and my leukemia, in many ways, has beaten me."

In addition to representing Whitehorse Centre in the Yukon legislature, Hardy was a martial arts instructor, hockey coach and carpenter. He was also one of the driving forces behind Habitat for Humanity projects in the territory.

Hardy died at home, surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife, Louise, a former Yukon MP, their four children and a granddaughter.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre in Whitehorse.