Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie says he will retire from territorial politics, meaning he will not lead the governing Yukon Party into a territorial election that's expected to be called this fall.


Dennis Fentie has been premier of Yukon, as well as leader of the governing Yukon Party, since 2002. ((CBC))

Fentie, 60, told CBC News on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election as Yukon Party leader or as the MLA for Watson Lake. Party members will choose a new leader on May 28.

"It's a life decision and one must thoroughly deliberate on it, which I've done for some time now," Fentie told CBC News from Yellowknife, where he is meeting with Northwest Territories Premier Floyd Roland and Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak on Thursday.

Although Fentie had dealt with cancer in 2008, he said his decision to retire was not prompted by health concerns, but rather that it was time for him to step aside from politics.

"It's important to recognize that this is not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

"It's really quite humbling, but at the end of the day I feel quite rewarded by … what we've managed to do here, and I certainly have no regrets on any level."

No election date set

First elected as an NDP MLA for Watson Lake in 1996, Fentie has led the right-leaning Yukon Party since 2002, months before the party won a solid majority in that fall's election. The party was re-elected in 2006.

With the party's current mandate expiring in October, Fentie has yet to say when an election will be called.

Meanwhile, three men have declared their intentions to seek the Yukon Party leadership, including current Economic Development Minister Jim Kenyon.

Rod Taylor, a Whitehorse-area wilderness tourism operator, and Darrell Pasloski, a local businessman who was Yukon's Conservative candidate in the 2008 federal election, both declared on Tuesday that they will run for the party leadership.

Fentie said he is not sure what his own future holds, but he said his current priority is to support the Yukon Party as it selects a new leader.

The outgoing premier was not apologetic when it came to his leadership style, which some have described as gruff and even bellicose.

His style led to a high-profile falling-out with former cabinet minister Brad Cathers, who left the Yukon Party caucus in 2009 to sit as an Independent MLA.

"As far as leadership, there's actually only two kinds: passive and aggressive. And guess which one I was?" Fentie said.

Fentie said he is confident the Yukon Party will be re-elected for an unprecedented third term in government.