Liz Hanson to step down as Yukon NDP leader

Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson says she will step down as the head of her party, to make way for 'new energy.'

Hanson says timing will allow new leader to get up to speed in advance of next election

Liz Hanson on the campaign trail in 2016. Hanson says she plans to stay on as MLA for Whitehorse Centre, but would give up the NDP leadership once a successor is chosen. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson says she will step down as the head of her party, to make way for "new energy" ahead of the next election.

Hanson said she plans to stay on as MLA for Whitehorse Centre but would give up the party leadership once a successor is chosen.

"As leader you're sort of looking at what's going on right now, and what's coming up," said Hanson. "We're at the third year of this current government, so I'm looking forward and saying we need to be prepared for the next election. 

"I want that new leader to have a good time before the election in order to get out and meet people and really engage and be ready for the election."

Hanson became NDP leader in 2009, after former leader Todd Hardy resigned to battle leukemia. When Hardy died the following year, Hanson won the resulting by-election in Whitehorse Centre.

She was re-elected as MLA in 2011 and 2016.

Hanson led her party to become Yukon's official opposition in 2011, but the 2016 election was a disappointment for the NDP, as the party went from six seats in the Legislature to two (Hanson and Takhini-Kopper King MLA Kate White) while the Liberals vaulted to power.

The following months after the election were difficult for Hanson on a personal level, as she dealt with the death of her husband, Doug Mowat.

Without his support, she realized "that heart and that drive is not as compelling as it was," she said. "So it's time for me to step aside, and to have new leadership."

Hanson says that she does hope to continue on as MLA of Whitehorse Centre as long as its citizens "want to place their trust in me.

"I really do enjoy working on behalf of the citizens of Whitehorse Centre, and frankly throughout the territory," she said.

The party's board of directors has not yet set a date or timeline for a leadership selection process, though Hanson said she expects that an announcement will come in the next few weeks.

With files from Sandi Coleman