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Yukon's top doctor wants to be a Liberal MP

He's been the face of Yukon's ongoing pandemic response — and now Dr. Brendan Hanley wants to be the territory's member of Parliament.

'I do bring some strong experience and some public recognition,' says Brendan Hanley

Dr. Brendan Hanley announced on Tuesday that he is taking leave as Yukon's chief medical officer to run as the territory's Liberal candidate in the next federal election. (Julien Gignac/CBC)

He's been the face of Yukon's ongoing pandemic response — and now Dr. Brendan Hanley wants to be the territory's member of Parliament.

Hanley announced on Tuesday that he was taking leave as the territory's chief medical officer, effective immediately, to be the Liberal candidate in the next federal election. The announcement comes a few days after long-time Liberal MP Larry Bagnell said he wasn't running again.

"I'm certainly new to politics, but I do bring some strong experience and some public recognition," Hanley said at a news conference outside the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse on Tuesday, as Bagnell and others looked on.

Hanley has been Yukon's chief medical officer since 2008, but his public profile grew significantly with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Speaking on Tuesday, he said it's an OK time to be stepping away from his role as the territory's top doctor. He said health officials are now focused on the territory's long-term response to COVID-19, and the office of the chief medical officer is in good shape to navigate the next phase of the pandemic.

Hanley said that as a politician, he wants to focus on climate change action, reconciliation and mental health initiatives.

Referring to the latest report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released this week, Hanley called climate change "an existential threat to our planet."

He said his focus on reconciliation will be guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action. He also said he wants to promote more land-based treatment initiatives.

Hanley is the Yukon Liberals' first new federal nominee in more than two decades. Bagnell first ran and won in the 2000 federal election and then went on run six more times — losing once.

The federal Conservatives have also announced their nominee for the next federal election — Jonas Smith, who narrowly lost to Bagnell in 2019.

With files from Julien Gignac

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