Kate White, right, speaks at legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 22. White announced recently that she will be running for leader of the Yukon NDP after Liz Hanson, left, stepped down in November. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Kate White enters race for Yukon NDP leadership

The party will be voting for its next leader on May 4

In December, when Liz Hanson announced she would be stepping down as leader of the Yukon NDP, much attention turned to Kate White, who was unsure whether she wanted to be the face of the party then.

But that’s changed: the house party leader and “critic of 50 per cent of everything,” she jokes, is running for leader.

White is the first candidate to announce her plans to run.

“There’s been lots of conversations with people since that point, where people are quite keen, and you feel a bit more supported when people are telling you you’d be good at the job, so it just kind of solidified my thoughts about it,” she said.

That support goes two ways, though. Egged on to run for leadership, White said that making it official has been “overwhelming.”

“I’m coming up behind giants,” she said, referring to Hanson’s leadership and her predecessors. “For me, that’s a bit daunting.

“I never saw myself here.”

Before entering politics eight years ago, White was a cooking instructor and life skills coach in corrections. Before that, she worked on mine sites. She’s a journeyman baker. All of this dovetails with her work as a politician, she said, “because I look at issues in a different way.”

And that seems to be working for her. White was reelected in 2016.

“There isn’t a checklist for someone to be a politician, except for ‘do you care’, and that’s what I want to talk about in the next couple of months — is how I see that politics can be different,” White said. “If you care about your community and you care about your neighbours and you care about the territory, then you’re qualified.

“Join me. Let’s check it out, let’s see what’s gonna happen.”

Earning her political stripes wasn’t always easy, White said. She said she originally had imposter syndrome.

“It was overwhelming the amount of learning I had to do. Every time I would go to open my mouth for the first two years, I actually thought I might vomit.”

But it was during a house debate one day, where she hadn’t been prepped, that it dawned on her that she was in control.

“I stopped being afraid, I stopped feeling not confident about what I had to say because I understood, I knew what I was doing, and I think people’s life experiences will affect the decisions they’ll make in the future, or the way they look at issues. Everyone’s is unique, and mine is especially unique,” she said.

The NDP, with third party status, is the dark horse, White said, “so we’ve literally got nothing to lose” when coming up against the current government that doesn’t do anything outside the status quo.

White’s current responsibilities have made it possible for her to develop core set of skills and tackle issues head on. Some of those include affordable housing, healthcare and the environment.

White said becoming party leader wouldn’t change how she does things.

”I will still attend community events, because that’s where you get grounded in truth. What’s going on in the community? Well, you only know if you go. Will I continue to do the direct advocacy that I have? Absolutely. That’s not going to change.”

A vote for NDP leader is slated to occur on May 4 during the party’s convention.

White’s campaign is launching on Feb. 9 at the Old Fire Hall between 5 and 9 p.m.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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