Two days after Steve Cardiff announced he wasn’t running for the NDP leadership, another contender has already stepped up.
Elizabeth Hanson, long-time Yukon resident and past president of the Yukon NDP, stated Thursday she was interested in the leadership position.
“I think it’s really exciting, but also a little daunting at the same time,” said Hanson.
With Cardiff out of the race, she is the only contender, a fact that Hanson says she wants to see changed.
“Hopefully someone else will enter the race. We need a healthy, active debate so I hope others come forward,” she said.
“I’ve also been out there talking to people encouraging them to run.”
When Hanson made the decision to run a little over two weeks ago, she wasn’t aware that Cardiff was no longer in the race.
“This week, I sent Steve a note saying I was seriously considering doing this and about the importance of having a contest … then I realized a couple days ago that it was going to be uncontested.”
Hanson, who’s lived in the territory for the last 30 years, has never held political office.
In 2007, she retired from the federal public service after a lengthy career as the regional director general of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
She came to the Yukon in the late ‘70s as a social worker at a time when the territory was on the cusp of large political changes.
“There’s been an amazing transformation since that time,” said Hanson.
“In 1978 the Department of Indian Affairs was essentially governing the Yukon, the department could make all the decisions.”
Working in the public service for three decades convinced Hanson to throw her hat into the political ring.
“I’ve been involved with the ‘small p’ political process most of my career and have had the opportunity and privilege to work through some big changes to the Yukon as a whole, including (First Nation) land claims and self-government arrangements,” she said.
“I hope that in the ‘big p’ political process I can make changes.”
The blueprint to make political changes is currently in place, she said. “It’s just that the current contractors aren’t doing a good job of it.”
If she were to win, Hanson says she would like to tackle political accountability and transparency of the territorial government.
Recent evidence that Premier Dennis Fentie was secretly planning to sell the Yukon Energy Corporation is symptomatic of the lack of transparency and accountability, she said.
“We need open debate and discussion … It’s not just a partisan issue it’s beyond that,” she said.
“It’s about respecting the democratic process.”
Hanson’s also interested in increasing voter turn-out and engaging citizens in the decision-making process.
“The problem is that Yukoners feel that things are OK as they are,” she said.
“But there are still people that are homeless or poor in the Yukon and there are small businesses that are struggling.”
If Hanson were to win the leadership, she would be taking the reins of a party that has suffered huge setbacks since it was last thrown out of government in 2000. It’s a situation that doesn’t deter Hanson.
“I believe passionately in the principles of the party … and I’m excited by the challenge of it,” she said.
“I see this as a long project where I can engage and build the party and I have the energy and interest in doing that.”
The possibility of becoming the first female leader of the NDP party is one that she says she hasn’t thought much about, but also isn’t daunted by in the least.
“When I came to the Yukon as a social worker, I was first told that I couldn’t have the job because they had never had a woman in the position before,” she said.
“It’s a challenge but you find strength.”
The NDP leadership convention will happen on September 26.
Contact Vivian Belik at