In a bid to give the NDP a fighting chance in the next election, Liz Hanson is resigning from her post as the party’s leader, a position she has had for nearly 10 years.
“I feel really good about the timing and about having made this decision,” she told the press on Nov. 22, a day after her resignation was formally announced. “It’s time to begin to focus on the future for the party.”
It’s high time to prepare for the next election, given that it’s nearing the third year that the Liberals have been in power, and that means passing the torch to someone else, she said.
“I really look forward to working with that person, whomever they are.”
Hanson has served as the leader of the Yukon NDP since 2009, when former leader Todd Hardy stepped aside to fight leukemia. Hardy died in 2010 and Hanson was was elected as MLA of Whitehorse-Centre in a by-election that year.
She will remain leader of the party until a successor is named and continue to be the MLA for her riding.
House Leader Kate White told the News that she’s excited for Hanson to take a well-deserved break.
“I’m sad because she’s probably one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” she said. “That’s a hard thing, you know?”
Asked if she will run for leader or if she’s considering it, White said that she has a lot of conversations to have before settling on a decision like that.
“I have to take a couple of days from the sitting to feel kind of normal,” she said.
Under Hanson’s leadership, the NDP earned Official Opposition status following the 2011 territorial election. After the 2016 election, though, the party dropped to third party. Hanson conceded responsibility for this.
“I think every leader has to assume responsibility,” she said. “It was a disappointment to me and to many because we had been working so hard.”
She braced herself, however, and was still strongly committed, she said.
“That was bolstered for so many years by my relationship with my family and with my husband,” Hanson said, adding that her husband died two months after the last election was called.
“I have to say that was a bit of a kick in the gut. I wasn’t anticipating that, and made it more difficult, in some ways, to carry on with the same sort of vigor that I believe … serving Yukon people as the leader of the New Democratic Party deserves,” she said.
“It’s a challenge to be a political person in any place and being the leader of a party you gotta go at with full drive and full heart.”
Hanson said it’s her hope the NDP, under fresh leadership, will enter the next election with full strength and primed to serve.
“Every once in a while you have to realize where you’re at personally and how that may impact you in terms of your job performance,” she said.
Asked what Hanson is most proud of during her time as leader, she said pushing social justice files and backing the Peel Watershed Final Recommended Plan.
“I was proud to be able to say, right from the beginning, that we supported that Final Recommended Plan and to stand with Yukon First Nation governments and citizens, environmental groups, activists, tabled a petition with 8,000 names on it in the legislative assembly, to sit through the two court cases that went on here, and to finally see the vindication by the Supreme Court of Canada that, in fact, what the framers of the land claims agreements had negotiated was in fact true,” she said.
Another high point was the eventual implementation of a moratorium on fracking, she said.
Hanson, known for her thoroughly researched questions and impassioned speeches, worked in federal and provincial politics as a public servant for 30 years before her foray as leader then MLA.
Hanson’s talking points during the fall sitting included renewable energy and affordable housing.
Details about a leadership race are to be released in the coming weeks.
Hanson said it’s her intention to continue to serve as an MLA until the next election.
“I’m looking forward to it, actually, because I love working with people and I love the constituents in Whitehorse-Centre, which is probably the most diverse riding in the whole of the Yukon,” she said.
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org