ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Less than a year after taking her party's reins, Newfoundland and Labrador's NDP leader has announced plans to step down just months before a provincial election.
After eight years as an elected official, Gerry Rogers will not re-offer, saying she could not commit to four more years in the House of Assembly.
The NDP currently has two seats in the house, including Rogers, who was elected leader last April.
"I knew the party needed a leader that had a seat in the house and so I stepped up. I had not thought that I wasn't going to be able to do another four years," Rogers told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.
"Politicians come and go and I think we have to take turns serving the people of the province. I decided that this really is the time in my life where I have to step aside."
Earlier in the day, Rogers thanked her supporters with a speech calling for better decision-making and greater diversity in provincial politics.
She criticized her opponents' past decisions -- like the sanctioning and management of the over-budget Muskrat Falls project -- and urged politicians to listen to citizens' concerns.
"I believe there is a different way of doing politics, one where we work together in collaboration for the benefit of the people of our province."
Her departure leaves the party with limited time to find a new leader ahead of a provincial election expected in October.
A December Corporate Research Associates poll suggested the NDP was in third place province-wide, with a large portion of voters still undecided.
Rogers was first elected to the provincial House of Assembly in 2011. She will stay on as representative for her St. John's Centre district until the general election.
Rogers said she regrets leaving the party in a difficult position with an election looming, but said she trusts the party's membership to rise to the challenge in coming months.
"It really was my personal decision and I'm very much aware of the implications of my decision, particularly because we don't know when the election will be called," she said.
Last year, the province's legislature was rocked by harassment allegations that resulted in the ouster of two members of the Liberal cabinet. They prompted a lengthy debate on sexism and harassment in provincial politics.
Rogers said she thinks the atmosphere has improved since then, but said it was sometimes a challenging environment to work in.
"Politics as it is practised can be a pretty difficult job, I'm amazed at how well I was able to do it and adapt to an environment and find ways to work around some of the hostility and some of the inappropriateness," she said.
Before entering politics, Rogers was an activist and filmmaker. Her 2000 film "My Left Breast" documented her battle with breast cancer, and was well-received at festivals around the world.
Rogers is also the first openly gay leader of a political party in Newfoundland and Labrador.
"I know how important it is to have the diversity of our population sitting at the table where decisions are made," Rogers said.
"We are (530,000) people in a time of huge challenges, but they are not insurmountable if we work together."
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press