Head of British Columbia Green Party, which supports government, to step down as leader

FILE PHOTO: Andrew Weaver arrives at the Legislative Buildings with Adam Olsen and Sonia Furstenau prior to being sworn in as Members of the Legislative Assembly in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada June 7, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Light/File Photo

(Reuters) - The head of British Columbia’s Green Party, which is crucial to keeping the left-leaning New Democratic Party in power in the Canadian province, said on Monday he would step down as leader once a successor is chosen and will not run in the next election due in 2021.

Andrew Weaver’s party was instrumental in helping the NDP form a government in 2017, ending 16 years of Liberal Party rule in the West Coast province. Weaver’s decision to step down as leader does not affect the current British Columbia arrangement since he is keeping his seat.

The NDP hold 41 seats versus the Liberals’ 42, while the Greens hold three in British Columbia’s legislature.

Weaver, 57, announced his decision on Twitter, saying the Greens “are going strong, as am I.”

“But with this great swell of enthusiasm around climate action... I feel it is the right time for me to pass the baton to this next generation of leaders.”

Weaver said on Twitter last month that he was hospitalized with labyrinthitis, an inflammation in the inner ear that causes symptoms including nausea and vertigo, although he said his choice to step down was unrelated.

Before entering politics, Weaver was a scientist and lead author on several U.N. reports on climate change.

The leadership contest will likely take place at the Green Party convention in June 2020, according to a party news release.

Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Peter Cooney