It’s easy to slag Lorraine Michael as having a terrible sense of timing.
After all, it took her fift een months – plus two caucus defections and getting obliterated
in five by-elections – to get the hint that she may have overstayed her welcome at the helm
of the provincial New Democrats. It’s not exactly clear what straw finally broke the camel’s back,
but at this point those details are mostly superfluous.
For whatever it’s worth, Michael had taken the party to new highs – and, in her stubbornness to cling
to the reins, new lows – but her decision to take a step back now demonstrates she can still tap into
a higher sense of partisan duty. Better late than never for the province’s social democrats, and all that.
As it turns out, Michael might have unintentionally picked one of the best possible times to throw open
the shutters on the party politburo. A week after she decided to step down, premier Paul Davis announced
his government would be moving to cut several seats from the House of Assembly. While no self-respecting
Dipper would ever admit it, the likelihood that rural Newfoundland will take the brunt of the cuts might
contain a silver lining for the historically urban-driven party. You would almost believe that this is part
of a clever game by the provincial Tories to strengthen the NDP as a means of weakening the Liberal surge
if it weren’t, you know, the provincial Tories. We’re not exactly dealing with a troupe of chessmasters here.
That the leadership contest looks to be putting the NDP back in touch with its working class roots may
also turn out to be a positive twist. Now that former FFAW president Earle McCurdy has stepped up to the plate –
flanked by most of the other people considered contenders for the job – the only question now is whether
the leadership will be a de jure acclamation or just a de facto one. I’d wager the NDP wins either way.
McCurdy is a veritable firebrand compared to Davis or Dwight Ball and would likely bury them in any verbal contest.
His status as a union boss, too, can only be an asset. Say what you will about unions or their ties to the NDP,
but they provide a ready pool of eager volunteers, experienced organizers, and locally-connected candidates
in all forty-eight (or forty, whatever) districts across the province. It’s doubtful this will be enough
to put McCurdy in the premier’s office, but it does mean he’ll put up a much better fight than
the moribund Michaelites.
A lot of work remains to be done to get the party’s house in order, but all in all, everything’s coming up
Milhouse for the provincial NDP… which is honestly not something most of us would have predicted a month ago,
or even the week that Michael resigned. But then again, this is Newfoundland and Labrador politics,
where the rules are made up and the points don’t matter and anything can happen.
Anything except a functioning democratic system, anyways. But if we can’t have one that works,
I s’pose one that keeps things interesting is alright too.
Article by Drew Brown
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