Provincial NDP Leader Lorraine Michael took the opportunity Tuesday during a speech at a labour conference in Gander to call on Premier Kathy Dunderdale to open the House of Assembly.
“We have a major responsibility, this (NDP) caucus in particular, to bring issues into the House of Assembly — when we’re allowed in — more than we’ve ever (had) before,” said Michael. “Open the House, Kathy Dunderdale. Open the House. Open the House and hear the voice of the people.”
Michael was speaking at the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour’s 75th anniversary convention. She said the premier’s decision to delay the opening of the House of Assembly until the spring session also delays calls for important legislation to be enacted.
“Open the House so we can call for anti-scab legislation. Open the House so we can call for whistleblower legislation,” she said. “Open the House so that we can lay out what a child care plan looks like. Open the House so we can lay out what a health care plan looks like. Open the House, Kathy, and listen to the voices of the workers and the people of this province.”
Michael also called on the government to ensure planning in relation to revenue and expenditures is undertaken with the people of the province in mind.
“Everything that we do, our planning for rural Newfoundland, our planning in agriculture, our planning in the fishery — all of the work that we do, all of it has to be based on what is good for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. “Not for the corporations, not for oil companies, but what is good for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and that has to be the bottom line.”
Michael said the election of four new NDP MHAs in the recent provincial election, and the fact a fifth NDP candidate continues to fight to be elected in a contested riding, proves the people of this province support the NDP platform more than ever.
“It was a breakthrough. It happened federally. That was wonderful, and that certainly worked in favour for us on the provincial level,” she said, referring to the federal election in May which saw the NDP form the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. “People are starting to recognize it’s legitimate. It’s OK. It actually is good to vote NDP. They’re finally making that breakthrough. We have become respectable.”
But don’t equate respectability with complacency, Michael told the conference delegates.
“I don’t want respectability if it means we stop fighting,” she said. “We’re going to be respectable fighters. We’re going to keep fighting. We’re going to keep shouting for the House to open. We’re going to keep shouting for the voice of the people to be heard, because that’s what the people of this province want. That’s where our respectability is coming from. It’s coming from the people who now look at us and say, ‘This is the party that will represent us. This is the party that represents our needs.’
“We have a challenge ahead of us, a challenge that we’re all going to rise to meet. There’s nowhere else for us now but up, and therefore there’s nowhere else for the people of this province but up.”