NDP Leader Lorraine Michael opened the provincial election campaign with a bold prediction Monday.
“I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that we are on the verge of a historic breakthrough,” she told reporters in front of a private home on Newfoundland Drive in St. John’s.
“I truly believe that after Oct. 11, politics in this province will have changed forever. Nobody will ever think of us as the third party again.”
Michael made the comments in a prepared speech delivered shortly after arriving in a white minivan with NDP written in orange along the sides.
She was greeted by the applause of a handful of others who will carry the party’s banner during the election.
Michael said she picked the location for her party’s campaign launch because of the new long-term care facility still under construction across the street.
“The government is building it to replace the aging Hoyles-Escasoni facility,” she said of the edifice in progress.
“I am not here to tell you that we do not need a new long-term care facility in this city. We do,” continued Michael.
“I am here to tell you that this building, which will not even open for months, is already not good enough.”
The NDP leader said the new complex will only have room for 83 more residents than Hoyles-Escasoni.
She said that’s “woefully inadequate” when 1,000 people are on waiting lists for long-term care.
Michael suggested that with an aging population, wait lists will only get longer.
“Five years from now, one in five of us will be older than 65,” she said.
The NDP, under Michael, has called for an independent and comprehensive review of the entire health-care system since 2007.
Meanwhile, she said, the current government has yet to deliver on a 2008 promise of a long-term care and community support strategy.
Michael said it’s issues like health care which will be her party’s focus for the next three weeks.
“The other parties ... might talk about Muskrat Falls. They might talk about grandiose schemes for spending money. They will undoubtedly make promises to the people of this province. And it won’t surprise any of us if those are recycled promises,” she said.
Michael said the NDP plan is to make life more affordable for all.
“It’s about the things that matter to regular ... families,” said Michael. “Things like health care, and chil care. Things like (giving) our seniors the respect they deserve. This election should be about things like getting working people a fair deal in our prosperous society.”
When reporters asked Michael why she is so optimistic about the outcome of the election on its first day, she said she’s been hearing for months that people in the province want change and are tuning into the NDP’s message.
She also pointed to recent opinion polls that have vaulted her party over the Liberals, yet still far behind the governing Progressive Conservatives.
Michael said with her lone voice in the House of Assembly, the NDP managed to convince the Tories to remove the provincial tax on home-heating.
She said if more New Democrats are voted in, the party will be an even stronger advocate for other changes.
Michael called her slate so far an “astonishing team of candidates.”
“They are leaders in their communities,” she said. “Professionals, small business people, people who are in municipal politics, labour leaders — they come from all walks of life.”
When asked if anything less than second place on Oct. 11 would be considered a failure for the NDP, Michael sidestepped the question, saying she couldn’t answer that until after the election.
At the time of Monday’s news conference, the NDP had 41 of 48 candidates in place and expected to add another two to its roster by day’s end.
The party will release its official platform soon, but Michael refused to be more specific.