Kirby says MHAs respect leader, but party needs renewal
New Democrat MHA Dale Kirby said Monday all four NDP MHAs respect Lorraine Michael, but they think it might be best for the party to review whether she’s the best choice for leader.
Kirby, George Murphy, Gerry Rogers and Christopher Mitchelmore sent a letter to Michael on Sunday asking for a leadership convention in 2014.
“As members of the Caucus, we recognize your significant contributions to the Party and its growth in support since your election as leader in 2006, including the historic results of the 2011 Provincial General Election,” says the letter, obtained by The Telegram. “With two years remaining before the next scheduled Provincial General Election in 2015, we believe that a Leadership Convention in 2014 is critical if there is to be party renewal and growth in support for the New Democratic Party in Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Kirby spoke to The Telegram Monday evening after Michael did an interview on CBC News, saying she felt “betrayed” and under attack by a “small dissenting group” within the party.
Kirby said that while he respects what Michael has done for the party, the letter is the result of widespread dissatisfaction with her leadership.
“All I can really base my own observations on is what I hear. I’ve knocked on a little more than 2,000 doors in my own district since the last election, and I have made myself publicly available to people,” Kirby said. “I’m certainly in contact with members of our party on a regular basis. I think people are interested in a renewal process.”
The letter was sent to Michael on Sunday after she returned from vacation. She had been gone for about a month, visiting India.
After flirting with first place in the polls, the NDP dropped to second, eight points behind the Liberal party, in the most recent polling done by Corporate Research Associates.
Several party members, speaking to The Telegram on the condition of anonymity, talked about problems with Michael’s leadership.
A repeated complaint was that it’s difficult to recruit candidates for the party because people don’t believe Michael is able to win the next election.
Kirby said he believes the party needs to consider who’s the best to revitalize their position, and win the next election.
“My own hope is that there would be an open leadership contest, because there is no mechanism right now for having a leadership review in the party,” he said. “If Lorraine wanted to contest the leadership, she certainly could.”
Kirby said it’s unfortunate this is all occurring in public.
“We did not intend for this to be a public document, and it was read out on the air on CBC (Monday), but as far as I know, from talking to my colleagues, none of us provided that to anyone in the media,” he said. “This isn’t necessarily a criticism of Lorraine Michael in any way. We are effusive in our praise of her work, her record, and we certainly respect that. It’s nothing personal. This was about moving the party forward in a way that would put us in the most advantageous position leading into the next election. It’s unfortunate that it’s been portrayed as something other than that.”