Let the membership decide, NDP leader says
New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael was striking a markedly conciliatory tone Saturday afternoon when she told reporters she wants a party leadership review in 2014.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael is surrounded by media Saturday as she announces a leadership review for the New Democrats in 2014. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
It was earlier this week when she said she felt “betrayed” by her four caucus members when they sent a letter to her, making a similar request.
“I’m putting all of this in the hands of the membership, and asking the membership to
decide whether or not they want me as the leader going into 2015,” she said.
“I feel confident going into convention that the majority of the party is going to say they want me to bring the party into 2015.”
The NDP has been in crisis this past week, after the letter was sent last Sunday, and then broke in the media Monday evening.
The letter questioned Michael’s ability to recruit candidates to run for the party, and called for a 2014 leadership convention.
From there, the party opened up into bitter back-and-forth accusations, and public infighting.
MHAs George Murphy and Gerry Rogers backtracked, saying that they wanted a leadership review after all, not a leadership convention.
MHA Dale Kirby openly criticizing Michael’s leadership style, and said he had difficulty working with her.
Murphy also accused Kirby of threatening him, and in turn, Kirby accused Murphy of lying.
Kirby said that he wasn’t sure if he had a future in the party, and speculation was rampant he’d choose to sit as an indpendent MHA in the House of Assembly.
The final MHA, Christopher Mitchelmore, said he stood by the letter which called for a party leadership convention to look at potentially replacing Michael, but he declined to say much more than that.
On Saturday, all five were still part of the NDP caucus, and Michael was trying to stitch things back together.
Michael said the announcement of a leadership review came at the end of a “full and frank discussion” with her fellow caucus members.
A lot of it seems to have boiled down to a simple misunderstanding of the difference between a leadership convention and a leadership review.
A review is essentially a yes-or-no vote by party members at a convention on whether they support the current leader. A leadership convention only happens when the top job is vacant, so by asking for that, the four caucus members were essentially calling for Michael’s resignation.
Michael acknowledged the past six days have been damaging for her party, but said that she’s trying not to focus on that.
“I really have no idea how damaging it might be. All I know is we have to start from where we are and we have to build,” she said. “What happened has happened, and our position is we have to move forward, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Michael’s Sunday afternoon announcement came at the end of a two-day caucus meeting at an undisclosed location to avoid media scrutiny. The party brought in a mediator to help facilitate the talks.
The NDP convention in 2014 was scheduled for October, which would leave Michael’s leadership as an open question for a full year. She said it will be up to the party executive to decide whether the convention needs to happen sooner.
Michael wouldn’t put a specific number on what percentage of party support she’d like to see in order to feel secure in her leadership.
I’m hoping that the majority — a good majority of the party — will say they want me,” she said. “And I’ll go by whatever the constitutional change that they’re putting in place.”
The Telegram requested comment from each of the other members of the NDP caucus.
Rogers declined to do an interview; nobody responded to the request for an interview.
“New Democratic Party President Kathleen Connors said the party executive will be meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the leadership review and look at plans for the convention. Connors said she couldn’t really add much detail beyond that, until the party executive has a chance to hash things out.”