Party in turmoil
The NDP caucus is down to three members in the House of Assembly, as Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore said they could no longer work under the leadership of Lorraine Michael.
Kirby said he is not leaving the party — he just can’t work with Michael.
“My beliefs have not changed,” he said. “My commitment to raising issues in the House of Assembly on behalf of my constituents has not changed, and my commitment to doing the hard work that’s necessary to build a better Newfoundland and Labrador has not changed.”
Speculation about Kirby sitting as an independent MHA has been rampant for more than a week, after the four NDP MHAs sent a letter to Michael questioning her ability to recruit candidates, and calling for her to step aside and call a leadership convention.
Kirby has been the most outspoken critic of NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, saying her leadership style is suffocating and it’s hurting the party.
The letter, sent on Oct. 20 was signed by Kirby, Gerry Rogers, George Murphy and Christopher Mitchelmore.
Almost immediately after it broke in the media, Rogers and Murphy backtracked, saying that they regretted sending the letter and expressing confidence in Michael’s leadership.
Kirby stuck to his guns, and Mitchelmore said he stood by what was said in the letter.
After a week of bitter, public infighting, the NDP caucus met over the weekend, and Michael announced that she’s calling for a leadership review to be held in 2014.
Kirby said the way Michael responded to the caucus letter was a major problem
“I think a bad situation became worse,” Kirby said. “It’s untenable for me to remain in the NDP caucus.”
Mitchelmore, for his part, released a statement on his website saying that the caucus asked for a leadership convention, and that’s what the party still needs. He said the leadership review that Michael has proposed is not enough.
“ This should have been seen as an opportunity to test current Leadership, engage in the party building process, establish policy and develop messaging under a rigid timeline in preparation for Election 2015,” Mitchelmore wrote. “Although, I am leaving the NDP Caucus, my approach to dealing with issues at the local, provincial or national level has not changed — I will continue to work tirelessly for a better District and a better Newfoundland & Labrador. I still believe we need a fairer society, one that is inclusive and brings the values of everyday people to the forefront in a multi-party system.”
Moments after the Kirby and Mitchelmore announcements, Michael emerged to speak to reporters.
She was visibly shaken, but wished the two of them well.
“We are standing now with a caucus of three, and I do believe that we, as a caucus of three, will move forward together,” Michael said.
Michael said she was “blindsided” by the leadership crisis, and said she wasn’t aware that there was any widespread brewing discontent within party ranks.
She said she believes she’s handled the situation as well as she could have.
“I still have no regrets for anything that I’ve done over the last nine days,” Michael said. “When I was faced by the media with the fact that the media knew a letter had come to me, and the media were going public, obviously I had to respond to the media.”
It was only a week ago when Murphy said on live radio that he wasn’t sure he could still continue doing his job in the face of the caucus tumult, but on Tuesday, Michael said they can still be an effective voice for their constituents.
“Mr. Murphy is a member of my caucus and Mr. Murphy and myself and Ms. Rogers are all ready to be in the House on Monday,” she said.
The House of Assembly opens Monday at 1:30 p.m.