After party turmoil, NDP has no candidate in Carbonear-Harbour Grace
It was a rocky start for the New Democrats in the House of Assembly Monday, with leader Lorraine Michael punishing her former caucus colleagues for questioning her leadership and leaving the party.
In the House, Tourism and Culture Minister delivered a ministerial statement about a memorial being built to commemorate the victims of the Cougar Flight 491 helicopter tragedy.
NDP leader Lorraine Michael speaks to media following question period at the House of Assembly Monday afternoon. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Both the Liberals and the NDP were given an opportunity to respond and speak about the proposed memorial, and then St. John's North MHA Dale Kirby rose to speak.
He needed unanimous leave of the House to talk on the issue, and both the Liberals and the Tories seem ready to give it.
“No leave,” Michael said quickly, making it clear that she wasn't ready to give Kirby a chance to speak.
From there, the House moved on to other business.
“I've got a personal connection to it, because my cousin was actually on Cougar Flight 491,” Kirby told The Telegram later in the afternoon. “Like many Newfoundlander and Labradorians my family has been touched by this and it's been difficult.”
Michael said that's just the way things go in the House.
“We have two people who have left my caucus and they're going to have to learn how to be in that House as two independent people,” she said. “It's the practice. It's the way the legislatures go right around the country.”
Last month, all four of Michael's House of Assembly caucus colleagues signed a letter questioning her leadership and calling on her to step down. Two of the four — George Murphy and Gerry Rogers — backtracked after news of the letter broke in the media.
Kirby and Straits-White Bay North MHA Christopher Mitchelmore stuck to their guns and eventually quit the NDP caucus to sit as independents.
On Monday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale called a byelection in the district of Carbonear-Harbour Grace which has been whithout an MHA since former finance minister Jerome Kennedy resigned.
Both the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals have nominated candidates for the district, but the NDP doesn't have anybody yet.
Michael's inability to recruit candidates was one of the issues raised by the four caucus members in the letter they sent to Michael.
On Monday, Michael said she's not worried about the situation.
“No, I'm not. We've haven't always had one ready right at the beginning,” she said. “We're still talking to people, and it's been an ongoing process.”
Kirby said that the issue with getting candidates was one of his top concerns when he put his name to the letter. He said from what he saw, Michael hasn't done enough in the Carbonear-Harbour Grace situation.
“While I do certainly respect that all members of the House of Assembly have a right to take vacation from time to time, you know, our leader was in India for a month,” he said. “Mr. Kennedy stepped down during that time and it didn't appear to me as though there was a whole lot of success in recruiting a candidate.”
The Carbonear-Harbour Grace byelection will be held Nov. 26. The deadline to nominate a candidate is Nov. 16.