This weekend, New Democrats from across the province will gather in St. John’s to decide Lorraine Michael’s fate as leader of the party, but Michael says she’s not really thinking about it.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael. — Telegram file photo
After a messy and bitter caucus revolt in October, the NDP committed to holding a convention with a leadership review and that will be happening over the holiday weekend.
But Michael said she’s not worried about the vote.
“Really and truly, I’m not concentrating on it. I’m working hard with members, I’m working hard at listening to what people’s concerns are,” she said.
“The whole convention is about the party moving forward, and that’s the theme for convention and the leadership vote is part of that.”
Last fall the four other members of the NDP caucus signed a letter calling on Michael to step aside as leader.
After an acrimonious and public week of infighting, Michael announced that she would call a convention to hold a leadership review.
Aside from the ad-hoc leadership review in response to the caucus revolt, the party will also debate a constitutional amendment that will require an automatic leadership review at future conventions.
But Michael said apart from a few high-profile defections, the whole affair hasn’t really hurt the party.
“We’ve had four or five people leave the party,” she said. “Seriously, our membership is going up regularly. Every week our membership since October has been going up, and I feel really good about that.”
It’s impossible to independently verify the NDP membership numbers, but more than four or five people have left the party. MHAs Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore quit the caucus and eventually joined the Liberals.
Similarly, party vice-president and one-time candidate Geoff Gallant stepped away from the party and was spotted earlier this week at a Liberal fundraiser. Other NDP candidates, including Matt Fuchs, Noah Davis Power and John Riche have also left the New Democrats.
And at least two board members in the party — Leigh Borden and Chris Bruce — quit their positions in the wake of the caucus revolt.
Party president Kathleen Connors said that the convention this weekend is about re-engaging with the rank and file of the party, but no more so than any other party has to do regularly.
“I think all parties have to constantly go, because you can’t ever take any member, any individual for granted,” she said.
This weekend’s event will also be the last provincial convention for the New Democrats before next year’s election.
Michael said that the gathering will be a big part of its election preparedness work.
She acknowledged that the October caucus revolt is affecting that work.
“Obviously people are affected by what happens. So some of the challenges will be to convince people that it’s not a lost cause to run for the NDP in 2015,” she said. “(We have) the same goal that we aimed for in 2011 and that we reached, which was having 48 people run for the party. So that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges coming out of convention.”