The NDP kicked off its convention in St. John’s this weekend with red meat for the party faithful -- plenty of talk about how governments are attacking left wing ideals at home and in Ottawa.
NDP President Kathleen Connors opens the party's convention in St. John's Friday evening. -- Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
Party president Kathleen Connors welcomed members of the party to the Holiday Inn, acknowledging that people were skipping a long weekend at the cabin to be there.
“What better things do we really have to do than spend some quality time together?” she said, with a smile.
It’s a smaller crowd than the NDP’s last convention in 2012. Friday night there were 140 registered delegates compared to 170 at the last convention a couple of years ago.
But for the people in the room, Friday night was focused on organizing for the next election, and hearing combative speeches about party principles.
“Together, we will say that if governments are taking away our rights, then it will be at their peril,” said Mary Shortall, president of the NL Federation of Labour. “Governments can legislate away our rights, but they can never legislate away our anger, our determination and our solidarity. Only we can give that away, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not prepared to let that happen without a fight.”
New Democrat MP Jack Harris talked about how Prime Minister Stephen Harper is attacking public services.
A representative from the party’s election planning committee gave a lengthy, detailed update -- the party has 10 subcommittees getting ready for the election, and 22 confirmed candidates. They’ve also decided that the party colour will remain orange.
But Friday evening’s meeting was just a precursor; the main focus of the weekend convention will come on Saturday, when delegates will cast secret ballots to decide the fate of Leader Lorraine Michael.
After a messy and public caucus revolt in October, the party scrambled to hold a convention and a leadership review as soon as possible.
MHA Gerry Rogers signed a letter asking for Michael’s resignation back in October, but on Friday night, Rogers said that she’ll be voting to support Michael’s leadership.
Rogers said she believes the weekend convention is a chance for the regular members to say where they want things to go.
“It’s undeniable we took a hit, and so I think there are people here who regardless of what happened in October, it’s their party,” she said. “They are committed New Democrats regardless of what caucus may have done, and I think that’s what’s really important, that sense of ownership of the party, and people gathering from all over the province and saying this is our party, this is what we want, and we’re going to move forward.”
The party will also debate an amendment to the party constitution which would require a leadership review and a minimum two-thirds support at future conventions.