Graydon Pelley’s Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance wants to change how democracy works in the province.
Pelley resigned as president of the Progressive Conservative party after three years at the helm. In mid-November, he announced his intention to form a new party that seeks to bring more people into the decision-making process of government.
Pelley says he envisions a government where all 40 elected members have their own free and independent vote on policy, essentially eliminating whipped votes altogether.
Pelley says he doesn’t want to abolish the party system outright, but rather let opposition members have a voice.
“This is a process. This takes time. I’ve had a number of people talk about consensus government, but that is something that you can’t do overnight,” he said.
“If Graydon Pelley or the Alliance is elected, on day one every elected member, no matter what party they are affiliated with, will be invited to sit around a collaboration table and discuss the issues of the province.”
For Pelley, the problems lie within the parties working in the current system as well.
“Let’s face it, if you’re not in cabinet in the party system, then your voice is pretty much not valid at all,” he said.
“It’s just do as I say and vote as I do and that’s about it.”
Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie has previously stated he was taken by surprise by Pelley’s move.
Pelley insists the decision to step out on his own was not specifically because Crosbie was elected leader of the party in May.
“This is not about Ches Crosbie. It’s not about Graydon Pelley or Dwight Ball or Gerry Rogers,” he said.
“It’s about the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Pelley says changing party politics was his intention from his first foray into politics.
“I thought that we could do it from the inside. But, you know, party politics in Newfoundland and Labrador runs deep,” said Pelley.
“I came to the conclusion that you’re not going to change the party system as we know it. There are too many people that are satisfied to be in that system and do it the way that system works.”
The line of thinking about changing the democracy of the province is a very alive issue right now. In the fall, the House of Assembly created an all-party committee on democratic reform to look at a swathe of issues with the current democratic process. The committee will look at election financing, whether “first past the post” is the right system of election, and any other issue the committee sees fit. Members of the committee have yet to be struck, so it’s unlikely any findings would be implemented before the 2019 general election.
St. John’s city council also approved an independent panel to review banning corporate and union donations to municipal campaigns. There’s no word on when that committee will finish its work.
The N.L. Alliance needs 1,000 signatures for official party status. A town hall meeting is scheduled for Saturday night at the Capital Hotel in St. John’s.
Pelley wouldn’t be specific on how many signatures have been signed so far, but he’s hopeful to have them all collected in the next month or so.
“I’m not going to try and even tell you that now. There’s people out collecting signatures for me all over the place,” he said.
“I will say this, our numbers are growing every single day. We are certainly going to be ready for the next election.”