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NDP Leader Gerry Rogers steps down after 10 months

NDP Leader Gerry Rogers speaks Tuesday in the main lobby of the Confederation Building, announcing she is resigning as party leader and will not seek re-election this year.
NDP Leader Gerry Rogers speaks Tuesday in the main lobby of the Confederation Building, announcing she is resigning as party leader and will not seek re-election this year. - Joe Gibbons

New leader to be selected before provincial election later this year

Gerry Rogers was born on Aug. 17, 1956 in Corner Brook to Leo Rogers and Philomena Coles.

She travelled a lot as a child, as her father’s military career took the family across Canada and eventually to Germany.

When the family returned to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1979, Rogers got a bachelor of social work degree from Memorial University.

In 2000, she made a film about her battle with breast cancer called “My Left Breast,” starring herself and her longtime partner, Peg Norman.

"... this is a personal decision that I’ve made and that I feel that I have to make at this point.” — Gerry Rogers

When she was elected to the House of Assembly as the meber for St. John’s Centre on Oct. 27, 2011, she became the first openly gay MHA in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In July 2017, Rogers and Norman got married – a right Rogers fought for years to gain as an LGBTQ+ activist.

On April 8, 2018, Rogers was elected leader of the New Democratic Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

On Feb. 12, 2019, just over 10 months after becoming NDP leader, and with a provincial election due to be held this year, she decided it was her time to step away from public life.

“If I were to continue as leader, I would have to run for the next election and stay at least another four years. I just felt that that’s not where I want to be in my life right now,” said Rogers.

“My health is great. I’ve been taking really good care of myself. I probably don’t get enough sleep, but I’m good.”

Rogers says she will continue as leader until a new leader is selected. She will be in the House of Assembly when the next legislative sitting starts on March 4.

Rogers says she knows the position she’s put her party in by stepping down as leader with a provincial election due this year.

“I’m not unaware of the implications and what this means for the party and the people of the province. I regret that,” she said.

“But this is a personal decision that I’ve made and that I feel that I have to make at this point.”

Rogers says the decision to step down has been coming for a few months.

Lorraine Michael, who served as NDP leader from 2006 to 2015 and again as interim leader before Rogers’ election, says she was surprised by the news and learned of it after party members were informed.

Lorraine Michael
Lorraine Michael

Michael says she support’s Rogers’ decision.

“I think it’s very honourable what she’s done. It came as a surprise, but it’s very honourable what she’s done,” said Michael.

Michael says she will not seek the NDP leadership in Rogers’ stead – but she will seek re-election whenever the general election is called.

NDP president Lynn Moore says she supported Rogers when she first got into politics and will support her as she steps away.

Details on a leadership convention are still to come.

“We haven’t hammered that out exactly. We’ll have more specifics tomorrow on the leadership race,” Moore said Tuesday.

“We want to do it as quickly as possible while giving everybody the opportunity to participate.”

Moore says she hopes Premier Dwight Ball will hold off on an election call until a new NDP leader is in place.

“We would prefer that the legislation was honoured and that we would have a fall election. But we will be ready for a spring election, if that’s in the cards,” she said.

Moore says the party is considering an online leadership poll, rather than a full-scale convention.

Former Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association president Jim Dinn says it’s hard to watch Rogers go.

“I’m saddened to see that Gerry is going. She’s a good leader, brought a lot of unity to the party, had a clear vision of the province,” said Dinn.

“The party is going to be missing her, that’s for sure.”

Dinn says he’s mulling a run himself, but no decisions have been made just yet.

Kerri Claire Neil
Kerri Claire Neil

Kerri Claire Neil’s young political career was started by Rogers when Neil was made the NDP candidate in the Windsor Lake byelection.

“Gerry has been a huge inspiration for me. She picked me out early and saw that I was a young person who was passionate about politics and really encouraged me to get more involved,” said Neil.

“It is sad to see her step down, for sure.”

Neil says she still plans to put her name on the ballot in future elections, but until then she hopes the NDP can unite.

“There’s been a lot of criticism of Gerry as a leader, so I hope that kind of ignites the party and encourages people to get more involved and to rally behind a new leader,” she said.

Alison Coffin was Rogers’ competition for the NDP leadership.

“I’m sad to see Gerry go. She was a bastion of the party. This is quite a surprise. It throws us into a bit of turmoil,” she said.

Another run at the NDP leadership isn’t out of the cards for Coffin.

“I certainly have to talk to my partner and my family on this. I’ll make a decision on this in the next little while,” she said.

In a statement, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie commended Rogers’ political career, particularly her efforts on mental health and addictions.

“On behalf of myself and the entire PC caucus, I wish Gerry and her partner Peg Norman all the best in the next stage of their lives.”

Ball started his political career at the same time as Rogers. He says Rogers’ work to get the all-party committee on mental health and addictions going has helped change the mental health system in this province.

“I’ve been an advocate myself for mental health and addiction, and Gerry has been a voice for that. I look at the work that came from that all-party committee that we continue to do, it played a big part in ‘Towards Recovery.’ We’re able to build on that now,” said Ball.

“There’s no doubt that she’s a loud and a strong voice.”

Ball says the provincial election is going to be called sometime between April 1 and Nov. 25, so he’ll check in with the party when April arrives.

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL

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