The New Democratic Party continued to show the power of two in the House of Assembly in 2017, according to interim leader Lorraine Michael.
She and MHA Gerry Rogers worked to bring into the House what Michael described as outside voices — from people they believed were not being heard or prioritized by government.
In petitions and questions, Michael said, she and Rogers pushed back on items like the book tax — the hike in the cost of books sold in-province, as introduced in 2016. As of New Year’s Day, that added charge is gone.
“It’s an accomplishment to get them to reverse something that they did, a mistake that they made, that was really affecting not just individual people, but affecting small business … so that was an accomplishment,” she said.
It was the NDP members who this year flagged the government’s failure to table procurement reports from Nalcor Energy as required by legislation (both under the Progressive Conservative and the Liberal governments).
And the NDP showed strength in the byelection, Michael said, remarking on the number of new people taking part in the campaign to get Nicole Kieley elected in Mount Pearl North. Kieley was defeated by PC candidate Jim Lester, but Michael said the energy from the NDP camp is worth highlighting.
“The fact that we are having an inquiry into Muskrat Falls is an achievement. I’m not satisfied that a forensic audit is not essential to it. It’s allowed, but I still believe a forensic audit is the way to go,” she said. “(But) the fact we finally got government to act on that is important, and I think that was an achievement.”
She said she is hoping for an interim report at the end of 2018 to give people an idea of where the inquiry stands and where it’s headed, while offering any early findings.
Disappointed with choices
The NDP’s interim leader was shocked by the deal announced between the government and Canopy Growth for a new cannabis production facility and supply for the coming legalization of cannabis for recreational use.
She says an agreement whereby the company provided the initial supply until locals come online was a possibility, without a larger deal for a new Canopy Growth production facility in the province. She said the deal will take away from the potential for local producers to quickly establish any dominant place in the local market.
“I couldn’t believe it that (the Liberals) didn’t see this as an opportunity,” she said.
When it comes to violence against women, Michael said the government was off base again in launching a ministerial advisory committee, as opposed to a task force. She believes a task force, like the one established to review and report on educational outcomes, would have been a more worthy response.
Coming in 2018
The province has launched budget consultations earlier than ever, beginning with a call for written submissions (email@example.com) with more online and in-person sessions to come mid-January, but the NDP isn’t impressed.
“They could start the budget consultations as early as they want, I don’t think that we’re going to see much from the consultations. I don’t think government is showing that they have a real vision with regard to our fiscal situation,” Michael said.
She says more money is needed for home care in particular, and health care needs attention. She said the NDP sees a need for the government to get together with the province’s health care professionals, figure out what is really needed in the health system and get people the resources they need.
And while a committee was struck in 2017 to look at provincial taxation, she said no one knows what the committee is up to or what it really means to government.
Last year, The Telegram’s year-end interview with the NDP leader was with Earle McCurdy. McCurdy began in the role in March 2015. He stepped down at the end of September this year to spend more time with family.
Following McCurdy’s exit, Michael stepped into the role of interim leader. But a new leader will be selected during the first weekend in April at the NDP convention.
Michael said she looks forward to the event and to what the NDP might be able to achieve over the next year.
“I absolutely believe in our party,” she said.