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Newfoundland NDP chugs along after a rough year

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy is still looking for a seat in the House of Assembly. Speaking to The Telegram in the traditional year-end interview, his assessment of the current political landscape was pretty grim.
NDP Leader Earle McCurdy is still looking for a seat in the House of Assembly. Speaking to The Telegram in the traditional year-end interview, his assessment of the current political landscape was pretty grim.

It was another year of toiling away at the fringe for the NDP, and especially so for leader Earle McCurdy.

According to the most recent polling by Halifax-based Corporate Research Associates, the NDP is still the least-popular political party in the province. And McCurdy still doesn’t have a seat in the legislature, so even when the New Democrats break through and seize the initiative in the province’s political situation, it’s often been driven by MHAs Lorraine Michael and Gerry Rogers.

Moreover, the Liberals and the Tories will both set their sights firmly on winning government in 2019; McCurdy remains more circumspect in his goals.

“I think it’d be a good development for the province if we had an NDP government. If that ended up taking two terms from now instead of one, I wouldn’t say therefore that’d be a failure,” McCurdy said in the traditional year-end interview with The Telegram.

Despite some serious dissatisfaction with both the current Liberal government and Opposition Tories — the latter just thrown out of office last year — the NDP hasn’t really been able to gain traction in the eyes of voters, at least as far as the public opinion polls are concerned.

McCurdy shrugged that off.

“I don’t get overly excited when they’re good or overly discouraged when they’re not, because they’re here today and gone tomorrow,” he said.

“This far ahead, they’re pretty notional.”

McCurdy is more immediately concerned about getting himself a seat in the legislature, although he said he won’t necessarily run for an open seat, depending on whether it makes sense for him.

In conversation with The Telegram, McCurdy talked a lot about the NDP’s ability to nudge the conversation amid what he assessed as an abysmal first year in office for the Liberals.

The NDP was asking about changes to the minimum wage before Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour Gerry Byrne announced the government would raise it.

New Democrat Lorraine Michael was the only MHA to vocally oppose the Liberal and Tory plan to protect current MHAs’ pensions, a plan that created a public furor, and ultimately cause the other parties to sort of come around to the NDP position.

The NDP was able to convince the government to enhance protection for abortion clinic workers — not just physicians — under a new law preventing anti-abortion protesters from demonstrating outside individuals’ homes.

Over the coming months and years, the NDP strategy seems to be focused on talking about jobs at every opportunity, and criticizing the government for not having a clearly articulated plan to stabilize and manage the economy.

“There’s no doubt the Liberals inherited a mess, but they also inherited the responsibility to look out for the well-being of the people. And they didn’t do a very good job of that — pretty mean budget,” McCurdy said.

And then there’s Muskrat Falls, an expensive “nightmare” in McCurdy’s assessment, without any clear solution.

When asked whether he will run in the 2019 election, McCurdy was noncommittal.

“Oh, that’s a long way away to answer that,” he said. “I don’t have any intention to do any different than that. Obviously, getting a seat in the House would help. At the moment, there’s no vacancies, so I’m doing what I’m doing.”

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

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