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N.L. New Democrat Leader Gerry Rogers calls for unity after divisive 2018

NDP Leader Gerry Rogers says her big lesson for the year is how to do a better job of working with others.
NDP Leader Gerry Rogers says her big lesson for the year is how to do a better job of working with others. - David Maher

The NDP is preparing for a spring general election

New Democratic Party Leader Gerry Rogers says 2018 showed her the importance of collaboration, and she hopes others have learned the lesson, too.

Whether it’s from allegations of harassment within the legislature or from the testimony at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, Rogers says it’s clear government needs to do a better job of letting people into the decision-making process.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned this year is how important it is to work with others. How important it is to build teams. How important it is to acknowledge other people’s expertise and be able to facilitate in clear spaces so that people’s expertise can be used,” said Rogers, in a year-end interview with The Telegram.

“I think the big lesson for me is we have such incredible challenges, but if we work together, if we really work together, they’re not insurmountable.”

Specifically, when looking at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, Rogers says a narrative of arrogance from the government of the day is playing out.

“To see the results, the damning results of that damn dam. The results of arrogance and a real twisted sense of what power is,” said Rogers.

“We’ve all been elected … by the people of the province to work on behalf of the people of the province and was this arrogance? Was it hubris? Was it inexperience? It was a convergence of all those things on behalf of the Conservatives who were in power.”

Earlier this year, Rogers brought forward a motion in the House of Assembly for an all-party committee to look at job creation in the province. It was voted down. Rogers says government needs to take more advantage of all-party committees to examine big questions to help create the right legislation.

Change needed

Rogers says it’s both Liberals and Tories who have shown a desire to exclude people from the decision-making process, and that needs to change.

“I remember once, in the House, pushing for an all-party committee and saying we all need to be working on this together and Jerome Kennedy standing up and yelling at the top of his voice, ‘We have been elected to govern, you have not.’ Well, govern they did,” she said.

An all-party committee on democratic reform was struck with a motion brought forward by the Liberals earlier this year, which is expected to get to work early in the new year.

In her first year as leader of the NDP, Rogers hasn’t seen any major changes in the polls for the party. Polls conducted by Corporate Research Associates throughout 2018 show a high-water mark of 24 per cent support for the party in February, but that’s dipped to 17 per cent in the most recent December poll.

In the two byelections since 2015, the party has come in third twice, though the performances have been notable — in Mount Pearl North in 2017, NDP candidate Nicole Keiley came within 41 votes of Liberal Jim Burton for second place. In Windsor Lake in 2018, NDP candidate Kerri Claire Neil took 19 per cent of the vote against PC leader Ches Crosbie and Liberal candidate Paul Antle.

With another byelection campaign already underway for Topsail-Paradise, the party set their candidate, Kathleen Burt, in place five weeks behind the Progressive Conservative candidate Paul Dinn, and a week behind Liberal Patricia Hynes-Coates.

Getting ready for next election

As that byelection plays out, Rogers says her focus is getting the party organized and ready well in advance of the 2019 provincial election.

“We’re preparing. We have a good solid committee that started months ago. We’ve been preparing in a possibility of a spring election. We have district associations that have started in different parts of the province,” said Rogers.

“We have a number of candidates lined up — I can’t tell you their names now – but we do. We have people organizing in a number of places in the province. So, we’re excited about that. I feel positive.”

Rogers knows she has a big hill to climb in the 2019 election. The NDP raises the least amount of money of any of the political parties in the province, relying primarily on individual donations throughout the year and big union donations in the lead up to an election. In 2017, the governing Liberals took in five times more than the Tories and NDP combined — with the NDP taking in just over $46 thousand.

The party will be waiting to see just how big the war chest gets ahead of the next provincial election.

“It’s an uphill battle. It really is an uphill battle. It’s having the resources to do the work but also that people are looking for a difference. People are tired of Liberal, Tory, same old story,” she said.

“Will they venture our way? I believe they’re watching us and they’re waiting for us to show them our chops. When I travel the province, people say I trust you, I like what you’re doing. Would that result in a vote? Let’s see.”

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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