St. John’s Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary is challenging longtime NDP MHA Lorraine Michael for the NDP nomination in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi.
While the New Democratic Party has yet to call for nominations in the district, O’Leary says she wanted to make her intentions public early, ahead of the surprise nomination race in the district.
Incumbent NDP MHA Lorraine Michael has held the seat since 2006, and fought off the likes of Paul Antle, John Noseworthy, Maria Afonso, and Jerome Kennedy in elections since that time.
O’Leary says she respects what Michael has done for the party, but decided now is the time to shake things up.
“There’s no doubt that Lorraine has given an incredible amount of energy and time to the NDP. But, it is the time for new ideas and new members,” she said.
“A hotly contested nomination race will help us achieve those things. Democracy is good for any party. I’m really excited. I’m very energetic. I’m looking forward to working alongside a new leader.”
The results of the call for nominations for the NDP leadership are expected to be announced today. Memorial University professor Allison Coffin is the only person to publicly announce a leadership bid.
"There’s no doubt that Lorraine has given an incredible amount of energy and time to the NDP. But, it is the time for new ideas and new members." — Sheilagh O'Leary
O’Leary says she didn’t want to run in the leadership contest herself, but looks forward to working with the new leader when they’re announced.
“The leadership was not the thing I was looking at. I’m interested in collaboration. Honestly, leadership comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Just because you’re not the leader of the party doesn’t mean you can’t have a leadership role,” she said.
“I think it’s extremely important that we work together, build a good team, attract the people who are looking for an alternative, because we are desperately in need of it.”
Until the writ is dropped for the election, O’Leary says the legislation won’t call for an early resignation of her seat on St. John’s City Council.
The move comes at a time of transition for the NDP, with an early provincial election call a possibility.
In February, Gerry Rogers announced her resignation as leader of the NDP, effective once a new leader is chosen. Rogers will not seek re-election. O’Leary says she lives in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi, so she didn’t go for St. John’s Centre.
O’Leary was elected deputy mayor of St. John’s in 2017, after winning a 2016 byelection to become councilor for Ward 4. She was first elected to city council in 2009 and ran unsuccessfully for mayor of St. John’s in 2013.
O’Leary previously ran for a seat in the House of Assembly in the 2014 Virginia Waters byelection, that saw former Liberal finance minister Cathy Bennett first enter the House of Assembly. The other opponent in that race was Danny Breen, now mayor of St. John’s.
Michael has held the district since 2006, following the resignation of Jack Harris as provincial NDP leader. The St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi district has gone through three different names since its creation in 1956. Whatever the name, it’s been held by the NDP since 1990.
The last non-NDP MHA for the area was Shannie Duff, who served as the Progressive Conservative MHA from 1989 to 1990.