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Former Progressive Conservative party president Graydon Pelley has decided to go it alone, with eyes on establishing a new political party: the Newfoundland and Labrador Alliance.
But things got off to a rocky start Wednesday.
Shortly after announcing his intentions, past social media posts were brought up online, causing an apology from Pelley later in the day. The primary post that drew ire was a reposted image from another social media page highlighting a gender binary, supporting an adherence to “Him. Her. She. He” as the only acceptable pronouns. The end of the post encouraged people to share the image “if you’re tired of this foolishness.”
On Twitter, Pelley apologized for the post, stating he was unaware of the transphobic connotation.
“I was not aware of the origin of the post and that it was a negative post toward the LGBTQ2 community. If so, I would never have done so. To the LGBTQ2 community, please accept my apology. I look forward to working together with you,” Pelley wrote.
Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie says he was surprised to hear Pelley had such strong disagreements with his party, stating they hadn’t been expressed to him prior to Pelley’s resignation as PC party president on Oct. 30.
“I wasn’t aware of any particular disagreement or disgruntlement or anything at all,” Crosbie said Wednesday.
Since Crosbie became leader of the PC party, there have been a number of departures from the PC office. Former PC cabinet minister Sandy Collins had previously been let go. Another former cabinet minister, Dan Crummell, who ran Crosbie’s election campaign, has also departed, though Crosbie says the understanding was always that Crummell would depart after the election campaign. Former MP Bill Matthews has since taken Crummell’s job.
Crosbie says the staff turnover is not related to the apparent displeasure Pelley has expressed with his former party.
“There has been a turnover of staff in the office. Remember, I’m a new leader, so there’s a new sheriff in town,” he said.
“I think when leadership changes, it’s pretty typical to have a changeover in the staff.”
Premier Dwight Ball, who won against Pelley in Humber-Gros Morne in the 2015 general election, says the appearance of the N.L. Alliance speaks to a disconnect within the Progressive Conservative party. Ball characterized the N.L. Alliance as a party the PCs want to create in the province. Pointing to the departure of MP Maxime Bernier and his efforts to create the People’s Party of Canada as the most recent example, Ball says breakaways aren’t rare.
“It’s not new to conservatives. We’ve seen those kind of movements in the past,” Ball said.
“We’ll see where it goes. There’s room for people in this province to have a voice. The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador will continue to be the voice of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”
In the initial news release announcing the move to a new party, Pelley spoke of wanting to distance himself from business interests and the influence they exert on provincial politics.
In 2017, the Liberals took in $525,866 in donations, and 91 per cent came from corporate interests. The PCs took in $67,810 in 2017, 96 per cent of which came from corporate interests. The NDP raised $46,202 in 2017, with no union or corporate donations, though normally union donations are a prevalent part of that party’s fundraising plan.
Crosbie says Pelley doesn’t have a point regarding business influence, at least when it comes to the PCs.
“I’d like to see the unions give us more money, but beyond that, no, not really,” he said.
New Democratic Party Leader Gerry Rogers says she’s nervous about the aforementioned social media posts, which could portray negativity in Pelley’s beliefs. She agrees with Pelley that the people of the province want change, but not the kind of change Pelley represents.
“The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are not looking for a new type of politics. They’re not looking to move to the right. They’re looking for compassion and inclusiveness,” Rogers said.
“The types of tweets he has done speak for themselves.”
Pelley needs 1,000 signatures to get his party off the ground. It remains to be seen whether he will be successful before the 2019 general election.