Graydon Pelley wants to change democracy in Newfoundland and Labrador by bringing populism to the forefront of the political conversation.
“How’s it going to change? Get rid of party politics, bring in an Alliance where people are allowed to be a part of the conversation and a part of the decision-making that makes this province a great province,” said Pelley.
“It’s time for us to say enough is enough.”
At its core, populism is about focusing on the needs of ordinary people. While the rise of Trump has made populism a dirty word in modern politics by Trump’s apparent embrace of racism and xenophobia, Pelley outlined six points to a crowd of 25 to 30 people at the Capital hotel on Saturday night of how he thinks a populist bent may change the political landscape of the province.
First, Pelley committed that every elected member in the House of Assembly would have a free vote regardless of political affiliation under an NL Alliance government.
Second, on Day 1, every MHA would sit around a table to discuss the issues facing the province with an equal vote.
"Get rid of party politics, bring in an Alliance where people are allowed to be a part of the conversation and a part of the decision-making that makes this province a great province."
— Graydon Pelley
Third, Pelley says rules in the House of Assembly need to change to encourage good decorum and penalize bad behaviour.
Fourth, Pelley says every single government job would be put up for open interviews, from top to bottom (How exactly that proposal would work under the collective bargaining agreements with various public sector unions is unclear).
Fifth, Pelley says recall legislation is essential to allow voters to recall their MHA from office. (That specific platform plank is also committed to by the Progressive Conservatives).
Sixth, the name of shareholders of all companies receiving government money would be made public.
Pelley wouldn’t be specific on how many signatures have been collected, but said the party is approaching the halfway mark of the 1,000 signatures needed for the NL Alliance to become an official party.
Independent MHA Paul Lane was the sole sitting politician in the room on Saturday night. He says he’s intrigued by what Pelley has to say.
“The bottom line is, all the things Graydon was talking about can be done right now, be done by this current government right now if they chose to,” said Lane.
“(The NL Alliance are) the only ones who are saying they’re going to do it. That’s the big difference, but there’s nothing to stop any of the current parties from saying, ‘We’re going to take the big money out of politics.’”
Right now, Lane says he has three options for how he will run in the coming provincial election. He says he’ll either run as an Independent, for the Progressive Conservatives, or for the NL Alliance.
“The way forward for Paul Lane does not include Dwight Ball. It also does not include the NDP. It leaves three options, I guess,” he said.
“I will not — I absolutely refuse to go back to a party system from the ones from which I came, where members have no say, where the 14 people in the cabinet call all the shots, make all the decisions, with no collaboration from their colleagues.”
“I’m here because I’m a little disillusioned with how they’re spending our money,” said William Neville, an attendee who came from Mount Pearl.
“I think their platform, where they’re going to give an equal vote for all members that get elected I think has a good chance to kind of change that and get rid of the party line.”
Neville says he’s not sure the party can be ready the upcoming election.
“The biggest question right now is whether there’s enough time to be ready for the next election. I wouldn’t want them to kind of rush in and not really be prepared and get off on the wrong foot if they’re not ready,” he said.
Pelley says the turnout on Saturday night may have been small, but he’s committed to continuing the push for a new party.
“When we started this, I knew that it was going to be a big job. I knew that party politics ran deep in Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said.
“Every town hall we have had now, we’re getting more and more (people). That’s progress. That’s success, for me.”