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BOB WAKEHAM: Rogers, over and out

Gerry Rogers is resigning as leader the province's NDP and won't be seeking re-election in the upcoming Newfoundland and Labrador general election. She will stay on as a leader until a new one is elected.
Gerry Rogers is resigning as leader the province’s NDP and won't be seeking re-election in the upcoming Newfoundland and Labrador general election. She will stay on as a leader until a new one is elected. — Telegram file photo

I obviously have no way of knowing whether Gerry Rogers, who announced this past week she’s quitting politics, thus leaving the NDP leadership vacant, and her party in the lurch, is a fan of Blue Rodeo  —  stick with me here, now — the wonderful Canadian band that seems to have a following in Newfoundland second to none.

But one of the group’s many hits, it seems to me, could be Rogers’ political theme song, a song entitled: “Bad Timing.”

Because this is not the first time Rogers’ political clock has malfunctioned and done her party a disservice. Cue Blue Rodeo:

I know it’s true
that you’d never do
the same thing to me

First up, on an immediate basis, there was that surprise decision Tuesday, out of nowhere, really, to turn tail on her career less than a year after winning the race (not a very scintillating contest, at that) to become the NDP leader.

Now if there had been some serious health concerns or personal events in her life that prompted Rogers to pull the plug on her leadership role after such a shockingly short period — barely enough time for her to adjust to her new seat, barely enough time for Newfoundland voters to even start to assess her leadership qualities — there would have been no questions, no armchair, retroactive quarterbacking of her move.

That sometimes happens in innumerable walks of life; you take on an immense responsibility in your profession, a move that affects the well-being and potential success of many others, a move taken after, one would think, much deliberation.

But unforeseen circumstances bring the new mandate to a screeching halt.

Many of us have been there.

But Rogers says there were no unusual obstacles to her future in politics, that she simply wished to do different things in her life, to resume, for example, her career as a filmmaker.

Well, many people both inside and outside the NDP are now saying that such a thinking process should have been undertaken by Rogers 10 months ago when she was giving consideration to running for the party’s top spot. That would have been the appropriate time to take stock of a bucket list, not a mere 10 months after making a serious commitment to the party faithful, the people in her district, and Newfoundland voters generally.

It’s difficult to accept the notion that less than a year ago she was not already wondering whether this ascension to the top job in the party was not really her bag.

But, now, talk about bad timing. This is an election year, for gawd’s sakes, a time to be gearing up for a crucial overture to the provincial electorate, not an occasion for a desperate search for a new leader, and winding up, most probably, with an unproven neophyte, economist Alison Coffin, for example, who lost to Rogers at the leadership convention and announced Wednesday she wishes to take another shot at the job.

All of this uncertainly, of course, doesn’t help the credibility of the NDP mere months before Newfoundlanders cast their ballots, especially given the fact that the party’s polling numbers are already way behind the Tories and the Liberals. As I’ve said here on more than one occasion, as have others, it’s really a shame, because the two old parties, around longer than Buckley’s goat, are vulnerable, and a third party with some real firepower should be capable of making considerable headway.

But Rogers’ bad timing has eliminated whatever chance the NDP had of making up some ground.

And, of course, as I alluded to earlier, this is far from Rogers’ first example of bad timing in her political career.

You might recall that several years ago Rogers was one of four members of the NDP caucus to write an ill-timed letter to then leader Lorraine Michael demanding a leadership review.
Ironically, the demand came as the NDP was riding high in the polls, Michael was the most popular leader in the province, and the party had, for the first time in its history, a crack at governance.

It turned into a real public mess.

Rogers later said she regretted having signed the letter, but the damage was done, the barn door was closed after the NDP horse had galloped down the lane, and the local left-wing contingent has never really been the same since.

So, bad timing then, bad timing now. That’s Rogers’ legacy, at least when it comes to the critical ins and outs of the party’s political machinery.

For sure, all kinds of pleasant things are being said publicly about Rogers, and they’re not without merit. She was, she is, a dedicated social activist; she did bring attention to the horror of cancer through her amazing documentary “My Left Breast”; and she should be remembered as the first openly gay member of the Newfoundland House of Assembly (quite an accomplishment if you were able, as I was, to be in the company years ago of the many homophobic Neanderthals who wandered the hallways of the legislature).

But privately? I would suggest many an NDP stalwart is quietly and sadly humming those lines from Blue Rodeo’s “Bad Timing”:

It just reminds us of the cost
Of everything we’ve lost
Bad timing that’s all.

Recent columns by this author

BOB WAKEHAM: Let me take you to the movies

BOB WAKEHAM: The warm-up's over — bring on the game

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwakeham@nl.rogers.com

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