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EDITORIAL: NDP shows signs of fraying

Lorraine Michael is stepping aside to let leader Alison Coffen seek the NDP nomination in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi.
Lorraine Michael has announced she is stepping aside to let leader Alison Coffin seek the NDP nomination in St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi. — Telegram file photo

There’s a saying about the internecine and bitter battles amongst the rarified ranks of those involved in writing poetry in Canada: “Never have so many fought so hard over so little.”

Well, after Thursday’s news conference in St. John’s, it’s beginning to look like the same could be said about this province’s New Democratic Party.

Remember, the NDP is a party that came within a hair’s breadth of being the Official Opposition in 2011, before blowing apart when two MHAs defected to the Liberals as a result of dissent over Michael’s leadership.

So, here’s the thumbnail version (be ready — it’s a huge thumbnail): Lorraine Michael steps down as party leader in 2015 and is replaced by Earle McCurdy, who steps down and is replaced on an interim basis by — you guessed it — Lorraine Michael, who steps down again in 2018, when NDP MHA Gerry Rogers runs against Alison Coffin for the leadership and wins.

Alison Coffin
Alison Coffin

In 2019, Rogers steps down and is replaced by sole leadership candidate and former competition Coffin. Coffin then says she will support former leader Michael’s run for the nomination in Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi against a surprise challenge by St. John’s Deputy Mayor Sheilagh O’Leary.

O’Leary’s challenge gets completely spiked when Michael, who had clearly said she intended to run in the next provincial election, steps down so that Coffin, who had supported Michael’s incipient campaign, suddenly can run in her place. Then, O’Leary announces she's out of the race altogether.

How Michaelavellian.

Confused yet?

Or does this latest shifting of Titanic deck chairs just leave you shrugging your shoulders?

Here’s the problem: we are mere months from a provincial election, an election that may come even sooner if Premier Dwight Ball decides at some point that the stars are properly aligned for a Liberal win.

Sheilagh O'Leary
Sheilagh O'Leary

Remember, the NDP is a party that came within a hair’s breadth of being the Official Opposition in 2011, before blowing apart when two MHAs defected to the Liberals as a result of dissent over Michael’s leadership.

At this point, the NDP should be marshalling whatever election funding it can find, and it should be trying to line up potential star candidates — and yes, the deputy mayor of the province’s capital city would be a star candidate.

Instead, it looks very much like backroom shenanigans to ensure there isn’t a nomination battle in St. John’s-Quidi Vidi, just about the only district in the province that’s even close to being a safe NDP seat.

It is important that the leader of the party has a seat in the House of Assembly. A presence in the front benches of the legislature and in question period gets that leader into virtually every story coming out of the House, and that visibility is critically needed by the third-ranked party.

But, at what is essentially the last electoral minute, we have a party that doesn’t seem to be able to get its basic house in order. When it should be uniting, it looks like it’s fracturing — and who knows what tomorrow might bring?

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