P.E.I.'s NDP leader says party needs to change focus

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 29, 2016

NDP Leader Mike Redmond speaks to reporters after speech

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

P.E.I. NDP Leader Mike Redmond says the party needs time to regroup after two disappointing elections in 2015, but some party members are quietly expressing concerns about the way the party is being managed.

The NDP garnered 11 per cent of the popular vote in the provincial election last spring, but failed to land a seat in the provincial legislature.

The four NDP candidates in the federal election in October were also unsuccessful.

The provincial party has since taken a nosedive in the polls. Only nine per cent of decided voters expressed support for the party in the most recent CRA poll in November compared to its historic polling high of 32 per cent in August 2013.

Redmond, as leader, has also seen a big drop in support, polling at just seven per cent in November.

Redmond admits the party has suffered some blows over the last year, but says the membership just needs time to rest and rebuild.

“We need to reinvigorate ourselves, but that takes time, and something we need to remember is a lot of people did a lot of work this year,” Redmond said.

“I want to make sure that those people who invested so much time and energy get the appropriate rest so they can recharge their batteries and come back refreshed.”

But some members are quietly sharing concerns about some of the messaging coming from the party leadership.

Members who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity said some recent news releases issued from Redmond did not necessarily reflect the views of the party as a whole.

Redmond penned an opinion piece in December calling for an end to the annual CBC turkey drive, saying focus should instead be shifted to exposing the reality of poverty in P.E.I.

This proved an unpopular move among several NDP members, including one candidate who ran in the provincial election who took to social media to express his objections openly.

Some members have also expressed concerns with the way the party’s annual convention was managed.

Held on Dec. 5 in Montague, it was not advertised as stipulated in the party’s constitution. The constitution dictates at least 45 days' notice of the date and place of an annual convention must be issued to each provincial riding association and an ad must be placed in the local media “for the purpose of notifying any member or prospective member of the party of the forthcoming annual convention.”

Only about 30 members attended the AGM.

Redmond says he did not personally organize the event, but notes the convention is usually held in April and had to be pushed back due to the provincial election. He says emails and Facebook messages were sent to party members alerting them to the event.

The December convention saw three new officers elected to the party executive, including Nathan Bushey, who was elected president of the NDP.

Bushey, who ran as a candidate in the provincial election, says becoming party president was a surprise for him that day. He was nominated from the floor.

“I just want to help out in the best way that I can,” Bushey said.

“What I would like to see as a vision for the party are more solution-based ideas, because there are a lot of things that can be corrected on P.E.I. and to just point out a problem without a solution is not always helpful.”

The P.E.I. NDP’s constitution does not have a provision for an automatic annual leadership review, as is the case for the federal party.

It does say a leadership review can be held if two-thirds of the delegates at an annual convention agree to hold one, but Bushey says there was no call for a review of Redmond’s leadership at the convention in December.

Redmond says the party will hold another convention in April, and if members want a leadership review at that time, he would gladly accept this.

“I will be here as long as the party wants me to be here, if the party doesn’t want me to be here, that’s their prerogative,” Redmond said.

“For me and my family, we are on a month-to-month basis with the party and we’re up for a review every time we speak. I always encourage and invite debate with each and every party member.”

He defended his opinion piece about the turkey drive, explaining he has a small committee of party members that helps him formulate and vet his news releases.