Mike Redmond had run out of options. He had to try and win a seat for the New Democratic Party in the Nov. 27 byelection in Charlottetown-Parkdale. As party leader, and a former resident in the riding, he was duty-bound to carry the party’s colours into that uphill fight.
The NDP desperately needed a presence inside the legislature to remain relevant after being overshadowed by the upstart Green party for the past two and a half years, since Peter Bevan-Baker won his seat in the 2015 provincial election.
Then, following a disappointing fourth-place byelection finish, Redmond had no option but to step down. In an effort to gain parity with the Green Party, the NDP suffered a stinging reversal when Hannah Bell was the upset winner for the Greens.
Mr. Redmond’s five years as NDP leader ended some 10 days after voters embraced the Island’s other Third Party.
The Green party was able to assemble an impressive team of volunteers for the campaign – repeating its success in 2015 of pouring resources into one district and electing its leader Peter Bevan-Baker. And when District 11 voters compared the four byelection candidates, Ms. Bell compared very well.
The Greens were able to corner voter backlash from last fall’s plebiscite on electoral reform because Mr. Bevan-Baker was in the legislature and able to consistently hammer the government on the issue.
The NDP did mobilize an impressive team but there were criticisms that Mr. Redmond reduced his door-to-door campaign, missing a number of homes in various neighbourhoods. A grassroots campaign and personal contacts are important in a byelection.
As leader, Mr. Redmond was trying to keep abreast of events in the legislature and take care of commitments on a busy farm in Kings County. He was stretched too thin and it hurt. The person with a strong grasp of provincial issues and the most passion for social justice was unable to press home those advantages. The limited number of debates and public appearances all hurt Mr. Redmond.
But there were no recriminations, regrets or bitterness when the final decision was made. He fulfilled his commitment to run in two elections and it was time to move forward.
Looking head, the NDP has a strong presence and profile across the Island. It comes down to the party selecting a dynamic leader before the 2019 provincial election and nominating strong candidates to carry the banner forward.
It must decide how to counter the Green battle plan, which is already evident - retain the two seats it has, target several other potential wins – and then hold the balance of power in a minority government.
With a new president at the helm, the NDP has a clear opportunity to rebuild and reassess its future direction on P.E.I. Where Leah Jane Hayward – elected party president in late October - had a challenge before, it’s even bigger today.
As he exited public life, Mr. Redmond said he wants to continue his advocacy for social justice, particularly around the issue of poverty. It’s doubtful we have heard the last of Mr. Redmond.