Time for a new fo­cus for P.E.I.’s NDP: leader

Party mem­bers qui­etly ex­press con­cerns over man­age­ment

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERESA WRIGHT

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.

GUARDIAN PHOTO

NDP Leader Mike Red­mond is seen in this file photo.

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