Pelly’s party off to rocky start

The NL Al­liance needs 1,000 sig­na­tures to get off the ground

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Saltwire Homes - BY DAVID MA­HER

Former Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive party pres­i­dent Gray­don Pel­ley has de­cided to go it alone, with eyes on es­tab­lish­ing a new po­lit­i­cal party: the New­found­land and Labrador Al­liance.

But things got off to a rocky start.

Shortly af­ter an­nounc­ing his in­ten­tions on Nov. 15, past so­cial me­dia posts were brought up on­line, caus­ing an apol­ogy from Pel­ley later in the day. The pri­mary post that drew ire was a re­posted image from an­other so­cial me­dia page high­light­ing a gen­der bi­nary, sup­port­ing an ad­her­ence to “Him. Her. She. He” as the only ac­cept­able pro­nouns. The end of the post en­cour­aged peo­ple to share the image “if you’re tired of this fool­ish­ness.”

On Twit­ter, Pel­ley apol­o­gized for the post, stat­ing he was un­aware of the trans­pho­bic con­no­ta­tion.

“I was not aware of the ori­gin of the post and that it was a neg­a­tive post to­ward the LGBTQ2 com­mu­nity. If so, I would never have done so. To the LGBTQ2 com­mu­nity, please ac­cept my apol­ogy. I look for­ward to work­ing to­gether with you,” Pel­ley wrote.

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Ches Cros­bie says he was sur­prised to hear Pel­ley had such strong dis­agree­ments with his party, stat­ing they hadn’t been ex­pressed to him prior to Pel­ley’s res­ig­na­tion as PC party pres­i­dent on Oct. 30.

“I wasn’t aware of any par­tic­u­lar dis­agree­ment or dis­gruntle­ment or any­thing at all,” Cros­bie said Wed­nes­day.

Since Cros­bie be­came leader of the PC party, there have been a num­ber of de­par­tures from the PC of­fice. Former PC cab­i­net min­is­ter Sandy Collins had pre­vi­ously been let go. An­other former cab­i­net min­is­ter, Dan Crum­mell, who ran Cros­bie’s elec­tion cam­paign, has also de­parted, though Cros­bie says the un­der­stand­ing was al­ways that Crum­mell would de­part af­ter the elec­tion cam­paign. Former MP Bill Matthews has since taken Crum­mell’s job.

Cros­bie says the staff turnover is not re­lated to the ap­par­ent dis­plea­sure Pel­ley has ex­pressed with his former party.

“There has been a turnover of staff in the of­fice. Re­mem­ber, I’m a new leader, so there’s a new sher­iff in town,” he said.

“I think when lead­er­ship changes, it’s pretty typ­i­cal to have a changeover in the staff.”

Pre­mier Dwight Ball, who won against Pel­ley in Hum­ber­gros Morne in the 2015 gen­eral elec­tion, says the ap­pear­ance of the N.L. Al­liance speaks to a dis­con­nect within the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive party. Ball char­ac­ter­ized the N.L. Al­liance as a party the PCS want to cre­ate in the prov­ince. Point­ing to the de­par­ture of MP Maxime Bernier and his ef­forts to cre­ate the Peo­ple’s Party of Canada as the most re­cent ex­am­ple, Ball says break­aways aren’t rare.

“It’s not new to con­ser­va­tives. We’ve seen those kind of move­ments in the past,” Ball said.

“We’ll see where it goes. There’s room for peo­ple in this prov­ince to have a voice. The Lib­eral Party of New­found­land and Labrador will con­tinue to be the voice of New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans.”

In the ini­tial news re­lease an­nounc­ing the move to a new party, Pel­ley spoke of want­ing to dis­tance him­self from busi­ness in­ter­ests and the in­flu­ence they ex­ert on pro­vin­cial pol­i­tics.

In 2017, the Lib­er­als took in $525,866 in dona­tions, and 91 per cent came from cor­po­rate in­ter­ests. The PCS took in $67,810 in 2017, 96 per cent of which came from cor­po­rate in­ter­ests. The NDP raised $46,202 in 2017, with no union or cor­po­rate dona­tions, though nor­mally union dona­tions are a preva­lent part of that party’s fundrais­ing plan.

Cros­bie says Pel­ley doesn’t have a point re­gard­ing busi­ness in­flu­ence, at least when it comes to the PCS.

“I’d like to see the unions give us more money, but be­yond that, no, not re­ally,” he said.

New Demo­cratic Party Leader Gerry Rogers says she’s ner­vous about the afore­men­tioned so­cial me­dia posts, which could por­tray neg­a­tiv­ity in Pel­ley’s be­liefs. She agrees with Pel­ley that the peo­ple of the prov­ince want change, but not the kind of change Pel­ley rep­re­sents.

“The peo­ple of New­found­land and Labrador are not look­ing for a new type of pol­i­tics. They’re not look­ing to move to the right. They’re look­ing for com­pas­sion and in­clu­sive­ness,” Rogers said.

“The types of tweets he has done speak for them­selves.”

Pel­ley needs 1,000 sig­na­tures to get his party off the ground. It re­mains to be seen whether he will be suc­cess­ful be­fore the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion.

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