Change needed at top of NDP, former candidate says

As the fractured NDP caucus meets to resolve a leadership dispute that exploded this week, another former candidate has stepped forward to describe tensions over Lorraine Michael's performance.

NDP caucus convenes to resolve leadership fracas

Former NDP candidate John Riche says more than a small group of disgruntled New Democrats are behind a push against Lorraine Michael's leadership. (CBC )

As Newfoundland and Labrador's fractured NDP caucus meets Friday to resolve a leadership dispute that exploded this week, another former candidate has stepped forward to describe tensions over Lorraine Michael's performance.

"I don't want to say I'm unhappy it happened, because I know we needed change inside the party," said John Riche, who ran for the NDP in Mount Pearl South in 2011, referring to a letter that the remaining members of the caucus sent to Michael calling for a leadership convention next year.

Lorraine Michael says she felt betrayed when she received a letter from the rest of her caucus calling for a leadership convention next year.

Michael, who interpreted the letter as a call for her resignation, decried the move as a betrayal. The letter has sparked a raucous debate within the NDP, with two MHAs — Dale Kirby and Chris Mitchelmore — standing by their decision to send it. St. John's East MHA George Murphy said he felt pressured to take part and had not closely read what the letter said.

The fourth MHA, St. John's Centre representative Gerry Rogers, apologized for how the message was delivered to Michael.

Michael is meeting with the caucus for the first time since the letter was delivered, and then became public.

Riche told CBC News that the letter reflecting unhappiness in the party with Michael's leadership.

"There's been rumblings for a while about problems inside the party, inside the membership," he said.

Reacting to the caucus revolt earlier this week, Michael told CBC News there was "a small dissenting group" who disliked her leadership style.

Riche said that is not true.

"It's not a small group," he said. "I don't want to put a percentage on it, but there's a lot of people in the party."

Riche said the matter could have had a better outcome if the caucus had handled it differently.

"This has gone beyond a comedy of errors to a full-blown tragedy at this point," he said. "It's really hard to say where this is going to go."

Second candidate to speak out

Riche is the second former candidate from the 2011 slate to speak out about Michael's leadership style.

Noah Davis-Power, a former executive member, said he switched his allegiances to the Liberals because of how Michael deals with those who disagree with her.

"If I wasn't in line with the leadership, it was dismissed fairly quickly," he said.

"I'm sure that she will get on here and say, 'I'm always open to conversation on tough topics.' Yup — when the tough topic has the same stance as she has."

The provincial NDP does not have a mechanism for an automatic leadership review. Critics say Michael has steadily fought any such move.

The caucus has adopted a news blackout for the time being. On Wednesday night, Rogers told a seniors' group that she is confident that the party can not only recover from this week's infighting, but be even stronger in time for the October 2015 election.


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