Earle McCurdy stepping down as provincial NDP leader

Newfoundland and Labrador New Democratic Party Leader Earle McCurdy is stepping down at the end of this month.

MHA Gerry Rogers will run for leadership, Lorraine Michael not interested in comeback

Earle McCurdy jokes with reporters after a news conference Tuesday to announce he is stepping down as NDP leader. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador New Democratic Party Leader Earle McCurdy is stepping down at the end of September.

"I'm resigning now because the time is right for me, it's right for the family and I think it's right for the party," McCurdy said at a news conference in St. John's Tuesday.

McCurdy said he and his family have been juggling their time between St. John's and Eastport, where his wife has a business, and their son is starting high school.

"Tracy has been back and forth over that highway like the CN bus and there comes a time when you say it's time to move on — and we've thought long and hard about it — and this summer we decided that it's time for us to make a permanent home in Eastport."

McCurdy has been NDP leader since he won the nomination in March 2015, with 68 per cent support on the first ballot.

In June, 2016, the party voted in favour of keeping McCurdy on as leader, with 91.6 per cent voting for him to remain in the role.

McCurdy, who doesn't have a seat in the House of Assembly, told reporters that a leadership convention will revitalize the NDP.

"I believe the excitement attached to a leadership race will be energizing for our party as we prepare for the general election in 2019."

He said staying on as leader into the next provincial election would be a six-year commitment and "that just doesn't fit with our family plans."

Next steps for party

One of the party's two elected members in the House of Assembly, the MHA for St. John's Centre Gerry Rogers, says she is interested in running for the leadership job.

"The people of the province have been duped by the last two governments," she said. "People are looking for an alternative."

NDP president Mark Gruchy says a special meeting of the party will be held next week to determine what steps to take in the wake of McCurdy's exit.

Gruchy said an interim leader will have to be a person who will not be running for the leadership.

The MHA for St. John's East-Quidi Vidi and former NDP leader Lorraine Michael said she would be open for taking on that role. She said she is not about to try a comeback as permenent leader.

"Been there, done that," Michael said, adding that an upcoming byelection in Mount Pearl North, a seat vacated by PC member Steve Kent, will be the party's next challenge.

"The party will have to put all its resources into it."

McCurdy legacy

Both Michael and Rogers praised McCurdy's steady leadership and said they will miss his advice and support.

McCurdy said he is proud of the party's achievements under his leadership.

"We have played a major role in advancing major issues surrounding mental health and mental illness and moved the debate into the mainstream of our society," he said.

"We led the charge against ill-advised, anti-literacy measures like library closures and book taxes."

As for the Muskrat Falls project, McCurdy said the NDP will continue to push for a full forensic audit.