NDPers vote to keep Lorraine Michael as leader

Provincial New Democrats have given leader Lorraine Michael a solid vote of confidence at their convention in St. John's on Saturday.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael is flanked by MHAs George Murphy and Gerry Rogers after Michael's leadership was endorsed by party delegates Saturday afternoon in St. John's. (CBC)

Provincial New Democrats gave leader Lorraine Michael a solid vote of confidence at their convention in St. John's on Saturday.

Delegates voted 75 per cent in favour of Michael continuing as leader of the party. The vote count was 94 to 31.

"We're planning for an election,” a relieved Michael told reporters after the vote. "We've got lots of work to do. The caucus members, the executive, the members  we will continue to work together to do what needs to be done."

The leadership review vote was held as part of the party's weekend convention at the Holiday Inn in St. John's.

Delegates were asked to vote 'yes' or 'no' to the question of whether a leadership election should be held. An amendment to the party's constitution Saturday morning meant Michael needed at least 50 per cent of delegates to vote 'no' in order to stay on or avoid that test.

Michael could've also chosen to step down if she felt the final vote displayed a lack of confidence in her leadership. But with 75 per cent voting for the status quo, that would now appear to be a moot point.

The contentious vote was triggered after Michael faced a number of challenges in the past six months, including some MHAs and party executives openly questioned her leadership.

MHAs Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore eventually left the party and joined the Liberals in February.

On Saturday morning, Michael made an impassioned speech appealing for support ahead of the leadership review vote. She took some responsibility for last fall's caucus split, saying she should have listened more to MHAs' concerns.

But Michael also took credit for new whistleblower legislation, as well as the province's moratorium on fracking, and human rights protection for transgendered people.

Her speech received a standing ovation.

The weekend convention was competing with the long weekend and fine weather, but MHA George Murphy commented that the gathering was too important to miss or put off, adding "the time for camping can wait."

St. John's South-Mount Pearl MP Ryan Cleary was also in attendance, but said he wouldn't touch the leadership question "with a 10-foot pole."