Gerry Rogers stepping down as NDP leader, not seeking re-election

The St. John's Centre MHA and leader of the NDP announced Tuesday she will stay on until a new party leader is picked.

Dwight Ball says he's announcing election date April 1

Gerry Rogers announced Tuesday she won't be seeking re-election, and will also be resigning as leader of the provincial NDP. (CBC)

Gerry Rogers, leader of Newfoundland and Labrador's New Democrats, is leaving politics, just ahead of a provincial election and only 10 months after she won a leadership race. 

Rogers made the announcement Tuesday morning at Confederation Building in St. John's.

"What a thrill it has been, working with you all," Rogers said at the start of her speech. 

Rogers said it was "a very careful and very deliberate and difficult decision-making process — it was tough, folks."

She said she will stay in the job until a new NDP leader can be selected, but will not be seeking re-election in a general election that is scheduled for this fall.

Rogers said she realizes this will put the party in a difficult position for the provincial election, adding, "I truly, truly regret that."

However, she said the party executive is strong and she's confident they will be able to put forward a strong showing.

'We have to find better ways of making decisions'

In her speech, Rogers pointed the finger at previous Progressive Conservative and current Liberal governments and the way they make decisions.

"Muskrat Falls. Why would they not listen to the people?" she said.

"Why would they not listen to some of our academics and our scientists? We have to. We have to find better ways of making decisions."

It was never her plan to get into politics, Rogers said, but she did it at a time when she was worried about the province's future, and wanted to do her part.

"How lucky have I been to have the privilege and the honour to serve and work with the good people of St. John's Centre?"

Rogers said she met with the party executive to tell them, adding they were "very gracious. I'm very lucky," adding the decision has nothing to do with any recent polling numbers that suggest support for the NDP is down.

"There was no pressure for me from the party at all, nobody asked me to reconsider in terms of that it was time for me to step down. This was a personal decision," Rogers said.

"I'm not unaware of the implications of what this means for the party and for the people of the province, and I regret that, but this is a personal decision that I've made and I feel like I have to make at this point."

Rogers, who previously battled cancer, said her health is great and did not affect her decision.

"I probably don't sleep enough, but I'm good."

Gerry Rogers says she regrets what her stepping down may mean for the party, but it's a personal decision she had to make. (CBC)

She said there are things she still wants to do in her life and — at 62 — couldn't commit to another four years in office as MHA and leader.

Rogers listed improvements to rights for transgender people, prison reform and a minimum wage increase among the things she is most proud of during her political career.

Ball making election announcement April 1

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball said Rogers is known for being a strong advocate for women and seniors especially, and that her work has had a big impact on people who needed a voice in the province.

They both got into politics around the same time, Ball said, and he recalled fighting alongside her on some issues.

"Some of the long filibusters, especially around Muskrat Falls," he said. "We both joined hands at that point, trying to get the project delayed or even stopped at that time."

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball says Rogers's legacy includes strong work fighting for women and seniors. (CBC)

With both a provincial and a federal election slated for the fall, Ball can push the provincial election back to the last Monday of November or call an election at any time before the set date of Oct. 8 — but he can't do either of those things until April 1 or later.   

He has to make the decision on April 1.

The NDP needs a new leader, but Ball would not say whether he'd ask to have that April 1 deadline moved if they hadn't found one.

"We'll be calling for nominations within days," he said of his party. "I'm sure the NDP will get their process established and I can assure that on April the 1st, we will let the people of this province know some idea of when the election will be."

Advances in mental health and addictions

PC leader Ches Crosbie issued a statement Tuesday afternoon commending Rogers for her passionate work.

In particular, he highlighted her work that formed the All-Party Committee on Mental Health and Addictions and its 2017 report recommending an overhaul of the province's mental health and addictions services.

"Ms. Rogers' retirement from politics is well earned," Crosbie said in the statement. "On behalf of myself and the entire PC caucus, I wish Gerry and her partner Peg Norman all the best in the next stage of their lives."

Peg Norman hugs Rogers at thew announcement Tuesday morning. (CBC)

Won leadership last year

Rogers — who has represented the district of St. John's Centre since 2011 — won the NDP leadership in April 2018, beating out economist Alison Coffin with about two thirds of the vote.

Before that, MHA and former party leader Lorraine Michael had been acting leader. She took over the role after Earle McCurdy stepped down in September 2017.

On Tuesday, Michael described Rogers's announcement as honourable.

Former leader Lorraine Michael says Rogers's decision is honourable. (CBC)

"I honour Gerry's decision and I really do look up to her for being willing to say that, I can't look at the next four years and commit," said Michael.

"It came as a surprise, but I think it's very honourable what she's done."

Michael added that she has no interest in putting her name forward again in the next leadership race.

However, she will indeed be seeking re-election in St. John's East-Quidi Vidi.

'Incredible amount of sacrifice'

NDP president Lynn Moore said while she is sad to see Rogers go, she understands the choice.

"I'm very, very grateful for the contribution that she's made. Eight years of this type of work is an incredible amount of sacrifice," said Moore.

Party president Lynn Moore says she's grateful to Rogers for bringing her into the NDP family. (CBC)

"From what I can see, Gerry doesn't sleep. She's working constantly. And her not wanting to commit to another four years makes perfect sense to me. I'm just grateful for the eight years we've had."

Moore said the party hasn't hammered down specifics about a leadership convention, but expects to have more details later this week.

"We want to do it as quickly as possible, while still giving everybody the opportunity to participate."

She added that she hopes the Liberal government will honour fixed-date election legislation and wait until the fall for the general election, "but we will be ready for a spring election if that's what's in the cards."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Stephanie Tobin, Sarah Smellie and Peter Cowan

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.