Nfld. & Labrador

'Hilariously humiliating fiasco': Former NDP candidate slams party's small slate of candidates

A former NDP candidate and organizer for the party says the executive only have themselves to blame for the party's smallest number of candidates in decades.

Not since 1972 has the party had this few candidates on the ballot

Bob Buckingham has been involved with the NDP since the 1980s as an organizer and candidate, both provincially and federally. (CBC)

A former NDP candidate and organizer for the party says the executive only have themselves to blame for the party's smallest number of candidates in generations.

Bob Buckingham has been involved with the party since the 1980s as an organizer and candidate, both provincially and federally. He co-chaired the party's election readiness committee four years ago.

What was his reaction when he saw the party is only fielding 14 candidates in the upcoming provincial election?

"Disgust, outrage, disappointment and frustration at how over the last couple of years the current leadership had turned it into a politically moribund and bankrupt political party," he said.

The NDP's 14 candidates for the 2019 election are its lowest number in decades. (CBC)

For the two provincial elections, the party fielded a full slate of candidates — 40 in 2015, and 48 in 2011.

This is the fewest New Democrats that will be on the ballot since 1972.

NDP blamed early election call

In a news release, the party blamed the Liberal's decision to call an election early for the low number of candidates, but Buckingham said only the executive is to blame.

"It's an internal loss of direction and an understanding of how to reach out to the people," he said.

"It's an internal bankruptcy and an absolute political organizational failure."

The NDP president, the new party leader and MHAs gather together for a picture on March 5, 2019. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

Buckingham said what the party needs to do is clean house, fire the current executive and start fresh.

"The leadership, the executive, the people they had around them in terms of the staff doing the work, they all failed."

Polling done shortly after the 2016 budget showed the NDP with a small lead over the other two parties, but even with anger over a budget that hiked taxes and fees, and over the Muskrat Falls project, the party wasn't able to capitalize.

"The people who failed to organize, you know, have created this hilariously humiliating fiasco that we're now facing as a party," he said.

Buckingham said he believes in Alison Coffin's leadership, and hopes that she and other candidates like Jim Dinn are able to win a seat in the house. However, he's worried the party won't win anything.

"It's awful to think about that," he said.

'I would like to see him contribute a little bit more'

However, NDP Leader Alison Coffin, who spent the day knocking on doors, said she doesn't believe the party has created a "hilariously humiliating fiasco." In fact she believes the party is "in a period of regrowth and rebuilding."

"I am OK with the fact that we have as many candidates as we do. I am very disappointed that everyone in the province will not be able to vote for an NDP candidate, that is very unfortunate," Coffin said.

Alison Coffin says the NDP is in a rebuilding phase. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

Coffin said the reason the party was not able to round up more candidates is because of the short turnaround time before the election. She also said a number of the candidates the party had identified previously were not available to campaign before a May election.

"I think it certainly did hamper our ability to some extent but we cant rue that now. Unfortunately, the most disappointing part is the corruption of the democratic process, from our perspective.

As for the comments that Bob Buckingham had for the party, Coffin said he is "more than welcome to help re-establish the party."

"I have spoken with him on several occasions and I am listening and I would like to see him contribute a little more," she said.

Coffin said her staff is in the process of scheduling her campaign travel across the province.

Crosbie hoping to pick up some ground

During a stop on the campaign trail Friday, PC Leader Ches Crosbie said he is all in favour of democracy and citizens having the ability to vote for the party of their choice.

Ches Crosbie is the leader of Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservative Party. (Garrett Barry/ CBC)

"Regrettably for them it has seemed to have come apart at the centre. It didn't help their cause that the election was called outside what people expected," he said, also promising to change the rules around calling an election if elected.

However, Crosbie said NDP voters shouldn't have any trouble with the PC's social policies and values.

"I think there is no reason why NDP voters won't see the PC party under my leadership as a natural home."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Meg Roberts

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