Nfld. & Labrador

Gerry Rogers wins provincial NDP leadership race, as party more than doubles membership

Gerry Rogers picked up two-thirds of the vote at the NDP leadership convention and stated her goal to make sure "the next government doesn't look anything like the current one."

Rogers beat economist Alison Coffin with about two thirds of the vote

MHA Gerry Rogers is the new leader of the provincial NDP. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

After what many party members called the most exciting race in the provincial NDP's history, Gerry Rogers has been selected as the new leader.

Rogers, a sitting MHA for St. John's Centre since 2011, picked up two-thirds of the vote to defeat her opponent, economist Alison Coffin.

"We have a lot of work to do. But we know where to go," Rogers said on stage following her win.

"I know there's a daunting task ahead of us but I also feel incredibly hopeful."

After what she called a long race and a busy convention, Rogers said she was excited to get a good night of sleep on Sunday, before getting to work on Monday.

"I think I'll walk the district a bit tomorrow and hook up with folks and get on with the work that needs to be done to help invigorate the party."

Party numbers on the rise

Members voted Sunday at the end of a weekend convention in St. John's. A total of 1,450 ballots were cast — a figure that drew gasps from some people in the room.

There was talk on the weekend that the party had more than doubled its numbers in the months leading up to the vote.

Lynn Moore, a lawyer and electoral officer for the vote, confirmed the NDP had gone from about 1,100 members to approximately 2,700.

For context, the province's Progressive Conservative Party has 11,000 registered members, while the Liberals had 30,000 signed up before its last leadership vote.

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who was in St. John's for the convention, said growing the party at a provincial level is key for his plan moving forward.

"It was incredible to see such excitement for the party," he said.

"In the room there was this great buzz, this feeling of excitement and this sense that whoever won, the party would be in great hands."

MHA Lorraine Michael had been acting leader of the NDP since Earle McCurdy stepped down in September 2017.

Michael was moved to tears by Coffin's speech before the vote, when she said she wouldn't be running for the leadership without Michael's influence.

Byelection run for Coffin?

As for Coffin, while she lost, she hinted before the vote that she may be running for the NDP nomination in the next byelection that comes up.

Coffin expects that could be for PC leader Paul Davis's seat in Topsail-Paradise, her home district. While the area has been a PC stronghold since 2003, Coffin said she wasn't worried.

"Whoever they've got running, bring 'em on."

In her speech before the vote, Coffin raised her ideas about job creation and food security in the province. She suggested the government should stop approving overtime for public sector employees and instead hire more workers to fill the demand.

Coffin also raised the idea of vegetable-growing cooperatives around the province, which could make homegrown food cheap and accessible.

"I am truly comfortable with whatever the end result is," she said before the vote. "We've had perhaps the most competitive campaign we have ever had in our history."

Rogers dedicated the first part of her victory speech to thanking Coffin, before also thanking her campaign manager, her wife, and other people in the room.

Twice, she stated her intention to make sure "the next government doesn't look anything like the current one."