© Diane Crocker
Newfoundland and Labrador NDP Leader Lorraine Michael addressed the CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador 40th annual convention at the Greenwood Inn and Suites in Corner Brook on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael told members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Newfoundland and Labrador that she would be wrong not to recognize that the past year has been a tumultuous one for her party.
“There were times it was hard, I won’t deny that,” Michael told a ballroom full of people who attended a banquet as part of the union’s 40th annual convention at the Greenwood Inn and Suites in Corner Brook Tuesday night.
“But you know what ... we’re a strong party,” Michael said. “We still are who we always were and what happened in October does not change that.”
“Some people made their decisions, but the party is left behind,” she said in reference to MHAs Chris Mitchelmore and Dale Kirby leaving to sit first as Independents and then later deciding to join the Liberal party.
Michael said with the troubles the party has faced its core values have not changed.
“Across Newfoundland and Labrador and indeed across Canada we share the belief in fairness in properity, justice and equality,” she said. “This party is not going to change from being the party of fairness and equality.”
Michael said even as a caucus of three the party has continued to champion issues in the House of Assembly, everything from whistleblower legislation to student loans.
To a standing ovation, she said the party will continue to fight for the protection and future of the defined benefit pension plans of public sector workers.
“NDP Newfoundland and Labrador in opposition is committed to fight for the public pension plans and as a government we would make sure they are maintained,” Michael said.
After her address, Michael said with the party set to hold its convention in St. John’s this weekend, she is interested in continuing in the role of leader. Her leadership abilities had been called into question during the departures of Mitchelmore and Kirby.
When asked how she keeps it all together, Michael said “well for one I stay very focused on my goals and what I believe in.
“I really do believe in the struggle for social justice. It’s been my life. It’s been all my life and as I stay focused on that, that’s where my energy comes from and that’s how I keep going.”
And she has every intention of keeping going.
“I’m ready to lead us strongly into the general election,” she said. “I look forward to it. And I certainly hope that that’s the wish of members of the party at convention this weekend.”
Once the convention is over, Michael said the party will start to roll out its slate of candidates for the next election.
“There’ll be people at convention who have already made their decisions and they’ll be introduced to convention,” she said and added the party intends to run candidates in all 48 districts. “We won’t settle for less than that.”
And Michael said the party has some good support on the west coast with people organized in district associations in Stephenville and St. Barbe and a core group in the Corner Brook area.
“The west coast actually has been a growth area for us in terms of membership and people being involved.”
Meanwhile, Michael also told the union members and guests that addressing the annual convention is something that is very important to her.
“We have a very special relationship, the NDP and CUPE,” she said.
The union is an affiliate of the party on the national and provincial level and Michael said she wished other unions would take the lead of CUPE.
“I think that the very fact that they chose to affiliate with the NDP, there’s no equivocation for them, they name the NDP as the party that most represents who they are as union and I think that makes for a very special relationship,” she said later.