Pillar to Post | By Craig Westcott
Some people are saying Gerry Rogers is leaving the NDP in the lurch, scurrying out on the verge of the provincial general election and not quite a year after she won her party’s leadership in a contest against Allison Coffin, a Memorial University economist who brought fresh ideas and a new take on politics to the race.
But if Rogers no longer has the desire to spend the next four years in politics, she is doing the right thing by getting out now. She – and the voters of St. John’s Centre who elected and re-elected her – deserve some credit for modernizing Newfoundland politics. Rogers was the first openly gay politician to seek provincial office, though certainly not the first gay politician elected, not even in her own party. In a province where the politics is like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day, in that it never changes, that was no minor achievement.
Rogers’ unexpected retirement from politics is a gift to the NDP. In an election year where 40 per cent of voters are undecided because the three main options on the ballot are so unpalatable, the Dippers have a sudden chance to fill the void and put something, or rather somebody, completely different before the eyes of the electorate. Whether the party will seize that chance is unlikely, but it’s there for them to make good on.
If the NDP fail to find an inspiring leader, 2019 may become the year of the Independent. For the first time since Confederation, opportunity beckons in many districts for a new party, or at least new people in Newfoundland politics, people who don’t give the same pat non-answers to important questions, and who have the guts and brains to address real issues like Muskrat Falls and the deficit instead of hiding behind the coattails of their party leader.
The fledgling NL Alliance doesn’t seem to have what it takes to fill the vacuum, so it will fall to the independent candidates, if any decent ones come forward and get elected, to inject some life, and brains, back into Newfoundland politics.
Meanwhile, for the next leader of the NDP, the stage awaits.