Just a day after Mike Redmond announced he was stepping down as leader of the provincial NDP on Wednesday, the party’s president says two people have came forward to say they’re interested in taking over the job.
Leah-Jane Hayward wouldn’t reveal the names of the potential candidates yet, but said it’s “great to have a pool of people to choose from.”
“If there was nobody stepping up to say they want to be the leader, there’d be some pressure. But we have people interested,” she said.
Hayward says the party executive is planning to meet next week to set a date for a leadership convention, which she expects will take place some time in late January or early February.
Hayward said Redmond’s decision to give up the position was entirely his own, and there was no pressure from anyone within the party for him to step down, not even after Redmond’s fourth-place finish in the recent Charlottetown-Parkdale byelection.
“I was really disappointed [Redmond stepped down],” Hayward said. “As far as I’m concerned, Mike’s been one of the best leaders the NDP has had.”
‘I never buy into the idea of the great champion coming in and changing everything.’
— Don Desserud, UPEI political science professor
UPEI political science professor Don Desserud agrees Redmond shouldn’t be blamed for the party’s struggles on the Island, and said it’s unlikely a new leader — whoever it is — will grow the party’s support substantially.
“I never buy into the idea of the great champion coming in and changing everything,” Desserud said.
“The struggles these small parties have, has a lot to do with the nature of the electoral system. It’s extremely hard for parties to break through that threshold point where they’re finally getting enough voter support to translate to seats.”
The Island’s other small party — the Green Party — now has two seats in the P.E.I. legislature after Hannah Bell’s victory in the byelection.
‘Luck hasn’t been with the NDP’
Desserud chalks that up to the Greens “getting the right candidates in the right districts,” at a time when enough voters were looking for an alternative to the Liberals and PC’s.
“So those combinations could possibly work some day for the NDP, as well,” Desserud said. “But in politics there’s luck involved as well, and luck hasn’t been with the NDP.”
Hayward believes the Green Party was able to get its leader, Peter Bevan-Baker, a seat in the legislature by focusing all the party resources in Bevan-Baker’s district during the 2015 election.
Whether the NDP decides to try that strategy in the next election, she said, will be decided by the party’s new leader and executive.