By Ken Meeker | For The Shoreline
Founded just weeks ago, the NL Alliance hosted a town hall meeting on Saturday at the Holyrood Community Centre to drum up support for the province’s newest political movement. “I’se the B’y” and other traditional Newfoundland tunes filled the air at the second such meeting of the Alliance before party founder Graydon Pelley took to the stage. About 20 people showed up.
After a speech from Pelley, the meeting evolved into a colourful exchange of ideas. Up for discussion were the best tactics to get the NL Alliance elected, complaints about the lack of transparency in government, how to best sell their ideas to the populace… and the possibility of the NL Alliance splitting the vote and allowing a shoo-in for the Liberals in the next election, a remark that drew an uproar of laughter from the audience.
Pelley was until recently president of the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party of Newfoundland. He said he formed the Alliance to bring “much needed changes to the political system in the province.”
Through the NL Alliance, Pelley is proposing changes that would see a drastic shift away from the political norm in the province, including fundamental changes to government structure, and a shift away from party politics.
Under an NL Alliance administration, Pelley said there would be a roundtable of 40 seats, in the House of Assembly. Every MHA would have a free voice – without the pressures of toeing a party line. “We aren’t district people,” he said. “We are elected as provincial people.”
Pelley added that if any constituents feel they aren’t being represented properly, there would be measures to potentially remove and replace MHAs before the end of their term.
The members of the smallish crowd had apparently little in common except their opposition to the government and its slow-moving cogs. And that is the strategy of the NL Alliance: to give a united voice to people who feel poorly represented by all three political parties and bring unity to a system of politics that only seems to be getting more fractured.
One of the attendees, Lew Sooley, had many exchanges and discussions with Pelley throughout the evening. He said he was there for change and was a member of many activist groups such as Dark NL on social media. As the topic of Muskrat Falls and other things he perceives as governmental flops came up, his face grew stern and soured. He said the NL Alliance could be the change he is looking for.
Sooley wants to see less party discipline, fewer talking points from the top, and more ability for MHAs to voice opposition without fear of reprisal. He thinks the NL Alliance “can change everything” to bring transparency to the house and accountability for spending.
The NL Alliance hasn’t drawn any applause from the leaders of the other parties. When asked about that, Pelley said he didn’t expect them to say it was a good thing for Newfoundland. “Change comes hard, and it’s hard to accept,” said Pelley. “I would say to the party leaders in the house that if they were really listening, they would know that people are fed up with the party system. With all time high levels of apathy, people are hungry for change within government.”