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This article was published 4/10/2009 (2819 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s NDP could overhaul how it chooses the party’s leader following complaints the process is too complicated and potentially unfair.
NDP president Lorraine Sigurdson said some party members will likely want a review of the leadership process once the campaign to replace Premier Gary Doer wraps up Oct. 17.
Over the last week, the system has sparked ire among Steve Ashton’s followers, who complain it drags the voting process on for hours and puts members who don’t speak English as their first language at a disadvantage.
The current system requires party members to register and then vote for delegates in 57 constituencies who will support either Greg Selinger or Ashton for premier at the leadership convention.
Members are given a list of potential delegates, and must put a check mark beside the names of people they want to go to the leadership convention. If a constituency has 50 delegates, members must check off exactly 50 names on the list. Ballots with fewer or more check marks are considered spoiled.
Ashton’s campaign alleged the process resulted in voting irregularities and spoiled ballots in Inkster, Riel and Elmwood. He’s demanded new meetings be held in those constituencies, and a Facebook group called "I want a recount in Inkster" had 39 members Sunday afternoon.
Saturday’s vote in Maples was also dogged by controversy when the Ashton campaign alleged the meeting dragged on so long that nine voters had to leave to look after their families and weren’t let back in to vote.
Some Selinger supporters at the delegate selection meeting in Fort Whyte on Sunday said the current process isn’t set up to handle a huge influx of new members, which is part of the reason voting takes so long.
In the last week, some party members have quietly complained about Ashton’s overt strategy of signing up hundreds of new members from ethnocultural groups such as Indo-Canadians, Filipinos and Greeks.
"I’m sure some people will want (a review)," Sigurdson said during a phone conversation Sunday. "I think we’ll wait for the dust to settle and have a look at it."
Sigurdson said the party’s constitution must be changed if members want to amend how the leader is chosen.
The NDP, like other parties, had a one-member, one-vote system to choose its leaders, but reverted back to a delegate system in 2007. The number of delegates a constituency has depends on how many members in good standing it has 30 days before the leadership convention.
Ashton’s complaints have been sent to the NDP party secretary and leadership convention committee for investigation, and Sigurdson said they will schedule a meeting to look into it as soon as possible.
Some say the recent mud-slinging between the two camps could result in a rift in the NDP.
"There’s growing animosity," said Coun. Russ Wyatt, Ashton’s campaign manager.
Water Stewarship minister Christine Melnick supports Selinger’s leadership bid, and said his camp prefers to stay focused on the campaign and delivering their message to Manitobans.
"Whatever the Ashton followers are saying is up to them," she said.
Meanwhile, delegate votes in Winnipeg and western Manitoba on Sunday produced an even split, with Selinger taking the majority of delegates in and around Brandon, and Ashton clinching about the same number in Fort Whyte.
Todd Scarth, spokesman for Selinger’s campaign, said he knew it would be a tight race.
"We’ve always said we have to keep working like we’re behind and that’s our plan. We always knew it would be a very close race," said Scarth.