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This article was published 6/10/2009 (2817 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG - NDP leadership candidate Greg Selinger has picked up support from key union leaders who had earlier favoured Andrew Swan.
However, a spokesman for Steve Ashton's campaign said Tuesday it would be a mistake to underestimate the Thompson MLA's labour support.
Swan, who quit the race to replace Gary Doer as provincial leader over two weeks ago, had received support from several union leaders, including Manitoba Federation of Labour past-president Darlene Dziewit, the United Food and Commercial Workers' Robert Ziegler, two key Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) leaders, and the Manitoba head of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP).
Most of these union leaders have followed Swan in declaring their support for Selinger, who was Manitoba's finance minister before resigning his position to enter the leadership race.
"UFCW (Local 832) is supporting Greg Selinger," Ziegler said Tuesday. His large local gets 75 of the 430 delegates allotted to labour at the Oct. 17 leadership convention in Winnipeg.
"Although it is an individual choice, it is a secret-ballot vote, we will strongly be encouraging people to support Greg. So I would tend to think that virtually all of our votes will go to Greg," Ziegler said.
Wendy Sol, Manitoba vice-president for CEP, said that union's 25 delegates will back Selinger. And Dziewit, the MFL president until she stepped down last weekend, has also given her personal endorsement to Selinger after previously backing Swan.
Still to commit himself is Kevin Rebeck, the new MFL president and president of the Manitoba division of CUPE, which has been allotted a whopping 120 convention delegates because of its huge provincial membership. He had been backing Swan, but said Tuesday that he will likely wait until after the Thanksgiving long weekend before declaring who he will support now.
"I haven't firmed that up with either candidate as yet," Rebeck said. "They were out at the MFL convention (last weekend in Brandon), and I've been chatting with some people I respect. Andrew's opinion holds a lot of weight with me as well in this," he said.
CUPEs not formally encouraging its delegates to vote for a particular candidate. Paul Moist, a Manitoban and the union's national president, supports Selinger.
Mike Davidson, president of the Winnipeg civic workers union, CUPE Local 500, had also supported Swan, but he couldn't be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Selinger has received the endorsement of the 14 member unions of the Manitoba Building And Construction Trades Council and its 59 convention delegates.
Ashton, meanwhile, has been endorsed by both the United Steelworkers and United Fire Fighters, who will have about 55 delegates between them at the convention.
Members of Ashton's campaign team said the Thompson MLA and former intergovernmental affairs minister has surprised observers and the party brass with the success of his performance from Day 1.
"While we may not have the full support of a lot of the leaders of some of these unions, Steve has his own long-term connections with trade unionists that we think are going to carry the day quite well," campaign spokesman Sel Burrows said.
The Canadian Auto Workers will send 40 delegates to convention, but spokesman Tom Murphy said Tuesday that the union's leadership is not endorsing a candidate.
What candidates did on Tuesday
Greg Selinger: Selinger reaffirmed his commitment to protect the boreal forest on the east side of Lake Winnipeg and unveiled a plan for aboriginal-led economic development and eco-tourism for the area.
"It is a responsibility for all of us to protect the boreal forest and get it established as a UNESCO world heritage site," Selinger said. "We will work with communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg to build a plan to protect the forest while providing sustainable economic opportunities for the people who live there."
Selinger released his proposals while meeting with members of the Manitoba Young New Democrats, who held a leadership vote Tuesday evening.
Selinger promised quicker tuition tax rebates while students are still in school. He would also regulate fee increases, setting a ceiling of no more than five per cent per year.
Selinger said his economic development plan for the east side of Lake Winnipeg will include investments in training programs and development of an interpretive centre to give visitors information on the historic, cultural and ecological significance of the boreal forest.
Selinger has already committed to further construction of an all-season east side road and to developing a new health facility for the Island Lake region. "We believe the boreal forest on the east side is a worldwide treasure equal to the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Island, Serengeti National Park and Yellowstone National Park, all of which are already UNESCO world heritage sites," Selinger said.
Steve Ashton: Ashton scored 63 per cent support of the Manitoba Young New Democrats at their meeting at the University of Winnipeg Tuesday evening. That translates into an 68 additional delegates for his campaign, versus 40 youth delegates for Selinger.
In his speech at the youth delegate meeting, Ashton said he would reinstate the tuition freeze -- drawing thunderous applause from the crowd. He also promised to promote jobs for inner-city and aboriginal youth to help them escape the traps of gangs and poverty. He said he would identify ways for young people to have more say in the province's future.
- By Larry Kusch, with files from Matt Preprost and Bill Redekop