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NDP to vote on Selinger's leadership in March

Leadership will be on line at March convention

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/11/2014 (984 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Premier Greg Selinger is throwing down the gauntlet to those who are demanding he resign by putting his leadership on the line at an NDP convention in March.

Selinger told the Free Press Saturday evening he made the proposal to the party’s executive via teleconference earlier in the day, and it accepted it.

Premier Greg Selinger will put his leadership of the NDP to a vote at the party's March 2015 convention.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Premier Greg Selinger will put his leadership of the NDP to a vote at the party's March 2015 convention.

Becky Barrett, a senior NDP member and former cabinet minister, attended the  party meeting Saturday at the NDP head office.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Becky Barrett, a senior NDP member and former cabinet minister, attended the party meeting Saturday at the NDP head office.

Darlene Dziewit (front) and Becky Barrett, both senior NDP members, leave NDP headquarters Saturday after a meeting to discuss leadership.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Darlene Dziewit (front) and Becky Barrett, both senior NDP members, leave NDP headquarters Saturday after a meeting to discuss leadership.

NDP president Ellen Olfert talks to the media after Saturday's meeting.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

NDP president Ellen Olfert talks to the media after Saturday's meeting.

"They accepted my proposal that puts the question of the party’s leadership back in the hands of our party members," the premier said.

Selinger said he intends to let his name stand for the leadership, and he issued a challenge to anyone else who wants the job to step forward.

"This will be a chance for... me to give voice to why I think I should be leader and anybody else that wishes to do that as well," he said.

The NDP cabinet and caucus has been in turmoil for months over Selinger’s continued leadership, although the unrest didn’t become public knowledge until the Free Press exposed it two weeks ago.

Caucus members and senior party strategists have been encouraging him to step down in light of the severe beating the NDP has been taking in public-opinion polls. The party’s unpopularity can be traced largely to the government’s decision last year to increase the PST after promising not to do so during the 2011 election campaign.

On Monday, five members of Selinger’s cabinet — Jennifer Howard, Stan Struthers, Theresa Oswald, Erin Selby and Andrew Swan — resigned their portfolios when they could not persuade him to step down. Selinger replaced them the same day by shuffling his cabinet and adding four new ministers.

The premier said Saturday evening his plan should address the leadership concerns and allow the party to unite.

"It’s a way to resolve (the issue) by putting it in the hands of the members and their delegates," he said.

"It’s a democratic process. We have a long tradition of practising democracy to resolve issues of leadership and I think it’s time, given all the things that have gone on, that the members have a say."

A committee was struck Saturday by the party executive to get the process going. It includes: NDP president Ellen Olfert, party secretary Nanci Morrison, Heather Grant-Jury (a union leader who last week became a senior member of Selinger’s staff), Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck and party executive member Eleanor Thompson. The NDP’s election planning committee co-chairs, Jeff Traeger, president of Local 832 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, and former cabinet minister Rosann Wowchuk will join the committee as time permits, the premier added.

The committee will report to the NDP’s provincial council — a larger group that serves as the party’s main governing body between conventions — on Dec. 6. The council would presumably have to approve the premier’s plan.

The leadership race Selinger is proposing would conclude March 6-8 at the NDP’s already scheduled annual convention in Winnipeg.

"It doesn’t go to a full leadership convention," the premier said of his proposal. "It’s the regular annual convention. And by the (party) constitution there’s a vote on the election of the leader. And it sets out... all the ways and means for that to happen and allows anyone else who wants to enter to do that, of course."

Earlier in the day, reporters camped outside the doors of the party’s headquarters on Portage Avenue for word on what action the NDP executive might take to address the leadership crisis.

After a little over two hours, Olfert was extremely circumspect in describing what had transpired. She hinted an "informal" committee had been struck to deal with the leadership matter, but it was unclear what the group’s parameters were.

None of the executive members would comment afterwards on what the premier had said or whether there had been any formal motions on whether he should remain as leader.

It was clear the room had been divided on the leadership issue.

Two executive members — Darlene Dziewit, a former Manitoba Federation of Labour president, and Becky Barrett, a former MLA and cabinet minister — have publicly called on Selinger to resign.

They stuck to their guns during the meeting. "I’m very committed to my position, and I haven’t changed it," Barrett said afterwards, accompanied by Dziewit.

A radio report Friday said the two NDP stalwarts faced motions of censure at Saturday’s meeting for their public criticism of the premier. But Olfert said neither was disciplined.

Asked if there was support for Barrett and Dziewit at the executive meeting or whether they were lone voices, the party president said: "The fact that they’re not being disciplined, I think, says it all."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Larry Kusch.

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