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This article was published 21/9/2009 (2837 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A FRONT-RUNNER in the NDP leadership race could emerge by the weekend as the party holds a flurry of delegate selection committee meetings across Manitoba this week.
Twenty-seven meetings -- covering nearly one-half of the province's 57 constituencies -- will be held by Saturday, 13 on Thursday alone.
Meanwhile, the party said Monday that its membership total, swollen by the leadership race, is significantly higher than previously estimated.
There were about 14,000 members in good standing by the Thursday-afternoon cutoff -- at least 2,000 more than had been predicted late last week. These members will be eligible to become delegates or cast votes to choose delegates to the Oct. 17 NDP leadership convention.
Lorraine Sigurdson, the NDP's president, estimated Monday there would be as many as 2,000 delegates to the convention to pick Gary Doer's successor as party leader. Three former cabinet ministers, Greg Selinger, Andrew Swan and Steve Ashton, are the declared candidates so far.
The 2,000 delegates would consist of 1,400 chosen by constituency associations (one for every 10 party members in each constituency), 214 automatic delegates (NDP MLAs and MPs, constituency presidents and others) and about 400 labour delegates.
Before Doer announced he was stepping down in late August, the NDP had 5,500 members. On Friday, with a pile of membership registration forms still to process, the party estimated membership at between 11,000 and 12,000 individuals.
Sigurdson said that while the convention is being held in Winnipeg, there will likely be two additional satellite locations -- in The Pas and Thompson. She said even before Doer announced his departure, The Pas had 1,100 members, giving it the right to choose 110 delegates. The constituency received a bump in membership sales when a byelection was called to replace Oscar Lathlin, who died last fall. The NDP's Frank Whitehead is now the area's MLA.
Meanwhile, the provincial Progressive Conservative party has just under 6,000 members after hitting a high of about 21,000 in 2006 when Hugh McFadyen was elected leader, and the provincial Liberal party membership stands at about 5,100 members, officials with the parties said.
Selinger got the backing of an influential union leader and pledged, if elected premier, to hold a "major economic summit" of business and labour representatives to chart a future direction for Manitoba as it comes out of the economic downturn.
Paul Moist, a Manitoban who heads the 600,000-member Canadian Union of Public Employees, said Monday he was personally endorsing Selinger as leader. CUPE has 24,000 members in Manitoba.
Moist said Selinger is very knowledgable of the issues facing Manitoba and Canada and has earned the trust of Manitobans through his performance as finance minister.
Moist said CUPE is not seeking to bind its delegates en masse to any one candidate, as there is a diversity of views within the union as to which one to support.
Swan received the personal endorsement of Mike Davidson, president of Local 500 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents civic workers.
It was another vote of approval from labour for Swan, who has also received the personal endorsement from Manitoba Federation of Labour president Darlene Dziewit as well as support from UFCW Local 832, the province's largest private-sector union.
Wendy Sol, the senior Manitoba official with the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, also said she personally backs Swan.
Ashton unveiled a 30-second TV commercial that will air across the province beginning this week and received the endorsement of two municipal leaders whose communities were affected by this spring's flooding.
Ashton also said Monday that his strong showing at a delegate-selection meeting for the constituency of Tuxedo Sunday night (he received support from 12 of 14 delegates) means his campaign has appeal across Manitoba.
The Thompson MLA said he made the TV ad to reach out to all Manitobans, not just the 2,000 delegates who will be choosing the province's next leader Oct. 17.
At a news conference at his campaign office on Main Street, Ashton received leadership endorsements from Steve Strang, mayor of the RM of St. Clements, and Clifford Dearman, mayor of West St. Paul. Ashton, as intergovernmental affairs minister, was the province's political point man during the flood.