Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Voters need more than a shuffle

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Premier Greg Selinger's cabinet shuffle was the largest single reorganization of cabinet since the NDP was first elected to government in 1999.

It's clearly a reaction to the party's dubious position with voters following a series of bungled initiatives, particularly the increase in the provincial sale tax, but also the future of Manitoba Hydro and concern that roads are getting worse, not better.

Polls show the party is in trouble for the first time in 14 years and Friday's shuffle was intended to reverse both the rot and the decline that inevitably saps the energy of long-term governments.

The NDP could theoretically win an election if it were held today, but its fortunes appear to be falling.

As such, the premier moved his few big guns into key portfolios, while replacing some tired ministers with fresh faces.

Jennifer Howard and Theresa Oswald, two of his more competent ministers, will be called on to defend the government's record and burnish its image with voters in their new positions as finance minister and minister of jobs and the economy, respectively.

In Ms. Oswald's case, experience in an economic portfolio, combined with her background in health, puts her in a good position to lead the party in the future.

The appointment of Kevin Chief to a new portfolio dedicated to the city of Winnipeg also reflects the need to focus on repairing the damaged relationship and, hopefully, finding a way to solve the enduring challenge of municipal infrastructure now that the government has grabbed for its own purposes a PST increase that could have solved a problem more useful than feeding the NDP's spending addiction.

The challenge for the NDP over the next two years is to overcome the perception of a desperate, bungling government trying desperately to hang onto power for its own sake.

It will take more than a cabinet shuffle, however, to reset the political mood in Manitoba.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 19, 2013 A16

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