Kinew shuffles shadow cabinet amid no-shows

Backers get plum positions, while 'more than two' MLAs reportedly did not attend

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Wab Kinew is facing questions about NDP solidarity after several MLAs failed to attend his first caucus meeting as leader.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/09/2017 (1834 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Wab Kinew is facing questions about NDP solidarity after several MLAs failed to attend his first caucus meeting as leader.

Kinew acknowledged that some members of his 13-member team did not show up for the meeting, including Jim Maloway (Elmwood), a key supporter of leadership rival Steve Ashton.

“There are certain personal considerations that I can’t get into that certain people had to attend to, but caucus was well attended this morning,” Kinew said when asked by the media about other no-shows.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Wab Kinew, the NDP’s newly elected leader — flanked by Tom Lindsey (from left), Nahanni Fontaine and Andrew Swan — announces the NDP caucus and critic positions in the rotunda of the Manitoba Legislative Building Thursday.

A source confirmed that “more than two” NDP MLAs missed the meeting, but not many more than that.

It’s not unusual for leadership campaigns to create rifts within political parties.

Kinew, 35, handily won the party’s leadership at a convention in Winnipeg on Saturday. On Thursday, he downplayed the absences at his first caucus meeting, saying he had spoken to each MLA since the convention.

“I did hear from everyone that they support me as leader. That’s important,” he said.

All NDP MLAs were assigned critics duties on Thursday, with Kinew backers receiving plum jobs.

Kinew announced that a key supporter of his leadership bid, Nahanni Fontaine, would be the justice critic as well as the Opposition house leader. Another high profile supporter, Andrew Swan (Minto), becomes health critic.

Matt Wiebe (Concordia), who had been health critic, will focus on education. Kinew had been education critic before his election as leader. James Allum (Fort Garry-Riverview) retains the finance critic role.

The NDP has suffered deep divisions since a caucus revolt in late 2014 while the party was in government. Then premier Greg Selinger faced two cabinet ministers, Ashton and Theresa Oswald, in a leadership contest in early 2015 and won. The party was crushed by the Progressive Conservatives in the April 2016 provincial election.

Swan, one of five cabinet ministers who publicly challenged Selinger’s leadership nearly three years ago, said Thursday that the party is “much stronger” now than it was back then.

“We know that the real challenge is Brian Pallister and what his Progressive Conservatives are doing to our health-care system, to our education system, to all the things that Manitoba families count on,” he said.

Tom Lindsey (Flin Flon), an Ashton supporter, retained his role as caucus chair. He said Thursday that he had assured Kinew before the leadership contest that he would support him if he were chosen leader.

“I support the party. He is the leader of the party. Therefore, he has my support,” Lindsey said.

In recent days, Kinew has fielded repeated questions about past allegations of domestic assault. He faced two charges 14 years ago, but both were stayed. He has denied the allegations. His alleged victim, Tara Hart, and her sister and mother have spoken publicly about the alleged events. The persistent news coverage about the accusations of domestic violence prompted Manitoba Sen. Murray Sinclair to say it was turning into a “witch hunt” against Kinew.

The new Manitoba leader said he has a lot of respect for the former judge, who has been a mentor to him. But he wouldn’t go so far as to say he was a victim of a witch hunt.

“I understand that I am not a victim,” Kinew told reporters. “I understand that I am a person who put my name on a ballot, and there’s a lot of questions about my readiness to lead. And to be frank, there’s a lot of questions about my past as well. I believe that I’ve shown up to answer those questions every time they’ve been asked and I will continue to do so.”

Kinew acknowledged that those who have publicly defended him, such as his colleague Fontaine, have been attacked on social media and elsewhere.

“I would just ask anyone who’s… casting aspersions to please stop. That should rightly be borne by me. That’s my burden to bear,” he said Thursday.

The same goes for attacks against Hart and her family, he said.

“I don’t think there’s any place for that. Again, I’m the one who put my name forward. I’m the one who has to answer questions about my past. And if people have criticisms to make, or questions they want answered, then send them this way,” he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

History

Updated on Thursday, September 21, 2017 8:19 PM CDT: Full write through

Updated on Thursday, September 21, 2017 8:43 PM CDT: fixes headline

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