Premier Greg Selinger was more concerned about staying as NDP leader than listening to his ministers.

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This article was published 3/11/2014 (2544 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Premier Greg Selinger was more concerned about staying as NDP leader than listening to his ministers.

That was the undercurrent this morning at a news conference at the Legislative Building in which five rebel cabinet ministers resigned to sit as back-bench MLAs.

Finance Minister Jennifer Howard, Justice Minister Andrew Swan, Health Minister Erin Selby, Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald and Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers said they will resign from cabinet in protest over Selinger’s leadership.

"I think it’s fair to say that this has been building for a long time," Swan said.

Struthers said when he met privately with Selinger that the premier was more interested in validation of his leadership than hearing critical advice.

"I'm not a wallflower," Struthers said. "I told him exactly what I thought."

Selby said she also advised the premier on his political future.

"We don't regret speaking honestly," she said.

Oswald agreed.

"I’ve deep respect for the office of the premier and for the office of cabinet ministers, and I know that I am unable to effectively continue doing that job when the only way that my voice will be heard is if it is in total agreement with what the leader says."

The five vowed to remain as NDP MLAs and run in the next general election, expected in April 2016.

Dissident minsters in the provincial government announce their resignations Monday morning.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Dissident minsters in the provincial government announce their resignations Monday morning.

"We’re all New Democrats. Those are our values. That’s how we’re going to vote in the House," Howard said.

They said the turmoil within cabinet and caucus has been building since the end of June when they began bringing their concerns to the premier after the wrap-up of the spring sitting of the legislature.

"I think the message is that this is a serious time for our party and we need to make some serious decisions. And that what we need to be motivated by is what has always motivated us — and that’s a desire to stand up for the values that we believe in," Howard said.

They reiterated that there were issues that went beyond the leadership question and that the premier was not giving them a fair hearing in cabinet on a wide variety of issues. They refused to divulge specifics, citing cabinet confidentiality.

"We can no longer work with a premier that refuses to hear us," said Howard, who did most of the speaking for the group. "He refuses to hear us not just on the leadership issue but also on a wide range of issues in our portfolios."

Selinger said this morning that he will announce a cabinet shuffle today. He would not say whether there would be a throne speech this fall.

Oswald said the issue was also one of integrity.

"Sometimes doing the right thing is not an easy task," Oswald said. "When you are voice that may not sing in harmony with what the premier wants to say it becomes very difficult for your voice to be heard after that.

"This for me is a cumulative effect of my inability to be heard on some very serious issues."

Howard also said the resignations of the five had nothing to do with a play for leadership of the party.

"If this was a power play it didn’t work out so well," Howard said.

She also said there are others in the NDP caucus who support their efforts to get Selinger to step down, but that it’s up to them to decide what to do.

"I think it’s been obvious over the last week that the concerns we have are not ours alone," Howard said.