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This article was published 27/10/2014 (1912 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Two Manitoba cabinet ministers say Premier Greg Selinger needs to reflect on his future in light of concerns expressed by senior party members and Manitobans in general.
Municipal Affairs Minister Stan Struthers and Finance Minister Jennifer Howard spoke to reporters late this afternoon at the Manitoba Legislative Building about internal divisions within the NDP over Selinger’s leadership.
Asked if either minister had asked the premier to step aside, Howard said:
"I think our advice to him is between us and him. I think the advice that I would give him is to think carefully about everything that you’re hearing. When you’re hearing senior party members express the concerns that have been expressed you have to pay attention to that. At the end of the day we all took an oath to serve the best interests of Manitobans. And that is what has got to guide our decisions."
In response to the same question, Struthers said: "That’s up to the premier. He needs to think about the discussions that we’ve had. Greg Selinger is an honourable guy. He’s an honest person. He works hard on behalf of the people of Manitoba. I think he deserves a chance to look at everything that’s in front of him and come to his conclusion."
Neither cabinet minister would say directly that the premier should step aside, but neither said he should stay. They refused to place a deadline on Selinger for a decision on his future.
Struthers, who was finance minister when the NDP announced its decision to increase the PST, was asked if it was his decision or the premier’s. He was also asked if he had pushed for a sales tax hike.
Struthers replied: "The premier has been very clear from the beginning that he has taken responsibility for this. You could imagine that there were a lot of different views around the table, a lot of discussion about a step that we took. The people of Manitoba have concerns about the step that was taken, and I think the premier will take a good hard look at what the people of Manitoba are saying and that he’ll come to his own decision."
A former provincial NDP cabinet minister says Premier Greg Selinger should consider stepping down as leader for the good of the party.
Becky Barrett, a member of the party’s provincial executive and a former longtime MLA, said today the NDP finds itself in a serious predicament.
"We’ve had over a year of polls that have been consistently showing that the party is doing very poorly across Manitoba — and particularly in — Winnipeg and the leader is doing particularly poorly," Barrett said.
"Anybody who’s been canvassing in their constituencies has got to be concerned," she said of the NDP caucus. "If not for their own seat then for the success of the government and for the values and the policies that we’ve worked so hard to implement and don’t want to see taken away from the people of Manitoba."
She said Selinger has not been able to overcome voter anger over a broken promise not to increase the provincial sales tax.
"The people of Manitoba don’t trust the premier, and they believe that he betrayed them when he said in the election that he would not raise their taxes and then he did raise the PST," she said.
"In the 18 months since then, the premier has not been able to regain the trust of the people of Manitoba."
She said if an election were held today, she’s "afraid it would be a landslide" for the Conservatives.
Barrett disagreed with those within the party who are counting on the Conservatives to fumble the ball and allow Selinger to ride out the storm and ultimately prevail in an election expected in the spring of 2016.
"Speaking as an organizer who has worked in campaigns for over 30 years across this country, anybody who says that they’re going to hinge their electoral success on the opposition not doing well is not doing themselves or the party a favour," she said.
"You have to assume that the opposition is going to do a very good job. You have to make that assumption and then you have to plan accordingly."
Meanwhile, Winnipeg political scientist Paul Thomas said he believes it is not too late for Selinger to save his premiership.
"I don’t think he’s a goner at this point," Thomas said of the NDP leader.
Thomas said the premier needs to identify the sources of discontent within the party and address their concerns.
"It depends on the sources and the intensity of the opposition to him," he said, referring to how badly Selinger may have been hurt by what, so far, have been mainly anonymous party critics.
Thomas said Selinger can appeal to his caucus that it’s during tough times that loyalty to the party is tested, not just during good times. And he can remind them that internal bickering simply plays into the hands of Opposition Leader Brian Pallister.
Thomas said it may also be too late to name a new leader and properly brand that leader before the next election. There may or may not be a general consensus on who that new leader would be, he said.
"If you change horses at this late stage, you’re going to enter the race with a further handicap," he suggested.
He said the premier can also shore up caucus support making it clear to MLAs that their views matter. He can promise to consult his caucus more on issues instead of relying too heavily on the opinions of political staffers, Thomsas said.
Premier Greg Selinger’s office issued a brief statement this morning on his future following a Free Press report Saturday revealing divisions within the NDP caucus and the party about his continued leadership.
"Premier Selinger remains focused on the job he was elected to do — delivering on the priorities of Manitoba families, creating jobs and opportunities for young people, and growing our economy," said a statement issued by cabinet communications director Matt Williamson.
Selinger’s leadership of the party is being scrutinized in light of several bad-news polls and the thumping NDP-affiliated Judy Wasylycia-Leis took last week in the mayoral race in Winnipeg.
Some backbench MLAs, cabinet ministers and longtime New Democrats feel Selinger must resign as leader if the NDP is to have a chance of winning the next provincial election, slated for the spring of 2016.
The view is that Selinger, who has led the party for five years and won its largest-ever majority in 2011, is now weighing the NDP down because he broke a promise not to raise the PST. Many in the party are critical of how the premier and the government handled the PST issue.
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.
Updated on Monday, October 27, 2014 at 11:50 AM CDT: Adds comment from Barrett.
2:51 PM: Adds comment from Thomas
4:11 PM: Adds comments from ministers Stan Struthers and Jennifer Howard.