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This article was published 18/12/2014 (1279 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Former cabinet minister Theresa Oswald made it official this morning by being the first to declare she wants Premier Greg Selinger's job.
Oswald filed her nomination papers at the party's head office on Portage Avenue.
Selinger has said he wants to keep his job, but has yet to file nomination papers with the party's office.
A third possible candidate is cabinet minister Steve Ashton, but he has not said yet whether he intends to run.
Oswald told reporters that she has an increasing amount of support, but that some NDP MLAs remain angry with her for being part of a caucus rebellion that led her and four other cabinet ministers to resign Nov. 3 in a last-ditch attempt to get Selinger resign in the midst of declining popular support.
Oswald said today she and the others would not have taken such action if every other avenue to get Selinger to listen had not been explored.
"Every political party in Canada of every political stripe needs to go through a process of renewal and we are no different," she said after filing her papers. "So I’m entering this race to offer an alternative vision and perhaps a renewal for what our party can mean going forward.
"These last weeks have been very challenging for our party, tumultuous to say the least, and I take my share of responsibility in that," she added. "Nobody that I have spoken to in the party or outside wanted things to go this way, and I take reasonability for my share. To that end I also today am taking concrete responsibility for the amount of work that needs to be done to repair that, to build the confidence of Manitobans in the NDP and to bring them back to us."
Oswald’s official leadership launch is Sunday.
She also said she believes she is the only person who can gather enough support to rebuild the party in time for the next election in April 2016, and meaningfully compete against Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservatives.
"This isn’t about ambition and personal rivalry," she said. "This is about protecting everything we fought for and I care passionately about that."
The leadership vote is March 8 at the party’s annual convention.
Oswald’s announcement comes as two more senior political staffers in Selinger’s office have booked off work to volunteer on her leadership campaign team, joining others already working for Oswald. One is Alissa Brandt, director of the premier's secretariat.
They join Anna Rothney, secretary of the planning and priorities committee of cabinet, who served notice earlier this week she would be taking an extended leave from her duties.
Selinger said in a year-end interview with the Free Press that political staff and NDP MLAs have the right to openly back who they choose without fear of repercussions.
"We respect the civil rights of people to make choices in a democratic process," the premier said.
Oswald’s intention to lead the NDP into the next election has been well known since she and four other cabinet ministers resigned their posts last month in a bid to get Selinger to step down to allow the party to reverse its sagging polling numbers.
The resignations of Oswald, the former jobs and economy minister, Jennifer Howard (finance), Stan Struthers (municipal government), Andrew Swan (justice) and Erin Selby (health) came after months of internal discussions related to falling public support caused by the premier’s unilateral decision to increase the provincial sales tax by one point without discussing it with his caucus.
Angus Reid said this week that Selinger’s approval rating has dropped to an all-time low of 17 per cent and Probe Research’s annual business-leader index found only 13 per cent of 200 business leaders believed the government was doing a good or excellent job, down from 26 per cent in 2010.
Oswald has already won the endorsements from two members of the party’s executive.
Past party presidents Lorraine Sigurdson and Carmen Neufeld both said Oswald was the best choice to replace Selinger to lead the NDP into the April 2016 election.
"I think that she’s the only one that can lead us into another term of government," Sigurdson said earlier this week.
"I don’t think that we can defeat Brian Pallister without her. I just don’t think he would be a compassionate premier. I think he would be a dangerous premier."
Neufeld, the party’s president in the late 1980s to early 1990s, said that Oswald is "... very well-respected and I just think she’s got unlimited potential as a leader."
Two other executive members — Darlene Dziewit, a former Manitoba Federation of Labour president, and Becky Barrett, a former MLA and cabinet minister — have publicly called on Selinger to resign.
Eugene Kostyra, a cabinet minister and adviser to former premier Gary Doer, said in a media report he also supported Oswald. Kostyra retired in 2007 but was a campaign adviser to Selinger in the 2011 provincial election.
"It’s time to move on and I think Theresa is the one that can take us back into contention," Kostyra told The Canadian Press.
The deadline for entering the NDP leadership race is Jan. 6.
Updated on Friday, December 19, 2014 at 11:03 AM CST: Adds Oswald's official announcement.
11:37 AM: adds video
12:10 PM: Updated with quotes
2:38 PM: Alters headline.
December 20, 2014 at 2:01 PM: Alters wording of fifth paragraph.