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This article was published 16/9/2017 (1753 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba New Democrats have given rookie MLA Wab Kinew a big mandate to lead their party, and the former broadcaster, author and Indigenous activist vows to make them proud.
Kinew, 35, won the provincial NDP leadership Saturday with the support of three-quarters of convention delegates, defeating challenger Steve Ashton 728-253.
"It’s a new day for the NDP, and it’s a new day for Manitoba," Kinew said triumphantly, after kissing his wife and hugging his two sons, aged nine and 12.
"As leader of the NDP, first, I will make you proud. I will conduct myself each and every day to reward you who have given me your support and to let you know it was vested in me for good reason."
Kinew succeeds Greg Selinger, who stepped down as leader immediately after the NDP's crushing defeat in the April 2016 election. The result left the once-powerful political machine with just 14 seats in the Manitoba legislature. Logan MLA Flor Marcelino has filled in as interim leader since then.
The nearly 1,000 delegates in attendance at the RBC Convention Centre seemed to be on Kinew's side from the outset, and he didn't hurt his cause with a pre-vote address that one delegate later described as "the speech of his life."
Kinew supporters waved purple signs and sported purple T-shirts with #IMFORWAB printed on the front and New Voice, New Direction, New Democrats on the back.
Each candidate was given 30 minutes to speak before voting began.
Kinew immediately addressed recently revealed allegations of domestic abuse in a past relationship that had dogged him in the campaign's final days. He apologized to delegates and to victims of abuse for the distress that the allegations had caused them. He has repeatedly denied the 14-year-old allegations which led to charges that were stayed.
Kinew had revealed in his autobiographical book, The Reason You Walk, that he had been convicted as a young man of assault and impaired driving. He and his supporters have repeatedly said that he is a changed man.
"I’m not the man I was. I’ve apologized and I am sorry," he told the crowd earlier in the day. "But apologies are not enough. That is why I will continue to prove to you that I am a changed man every day through my career in public service. Every day I will work hard to earn your trust."
After the results were announced, Kinew, 35, wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and purple tie, with three eagle feathers tucked into his hair, said he was greatly humbled by the "tremendous honour" delegates had given him.
Addressing the crowd first in Ojibwe, then in French before turning to English, he said New Democrats owed it to Manitobans to put their differences aside and work for the benefit for everybody in the province. He told Ashton supporters, most of whom had left the convention hall even before the results were announced, that "there is a place for you in this party and I will be your leader as well."
During his speech to delegates, Ashton said New Democrats should be proud of their social and economic accomplishments in government over the years. He noted that decades ago, the NDP eliminated health care premiums in Manitoba, something the Pallister government is now looking at reinstating. He described himself as a progressive voice who would be an effective opposition leader to the Progressive Conservative government from Day 1.
But his campaign seemed disorganized compared with Kinew's. And, at the convention, only a half-dozen of his supporters wore orange Ashton T-shirts — collector's items from the 61-year-old's previous unsuccessful leadership runs in 2009 and 2015. When the former 35-year Thompson MLA strode to the podium for his pre-vote speech, he received only lukewarm applause from the crowd.
Kinew told reporters afterwards it will take a lot of work to rebuild the NDP. "We’re facing an uphill battle ... and if we want to be successful in that we’re going to have to do everything we can to pull everyone back together."