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NDP continue to duck for cover from Struthers fallout

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods</p><p>Former Manitoba NDP MLA Stan Struthers.</p>


Former Manitoba NDP MLA Stan Struthers.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/2/2018 (842 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba New Democrats ducked for cover Wednesday, refusing to show their heads as an extraordinary political firestorm continued to rage around them.

Leader Wab Kinew issued only a brief statement bereft of anything substantially new late in the afternoon, and party president David Woodbury wasn't talking at all – along with most of the party's senior executive.

Wednesday, Gord Landriault, the NDP's vice-president for nothern Manitoba, was the only party member with any clout willing to talk.

Landriault said that in an emergency conference call of the NDP provincial executive Saturday morning, there was consensus that a woman MLA would be designated to handle all the media contact over the fallout from women reporting the NDP while in power ignored their complaints of inappropriate sexual touching by former cabinet minister Stan Struthers.

That hasn't happened – only Kinew has spoken publicly.

Only a week ago, most Manitobans who had any memory of Stan Struthers as a cabinet minister had no idea Struthers had a long history for inappropriate sexual touching of women at the legislature while the NDP held power under Gary Doer and Greg Selinger.

Now, Kinew has ordered former premier Selinger to resign his St. Boniface seat, and Selinger has refused, making their dispute public at a news conference Tuesday that Kinew had ordered Selinger not to hold.

It's believed to be unprecedented for a party leader to try to boot a former premier or leader out of caucus – at least, publicly.

Landriault, who sides with Selinger, said Kinew had given the executive no inkling Saturday that he planned to boot the former premier.

Selinger shouldn't have to resign, Landriault said from The Pas. He accepts Selinger's word that the former premier had been unaware of allegations against Struthers until 2015, when his then-chief of staff Jeremy Read brought forward complaints from two women – Selinger said Tuesday he laid down the law to Struthers to stop the behaviour, and the women chose not to take it any further.

"The explanation he has at that time satisfied me," Landriault said.

Landriault said the party also called an emergency conference call for the executive for 3:15 p.m. Tuesday – barely half an hour after Kinew's own press conference – but he was working and didn't know about the call until it was over. He said the party gave no specific reason for the emergency conference call and hasn't subsequently sent out any further information.

Saturday's executive emergency conference call focused on the rapidly-growing allegations against Struthers.

"It was discussion of who was going to handle the media contacts," said Landriault. "They decided it would be a woman from caucus."

Kinew took part Saturday, but said nothing about any plan to tell Selinger to retire, he said. "It never came up. That was not discussed, any discipline," Landriault said.

None of the around 30 executive members reported having experienced or even having heard previously about issues with Struthers, he said. "I hadn't heard about it before."

The consensus, Landriault said, was that, "It was a caucus thing. Right now, everything is at the caucus level – no one has complained to the party."

Woodbury did not answer voice mails Wednesday left on his cell or at his Gimli home.

From party headquarters, provincial secretary Keith Bellamy said, "The party has nothing further to add at this time."

Kinew issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon through press secretary Rorie Mcleod-Arnould that he's still working on plans to create a commission to investigate the sexual harassment complaints, and to discuss Selinger's future with caucus.

"Wab continues to work productively and collaboratively with the party executive on the commission and we will announce details in the days to come," said Mcleod-Arnould. "He has not spoken with Mr. Selinger since yesterday (Tuesday). The next caucus meeting date has not yet been set, but Wab looks forward to meeting with caucus soon."

Meanwhile, Premier Brian Pallister said at an event Wednesday in Portage la Prairie when asked what Selinger should do, "That’s entirely on Mr. Selinger. I respect the fact that people of his riding voted for him. And that is a call largely for them to make in my estimation.

"I think there’s an element of respect for a former premier, regardless of political party, that seems to be missing from some of the dialogue thus far. That being said, the tone at the top was clearly something that needed to historically – and former premier Selinger said this yesterday – I think he admitted that he could have done better. I’m committed to doing better," said Pallister.

One New Democrat MLA said Wednesday that caucus has been told not to discuss what's happening, or even to say if there's a caucus meeting set: "Right now, I’m not authorized to share any details with you."

Said another: "Regretfully, I feel that adding my comments will not serve the cause and situation of those who may have been severely hurt by their experiences. I feel for them who suffered in silence."

Four other regional vice-presidents and status of women representative Deb Jamerson did not respond to interview requests Wednesday.

The final vice-president, Winnipeg's Bea Bruske would only say, "I will not be commenting on this issue, but thank you for the opportunity."

– with files from Jessica Botelho-Urbanski



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