September 21, 2019

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NDP's Swan song?

Veteran MLA's departure 'not a good sign' for Manitoba New Democrats

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/1/2019 (243 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MLA Andrew Swan's decision to run federally -- while not a surprise -- is still a blow to the 12-member provincial NDP caucus and a sign that the party's chances of winning government in 2020 are slim, political observers said Monday.

On the weekend, Swan (Minto) announced that he would be seeking the NDP nomination in the federal riding of Winnipeg Centre, which is now held by Liberal Robert-Falcon Ouellette. One other NDP candidate -- educator Leah Gazan -- has also emerged to contest the federal nomination.

Swan, 50, a former attorney general with nearly 15 years in the legislature, was one of the most visible and experienced MLAs in Wab Kinew's caucus.

"I think this will be a blow, no question," said Brandon University political scientist Kelly Saunders.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/1/2019 (243 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MLA Andrew Swan's decision to run federally — while not a surprise — is still a blow to the 12-member provincial NDP caucus and a sign that the party's chances of winning government in 2020 are slim, political observers said Monday.

On the weekend, Swan (Minto) announced that he would be seeking the NDP nomination in the federal riding of Winnipeg Centre, which is now held by Liberal Robert-Falcon Ouellette. One other NDP candidate — educator Leah Gazan — has also emerged to contest the federal nomination.

Swan, 50, a former attorney general with nearly 15 years in the legislature, was one of the most visible and experienced MLAs in Wab Kinew's caucus.

"I think this will be a blow, no question," said Brandon University political scientist Kelly Saunders.

Manitoba MLA Andrew Swan greets supporters at Robert Steen Community Centre before he announced on Monday that he will be running for the federal NDP seat in Winnipeg Centre in the next federal election.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba MLA Andrew Swan greets supporters at Robert Steen Community Centre before he announced on Monday that he will be running for the federal NDP seat in Winnipeg Centre in the next federal election.

"I think Andrew Swan is, for good reason, held in high esteem. He certainly seemed to be one of the stronger, most experienced, most capable members of the NDP caucus. And to have him step away now, I think, does not bode well for the party in terms of where it's going."

Swan makes it official on Monday

Longtime NDP MLA Andrew Swan made it official Monday: he will seek the federal party's nomination for Winnipeg Centre for the 2019 election.

“I’ve always been interested in federal politics but there never seemed to be the right time, until now,” he told a room packed with family, friends, and supporters (including MLA Ted Marcelino and former MLA Erin Selby) at the Robert A. Steen Community Centre.

Swan noted the redrawing of boundaries in his provincial riding of Minto (which he has held since 2004) will divide his constituents for the 2020 Manitoba election. “This way, I can keep representing all of them,” he said to applause.

Longtime NDP MLA Andrew Swan made it official Monday: he will seek the federal party's nomination for Winnipeg Centre for the 2019 election.

“I’ve always been interested in federal politics but there never seemed to be the right time, until now,” he told a room packed with family, friends, and supporters (including MLA Ted Marcelino and former MLA Erin Selby) at the Robert A. Steen Community Centre.

Swan noted the redrawing of boundaries in his provincial riding of Minto (which he has held since 2004) will divide his constituents for the 2020 Manitoba election. “This way, I can keep representing all of them,” he said to applause.

He drew on NDP icons of the past, including Stanley Knowles and social democratic pioneer J.S. Woodsworth, in a 15-minute speech that was critical of the current Winnipeg Centre MP, Robert-Falcon Ouellette of the Liberal party.

“With your help friends, we will win back the heart of Winnipeg... We will have a member of Parliament who actually lives in the riding,” Swan said.

The federal election is just months away (it must be held on or before Oct. 21) and Swan is the second candidate to vie for the NDP nomination in Winnipeg Centre. University of Winnipeg instructor and Indigenous activist Leah Gazan threw her hat into the ring Saturday.

The man both seek to defeat, Ouellette, said Monday he welcomed the challenge.

"I don't think anything is ever given; I think you have to work hard," Ouellette told the Free Press in Ottawa. "Every day is really an election; so (I think about) what have I done today to make life better for people of Winnipeg Centre."

Swan, a former provincial justice minister, has strong visibility, after almost 15 years as the MLA for Minto.

"I appreciate that long experience. I look forward to having a positive campaign, to talk about the issues and what we can do," Ouellette said, arguing being in government allows for "frank conversations, in a constructive way" with ministers and even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He said the Liberals' boost to the Canada Child Benefit — which supports 15,510 children in the Winnipeg riding, and a higher funding rate than the national average — makes the Liberals popular among many of his constituents.

In the meantime, Swan will continue to sit as an MLA. No date has yet been set to decide the party nomination.

-- with files from Dylan Robertson

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba, said the departure of an MLA like Swan, who has credibility and proven voter appeal, "is not a good sign" for the NDP at this point.

"It's past the mid-term in the election cycle. It comes as part of a parade of people who have dropped out of provincial politics," Thomas said, referring to the resignation of former cabinet minister Kevin Chief and the announcement that such veteran MLAs as James Allum and Rob Altemeyer plan not to seek re-election. One or two more experienced NDP MLAs are also likely to announce that they're calling it quits once their current term is up.

"If a lot of heavy weights are retiring or are trying to trade up to a federal MP's job that doesn't do lots for caucus motivation," Thomas said.

<strong>LEFT AND LEAVING:</strong> At least six New Democrat MLAs elected in 2016 won't be around for the NDP's run in 2020. That group includes Rob Altemeyer, James Allum and Andrew Swan, who said they won't seek re-election; Kevin Chief and Greg Selinger who resigned this term; and Mohinder Saran who was booted from the NDP caucus after accusations of sexual harassment came to light in 2017.

GRAEME BRUCE/BORIS MINKEVICH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

LEFT AND LEAVING: At least six New Democrat MLAs elected in 2016 won't be around for the NDP's run in 2020. That group includes Rob Altemeyer, James Allum and Andrew Swan, who said they won't seek re-election; Kevin Chief and Greg Selinger who resigned this term; and Mohinder Saran who was booted from the NDP caucus after accusations of sexual harassment came to light in 2017.

And the party's Opposition status and relatively weak standing in the polls will not help it recruit new blood, he said.

"It's not like you have the immediate prospect of offering them a cabinet job or the chance to sit even in a caucus that's going to run the province," Thomas said.

Kinew praised Swan's contributions to the NDP, while sidestepping questions about the hole the MLA would leave in his caucus if he is successful in securing the federal nomination.

"He (Swan) came into Opposition and without much ego just set out to work and help the party rebuild," Kinew said. "So I've got a lot of time for Andrew."

He said he wished both Swan and Gazan good luck in their bid for the nomination.

Manitoba opposition leader Wab Kinew: 'I'm more focused on what we're adding to our team.'

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Manitoba opposition leader Wab Kinew: 'I'm more focused on what we're adding to our team.'

As for what Swan's exit means, Kinew preferred to speak about the future.

"I'm more focused on what we're adding to our team. In particular, we've put a lot of time into recruiting the next slate of candidates that we're going to be presenting in the 2020 election," he said.

Kinew said that process is going well, and the announcement of some new candidates in the newly restructured electoral districts will be made within days.

Swan's departure — from a winnable seat — would also give the NDP an opportunity to help ensure it meets its goal of electing an equal number of men and women in the coming election, Kinew said.

"If we can get that person elected, then that's somebody that we can build around for many, many years going forward in the future," he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

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.

Read full biography

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