September 18, 2018

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Selinger resigning as MLA: 'I'm leaving on my own initiative, but there have been pushes'

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/2/2018 (210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With his voice cracking, and fighting back tears, Greg Selinger closed the book on a long and controversial political career that took him from Winnipeg city councillor to provincial finance minister to Manitoba premier.

A week after saying he was going to consider a transition to private life in the wake of sexual misconduct complaints against former cabinet minister Stan Struthers, Selinger held an impromptu press conference Tuesday afternoon to announce he will quit as NDP MLA for St. Boniface on March 7.

“I didn’t think it was tenable to continue for another two years,” Selinger told reporters in his constituency office. “I’m stepping away from political life — I don’t have a road map here.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/2/2018 (210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With his voice cracking, and fighting back tears, Greg Selinger closed the book on a long and controversial political career that took him from Winnipeg city councillor to provincial finance minister to Manitoba premier.

A week after saying he was going to consider a transition to private life in the wake of sexual misconduct complaints against former cabinet minister Stan Struthers, Selinger held an impromptu press conference Tuesday afternoon to announce he will quit as NDP MLA for St. Boniface on March 7.

"I didn’t think it was tenable to continue for another two years," Selinger told reporters in his constituency office. "I’m stepping away from political life — I don’t have a road map here."

NDP Leader Wab Kinew's statement:

"Today, my thoughts remain with the women who’ve shown us the meaning of courage by coming forward and sharing their experiences. We will continue to work every day to move forward with the commission to give space for their voices to be heard by our party, and set a new direction to ensure we honour what they have gone through by improving our society.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew's statement:

"Today, my thoughts remain with the women who’ve shown us the meaning of courage by coming forward and sharing their experiences. We will continue to work every day to move forward with the commission to give space for their voices to be heard by our party, and set a new direction to ensure we honour what they have gone through by improving our society.

"Given the resignation of Greg Selinger today, I wanted to share a few personal thoughts about Manitoba’s 21st premier.

"During my time as a reporter, I remember Greg’s constant presence in the 2011 flood. From the Interlake to Westman, from the Souris to Assiniboine to Red rivers and many spots in between, Greg showed up to encourage volunteers, reassure homeowners and help lead the response through a tense and difficult time for our province. He was the leader our province needed.

"Greg is also held as a favourite son of the Franco-Manitoban community. His lifetime of service to the ideal that francophones, along with anglophones and Indigenous communities, be respected as founding partners of Manitoba will not soon be forgotten.

"When I started my life in politics, I told the story of how my mother-in-law Debbie studied in a program that helped inner-city residents get an education. Howard Pawley founded that program, and Greg was one of the teachers who helped make sure that Debbie and her family never had to live in poverty again.

"In 2012, Greg took the time to attend my father’s memorial service. It meant a lot to me that a sitting premier showed up to mourn my dad. My family and I will remember that.

"It’s my hope that Greg will be remembered as a premier who led our province through the aftermath of the global financial crisis, two major floods, and was a finance minister who balanced the budget for 10 years in a row.

"I wish to thank Greg, as well as his wife and children for their service. I know Greg gave a lot of himself as premier, MLA and city councillor. I also know that Claudette, Eric and Pascal sacrificed a lot of time with their husband and father for the good of Winnipeg and Manitoba. I am thinking of them all today.

"I wish them all the best. Miigwech, Greg."

Selinger shied away Tuesday from talking about regrets or triumphs. Selinger, who turned 67 last week, was finance minister for a decade before becoming Manitoba’s premier from 2009 to 2016.

Open rebellion within his cabinet couldn’t drive Selinger out, nor could a devastating election defeat on April 19, 2016. Ultimately, the #MeToo movement caught up to Selinger, who said he was unaware Struthers was allegedly touching women inappropriately until late in his time as premier.

"As long as someone’s hurting and someone’s victimized, you haven’t done enough," Selinger said Tuesday. "When something happens, you try to step up and take responsibility for it."

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew took the extraordinary step Feb. 13 of asking Selinger to resign his seat. Instead, Selinger defied Kinew, and held a news conference and said he wasn’t ready to resign.

On Tuesday, Selinger said he was not prepared to go a week ago, just as he was not prepared to resign as MLA on election night in 2016. He did, however, step down as leader.

He talked this past week to his family and staff, then met with his riding association.

"I'm stepping away from political life — I don't have a road map here," Selinger said. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

"I'm stepping away from political life — I don't have a road map here," Selinger said. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

"I really felt I owed it to my community to consult them. I advised them I thought it was the best course of action," he said.

"I’m leaving on my own initiative, but there have been pushes, of course."

Selinger again apologized to the women who have accused Struthers of sexual misconduct, specifically apologizing for the attention his political squabble with Kinew has taken away from their stories. "At that time, the focus should have been properly on hearing their voices," he said.

Selinger’s voice broke and he fought back tears when he thanked his family for their support through his career.

"I’m very grateful for the opportunity I had," said Selinger, who summed up his political career as "trying to do the best for people every day. It has been a privilege and an honour to serve the citizens of St. Boniface, and I wish to thank them for their encouragement to continue. I will cherish the experience forever."

Following the departure of then-premier Gary Doer, Selinger won a resounding leadership victory in 2009 over Steve Ashton, and led the NDP to a fourth consecutive majority in 2011.

But it all came apart in 2013, when Selinger decided to break an election promise and increase the provincial sales tax to eight per cent without taking it to a public vote. He then steadfastly refused to quit in 2014, when four of his MLAs, all cabinet ministers, dubbed the Gang of Five, led an unsuccessful open rebellion and begged him to quit to give the party a chance at electoral survival.

Selinger narrowly held onto his leadership over Theresa Oswald and Ashton.

He quit as leader on election night in 2016, but stayed on as an MLA.

Premier Brian Pallister was gracious Tuesday: "I would like to thank Mr. Selinger for his service to Manitoba. I wish him well as he enjoys the opportunity to spend more time with his family and chooses to embrace new challenges in the future."

Selinger said he informed Kinew of his decision Tuesday morning. Selinger said he has several offers for a post-political career, which he chose not to share immediately, adding he’s made no decisions.

"I'm leaving on my own initiative, but there have been pushes, of course," Selinger acknowledged. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

"I'm leaving on my own initiative, but there have been pushes, of course," Selinger acknowledged. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

In a statement Tuesday, Kinew said while his thoughts remain with the women who have made complaints against Struthers, he praised Selinger for his commitment to the province.

"It’s my hope that Greg will be remembered as a premier who led our province through the aftermath of the global financial crisis, two major floods, and was a finance minister who balanced the budget for 10 years in a row," Kinew said. "I wish to thank Greg, as well as his wife and children for their service. I know Greg gave a lot of himself as premier, MLA and city councillor."

University of Winnipeg political science Prof. Shannon Sampert said Selinger’s departure leaves the NDP fractured.

"Last week revealed the cracks that remain in the NDP, with Selinger’s faceoff against Kinew," Sampert said. "He (Selinger) knew he could get away with it because he had the backing of those within the party and the caucus.

"And the party has to do a lot of repair — they should now be looking forward to the next campaign, not dealing with the residue of the last one. So with Selinger gone, they can actually now move past the damage — if Kinew can mend and build the party’s fractures and move them onward."

"(Selinger) has caused damage, no question, deep damage for the party," Brandon University political science Prof. Kelly Saunders said, adding it’s been years of ongoing problems beginning with the ill-fated decision to raise the PST.

"It’s been five years of internal disarray, of a divided caucus. It’s not like the problem ends today," said Saunders, who pointed out Kinew lacked a Plan B when Selinger refused to quit last week.

"The bumbling within the party, they just can’t seem to get their feet underneath them. This seems to be a black pit the NDP has fallen into."

Retired University of Manitoba political scientist Paul Thomas said Selinger presided over the NDP’s abandonment of ideology in pursuit of maintaining power.

"Selinger is a serious, ideological, intelligent policy wonk, but he lacked the interpersonal skills to manage the human dynamics of a party that became complacent with its success and could not find internal harmony," Thomas said.

"Selinger is leaving the party when it has a deeply damaged brand and continues to suffer from internal divisions," Thomas said. "In response to the Gang of Five, he should have defended his actions as premier forcefully and promised to resign after the 2016 election.

"The Gang of Five were self-indulgent and misguided in staging a open revolt. Both the Selinger and the anti-Selinger camps reflected and reinforced the personality-based ‘me-first’ culture that developed in the party."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 5:07 PM CST: Complete writethru. Adds video, new images.

8:20 PM: fixes typo in sidebar headline

8:24 PM: Full write through, final version

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