August 17, 2019

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Opinion

Selby's bid: bold, or just mad?

Erin Selby announced Friday morning she will be the federal NDP candidate in St. Boniface-St. Vital at an event at the Glenwood Community Centre.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Erin Selby announced Friday morning she will be the federal NDP candidate in St. Boniface-St. Vital at an event at the Glenwood Community Centre.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/9/2015 (1442 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In politics, there is a very fine line between a bold move and sheer madness. It's a line the NDP is walking right now in Winnipeg.

On Friday, more than a month into the federal campaign, the NDP unveiled Erin Selby, an NDP MLA and former cabinet minister, as its candidate in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital.

This is, to put it mildly, a curious strategy.

As almost everyone knows, the provincial NDP is not very popular in this province, although it enjoys better support in Winnipeg. Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair doesn't shy away from appearing with his provincial brothers and sisters. (His rally in Winnipeg was jammed with members of the provincial NDP caucus and cabinet.) But there is nothing good to be achieved by the federal wing of the party by absorbing Selby into the team at this point.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/9/2015 (1442 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In politics, there is a very fine line between a bold move and sheer madness. It's a line the NDP is walking right now in Winnipeg.

On Friday, more than a month into the federal campaign, the NDP unveiled Erin Selby, an NDP MLA and former cabinet minister, as its candidate in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital.

This is, to put it mildly, a curious strategy.

As almost everyone knows, the provincial NDP is not very popular in this province, although it enjoys better support in Winnipeg. Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair doesn't shy away from appearing with his provincial brothers and sisters. (His rally in Winnipeg was jammed with members of the provincial NDP caucus and cabinet.) But there is nothing good to be achieved by the federal wing of the party by absorbing Selby into the team at this point.

Selby was a charter member of the Gang of Five, the cabinet ministers who resigned late last year to protest the continued leadership of Premier Greg Selinger in one of the messiest political uprisings in Canadian political history.

Selby and the other dissident ministers threw their support behind former cabinet minister Theresa Oswald in a leadership vote last March. Oswald came up short in her bid to knock off a sitting premier, leaving her and her supporters in an unenviable position: the resident black sheep of a dysfunctional and unpopular party.

It was highly unlikely Selby would have run again in the next provincial election, slated for April 2016. Still, her decision to jump to federal politics is odd and represents a huge risk to the NDP and a boost to their opponents.

Selby's candidacy dramatically improves the prospects for Liberal candidate Dan Vandal, who is seeking to return the riding to the Grit fold. This is a riding where provincial Progressive Conservatives are widely expected to knock off New Democrats in the next provincial election. That trend does not bode well for the federal NDP and in fact clears the way for many centre or left-of-centre voters to go Liberal with a clear conscience.

The Selby candidacy is the latest in a series of developments underlining the NDP's bizarre approach to its campaign in Manitoba.

More than a month into the campaign, the NDP is still without candidates in Winnipeg South and Portage-Lisgar. A third riding, Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, was filled this week by former Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation chief Deborah Chief.

It is a reality that Manitoba, with only 14 federal seats, typically plays little to no role in determining the outcome of a national election. Still, in a close, three-way race like the one we have now, every seat counts. Even seats in Manitoba.

Since the campaign's onset, the NDP has been quietly saying its ambitions in Manitoba were modest: hold onto the seats of MPs Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre) and Niki Ashton (Churchill-Keewatinook Aski) and recapture Elmwood-Transcona, a longtime NDP seat won by the Conservatives in 2011.

Many journalists believed this plan was only partly true. Yes, the NDP wants to make sure it holds existing seats, and everyone knows it is desperate to get Elmwood-Transcona back. But surely a party that is leading — albeit slightly — national opinion polls would have greater ambitions.

The theory was that as the campaign evolved, we'd see additional NDP activity and financial support flowing into ridings that would come into play based on the party's surging national performance. Ridings such as Kildonan-St. Paul or perhaps Winnipeg North, the lone Liberal seat in Manitoba, held by the irrepressible Kevin Lamoureux.

And yet, there have been no obvious signs the NDP is showing much game in those seats. Meanwhile, it appears it has written off the chances in Winnipeg South, where the party has no nominated candidate. That leaves Tory candidate Gordon Giesbrecht in a race with Liberal Terry Duguid, who may not have to worry about splitting the non-Tory vote with the NDP.

Selby's decision to enter the federal campaign could be viewed in two very different ways.

On one hand, Selby could be performing a heroic act of political self-sacrifice, carrying the NDP colours in a riding where no one else would come forward. With all the turmoil she's faced in the past six months challenging and then succumbing to Selinger and his supporters, taking on the role of sacrificial lamb is pretty stoic stuff.

Of course, there is a slight possibility Selby is convinced this is a real opportunity to breathe life back into her flagging political career by riding the surging wave of NDP federal support.

And if the NDP was able to break free of the three-way race and draw support that would translate into a majority mandate, then who knows? Voters may overlook her damaged personal brand and elect her because they are driven to support Mulcair.

However, at this time and in this province with this provincial NDP government, that will be a very difficult scenario to achieve. In reality, Selby is trapped between being a long shot and having no shot at all.

dan.lett@freepress.mb.ca

Dan Lett

Dan Lett
Columnist

Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.

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