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This article was published 14/2/2018 (710 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It is a dumpster fire that just keeps on burning.
The Manitoba NDP and its leader, Wab Kinew, can’t seem to get it right and former premier Greg Selinger certainly isn’t helping things – yet again.
On Tuesday, Selinger stole Kinew’s thunder by holding a news conference in his St. Boniface riding to address allegations regarding former finance minister’s Stan Struthers alleged sexual harassment. Kinew had hoped to announce the details about his party’s inquiry into sexual misconduct in the NDP and instead was forced to face the media to discuss Selinger’s future.
It seems that even though Kinew wants Selinger gone, the wily MLA isn’t about to quit the NDP caucus just yet.
Remarkably, Kinew seems to be okay with that stance. It’s like watching a five-year old in a candy store refusing to go home and dad shrugging his shoulders and giving in.
But this isn’t the first time Greg has dug in his heels and refused to go, and the last time it was deadly for the party. Premier Brian Pallister has got to be thankful in part for Selinger’s stubborn streak in 2016.
So why’s everyone so afraid of pushing Selinger out? Perhaps it’s because if Selinger goes, he may take a substantial number of MLAs with him, leaving Kinew wondering what to do next.
Meanwhile, Kinew seems content to set his sights on an inquiry into sexual harassment within the NDP party as a way to rebuild the party. But this suggests another level of delusion. To borrow from our American neighbours, perhaps now is the time for the NDP to drain the swamp, and start over.
There’s a long list of party staffers who had to have heard the rumours about the behaviour of Struthers, given the nickname of Mr. Tickles for reports of his inappropriate behaviour of touching women. One of them, former chief of staff Michael Balagus, has been relieved of his duties in Ontario. The other, Liam Martin, was the chief of staff for Selinger from 2012 to 2014 and returned to work for Kinew in 2017, less than three years after receiving $146,047 in severance following the caucus revolt. How could he not also be made aware of the problems within the hallways of the legislatures?
And by the way, sure Selinger can take the fall as the leader, but there were other MLAs on hand who certainly had to have heard the rumours and seen how uncomfortable women were – including former House Leader Jennifer Howard and Theresa Oswald, who ran against Selinger in the leadership race in 2015. Did Oswald and Howard look the other way just to keep Struthers on their side while trying to dump Selinger and win power?
As for this inquiry, or as Kinew likes to call it "commission," this sounds more like a calculated response to demonstrate that the leader is a new man – that he’s put his misogynistic and homophobic past behind him and is moving to make the NDP a place where women will be comfortable working.
But even if you believe Kinew’s had some miraculous conversion, you have to ask this question: How seriously can we take the new NDP under Wab Kinew when he has a constituency association president in Brandon East, Drew Caldwell, whose wife filed a protective order against him in 2016, an order that was set aside more than a year ago?
But there’s another voice missing in all of this mess.
Where's the MGEU? The union represents women – in fact, the majority of government workers are women – women like Julie Kentner, a senior civil servant who says she too was inappropriately touched by Struthers. Kentner was working with the provincial Finance Department in communications in 2013 when she was in a meeting alone with Struthers, the finance minister at the time, when he touched her.
Kentner is one voice and she is likely not the only voice who is a MGEU member allegedly victimized by Struthers. The department secretaries, aides and staff may just be too afraid to speak up because they know their jobs will be at stake should government change power back to the NDP.
Meanwhile their union, the MGEU, has been silent on this issue and its importance to its members. Is the union afraid of the political ramifications? I’m sure women deserve better than that.
Yes, this is a dumpster fire, but it’s one the NDP started itself a long time ago. Maybe it’s best to let it burn to the ground and start over. Beginning with new leadership, new political staff and a new attitude that puts women ahead of political expediency.
Shannon Sampert is an associate professor in the department of political science at the University of Winnipeg.
Updated on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 2:33 PM CST: Made factual changes about MGEU
3:05 PM: Corrected date of protection order
3:42 PM: Added Caldwell protection order lifted