November 13, 2018

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Opinion

Oswald's stabbing words

Dagger-like tone revealed anger over PST hike after 2013 budget

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger arrives for a news conference Oct. 28 to announce his future intentions. (David Lipnowski / The Canadian Press)
Premier Selinger versus the Gang of Five
Premier Greg Selinger announced Oct. 28 that he has no intention of stepping down and plans to lead the NDP into the next provincial election, expected in 2016. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)
Premier Greg Selinger is supported by 15 members of his caucus as he announced Oct. 28 he is staying on as NDP leader despite pressure from five outspoken cabinet ministers who want him to quit. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)
Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald is one of the Group of Five dissidents who demanded Greg Selinger quit as NDP leader. There is speculation she would like to replace him. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files)
Health Minister Erin Selby said Greg Selinger should resign as NDP leader because the party's poll numbers are down significantly. She blamed a poor rollout of the PST increase in 2013 on Selinger. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files)
Finance Minister Jennifer Howard added her voice to demands Greg Selinger step down as NDP leader.  (Tim Smith / Brandon Sun files)
Municipal Affairs Minister Stan Struthers demanded Greg Selinger quit as NDP leader, claiming the premier is to blame for the dismal rollout of the PST increase in 2013. However, as finance minister in 2013, it was Struthers's job to sell that PST increase. He did not say anything about his responsibility when he demanded Selinger quit. (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press files)
Justice Minister Andrew Swan invited the media into his legislature office to hold a scrum n which he said Greg Selinger has to quit as NDP leader because of poor poll numbers. Swan ran against Selinger in a leadership contest five years ago. He had to pull out because of his poor showing. He entrenched himself in the Selinger camp at that time.
Becky Barrett, seen here in a file photo, loudly demanded on Oct. 27 the resignation of Premier Greg Selinger as NDP leader. The former labour minister and longtime NDP worker was the campaign chairwoman for cabinet Minister Andrew Swan during his failed bid for the leadership in 2009. Swan is a member of the Gang of Five cabinet ministers demanding Selinger step aside. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free press files)
Darlene Dziewit, the former president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour and a longtime New Democrat, is one of those demanding Premier Greg Selinger quit as NDP leader. (facebook)
Transportation Minister Steve Ashton is hounded by a few reporters as he walks in the halls of the legislature. Ashton lost the leadership bid in 2009 to Greg Selinger. He was not one of the five dissidents who demanded Selinger resign. He was also not at a news conference Selinger held to announce he would not quit. Ashton is seen as a certain candidate if the party held a leadership race. (Ken Gigliotti / Winnipeg Free Press)
Media members wait in the legislature to talk to politicians as Greg Selinger struggles with a palace coup. (Ken Gigliotti / Winnipeg Free Press)
Conservative Leader Brian Pallister says the power struggle in the NDP is hurting Manitobans because it takes attention away from the business of governing the province. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)
Media pundits criticized Opposition Leader Brian Pallister for failing to take full advantage of the NDP power struggle. The Progressive Conservative party is sitting high in the polls, compared with the NDP's low approval rate. (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger arrives for a news conference Oct. 28 to announce his future intentions. - (David Lipnowski / The Canadian Press)
Premier Greg Selinger announced Oct. 28 that he has no intention of stepping down and plans to lead the NDP into the next provincial election, expected in 2016. - (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)
Premier Greg Selinger is supported by 15 members of his caucus as he announced Oct. 28 he is staying on as NDP leader despite pressure from five outspoken cabinet ministers who want him to quit. - (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)
Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald is one of the Group of Five dissidents who demanded Greg Selinger quit as NDP leader. There is speculation she would like to replace him. - (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files)
Health Minister Erin Selby said Greg Selinger should resign as NDP leader because the party's poll numbers are down significantly. She blamed a poor rollout of the PST increase in 2013 on Selinger. - (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files)
Finance Minister Jennifer Howard added her voice to demands Greg Selinger step down as NDP leader. - (Tim Smith / Brandon Sun files)
Municipal Affairs Minister Stan Struthers demanded Greg Selinger quit as NDP leader, claiming the premier is to blame for the dismal rollout of the PST increase in 2013. However, as finance minister in 2013, it was Struthers's job to sell that PST increase. He did not say anything about his responsibility when he demanded Selinger quit. - (Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press files)
Justice Minister Andrew Swan invited the media into his legislature office to hold a scrum n which he said Greg Selinger has to quit as NDP leader because of poor poll numbers. Swan ran against Selinger in a leadership contest five years ago. He had to pull out because of his poor showing. He entrenched himself in the Selinger camp at that time.
Becky Barrett, seen here in a file photo, loudly demanded on Oct. 27 the resignation of Premier Greg Selinger as NDP leader. The former labour minister and longtime NDP worker was the campaign chairwoman for cabinet Minister Andrew Swan during his failed bid for the leadership in 2009. Swan is a member of the Gang of Five cabinet ministers demanding Selinger step aside. - (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free press files)
Darlene Dziewit, the former president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour and a longtime New Democrat, is one of those demanding Premier Greg Selinger quit as NDP leader. - (facebook)
Transportation Minister Steve Ashton is hounded by a few reporters as he walks in the halls of the legislature. Ashton lost the leadership bid in 2009 to Greg Selinger. He was not one of the five dissidents who demanded Selinger resign. He was also not at a news conference Selinger held to announce he would not quit. Ashton is seen as a certain candidate if the party held a leadership race. - (Ken Gigliotti / Winnipeg Free Press)
Media members wait in the legislature to talk to politicians as Greg Selinger struggles with a palace coup. - (Ken Gigliotti / Winnipeg Free Press)
Conservative Leader Brian Pallister says the power struggle in the NDP is hurting Manitobans because it takes attention away from the business of governing the province. - (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)
Media pundits criticized Opposition Leader Brian Pallister for failing to take full advantage of the NDP power struggle. The Progressive Conservative party is sitting high in the polls, compared with the NDP's low approval rate. - (Boris Minkevich / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/10/2014 (1475 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Halloween week might seem like a fitting time for a toga party.

Although it can get out of control when Premier Greg Selinger is cast in the role of Julius Caesar and the target of an inner-circle revolt led by a group of front-bench cabinet ministers.

The so-called Gang of Five's backstabbing is public now. But it's not the first time one of the five has flashed a knife.

We don't have access to the reaction at the caucus meeting 16 months ago after the provincial budget announced the government's intention to add a percentage point to the PST, much less the discussion around the cabinet table about what the tax hike, coupled with the premier's breaking his campaign pledge not to do it, could do to the NDP's chances of being re-elected.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/10/2014 (1475 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Halloween week might seem like a fitting time for a toga party.

Although it can get out of control when Premier Greg Selinger is cast in the role of Julius Caesar and the target of an inner-circle revolt led by a group of front-bench cabinet ministers.

After the April 2013 budget, cabinet minister Theresa Oswald couldn't hide her anger over tax increases instituted under Premier Greg Selinger's leadership.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

After the April 2013 budget, cabinet minister Theresa Oswald couldn't hide her anger over tax increases instituted under Premier Greg Selinger's leadership.

The so-called Gang of Five's backstabbing is public now. But it's not the first time one of the five has flashed a knife.

We don't have access to the reaction at the caucus meeting 16 months ago after the provincial budget announced the government's intention to add a percentage point to the PST, much less the discussion around the cabinet table about what the tax hike, coupled with the premier's breaking his campaign pledge not to do it, could do to the NDP's chances of being re-elected.

We can imagine, though.

Actually, back then, I didn't have to imagine that much, not after getting what amounted to a peek through the cabinet room door.

In the spring of 2013, Theresa Oswald told me exactly how she felt in a candid moment that left me wondering what to do with what she said.

The date was April 23, one week after the budget was tabled.

Oswald was the minister of health at the time, and we were both in the Fort Garry Hotel's grand ballroom, attending a fundraiser for colon cancer called Bottoms Up that her brother, Free Press TV writer Brad Oswald, was chairing.

At one point during the evening, I took the minister aside and offered her a heads-up on something I had been working on.

We sat alone at a back table.

At one point, we also talked about the nearly seven years she had survived in the high-stress, high-profile health portfolio.

I can't recall what the segue was, but as she got up to leave the table, Oswald made a brief parting reference to the recently announced PST hike.

I only made a mental note. But it stuck. Oswald said Gary Doer had a saying: "You don't increase beer prices, and you don't hike the PST." Then she walked off into the ballroom crowd, leaving me wondering what prompted that unsolicited candour.

Even back then, there was a dagger-like tone to Oswald's words.

It was obvious, not only by what she said, but how she said it, that she didn't respect Selinger's decision.

Given her reference to former premier Doer's understanding of the re-election process, and what matters to voters, it also seemed Oswald didn't respect his successor's political smarts, either.

Or, for that matter, the principle of cabinet solidarity and, to some extent, cabinet confidentiality.

I didn't write about it at the time because I was concerned that, given the casual nature of the conversation, she may have assumed what she said was off the record. On the other hand, she was speaking to a journalist and, given what's transpired since the Free Press broke the story Friday about the internal revolt, maybe she wanted it on the public record even back then.

Whatever the case, I was more concerned with protecting her in what was likely something shared out of frustration and anger in the still relatively raw and fresh moment; not out of malice aforethought.

Quoting her, at least at the time, would have caused her considerable embarrassment.

That was 16 months ago, though, before she and the other mutineers donned their togas and embarrassed the premier, the New Democratic Party and themselves for that matter. Her feelings on Selinger as party leader are out in the open now, although more guardedly. This week, after allowing she had spoken in private with the premier about polling results, her comments were diplomatic, respectful and even empathetic in tone.

"We can look at the evidence Premier Selinger has been coming to work with the best interests of Manitoba at heart," she was quoted as saying. "I believe he'll remain having Manitobans' best interests at heart in terms of whatever decisions he makes in the days ahead. I will respect those decisions."

But what her comment back in April of 2013 strongly suggests is that Theresa Oswald was against the PST hike right from its inception.

Something that might give her some credibility with voters if Selinger steps aside — as he must — and she's elected leader. If she even wants the job.

Oswald probably wasn't the only cabinet minister who factored in the political ramifications from the spring 2013 budget. But all of them, especially Municipal Affairs Minister Stan Struthers, were expected to take one for the team and sell the tax increase.

Now the premier refuses to take one for the team.

The problem for the Gang of Five is, so far, the toga party and the daggers have only wounded him.

And if the premier manages to drag his bloodied toga to the next election, the voters are almost certain to finish the party.

Selinger deserves to be praised for his years of commitment to Manitoba. Sadly, now — one way or another- he's going to be buried.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

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