The spectacle that has played out this morning at the Manitoba legislature underscores the necessity for Premier Greg Selinger to step back, step down and allow an interim premier to assume control of the provincial government. The signalled resignations of five senior ministers — prepared to abandon their portfolios rather than continue under the helm of this premier — indicate the gravity of the government’s state. This is not a stable, nor effective environment that ensures the priorities of Manitobans, the interests of the province win out in the competing agendas of partisan politics and governance.

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This article was published 3/11/2014 (2540 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Editorial

The spectacle that has played out this morning at the Manitoba legislature underscores the necessity for Premier Greg Selinger to step back, step down and allow an interim premier to assume control of the provincial government. The signalled resignations of five senior ministers — prepared to abandon their portfolios rather than continue under the helm of this premier — indicate the gravity of the government’s state. This is not a stable, nor effective environment that ensures the priorities of Manitobans, the interests of the province win out in the competing agendas of partisan politics and governance.

Mr. Selinger is in a greatly weakened position to take the NDP into the next government session. At the historic, unprecedented press conference, the five ministers, including his finance minister and former finance minister, effectively labelled Mr. Selinger a tyrant managing with siege tactics. Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald stressed this wasn’t just about the way the PST hike was implemented, nor about the premier’s lacklustre showing in the polls, but about his management style which has shut out the opinions and advice of the very people who ought to be most heeded – his cabinet. "This has been going on for a long time," Ms. Oswald said. Her decision comes as a "cumulative effect about my inability to be heard on some very serious issues." If a minister opposes Mr. Selinger on policy, or expresses concern with his leadership style or strength, they, their advice, their ideas and agendas are cut off, shut out. But slavishly support the premier and "your priorities and projects move up the queue."

Manitobans are suitably concerned this may be the grousing of cabinet ministers, or those about to be kicked out of cabinet. Among these senior ministers who are leaving are at least two – Ms. Oswald and Justice Minister Andrew Swan – who are thought to be strong potential contenders for the throne. Further, Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers was the very minister who brought in the budget that contained the PST hike, and defended heartily its necessity. But the fact is that in a cabinet of 19 ministers, five have now left, making up a majority of the front bench. Their warnings and discouraging accusations on the state of government today must be taken seriously.

Most worrisome is the fact these ministers said that the agenda of government has been derailed, not because of an emergency in the priorities of Manitobans, but due to the leadership crisis and the personal priorities of the premier himself. Mr. Selinger, it is said, has put the policies and projects of the government itself on a back burner, to promote not the items to ensure good stewardship of the economy, of education and health or any other of the portfolios, but to use his power to position his supporters, so he can keep hold of leadership.

The premier is about to reveal this afternoon a new cabinet, shuffling the remaining available talent and bringing in new faces on a bench the strength of which has been greatly reduced. Doubling up the responsibilities of some existing ministers may be an option, but four of the five portfolios abandoned need the full-time attention of big hitters who carry weight in cabinet and government.

Still, there is no indication, even after a shuffle, that Mr. Selinger’s style of government, his immediate priorities will change, that the priorities of the province will take front seat again with a man fatally distracted from what should be Job 1.

The NDP must chart its next move forward. Manitobans, however, need to see leadership, need the appointment of an interim premier so they can have some confidence that partisan interests have been set aside and that the premier’s office once again can concentrate on their priorities. Anything less leaves the stewardship in tatters, much like Mr. Selinger’s own leadership today.