February 20, 2018

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Editorial

Who's pulling the NDP's strings?

Premier Greg Selinger with CUPE  national president Paul Moist.

Premier Greg Selinger with CUPE national president Paul Moist.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/2/2015 (1107 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If there was any doubt in the minds of Manitobans how deeply indebted the NDP is to unions, it has become perfectly clear in the run-up to the leadership convention, to be held a month from now. The Canadian Union of Public Employees has the largest single block of delegates reserved for it at the convention where Premier Greg Selinger will fight to keep his job. This was confirmed Friday, when the NDP's special appeals committee ruled against leadership candidate Theresa Oswald, who complained CUPE's allocation is unfair to other labour unions.

This close relationship with the unions is a problem for New Democrats. Last week's confrontation fuelled even more dissent within a party already reeling from infighting following a bid by front-bench ministers to depose its leader and premier. Selinger is blamed for dragging down the NDP's popular support with his decision to hike the PST in 2013.

However, the insight into the delegate-selection decisions, and the power wielded by labour groups and unions, is instructive for Manitobans, who will be called to the polls in a general election about a year from now.

Labour groups have a long history of affiliation with the NDP, with its democratic socialist roots and history of working with workers and unions for improved labour conditions. The Manitoba NDP has a track record, including in the last 15 years of rule under Gary Doer and Mr. Selinger, of currying favour with unions and their huge memberships through provincial legislation and in public-service contract negotiations.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/2/2015 (1107 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If there was any doubt in the minds of Manitobans how deeply indebted the NDP is to unions, it has become perfectly clear in the run-up to the leadership convention, to be held a month from now. The Canadian Union of Public Employees has the largest single block of delegates reserved for it at the convention where Premier Greg Selinger will fight to keep his job. This was confirmed Friday, when the NDP's special appeals committee ruled against leadership candidate Theresa Oswald, who complained CUPE's allocation is unfair to other labour unions.

This close relationship with the unions is a problem for New Democrats. Last week's confrontation fuelled even more dissent within a party already reeling from infighting following a bid by front-bench ministers to depose its leader and premier. Selinger is blamed for dragging down the NDP's popular support with his decision to hike the PST in 2013.

However, the insight into the delegate-selection decisions, and the power wielded by labour groups and unions, is instructive for Manitobans, who will be called to the polls in a general election about a year from now.

Labour groups have a long history of affiliation with the NDP, with its democratic socialist roots and history of working with workers and unions for improved labour conditions. The Manitoba NDP has a track record, including in the last 15 years of rule under Gary Doer and Mr. Selinger, of currying favour with unions and their huge memberships through provincial legislation and in public-service contract negotiations.

Even the wage "pause" implemented for civil servants under former finance minister Rosann Wowchuk was done in co-operation with public-sector unions that negotiated simultaneous improvements to benefits in the same agreements.

And now as the party deals with the fallout from internal warring over delegate allotment, the argument is not over grassroots representation from constituencies and ordinary party members, but over how the allocation of delegate spots among labour groups may give Mr. Selinger an unfair advantage. CUPE, with its national and provincial leaders squarely behind the premier, has been given 288 of 691 labour delegates to the convention. That's more than any other single unit of delegates, including from constituency associations.

Underscoring the party's labour-centric reputation, Ms. Oswald herself warned the NDP faithful it didn't matter what it has done for unionized workers if they don't choose the candidate best set (her, she asserted) to beat the Tories in the next election.

While Ms. Oswald lost her appeal, the thornier point for Manitobans is that labour has gained more power with the governing party at a time when this province needs to focus on the economy and controlling expenses to wrestle down the deficit. In previous leadership conventions, labour had 20 per cent of total delegates. This convention gives it a potential 31 per cent of delegates.

Leadership conventions typically give parties a "bump" in the public-opinion polls because they invigorate debate and air new ideas that can capture public interest. The NDP's internal spat has caught Manitobans' attention. The insight into who pulls the party strings is useful for an electorate awaiting the call to the polls next year.

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Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

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