Rana Bokhari's fate as Liberal leader could be known by late Thursday evening.

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Rana Bokhari's fate as Liberal leader could be known by late Thursday evening.

That's when the party's executive meets to conduct a postmortem on the election campaign in which the Liberals won three seats and almost doubled their popular vote.

SUPPLIED Cindy Lamoureux and her dad MP Kevin Lamoureux came to the legislature around midnight Tuesday and took this photo. She wanted her dad with her the first time she walked in as an MLA-elect. </p>

SUPPLIED Cindy Lamoureux and her dad MP Kevin Lamoureux came to the legislature around midnight Tuesday and took this photo. She wanted her dad with her the first time she walked in as an MLA-elect.

But Bokhari finished a distant third in the Fort Rouge riding she chose to contest, and there are serious questions about the party's finances and its ability to continue to pay a leader without a seat in the legislature — especially with premier-designate Brian Pallister's vowing to rescind retroactively the so-called vote tax that would reward the Liberals for every vote it won Tuesday.

Tuesday's outcome was still far below what the party's heady standing in the polls promised when the election was called.

Bokhari and party president Paul Hesse did not make themselves available to the media Wednesday.

However, the three elected Liberals said they will be in Winnipeg Thursday to hold their first caucus meeting with Bokhari. While careful not to offer any predictions, they praised the rookie leader.

The Liberals elected Cindy Lamoureux in Burrows and Judy Klassen in Kewatinook, and re-elected former Liberal leader Jon Gerrard in River Heights.

Veteran political observer Kelly Saunders, a political scientist at Brandon University, urged Bokhari to resign before the party makes the decision for her.

"I expected her to step down (Tuesday) night," Saunders said Wednesday. "It's clear she should step down, and it's clear she should step down of her own volition."

Saunders said she has never seen a party leader not make a concession speech on election night, not congratulate the winner, and not thank her supporters and volunteers. Bokhari held a very brief media scrum, hugged a few candidates and supporters gathered at a downtown hotel, and left. A podium backed by party signs was never used.

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister and NDP Leader Greg Selinger delayed their own formal speeches while waiting for Bokhari — the last-place finisher traditionally speaks first.

"I was very surprised that she not only did not give a speech, but didn't hang around," Saunders said. "It's something we saw constantly through the campaiign, how green a leader she is.

"It's a very traumatic, emotional experience," said Saunders, but, "There is a tradition, a protocol, you take the high road and congratulate the winner and thank your supporters. The buck stops with the leader — she managed this campaign, and let the party down."

Gerrard urged the party Wednesday not to rush into any decisions. "Rana should get significant credit. This is a significant accomplishment going from one to three seats and doubling the vote. Rana has been the moving force behind that."

Lamoureux said she did not know what Bokhari or the party would do, and said she wouldn't be commenting further for a few days.

Her father — Liberal MP and former MLA Kevin Lamoureux — went to the legislature around midnight on Tuesday so the two could walk around inside the grand building. Kevin needed to be back in Ottawa early Wednesday, she said. "I wanted my first time in the legislature (after winning a seat) to be with my dad."

Klassen, a member of St. Theresa Point First Nation, praised Bokhari for having recruited so many indigenous candidates. "I am so proud of Rana — she is a very honoured person in my area."

St. Paul's College political scientist Chris Adams said it's understahdable that Bokhari may have been so exhausted and emotionally drained that she did not follow tradition Tuesday night.

"I suspect she will be starting to move to withdraw as leader," Adams said in an interview. He speculated the Liberals will be hoping Selinger quits as an MLA so they can run in a St. Boniface byelection and win the fourth seat that would make them an official party and receive far more funded support in the legislature.

Longtime Liberal Dougald Lamont, who finished second to Bokhari in the 2013 leadership race, said winning three seats was significant, but, "They probably could have won more."

Lamont said the real power now rests with the three MLAs. "They have a real say, they've been elected by people. It's up to the three MLAs."

Echoing another longtime Liberal Tuesday night, who asked not to be named, Lamont said, "I have no idea what the party's internal finances are, or what the party is paying her."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca