NDP Leader Greg Selinger said he is staying on as MLA, but has left the door open for an early exit before the next provincial election.

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NDP Leader Greg Selinger said he is staying on as MLA, but has left the door open for an early exit before the next provincial election.

Selinger announced his resignation as party leader following Tuesday night’s crushing defeat, which saw his party reduced to 14 seats in the legislature.

Speaking to reporters in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election, Selinger said he intends to keep his seat in St. Boniface, but wouldn’t confirm whether he’d stick it out for the next four years.

"People made a decision last night about who they wanted as a government and I fully support that," he said. "The people of St. Boniface asked me to serve as MLA my intention is to do that, how long I will do that, it is a four-year mandate, if changes occur before that date, you folks will be the first to know."

Selinger told media he is hoping to have an interim leader in place in two to four weeks.

Selinger won in St. Boniface with about 42 per cent of the votes on Tuesday night.

When asked what kind of role he hopes to play in his party’s opposition government, Selinger said that’s up to the interim leader.

"We are going to have a caucus of about 14 people, so everybody is going to have to contribute to do a good job and I will certainly do that in a support role in any way people wish," he said.

The NDP could have an interim leader in place as early as May.

That’s when the party executive is expected to head to the provincial council with a recommendation for who should be interim leader and when a leadership convention will take place.

Keith Bellamy, the party’s provincial secretary, said the executive will consult with caucus as they delve into possible leaders to pick from within the party. Speculation points to veteran MLAs such as James Allum or Andrew Swan as popular contenders.

"What the executive committee is looking for is somebody with experience, that will effectively and ably represent the party as the leader of the party," Bellamy said. "Typically speaking the interim leader is not somebody who is seeking the leadership."

Bellamy expects the provincial council meeting to take place in May, when the party’s 140 council members will make a decision on who the interim leader will be based on the executive’s recommendation.

However, the party’s constitution does not dictate when a leadership convention has to take place.

Meanwhile, some hard post-election feelings were evident Wednesday, as a defeated Manitoba NDP MLA Dave Gaudreau said the party fell victim to Selinger’s desire to hang on to his job.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Brian Pallister and Greg Selinger met in the Premier's office.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Brian Pallister and Greg Selinger met in the Premier's office.

Gaudreau, who lost his St. Norbert legislature seat Tuesday, said Selinger should not have fought to keep his job when a caucus coup erupted in 2014.

"If we would have swapped leaders, or had a different leader, I think we would have pulled it out. I think it would have been different," Gaudreau said as he packed up his constituency office. "It’s just too bad that good MLAs fell because of one guy’s drive to prove that he was right."

The New Democrats were swept from power Tuesday night after 16 years and reduced to 14 seats. The party lost constituencies that had been NDP for decades, including Thompson, Brandon East and Kildonan. With 40 seats, the Progressive Conservatives won the biggest majority government in a century.

The NDP’s popularity dropped when Selinger raised the provincial sales tax in 2013. Five of his most senior cabinet ministers went public a year later with a call for his resignation, but he stayed on and survived a leadership contest.

Gaudreau did not support the revolt, but later backed one of Selinger’s leadership opponents, Steve Ashton.

Selinger’s decision to stay on was a mistake, said Gaudreau. Opinion polls suggested Selinger’s personal popularity was lower than the party’s. Yet during the election campaign, NDP ads continued to focus largely on Selinger.

"This campaign focused on the guy that everybody was focused on getting rid of," Gaudreau said.

Other defeated New Democrats did not feel the same way.

Healthy Living Minister Deanne Crothers, Children and Youth Opportunities Minister Melanie Wight and others said Tuesday night the main factor in the campaign was a desire for change among voters after four terms under the NDP.

Wab Kinew, an author and indigenous activist who was brought in as a star candidate and won a seat for the NDP, said he remains loyal to Selinger.

"He has dedicated decades of his life to serving our city and our province and he has done a lot of good for our community."

— with files from The Canadian Press

kristin.annable@freepress.mb.ca