Former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger announces resignation from politics

Former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger rapidly blinked back tears and choked on his words as he announced Tuesday afternoon he is stepping down from politics.

NDP leader Wab Kinew had asked Selinger to step down last week in wake of controversy in party

Greg Selinger speaks to reporters on Tuesday at his St. Boniface constituency office. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger rapidly blinked back tears and choked on some words as he announced Tuesday afternoon he is stepping down from politics on March 7.

The announcement comes a week after NDP Leader Wab Kinew asked Selinger to resign in the wake of inappropriate touching allegations by seven women against former MLA Stan Struthers, while Selinger was leader of the party.

A defiant Selinger, 67, offered an apology to those women last week but said he was not ready to step down.

On Tuesday, he read a prepared statement saying he's concerned not stepping down at the time took away from the important message about sexual harassment.

Selinger then told reporters he wasn't ready when Kinew made the call because he first wanted to consult the St. Boniface community he has represented as MLA since 1999, as well as his constituency and his family.

"You have to respect everybody," he said. "It just seemed to me that this was the right time. It honours everybody who's got concerns."

Let's not kid ourselves — none of these things are easy. I don't say this is just a formula and everything's going to be hunky dory. You're going to have to work your way through it.- Greg Selinger

Asked if he was truly leaving on his own initiative or if he felt like he was being pushed out, Selinger conceded it's a bit of both.

"Yes, there's been pushes [but] there's been pulls. Things move in all directions," he said.

"Let's not kid ourselves — none of these things are easy. I don't say this is just a formula and everything's going to be hunky dory. You're going to have to work your way through it."

Selinger said he doesn't have a road map for his life outside of politics. Though he has had some offers of jobs for when his political career was done, he isn't jumping at any of those.

"I don't mind being a citizen," he said.

Women complained to NDP leaders

Struthers, who was a cabinet minister in Selinger's government, has apologized after five women, including a former NDP cabinet colleague, accused him of several instances of inappropriate touching dating back at least eight years.

Two more women have come forward since the initial story was published by CBC.

Last week, Selinger — who served as premier from 2009 until 2016 — expressed sympathy for the women who came forward and said he must take responsibility for what happened under his leadership.

He claimed to know of two incidents reported to his chief of staff at the tail end of his term as premier, but had no knowledge of any other allegations.

Former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger rapidly blinked back tears and choked on some words as he announced Tuesday afternoon he is stepping down from politics on March 7. 1:58

'A day late and a dollar short'

One of the complainants, former NDP communications staffer Shannon VanRaes, said she would have liked to see Selinger take more responsibility for what happened.

"I think the phrase is a day late and a dollar short," VanRaes said. "If there is a silver lining, it's that there may now be enough oxygen in the room for there to finally be a serious discussion about sexual harassment in the province."

VanRaes told CBC News earlier this month that Struthers groped her on an airplane when she worked for him and on one occasion attempted to shove her foot in his crotch in 2010.

On Tuesday, she said Manitoba policymakers need to take a look at the effects of sexual harassment on victims. An apology alone won't make a change, she said.

"At the end of the day, when you have a group of men, powerful men, who are debating the nuances of plausible deniability instead of really tackling the issues that are affecting people, it's disappointing," she said.

Commission to look for 'systemic failures'

The CBC News investigation revealed that four women made complaints about Struthers's behaviour to NDP brass between 2010 and 2015.

The party told CBC that no formal disciplinary action was taken and the complaints were never formally investigated.

Two days after asking Selinger to step down, Kinew announced that a commission would be established to investigate "systemic failures" in the party that "allowed incidents of harassment and misconduct to occur."

Two independent female commissioners will be leading it.

"We will continue to work every day to move forward with the commission to give space for their voices to be heard by our party, and set a new direction to ensure we honour what they have gone through by improving our society," Kinew wrote in a statement sent out by his office on Tuesday.

Selinger said on Tuesday that he spoke with Kinew in the morning and had a positive conversation. He also said he supports the commission but didn't want to look back at what he could've done better.

"Would've, could've, should've — those are all backward looking, I think what's important is we find a way for everybody to move forward."

He recalled a speech he heard at a high school graduation last year, when a principal said "10 per cent in life is what happens to you. The other 90 per cent is how you deal with it."

"So here we are," Selinger said.

'He was the leader our province needed': Kinew

In his statement, Kinew said his thoughts remain with the women who came forward.

Kinew also shared "personal thoughts" about Selinger's time in politics, praising his service to Manitoba's francophone community, his work as a finance minister and his response to the 2011 flood.

"He was the leader our province needed," Kinew wrote of Selinger's actions at the time.

"It's my hope that Greg will be remembered as a premier who led our province through the aftermath of the global financial crisis, two major floods and was a finance minister who balanced the budget for 10 years in a row."​

Former Manitoba premier Greg Selinger announced Tuesday he is stepping down as member of the legislature for St. Boniface next month. It comes a week after NDP Leader Wab Kinew asked Selinger to resign in the wake of inappropriate touching allegations against former MLA Stan Struthers. 7:13

Selinger's full statement

A week ago I held a media availability to apologize to the women who were the victims of sexual harassment by one of our former MLAs — the member from Dauphin — during my time as premier and leader of the NDP. The focus properly should have been on hearing their voices. It wasn't and I want to apologize for contributing to that.

Also a week ago I stated that I was interested in a transition strategy from being an elected member of the legislature back to being a citizen subject to meeting with the constituency executive. That has happened and today I can confirm that it is my plan to retire as the member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba for St. Boniface. I want to thank the constituency executive for their support and advice. It has been a privilege and an honour to serve the citizens of St. Boniface and I wish to thank them for their encouragement to continue. I will cherish the experience forever.

To my family, your commitment, love, and views have made it all worthwhile. Over the next two weeks my staff and I will put the ongoing work of the constituents of St. Boniface in order. The formal resignation date will be March 7.

About the Author

Darren Bernhardt

Reporter/Editor

Darren Bernhardt began his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009.