The Manitoba Liberal Party leader's chief of staff has resigned, as has his girlfriend Stephanie Danyluk — the Liberal candidate in Fort Whyte.
Spencer Fernando has stepped away from the party just weeks ahead of the provincial election.
"I recognize that there's … really no good time to do it. The longer I waited, the worse it would have been," Fernando said. "Every day you get closer to the election it's worse, so better to do it now than obviously during the election, or closer to it."
'It speaks to a tension in the campaign organization that should not be there this close to an election.' - Royce Koop
Fernando resigned Friday; Danyluk resigned Monday. Both resigned via email. Fernando wouldn't comment on whether he and Danyluk co-ordinated their departures from the party.
"After dedicating nearly 10 years to political life, I have come to the difficult personal realization that politics is no longer the career path for me at this time," Fernando said in the resignation statement he sent to the party Friday.
"There is a big world outside of politics, which I look forward to exploring. I wish Rana Bokhari, my former colleagues and the Manitoba Liberal team all the best."
Fernando said he has spoken with the party president since submitting his resignation, but has yet to hear from Bokhari. Neither Fernando nor Danyluk attended the party's annual general meeting on Saturday, he added.
'Hate to lose key staff'
"You hate to lose key staff this close to an election," said Mike Brown, Manitoba Liberal Party communications director. "But politics is politics and sometimes people leave for their own reasons. If I was a mind reader I could tell you what those reasons are, but I can't."
Royce Koop, a University of Manitoba political science professor, said losing a chief of staff and candidate so close to an election makes for "very bad" optics and is possibly a sign of party inner turmoil.
"It speaks to a tension in the campaign organization that should not be there this close to an election," Koop said.
Brown responded to Koop's comments, saying resignations at this point in the game typically do have more of an impact on smaller parties like the provincial Liberals.
"When you're a smaller party, it's harder to lose people — no doubt about that," he said. "By the same token, when you're a smaller party, you're nimble and you adjust."
Brown added the party is taking a step back now to figure out who can fill the void left in Fort Whyte by Danyluk.
"People have expressed interest over the course of time. I think it's time we need to go back and have a look at those people now."
Fernando's history in politics
Before joining the Liberals, Fernando worked for both the Conservative Party of Canada and the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives.
Fernando previously worked as a staffer for Rod Bruinooge, the federal Conservative MP for the Winnipeg South riding from 2006 to 2015.
He moved on and worked for the PCs, but the party dropped Fernando after he wrote a blog post urging the federal Conservatives to consider changing the party stance on an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
The Stephen Harper-led Conservatives were against an inquiry at the time.
Fernando said he will be working with his father at his photography business. He hasn't completely shut out the possibility of re-entering the political arena down the line, but has a hard time imagining what it would take for that to happen, Fernando said.
"I would never say never, but at this point it's not something I contemplate any time soon," Fernando said.
Manitobans head to the polls April 19.