Manitoba’s NDP will be headed to their annual convention this weekend amid a swirling controversy that former minister and MLA Christine Melnick as at the centre of.
Melnick was kicked out of the NDP caucus on Tuesday after she spoke out against Premier Greg Selinger.
Melnick was part of Selinger’s cabinet before a controversy surrounding an immigration debate at the legislature in April 2012.
She originally denied she was involved in inviting hundreds of people connected to immigration groups to flood the legislature during the debate, but an ombudsman later revealed she misled the house. She was then shuffled out of cabinet in October.
On Monday, she went public with an allegation that she was told to take the fall for the handling of the debate.
That led to a war of words between the NDP and Melnick resulting in her being kicked out of caucus, and now, the embattled MLA said she still plans to attend this weekend’s party convention.
“Who knows what the dynamic [will be.] I’m just going to go as a New Democrat,” she said on Wednesday. “The issues are too important to be sidetracked by something like this.”
Selinger said he hopes her presence doesn’t sidetrack the convention.
“It’s certainly going to be covered in the media – that’s more than obvious here,” he said. “But we have many other important topics to discuss.”
Politics professor Shannon Sampert said Selinger stands to be wounded the most by the debacle.
“If the party leader is doing well, it’s all about policy. If the party leader isn’t doing well, it’s all about leadership,” she said.
But Selinger’s former chief of staff, Michael Balagus, doubts it.
“It doesn’t necessarily overshadow what’s happening on the floor, but it definitely becomes a part of the conversation among delegates,” he said.
Balagus didn’t have very many kind words for Melnick, someone he used to work with.
“What I find funny about that is when I was chief of staff, I used to have trouble getting Chris Melnick to go to conventions, and so it’s interesting that she is voluntarily and eagerly going to this one,” he said. “Watching all this, I'm not entirely surprised. I mean, I worked with the woman for 10 years so I'm not surprised at how this has unfolded … She was never really that solid a team player and not always that honest."
The NDP Convention will take place at Canad Inns, Polo Park in Winnipeg from Feb. 7 to 9.