Bruised Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger says he can be trusted
Despite revolt and broken promises, Selinger says his plan will grow Manitoba
For Premier Greg Selinger, the greatest challenge of 2015 was trying to govern while also working to quash a rebellion from within the NDP ranks and clinging to his job.
"I think the greatest challenge was just to stay focused on the priorities of Manitobans when there were lots of distractions going on," the Manitoba leader said during an annual year-end interview with CBC News.
Trust comes down to: are we focused on the key values and priorities of Manitobans?- Greg Selinger, Premier of Manitoba
In the fall of 2014, months of internal dissent went public and sent the governing New Democrats into disarray. Cabinet ministers quit, political staffers severed ties with the premier and Selinger dropped the gauntlet when he opened the door to an official challenge against his leadership.
"It's been an interesting year and it's been a challenging year, but the one thing I've always said, why would you want to do this job if it was easy? You want to do this job because it offers you the challenge to do things that are worthwhile and make a difference in partnership with all the people of Manitoba," he said.
In March, Selinger narrowly avoided losing the leadership of the Manitoba NDP. He beat rebel leader Theresa Oswald on a second ballot by 33 votes at a leadership convention he called in the midst of an open revolt by his own cabinet ministers.
"We're finding a way to work together because that's why we came here in the first place," he said about the after-effects of the caucus revolt.
Yet three of the five former cabinet ministers who called on him to quit aren't running for re-election in 2016, and many political staff who supported Oswald are now working for the newly minted Alberta NDP government or have taken posts with left-leaning think-tanks.
- VIDEO: Selinger says rebellion has allowed for party 'revitalization'
The Opposition is set to make the 2016 provincial election all about trust, and Selinger is ready for that fight.
In 2013, he took a major political blow when he raised the PST after promising in 2011 not to.
He also promised in the last election to have the budget balanced by this year; he now plans to have deficits for at least another couple years.
Plus he made a promise that every Manitoban would have a doctor by 2015, and this year adjusted that promise to include nurse practitioners as part of a "full health-care package" for all.
Despite these broken promises, Selinger said he can be trusted to do what he says he will do.
"Trust comes down to: are we focused on the key values and priorities of Manitobans?" he said. "We acknowledge that we haven't gotten everything right in this province; there's no doubt about it. You never do when you're in government for a period of time. But can you learn from those mistakes and then try and do a better job in the future? The short answer is yes," Selinger said.
- VIDEO: Selinger maintains he's trustworthy as he defends against broken and/or changed promises
Selinger said his government achieved several successes in 2015. He highlighted putting a price on carbon for heavy emitters in his new climate change action plan, more personal care homes and a deal with Saskatchewan to sell hydro-electric power.
"That is a big breakthrough, going to the west of us," he said about the hydro contract.
He also boasted that Manitoba has the best job creation rate and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, and tied that success to his effort to invigorate the economy with stimulus spending on infrastructure.
"It's always important that we keep a focus on the economy, because that provides jobs to young people, and the resources to look after people," he said.
The opposition has attacked the Selinger New Democrats for reckless spending and financial mismanagement throughout 2015, but during the year-end interview, Selinger pointed to the federal Liberals as an example of the electorate's comfort with deficit spending.
"This is the right time to do that stimulus, when interest rates are low, so it does seem appropriate, and now we have a federal government who is very interested in doing the same thing and has run on a very similar platform," he said.
Despite the world of hurt Selinger received for raising the PST in 2013, he refuses to rule out raising it again and insists other tax increases may be needed, such as a surtax on the wealthiest Manitobans.
"Well let's put it this way: the lesson I've learned, if you're going to raise any tax, you have to give people lots of warning and you have to have an explanation for it and it has to make sense for them," Selinger said. "So, we have no plans to raise the sales tax. That's the bottom line: we don't have any plans to do that."
- VIDEO: Watch as Selinger does not rule out another PST increase and says he can raise taxes on the richest Manitobans and stay competitive
- Watch the full year-end interview here: