Christine Melnick removed from NDP caucus

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has removed MLA and former cabinet minister Christine Melnick from caucus.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger kicked the MLA for Riel, Christine Melnick, out of the NDP caucus on Tuesday. CBC's Chris Glover reports. 2:01

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger kicked the MLA for Riel, Christine Melnick, out of the NDP caucus on Tuesday.

It comes after the former immigration minister spoke out Monday, saying officials in the premier's office were involved in the decision to invite immigrants to a legislative debate in April 2012.

Melnick said she was told to take the fall for the handling of the debate that saw hundreds of people connected to immigration groups flood the legislature for the event - as the Manitoba government sparred with the federal government over changes to immigration programs..

Melnick was shuffled out of cabinet when the Premier learned she had lied to the legislature about giving the order to invite the groups and others, including civil servants. 

Selinger said he waited until the provincial ombudsman issued his report in December before speaking about it, but he said Melnick had then committed to setting the record straight by apologizing to the house when it resumes in March.

'Regretful decision'

But he said things changed when Melnick spoke to the media on Monday.

"Yesterday, she made the decision to change course, in doing so, she has lost the confidence of myself and of caucus. That's why I've come to the regretful decision to remove Chris Melnick from the government caucus today."

Selinger said the long-time NDP MLA has dropped the ball on the issue. 

"My expectation as leader of the government and of this party is that when you make a mistake you take responsibility for it and make it right. Ms Melnick has been given many opportunities to do that but has not, so far, done so."

Manitoba Justice Minister and NDP House Leader Andrew Swan said Melnick has to bear the consequences of her actions.

"First she said she didn't do something, then she said she didn't remember doing something, and now she's trying to say she knew all along she had done something but that someone else told her to do it." 

Melnick not surprised

MLA Christine Melnick said she isn't surprised she was kicked out of NDP caucus over the issue. She said she knew that was a possibility.

She told CBC she will "always be a New Democrat." 

Melnick told CBC in December she had forgotten she gave the order to issue the invitation to the debate, blaming it on undiagnosed diabetes causing memory loss.

But she appeared to contradict that Monday when she said the invitation had been approved by senior NDP political staffer Anna Rothney.

CBC Reporter Chris Glover asked her Tuesday, "If we can't trust what you said before, how can we trust what you say now?"

"You can trust what I've said. I'm just adding extra pieces," Melnick responded. 

Selinger would not address in detail the issue of what role his staff played in the matter.

"Again, that was her decision and it was her decision to say that she had no role in that," he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Melnick had defended her decision to speak out Monday.

She said she did it, not because she wanted to spar with the premier's office, but because she wanted to be heard.

"I reached a point where I just had to come out and talk about what was really going on," Melnick told CBC News on Tuesday, before she was kicked out of caucus.

"It's not so much an attack on the premier or an attack on anybody. I had to say what was happening."

Deputy Leader of the Progressive Conservatives, Heather Stefanson, is calling for a special bi-partisan committee to investigate exactly what happened.

She said the committee should have the power to bring people in under oath.

Political future?

Melnick said her political career is not over yet. She is vowing to run again, even if it's as an independent.

But some of Melnick's constituents in Riel want to know more about why their MLA was kicked out her own caucus.

Charlene Urbanski knows Melnick and voted for her in the last election. Urbanski said she's surprised.

"I think she could be taking the fall for somebody else," she said. "I think there's more to the story that we haven't heard."

Another resident in the area, Jean Paul Bergeron, said the whole thing sounds complicated.

"Well it's like a big chess game isn't it? You know, like stay tuned, right. So I mean, it won't go to a national inquiry but there's something going on there obviously between those two people."

Bergeron said for the most part, he has been pleased with the job Selinger has done.

"I think this is stunning": analyst

Manitoba political analyst Chris Adams correctly predicted on CBC’s Information Radio Tuesday morning that Melnick would be pushed out of the NDP caucus over her latest remarks.

"This has really moved into an issue of actually the premier's staff arguing with her in public, fighting with her on what was the truth in terms of the premier's office being involved. Adams said in an interview.

"You can't have a member of your party caucus attacking the leader from within."


With files from The Canadian Press and the CBC's Meaghan Ketcheson


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