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Double cost of Manitoba NDP rebellion bad for Premier Selinger

The $670,000 financial cost of the revolt against Greg Selinger is now known, but the political cost may leave the premier scraping further into his pockets for capital that's running low.
Premier Greg Selinger takes questions about balanced budget legislation after an infrastructure announcement in Winnipeg May 4. (Chris Glover/CBC)

The financial cost of the revolt against Greg Selinger is now known, but the political cost may leave the premier scraping further into his pockets for capital that's running low.

Manitobans will pay $670,000 in severance packages for seven political staff that split with the premier during the NDP civil war. 

Four of them were as high ranking as it gets.

Directors of various branches of government, including issues management, the premier's secretariat, priorities and planning and cabinet communications. 

And then there's the former chief of staff Liam Martin. For 2½ years of service in the role, taxpayers were on the hook for $146,000 in severance. 

Monday, the opposition will take much of question period to call for a severance breakdown of the other six staff.  

The Tories also want unreleased information like the cost of leaves of absence and backfilling positions during the leadership race that saw Premier Greg Selinger cling to power by a razor thin margin of 33 votes. 

The opposition wants to know how much in "political payouts" the government spent, that could have gone to healthcare and education. 

But the government won't release it, citing privacy. 

The cost still unknown is more important: the political cost. 

Surely, it would be difficult for a premier in good standing to replace any of his top directors.
 
Now, try being an embattled premier, with a reputation of not listening, attempting to fill seven key positions. 

More troubling for Selinger, how deeply will all this, price tag included, cost him in the April 2016 election as he leads Manitoba's NDP dynasty. 

All the departed, save for one who skipped town to help the NDP in another province, helped Selinger's rival Theresa Oswald in the race to unseat him. 

Similar to their positions within government, they also held important spots in the Oswald campaign including co-lead organizer and campaign manager. 

Their skill at mobilizing the NDP base was on full display during the leadership election with Oswald's slick and well-organized campaign. 

So proficient, at least two of the severed staff were tapped to help the NDP and Rachel Notley sweep to victory in Alberta. 

Organizers aside, it will be difficult for the NDP to rally behind its affirmed leader in the 2016 election when just under 50 per cent supported another person.  

The premier is left in an awkward position thanks to three problems:

  • Govern without key staff. 
  • Run without lead organizers. 
  • Convince Manitobans the cost of the revolt, politically and financially, hasn't left him damaged. 

About the Author

Chris Glover

CBC News Reporter

Chris spent half a decade as a political reporter for CBC Winnipeg, but now that he's returned to his hometown of Toronto, he's excitedly sinking his teeth in all sorts of stories. Discovering new neighbourhoods isn't a 9 to 5 job and after years away, he has a lot to catch up on. When he's not running around the city with a camera, you can find him on the island soaking up the sun or riding the trails along the Don River.