Flor Marcelino, interim Manitoba NDP leader, says she's 'really not a debater'

Manitoba interim NDP leader Flor Marcelino admits that she is not much of a debater, but she doesn't believe that will hinder her ability to serve as opposition leader.

Marcelino says passion for social justice will guide her as opposition leader

Interim NDP leader Flor Marcelino took the oath of office in Winnipeg on Monday. (CBC)

Manitoba interim NDP leader Flor Marcelino admits that she is not much of a debater, but she doesn't believe that will hinder her ability to serve as opposition leader.

The Logan MLA, who took the oath of office on Monday, said she had never answered a question during a session in the legislature.

Even when she was minister of culture, heritage and tourism in Greg Selinger's government, Marcelino said was never asked a question by the opposition.

"I've never had the chance to be given the chance to speak adequately because I hardly received any questions. That's unfortunate. I don't recall even being asked a question in my entire term as multicultural minister," she said.

"I'm really not a debater. I would rather write than speak."

Marcelino said her passion for social justice will guide her when she asks questions of the new Progressive Conservative government.

"I have very firm beliefs and values and our party is very keen on getting our message across that all Manitobans matter, especially those that are most vulnerable, and we'll be there to protect them," she said.

"I'm aware of those issues, and I just need to speak out [on] those issues. I don't think you need [to be] a good debater if you know the issues. And also, you don't need a seasoned debater. Because you'll be [asking] serious, honest questions, and you don't need to be a good debater to do that."

Caretaker of the party

Manitoba political analyst Christopher Adams says interim leaders are generally caretakers of the party during its transition period and are not necessarily expected to be aggressive opposition leaders.

"She's reserved, she's not outspoken, she's someone who doesn't put herself at the front of the crowd, and we do know that many politicians do look for the microphone, do look for the visibility," Adams said.

However, he added that Marcelino's nature could also make her a good interim leader for the beleaguered NDP.

"I've been to many functions in the last five years in which Flor Marcelino has been present, representing the premier, and she's a very gracious person who's very kind when she's responding to people, and I don't see her as being incapable of being interim leader," he said.

"I think also the fact that she's somewhat reserved means … I don't think that she's ruffled any feathers of people in the caucus, so that's a benefit."

Having said that, the party has got some work to do, Adams added, as it is still split into two camps over the legacy of former Premier Greg Selinger's leadership. 

"Now the danger from a year and a half ago with the Gang of Five is now we are talking about a couple of camps in the NDP and they've got to heal that. That's their main challenge right now, to make sure the party pulls together instead of continuing on the Selinger and anti-Selinger camp business."

The NDP says Marcelino will lead the party until a new leader is chosen.

Marcelino would not give a timeline on when that would happen, but said she hopes it's not longer than a couple of years. For now, she said she is focused on the NDP's new role as the official opposition.