Manitoba NDP leadership race comes to a close

Greg Selinger will remain both leader of Manitoba's NDP and the province's premier, winning 759 votes at Manitoba's NDP leadership convention on Sunday.

It was a close race, but Selinger beat Oswald by 33 votes

Greg Selinger will remain both leader of Manitoba's NDP and the province's premier, winning 759 votes at Manitoba's NDP leadership convention on Sunday. (Teghan Beaudette/CBC)

Greg Selinger will remain both leader of Manitoba's NDP and the province's premier, winning 759 votes at Manitoba's NDP leadership convention on Sunday.

Out of a total of 1,490 votes cast, opponent Theresa Oswald received 726.

Former minister of infrastructure and transportation Steve Ashton was knocked out of the race after the first ballot. Ashton said he wouldn't be endorsing either candidate, but that he plans to stand firmly behind Selinger, the winner.

Selinger will take the party into the next provincial election, scheduled for April 2016.

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      Before the first ballot on Sunday, the convention opened with speeches from each candidate.

      Oswald speaks, focus on equal rights

      Oswald was the first contender to take the stage at the convention on Sunday.

      Before she spoke, a video played, showing Oswald talking about her grandparents's struggle for survival and prosperity. She said as the leader of the NDP she would work to help families much like her own.

      The video featured infamous former cabinet member Jennifer Howard, who said there's no one she would rather see go toe to toe with Opposition Leader Brian Pallister in the next election than Oswald.

      "Happy International Woman's Day," Oswald said, warming up to the crowd before starting her speech.

      The immediate focus was equal rights: "For all daughters, for all sons, hello my darling, Jack," she said, acknowledging her son in the crowd.

      Access to education and health care were priorities, too.

      "I'm talking about the single moms on social assistance that I met when I was a cabinet minister," she said.

      "We need to fight for them."

      Oswald named families of Manitoba's missing and murdered Indigenous women and those in the province with cancer as others she considers when planning Manitoba's future.

      Her next topic: The idea of a government operating under Opposition Leader Brian Pallister.

      She said that would look much like the one Manitoba saw under Gary Filmon's reign as premier. 

      "And especially on a day like today, I hasten to add that [Pallister] recently nominated a candidate for the next election that has made it his life's work to deny a woman's right to choose," she said.

      Oswald wrapped up the speech by making a pledge to unite the NDP, regardless of Sunday's results.

      "So now it's up to you ... Whatever it is that you decide, I shall abide by that decision and work hard every single day to bring the party back together."

      Ashton takes the stage, unity job No. 1

      Steve Ashton was introduced by his daughter, Niki and Alex Forrest, head of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg.

      The choice represented two of Ashton's values: Union support and family.

      He named two former Manitoba premiers, and described taking pleasure in working with them.

      "Yes, Greg Selinger, [too]," he said.

      "It's been said I bleed orange...True."

      Ashton called himself pro-union, pro-aboriginal, but mostly, he said, pro-Manitoban.

      Then, he got down to what was the focus of his campaign for the NDP leadership, and a priority that distinguished him from fellow candidates: Party solidarity.

      "The key issue to that coming out of this convention there cannot be any more division. We must be united."

      That unity won't be easy, Ashton said, but he could play a key role in facilitating it.

      "I've respected keeping internal matters internal...I've made a point of not criticizing the other candidates," he said.

      "I have been working to be part of the solution right from day one."

      Similar to Oswald, Ashton spoke about Pallister.

      "We [must not] be a party that defines itself only as being 'not Brian Pallister and the conservatives,'" he said.

      "If you think we've accomplished a lot in this province — get ready for the Randy Bachman — you ain't seen nothin' yet!" Ashton said.

      Bachman Turner Overdrive's song played out in the background as Ashton exited the stage.

      Selinger's remarks: 'A steady economic plan'

      Selinger walked on the stage to considerable applause and chants of "Greg, Greg, Greg!"

      No audio sounded when the video Selinger prepared for the convention played, but the glitch was fixed in less than five minutes.

      Photographs of Selinger from his early political career flashed across the screen, and when it finished MLA Eric Robinson took the stage to introduce Selinger.

      That introduction, which included support from Minister of Multiculturalism and Literacy Flor Marcelino's daughter, was noticeably longer than the introductions of Selinger's fellow candidates. As a result, his speech was short.

      Before he took the microphone, Patti Smith's People Have the Power blasted in the background.

      Dressed in a sharp, black suit — no tie — Selinger opened the speech by saying the way to growth and jobs for people in Manitoba is a steady economic plan.

      "Next year, we will have the strongest economy in all of Canada. All of Canada," he said.

      Selinger reflected on breaking his shoulder in a bike accident, and in the waiting room of the hospital, seeing a woman 'banging her head against the wall.'

      "I knew then I had to go into politics," he said.

      By electing the NDP's first aboriginal party president on Saturday, the party welcomed Canada's First Nations Peoples, according to Selinger.

      "When I look at the caucus, we represent all the faces of Manitobans," he said.

      Selinger finished strong by confronting the months of internal turmoil that have put the NDP in media headlines again and again.

      "Some people think we are vulnerable right now," he said.

      "They could not be more wrong."

      Delegate count

      The total number of delegates at Sunday's NDP leadership convention was 1,742 and those delegates were broken down in the following way:

      • Delegates from various constituencies in Manitoba: 1, 212
      • Delegates from labour groups in Manitoba: 296
      • Delegates from Manitoba Young New Democrats (MYND): 77
      • Automatic delegates (MLAs, MPs, executives of local constituencies): 157

      Among those there was Jennifer Howard, MLA for Fort Rouge and former minister of finance. When asked by CBC's Chris Glover if she regrets her decision to resign alongside Oswald as one of five rebel cabinet minister, Howard said no.

      "I'm at peace with my decision."

      Oswald supporters react

      CBC's Teghan Beaudette reported that many of Oswald's young supporters were not at peace with Sunday's results, however.

      "Seeing many young Oswald supporters leaving teaful right now," Beaudette tweeted.

      "More than just long faces."


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