Greg Selinger will lead NDP to election loss, says party exec

There could be some big changes in the Manitoba government with critics of embattled Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger finding themselves booted from cabinet.

Premier Greg Selinger on Information Radio

8 years ago
Duration 7:37
Premier Greg Selinger talks about the internal strife in his party and calls for him to consider stepping down.

A former Manitoba NDP cabinet minister says the provincial party is in serious trouble.

Becky Barrett said Premier Greg Selinger made a big mistake Tuesday by not stepping down for the sake of the party. As long as he stays on, the NDP will likely lose to the Conservatives in the next election, she said.

"He missed that opportunity. He didn't take that decisive leadership role and I'm very disappointed that didn't happen," said Barrett, who was the party’s director of organization during the 1980s and remains on the executive.

Selinger has failed the party because he hasn't been able to rebuild Manitobans' trust after his flip-flop on the provincial sales tax (PST), she said. He promised in the 2011 election campaign that he would not increase the PST to eight per cent from seven per cent but then did exactly that in July 2013.

"I believe, legitimately so, that the premier broke a promise. He has not in 18 months been able to explain himself and to regain that trust of the people of Manitoba," Barrett said.

"If you don't have that trust, whether you agree with him or not, you've lost everything."

Cabinet shuffle coming?

Meanwhile, there could be some big changes in the provincial government with some of Selinger's critics finding themselves booted from cabinet.

"I've said all options are available as we move forward. Every year we review how we've been doing together and cabinet shuffles are often one of the alternatives that are available to you," Selinger said Wednesday morning when he stopped in at the CBC Winnipeg studio.

Along with Barrett, some senior party members have called on Selinger to resign as leader. Asked if he's been hurt by the seeming revolt, Selinger said it hasn't been easy on him.

"Well, you know, it's never easy when you go through things like this but the reality is that's the nature of politics," he said.

He has a political crisis on his hands.- Allen Mills

"It's a very public business as you know and when you're in a public business there's going to be lots of public debate."

Allen Mills, a political scientist at the University of Winnipeg, said Selinger has to make a bold move.

"He has a political crisis on his hands in the form of, well, five cabinet ministers that clearly challenged his authority and did so publicly. And it seems to me that in the norms of the parliamentary system, they either have to resign or he has to fire them," Mills said.

Paul Thomas, political studies professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba, said this type of mutiny is unusual.

"Very dramatic. Very unprecedented, I would say, particularly in the modern political era," he said.

Very unprecedented, I would say, particularly in the modern political era.- Paul Thomas, on NDP internal revolt

Thomas noted there is no mechanism in place for the dissenting cabinet ministers to take a non-confidence vote on their leader.

On Tuesday, Justice Minister Andrew Swan said he must seriously consider his future for the sake of the party.

The NDP would have a tough road going into the next election — which will probably take place in 2016 — with him at the helm as there is a lot of evidence Manitobans are unhappy with him, Swan said.

Health Minister Erin Selby and Theresa Oswald, the minister of jobs and the economy, as well as Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers, have also voiced their concerns about the party's downward direction.

Finance Minister Jennifer Howard has been more measured, but she has encouraged Selinger to take into account the concerns that have been raised about his performance.

'Party of public debate'

Selinger said he understands from where some of the criticism comes.

“Fears of electoral collapse are understandable" but, he said, he must stay "laser focused" on the priorities of Manitoba.

That was the same message he gave the media Tuesday, when he held a press conference and was surrounded by 16 supportive members of the party caucus.

The NDP is making progress on infrastructure, health-care services and jobs “and that’s what I’m committed to,” he said then.

Selinger was also asked Wednesday how he could get everyone in the party back on-side when the dissension is so vocal and so public.

"It's a party of public debate, that's how we do things. When we have a convention, we have open and public debate,” he said, adding he's also heard from many supporters urging him to stay.

"They said it's challenging, but it's important we have that steady consistent leadership throughout the province and I listened to those comments from people and responded to them by my decision. Many people within the party have made it very clear to me that it's necessary for me to continue that continuity."