Manitoba·Analysis

How Manitoba's governing NDP split open and where it goes from here

We look at how the fractured Manitoba NDP party split open in the course of one extraordinary week as the premier's inner circle turned on him.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger speaks to media after announcing his ministers during a signing-in ceremony of his new cabinet at the Manitoba Legislature in Winnipeg on Nov. 3. Selinger preformed a cabinet shuffle following the resignation of five ministers amid more than a week of internal dissent that continues to threaten his leadership. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

The fractured Manitoba NDP split open Oct. 27. 

A vice-president on the executive was the first to speak out publicly. Becky Barrett said the leader, Premier Greg Selinger, had to go. Barrett said he lied to the people of Manitoba after breaking a 2011 campaign promise not to raise the provincial sales tax. It was raised from seven to eight per cent in 2013. Barrett said for the sake of the party, Selinger should consider leaving. 

The ball she started rolling could not be stopped; but no one expected what happened over the course of the next week.

On Oct. 28, Selinger's inner circle turned on him. We now know they had been privately voicing displeasure with their boss for months, over everything from leadership concerns to policy differences. Selinger's ministers for justice, health, jobs and the economy, municipal affairs and finance joined forces. The mutiny grabbed national headlines and the five earned some catchy names in the media, including the Caucus Coup and the Gang of Five. 

That evening, Selinger held a major news conference, but the Gang of Five was noticeably absent. He said he would stay on as leader and "all options were on the table" to deal with the cabinet ministers who spoke out against him. On Thursday, the Gang of Five promised to silence their dissent, and stop bad-mouthing their boss in public. 

Andrew Swan (from left), Theresa Oswald, Jennifer Howard, Erin Selby, and Stan Struthers, resigned their cabinet positions last fall after they made public their concerns about Premier Greg Selinger's leadership. A number of political staffers supported Oswald in her bid to win the party's leadership, while others supported Steve Ashton, who was not one of the rebel cabinet ministers. (Chris Glover/CBC)
After an unsteady truce that lasted only a weekend, the ministers blinked first. On Monday, Nov. 3, they announced they were quitting, but they didn't do so quietly. In a scathing critique of their boss, they said he didn't listen and he was more concerned with clinging to power than the priorities of Manitobans.

The group of now-former cabinet ministers said they understand the harm the public turmoil caused the party, but they said they couldn't lie. 

Greg Selinger says he will lead the NDP into the next election, but there are still opportunities the party could overthrow him in a more traditional way. The next NDP annual convention is in March 2015, but some insiders and observers are wondering aloud if he were to be overthrown then, would the NDP have enough time to establish a new leader before the next election. Others wonder if they have any choice but to toss him.

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