Manitoba NDP leadership: Greg Selinger re-elected, remains premier

The votes are in: Greg Selinger remains the premier and the leader of the Manitoba NDP.

Pallister, Oswald react to Premier Selinger's leadership win; caucus revolt led to race for top spot

Premier Greg Selinger talks with CBC's Marcy Markusa after winning the Manitoba NDP leadership election Sunday. (Teghan Beaudette/CBC)

The votes are in and Greg Selinger remains the leader of the Manitoba NDP and the province's premier.

It was a tight race, but Selinger beat out former minister of infrastructure and transportation Steve Ashton and former health minister Theresa Oswald, scooping up 759 of a possible 1,490 votes in the second round of voting Sunday.

A total of 1,699 NDP delegate votes were cast in the morning in a first ballot that saw Ashton squeezed out of the race with 502 votes. That total number of votes dipped by about 209 in the second round, meaning that many Ashton supporters abstained from the final vote.

Oswald, Pallister react

In the end, Theresa Oswald netted 726 votes but it wasn't enough to oust Selinger.

"I think that when you stand up for what you believe in, and you try your best, even if you don't win in the end, then it's not for nothing ... It's for everything," Oswald said, who added that she still has hope that the party will win the next provincial election.

"I would have loved to have been on the other side in that decision, without question."

Manitoba Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister said the fact that New Democrats voted Selinger back into power reflects poorly on the party.

"There's a saying, I think something like: 'the more things change, the more they stay the same,'" said Pallister. "Nothing's changed here. I think Manitobans want change. I think the NDP proved today that they aren't going to get change from the NDP."

Selinger, who refused to step down and continued to govern during the NDP leadership campaign, ran a confident if not tepid campaign, juggling his daily duties as premier the entire time.

This was a historical race by many measures. It has never happened before in Manitoba where a sitting premier was openly challenged by someone within their party and a leadership race ensued.

“Our party is stronger now, we’ve got more members, our finances are in decent shape, we’ve focused ourselves ... we've got one of the strongest economies in the country," Selinger told media in Winnipeg following the decision.

"When you can get results for the people of Manitoba, you always earn the chance of [serving them again]."

How did we get here?

Selinger called for a leadership vote last fall after a caucus revolt saw five cabinet ministers resign. Oswald was among the infamous five rebel ex-ministers who went public with concerns over Selinger's ability to lead the party to victory in the 2016 provincial election.

The revolt stemmed from Selinger's public approval ratings tanking in the polls after the provincial government pushed through a PST increase of one per cent in 2013. That revolt, and the increase to an eight per cent provincial sales tax, ultimately precipitated the leadership election that would see Selinger retake the party helm.

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      Following the big news Sunday, Selinger wouldn’t answer whether those five rebel ex-ministers would be invited back into the fold in the coming months.

      What's next for Selinger?

      Moving forward, Selinger will be flanked by the new president of the party Ovide Mercredi, the NDP's first aboriginal president.

      Mercredi, a former Assembly of First Nations chief, was strongly endorsed by Selinger and ended up ousting incumbent Ellen Olfert and beat out 18-year-old NDP provincial council member Tyler Duncan for the position Saturday.

      On the PST increase, Selinger's stance hasn't really wavered. The PST currently rakes in about $280 million for the province annually.

      I believe we came out of this with a greater desire to serve the public.- Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger

      He has committed to using the tax revenue created from the increase to fund a $5.5-billion plan that would focus on flood mitigation, road and bridge repair.

      "The sales tax was a government decision, and Greg has repeatedly stated that he takes responsibility for the way in which it was introduced to Manitobans," Selinger's spokesperson told CBC News last week.

      "It was a decision made following significant flood events and the need for a broader economic recovery plan. The sales tax has added much needed revenue to improve flood protection and address bridge and road infrastructure. And the overall economic plan has resulted in growth, protected services and job creation. The province's economic growth will be the best in the country over the next two years." 

      New childcare spaces

      Selinger's 2014 budget guaranteed an increase of 5,000 new childcare spaces would be created. He has also claimed that under his watch the party would do away with interest on post-secondary university loans.

      Selinger will also be expected to set a completion date for the spring 2015 budget, something that is normally handed down in early April. Selinger had said that the budget release was being postponed in light of news that the federal budget release date had been pushed back.

      The re-elected leader made very few policy announcements on the campaign trail. And on Sunday, he declined to comment on what his first moves as premier would be going forward, but did say reconciling party divisions was on his radar.

      "We all support those values; our profound respect and commitment to human rights. I know we all support those things as New Democrats, and I believe we're even more committed to that now that we've gone through this process," said Selinger.

      "I believe we came out of this with a greater desire ... to serve the public."

      With files from the Canadian Press


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