Former cabinet minister Steve Ashton to run for leadership of Manitoba NDP
Fort Rouge MLA Wab Kinew only other candidate in race so far
The Manitoba New Democrat leadership race is about to get a second candidate.
Steve Ashton, a longtime former cabinet minister, confirmed Tuesday night he is throwing his hat in the ring for the opposition party leadership that will be decided Sept. 16.
He said the official announcement will come Wednesday.
The only other candidate so far is Wab Kinew, 35, an Indigenous rights activist and author who was first elected to the legislature in April of last year.
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Kinew has already attracted support from many labour groups, party organizers and a few of his caucus colleagues.
Ashton, 61, held the Thompson seat from 1981 until last year and said one of his attributes is a long-standing commitment to the party.
"I think the path to victory (for me) in this leadership is going to be long-time party members," Ashton told The Canadian Press.
"I've been a member of this party since I joined at the age of 17. For me, when I talk about principles of the NDP ... it's something that has been my lifetime commitment."
Ashton has unsuccessfully run twice before for the leadership. In 2009, he finished a distant second to Greg Selinger with 34 per cent of delegate votes at a leadership convention. In 2015, he finished last in a three-way race against Selinger and Theresa Oswald with 30 per cent of the vote.
Uphill battle, professor says
Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba, said anything can happen in politics but Ashton faces a steep uphill battle.
"Almost the entirety of the political establishment in the NDP has gone out of its way to line up behind Wab Kinew," Koop said.
The New Democrats are trying to recover after last year's election defeat that ended 17 years of NDP rule and reduced the party to 14 of the 57 legislature seats.
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The loss prompted former premier Greg Selinger to resign. He was replaced on an interim basis by Flor Marcelino.
Ashton said people, including some fellow caucus members, have asked him to run for leader. He said he plans to offer a progressive agenda that is unabashedly NDP.
"(People) want to see the real NDP — the traditional NDP that stands up for working people, that speaks out in terms of inequality, that's not afraid to take a stand on issues like climate change."