Michelle McHale 1st to launch bid for leadership of Manitoba NDP

Michelle McHale is launching her leadership bid Friday at a small theatre a short distance across the river from the legislature.
Michelle McHale, an organizer of the first Pride march in Steinbach, Manitoba, Saturday, July 9, 2016. (The Canadian Press)

The Manitoba NDP leadership race is set to get its first contestant Friday.

Michelle McHale is launching her leadership bid at a small theatre a short distance across the river from the legislature.

McHale has never held elected office, but gained national prominence last year when she organized a pride parade in Manitoba's so-called Bible Belt.

The NDP are set to elect a new leader in September, after losing last year's election to the Progressive Conservatives and seeing former premier Greg Selinger step down from the party helm.

Party delegates will meet later this month to hammer out rules for the leadership race, and there are no other contestants so far.

When asked whether she has secured any support from big names within the party yet, McHale said she is not looking for any such backing right now.

"I've been having a conversations with a number of people, including a number of caucus members," McHale said Wednesday night.

"But at this time, I'm not looking for endorsements. I'm just looking to say 'hey, I think that the skill set that you're looking for, I possess.' "

McHale is a staff representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers union and sits on the executive of the Manitoba Federation of Labour.

If she wins the leadership, she will take over a party that has struggled to raise money and maintain caucus unity.

Interim leader Flor Marecelino told party faithful in November the party remains divided following an internal revolt against Selinger in 2014.

The party also lost two of its 14 seats in recent months.

Kevin Chief resigned to take a job in the private sector, and Mohinder Saran was ousted from caucus after being accused of sexually harassing a subordinate — an accusation Saran denied.

Two other New Democrats have said they are considering a leadership bid — rookie caucus members Wab Kinew and Nahanni Fontaine.

Kinew said Wednesday night he will not be endorsing McHale at her launch, and is actively working to put together his own leadership bid.

"I'm reaching out to people that I would want to work with me, to form my team. And depending on whether I can build my dream team, that will go a long way to determining whether or not I go for it," he said.

"I think that practicality dictates making a decision soon."