NDP's Ron Lemieux likely last to jump Greg Selinger ship before Manitoba election

Dawson Trail MLA Ron Lemieux is the 13th New Democrat elected in 2011 to exit politics ahead of this April's vote. He's likely the last who will quit the race — a grim silver lining for Greg Selinger.
NDP Leader Greg Selinger has dealt with a series of embarrassing resignations, including having three sitting MLAs resign shortly before the election, after they accepted their party's nomination. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Dawson Trail MLA Ron Lemieux is the 13th New Democrat elected in 2011 to exit politics ahead of this April's vote, and he's likely the last who will quit the race. 

Lemieux, Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh and Fort Rouge MLA Jennifer Howard were the most embarrassing resignations for embattled NDP Leader Greg Selinger. 

Unlike the rest of the 13, these three were nominated candidates, who pulled out just weeks before the election. That means at one point within the last year and a half they committed to representing the NDP in the 2016 election — and then they bailed.

Ron Lemieux, left, and NDP Leader Greg Selinger at a news conference on Tuesday in which Lemieux announced he will not seek re-election. (CBC)
Lemieux said he bowed out because he was reflecting on terminally ill friends, Howard cited her growing family, and Mackintosh barely gave a reason, other than to say he'd changed his mind and after 23 years, he was done.

All valid reasons to leave politics, but none of them popped up since they affirmed they'd run. 

The resignations have been an embarrassment for the NDP, which is struggling to rebuild its brand after a nasty rebellion and a tight leadership election in which Greg Selinger squeaked out a 33-vote win over caucus rebel Theresa Oswald.

Even more embarrassing for Selinger, among those who have left, only Gimli MLA Peter Bjornson supported him as leader last March.  

Six of the departed New Democrats publicly supported Seine River MLA Oswald and two publicly supported Thompson MLA Steve Ashton. Transcona's Daryl Reid stayed out of the fray as House Speaker, and Gord Mackintosh fashioned himself as the "peacemaker," refusing to publicly support any candidate.

The Pas MLA Frank Whitehead quit politics for family reasons before the caucus revolt. 

Sigh of relief?

The New Democrats still seeking re-election, the vast majority of whom supported Selinger during the leadership campaign, have promised they won't jump ship — even those who were most strongly against him, such as Minto MLA Andrew Swan. Selinger is the only incumbent MLA who hasn't been nominated for the 2016 race, but he said that will happen this week. 

So finally, after the mutiny, the failed rebellion and now the ship-jumping, Selinger can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief — at least within the context of his party.

"Time will tell; you'll have to see," said Selinger at Ron Lemieux's retirement announcement when asked if any other incumbent  MLA would quit the race. "What we're getting is really good candidates who are stepping up." 

To the bitter end, Selinger shows his political chops — politically astute enough not to count his chickens before they hatch, and savvy enough to paint even the grimmest situations with a silver lining.


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