Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Manitoba NDP leader Sellinger faces leadership race next March

On Saturday, the ruling provincial Manitoba New Democratic Party held an emergency executive meeting in Winnipeg to discuss dissent within the party with criticism being directed at Premier Greg Selinger by a number of cabinet ministers.

The meeting lasted a full four hours beginning at 10 AM in the morning. Selinger was able to convince the executive that the solution to the crisis was to hold a leadership convention at the party's annual convention March 6, 2015. Selinger was smiling when he emerged from the long meeting and said: “I’m happy that we’ve found a democratic way to make decisions. That’s always been the tradition of our party." Selinger would not comment when asked by a reporter whether some executive members wanted to hold an earlier leadership race claiming that those were "internal discussions".
 Party president, Ellen Offert, said that a committee will soon be set up that will formulate the ground rules for the leadership race. The rules will need to be approved by the party executive and the larger provincial council. The council will be meeting next on December 6th. Offert said: "In terms of the timing, I think the timing is available. I think it can be set up to be fair. We want to be fair for everyone." Selinger was upbeat about the process claiming that it was a democratic way of solving the dispute: "It put democracy at the forefront on how we make decisions. It allows us as legislators to get back to our number one priority, which is serving the people of Manitoba."
 Five senior cabinet ministers recently publicly criticized Selinger for his performance. The party is plagued by low poll numbers. Selinger lost considerable public support when he raised the provincial sales tax from 7 to 8 per cent. There are other provinces such as neighboring Ontario that have the same rate and others such as Quebec have an even higher rate. However, Selinger had promised not to raise the tax in his last campaign and was unable to convince many that breaking his promise was justified. The five cabinet members who criticized Selinger resigned.
 Selinger furher punished the five members by removing some of their caucus privileges. While the five remain members of the party they will not be allowed to attend caucus meetings or have any input into decisions. The government will set out its plans for next year in a throne speech that starts a two-week fall session of the Manitoba legislature.
The next election in Manitoba will probably not be until April of 2016: A federal election is slated for the fall of 2015, so the provincial election is to be pushed back to April 19, 2016, unless the federal government changes its date. This will give the NDP time to try and improve their position in the polls.
  A recent poll published October 9 shows the Conservatives with a twelve point lead over the NDP with the Conservatives having 42 per cent support among decided voters. However, this is down somewhat from a June poll that showed 45 per cent support. The Liberal party has 20 per cent support much higher than usual. Conservative support is very strong outside of Winnipeg with only Brandon and northern Manitoba for the most part showing support for or electing NDP members. The NDP and Conservatives are still neck in neck in Winnipeg.
 The NDP has been in power in Manitoba since 1999. After premier Gary Doer resigned to take a position as Canadian ambassador to the US to serve Stephen Harper's Conservative government, Selinger led the party into the 2011 election. Doer had been popular and there were some gloomy predictions about how Selinger would perform. He won 37 seats one more than the previous record set by Doer and a comfortable majority in the legislature.

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