Sunday, March 8, 2015

Manitoba Premier Greg Sellinger survives bitter leadership battle

- Manitoba Premier Greg Sellinger was able to fend off two challengers at the New Democratic Party leadership convention held in Winnipeg on Sunday.
Premier Sellinger was challenged by Steve Ashton, the MLA for the northern constituency of Thompson, and Theresa Oswald. Oswald was one of the so-called Gang of Five cabinet ministers who challenged Sellinger's leadership last fall along with Jennifer Howard, Erin Selby, Stan Struthers, and Andrew Swan. She along with others resigned their cabinet positions in early November last year. One result of the challenge was the present convention and leadership race.
Ashton was a candidate who attempted to be the peacemaker whose aim was to unite the party. At first, he seemed to have the most support but the first ballot showed him trailing. Ashton received 502 votes, Oswald 575, and Sellinger 612. A list of who was supported by unions, MLA's and others is given in this article.
SInce Ashton came third on the first ballot, he was dropped out of the race leaving just Sellinger and Oswald on the second ballot. Ashton had stayed above the conflict between Sellinger and his critics. He stayed consistent on the issue and left his delegates to make up their own mind how to vote on the final ballot. One block of strong union supporters of Ashton moved over towards the Sellinger bloc. However, the final vote was close and Ashton's voters split fairly evenly.
In the final tally Sellinger receive 759 votes to 726 for Oswald only a 33 vote margin. However, Sellinger loyalists won key positions in elections for the party executive including First Nations leader Ovide Mercredi who was elected party president. The next election will probably take place in April next year. However, Selligner will face an uphill battle to rebuild and promote his party that is lagging in the polls. In 2011 Sellinger led the NDP to a record 37 of 57 seats in the legislature. However, the party is now quite unpopular and has been in power for 16 years. One reason for the party's decline in the polls is Sellinger's raising the Maitoba sales tax from 7 to 8 percent. This is not out of line with the rates in several other provinces but he had promised during the campaign that he would not raise the tax. A Probe Research poll last December showed that support for the NDP had dropped to a new low:One-in-four decided Manitoba voters (26%) would now cast a ballot for a NDP candidate. This is down four percentage points from September and is tied with the party’s lowest-ever level of support previously recorded in a Probe Research Inc. quarterly survey (26% in December 2013).The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, are surging (48%, up from 42% in September). Province-wide, the Liberals continue to enjoy the support of one-in-five voters (19%, -1% versus September). .. Seven percent of voters, meanwhile, would cast ballots for the Green Party and other parties not represented in the Legislature (-1% versus September). Fourteen percent of those surveyed were undecided.
The NDP has a huge gap to overcome to win over the Progressive Conservatives in the next election. The statistics may be somewhat misleading in that the PCs have always had a huge lead in many rural areas whereas the NDP usually takes many of the seats in the largest city, Winnipeg. However, the PCs at present even have a small lead in Winnipeg in the polls.

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