WINNIPEG – A meeting of the Manitoba NDP executive Saturday did little to quell the uncertainty surrounding the future of Premier Greg Selinger.
Two executive members who have openly called on Selinger to resign were not disciplined, and stood by their remarks after the meeting.
“I’m very committed to my position and I haven’t changed it,” said Becky Barrett, a party vice-president and former legislature member. Barrett and Darlene Dziewit were the first high-profile party members to come out in opposition to Selinger.
Barrett said there are others in the party who support them, but would not say how many.
“I think there is a range of feeling within the party … and I wouldn’t venture to give a proportion or a percentage because there are thousands of party members and you only can talk to a very small number of them.”
Barrett and Dziewit refused to say whether other executive members supported them in Saturday’s closed-door meeting. Party president Ellen Olfert also refused, but added “the fact that they’re not being disciplined, I think, says it all.”
Selinger has faced an open revolt for almost two weeks. Five of his most senior cabinet ministers called on him to resign, blaming his handling of the government’s move to increase the provincial sales tax last year to eight per cent from seven. They also accused Selinger of being heavy-handed and not listening to them.
The five ministers later stepped down from cabinet but remain in the NDP caucus. Selinger has said he will stay at the party helm and lead the NDP in the next election, slated for April 2016.
It’s unclear how much support Selinger has within his own caucus. Labour Minister Erna Braun, the only cabinet minister to attend Saturday’s meeting, would not respond when repeatedly asked whether she supports the premier.
“I’m not making any comment,” she said as she waited for an elevator.
Selinger, who also sits on the executive, participated by conference call Saturday.
The party executive agreed to establish a committee to look for ways to address the leadership issue. Officials were vague in describing the committee’s mandate. Liam Martin, Selinger’s chief of staff, said the committee “will give people the avenue to be heard without taking paths that have been taken in the past” — an apparent reference to the infighting that has erupted.
Political observers have said Selinger will be hard-pressed to survive the revolt.
The NDP council, which meets next month, has the power to call a leadership review. A majority of constituency associations can also force one. Selinger could also face a review at the party’s annual convention next March.
Recent opinion polls have suggested the NDP is running well behind the Opposition Progressive Conservatives and faces popularity levels lower than any time in its 15 years in power.