Friday, November 14, 2014

Manitoba's NDP Party Executive & the Coming Leadership Race

As Manitoba NDP party executives put their weary, conflicted, befuddled heads to a pillow tonight trying to dream the impossible redemption dream - they need be mindful the present provincial leadership crisis is not just an "NDP party matter". It is, writ large - a Manitoba matter. The decision the NDP executive will arrive at Saturday to govern "their" party leadership race will, without a doubt, irrevocably impact "our" entire province. If the NDP executive advances a leadership race scenario tomorrow that does not speak first to fairness, second to expediency, and third (a distant third) to petty internal party machinations - they will not only alienate large segments of the party faithful, they'll sabotage their party's political fortunes for years to come. If the NDP executive cannot resolve the leadership issue in a fair and equitable manner before next March they will have failed. If they cannot guarantee a level playing field for those challenging Greg Selinger's leadership; all of Manitoba will take note. And if the NDP executive allows Premier Selinger to maintain his Premiership as he seeks to marginalize, undermine, punish, and silence all his NDP detractors - they will have sent us all a strong and clear message. That message? Status-quo first: Manitoba second.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Manitoba's NDP, The Unsellable Selinger: Leadership Review Needed

Today's Winnipeg Free Press poll confirms the obvious: Most Manitobans now think Premier Greg Selinger should resign. Clearly, the mass resignation of the courageous/infamous 'Gang of 5' has managed, eighteen months out from the next provincial election, to create a crisis of confidence. Even voters who usually ignore provincial politics at this point in a government's mandate are seriously questioning Selinger's authority. Acutely aware that something is amiss on Broadway, they are engaged. Such engagement bodes ill for the NDP. To add more fuel to the painful slowburn political funeral pyre that is Selinger's Saga, another story notes that, despite his desperate cabinet shuffle, serious questions remain about the level of support Selinger can realistically expect from his caucus. Rumours persist of more, as yet, undeclared rebels. This places Selinger is in an impossible and untenable position. Not only do the whispers of lingering dissent diminish his moral authority to move forward with his patchwork cabinet, they also feed the media's ongoing speculation that, next election, both Selinger and his NDP are toast. Fact is, neither the rumours or speculation will abate as long as Selinger is viewed a man flailing... a man who's barely, just barely, managing to cling to power. As such, it is incumbent on the NDP's party executive to clear the air, and to clear it fast. Only a leadership convention can put the rumours and uncertainty to rest.

Meanwhile, the policy challenged opposition is chomping at the bit to make media hay out of the blighted political harvest Selinger has sown this 2014. Each day Selinger clings to power between now and the next provincial election is a epic and generous political gift to PC leader Brian Pallister. Indeed, the PC's can be forgiven for harbouring the not wholly unreasonable notion that: As long as Greg Selinger remains Premier of Manitoba, they are the anointed ones. It is a notion that will persist, and a notion that will become a 2015-2016 reality unless the NDP can demonstrate, not only to its base, but to all Manitobans, that they are making every effort to put their policy-house in order. Under Greg Selinger's continued stewardship, this will be impossible. So it matters not when he and his cabinet (version 2.0) decide the business of the legislature should resume... if it resumes with Selinger as the sitting premier, the NDP are doomed.

Unrest and uncertainty at the NDP constituency level are at an all time high. Battlelines are being drawn. Divisions within the NDP membership are now fact: there are "pro-Greg" and "anti-Greg" camps. For any party, especially the one in power, this is a poisonous, toxic development. Moreover, if the two camps are not given an appropriate outlet to publicly vent their views, this internal rift will fester. Worst case scenario, the rift will degenerate into the kind of tawdry, debilitating and, ultimately, politically crippling internecine warfare that took place a decade ago between the federal Liberal Party's inherently selfish Chretien and Martin camps. An embarrassing and classless exercise, the infighting sealed the Liberal Party's fate for a decade. Is this what Manitoba's NDP faithful, its executive members, and elected MLA's want?  More importantly, is this what Manitoba's citizens deserve? Do Manitobans deserve to suffer through the trials and tribulations and unseemly machinations of a desperate premier going to war with elements from within his own damn party? Of course not. What Manitobans deserve is a sitting government that's making every effort to clear the air and rid itself of its petty inside baseball differences. What Manitobans deserve is a party in power that can govern this province, the whole province, effectively. Detoxification is needed. While an NDP leadership convention may not improve the party's fortunes in the next election, at the very least, it will improve governance. If the NDP's Party Executive has any balls it will move immediately to hold a leadership convention. To do otherwise is political suicide. More importantly, to do otherwise, is unfair to all Manitobans. Regardless of their political stripe, Manitoba's electorate deserves to bloody well know if the Captain currently at the helm of the good ship 'Manitoba' has, at the very least, the full support of his crew. Anything less is unacceptable.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Selinger's Staying Is Pure Folly

The mass resignation on Monday of five sitting Manitoba cabinet ministers irrevocably damaged NDP Premier Greg Selinger's political career. Moreover, his failure to adequately address the issues raised by the 'Gang of 5' in their post-resignation news conference has truly tainted his legacy. The reasons behind the rebellion required more substantial redress from Selinger than just a desperate Hail Mary cabinet reshuffle. When the heaviest hitters from your cabinet quit because they believe you are more preoccupied with retaining power than governing in Manitoba's "best interests": the die is cast. It's a damning indictment. The kind from which there is no coming back. No longer is the question "can Selinger continue to lead?" (He cannot.) The only question now is: How can he be forced out?

Yesterday, in the media scrum after the reshuffle kerfuffle, Selinger was asked how he hoped to stay on given the blistering criticisms and open dissent coming from within his own government. His reply?  "I am listening to Manitobans". Really? One wishes he'd first 'listen' to the most important voice of all, the one in his head chanting: "Staying be pure folly. Staying be pure folly." But alas no.

Selinger's stubbornness is not doing anybody (err, save Manitoba PC leader Brian Pallister) any damn good. Because of his obstinance, five major cabinet portfolios are now in limbo. Until his erstwhile bench warmers, now ministers, get up to speed on key files in their respective departments, some things (presumably some very important things) will suffer delays. In addition, the now reconstituted Planning & Priorities and Treasury Board Committee's both have major hurdles and time constraints to overcome if they are to have any meaningful input in the formulation of the next provincial Throne Speech and ensuing budget. Selinger's favourite catch-all mantra "jobs, the economy, and families" will not be enough to sell either a speech or a budget. Overused at both the federal and provincial level at budget time, the "jobs, the economy, and families" mantra has lost its meaning, it is now just retail schtick - and voters are tired of the charade. Manitoba's economy has pressing issues. As such, voters deserve to be presented with a 2015 Budget that includes a clearly articulated, frank, and honest fiscal roadmap. With all the new inexperienced faces suddenly sitting around the budget-making sausage machine - this may prove a daunting task. And with Selinger remaining at the helm, it may be nigh impossible. Fairly or unfairly, the perception is Selinger lied in 2011 about increasing the PST. That the 1% increase was a necessary evil matters not. What matters is, voters remember Selinger declaring, on the record, that if elected, he wouldn't increase the PST. Rightly, or wrongly, this fact, is enough to ensure any budget primarily authored by the now politically compromised and embattled Selinger will be virtually unsellable to the people of Manitoba.  His staying is pure folly.