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.

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