POLITICS

Manitoba Opposition leader plans alternative throne speech, session or no

11/04/2014 01:47 EST | Updated 01/04/2015 05:59 EST
WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger was still deciding Tuesday whether to cancel the traditional fall sitting of the legislature following a revolt by some of his top cabinet ministers.

One day after a cabinet shuffle that was forced by the resignations of five senior ministers, Selinger met with some of the replacements who sit on the treasury board cabinet committee and who have suddenly found themselves in charge of finance, health and other major departments.

"The premier will consult with his new cabinet before making a decision" on any fall session, spokesman Matt Williamson wrote in an email.

The Manitoba legislature normally breaks for the summer every June and returns for a brief sitting in mid-November with a throne speech that outlines the government's plans for the coming year.

The opposition parties have been demanding Selinger stick to the tradition. Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said Tuesday he will deliver an alternative throne speech on Nov. 14 — outside the legislative chamber if need be.

"I'm going to share our vision of where we believe the province needs to go, whether the NDP comes back with a throne speech or not," Pallister said.

"The premier keeps using the word ... 'openness' and the word 'accountability.' So demonstrate it in a real way. Don't just talk about it. Let's get the legislature back and let's get going."

Royce Koop, who teaches political science at the University of Manitoba, said the premier may be inclined to have a fall sitting, partly to show that he is in control.

"If he thinks he has the support of his caucus, there's really not much point in putting (the session) off."

The revolt against Selinger erupted last week when the ministers of health, justice, finance, municipal government and jobs and the economy said Selinger should consider quitting. The NDP has been trailing well back of the Tories since April 2013 when the government announced an increase in the provincial sales tax to eight per cent from seven.

The former ministers said the tax hike was not the only reason for their action. They accused Selinger of failing to listen to them and acting unilaterally — accusations he denied.

Selinger refused to step down. The ministers resigned their posts on Monday and were replaced within hours with a less-experienced lineup.

But the standoff remains. The rebels continue to sit in caucus and say they will run for re-election. Selinger says he also plans to run in the next election, slated for April 2016.

It's not clear how much support the he has among rank-and-file New Democrats. Two members of the party's council have joined the premier's critics. It's possible Selinger could face a leadership review — either at the annual NDP convention in March or at an earlier convention if enough council members want one.

"He's still in a very dangerous situation, " Koop said.

"I can't imagine him getting a really strong leadership vote unless these five cabinet ministers (who resigned) are totally out of touch with what's going on outside the legislature right now."