POLITICS

Former Manitoba cabinet minister is considering leadership run against premier

11/27/2014 04:51 EST | Updated 01/27/2015 05:59 EST
WINNIPEG - The leadership race facing Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger started to take shape Thursday when one of his critics said she is considering running for his job.

Theresa Oswald, one of five cabinet ministers who resigned from the inner circle earlier this month after questioning Selinger's leadership, said she is mulling a bid to lead the NDP.

"I will be frank that this is something that a number of people have approached me about, and upon which I am reflecting, but I am certainly nowhere in the yes or no territory yet," Oswald said.

"There's lots of thinking to do. This has been ... a pretty tumultuous few weeks. That's not only true in terms of my personal career, but the careers of some of my beloved colleagues."

Steve Ashton, the NDP's house leader and emergency measures minister who ran against Selinger in the 2009 race, did not rule out entering this time as well.

"Right now, you're dealing with an evolving situation," Ashton said. "Right now, my focus is on being government house leader."

The comments come at a time when Selinger is trying to show that the New Democrats are focused on governing and not distracted by the leadership squabble. The government has introduced a handful of proposed laws in a two-week legislature session, and Selinger has refused to answer questions at government events about the leadership race.

The NDP infighting erupted into public view last month when Oswald — who was minister of jobs and the economy — along with other senior cabinet ministers said they had lost their faith in Selinger's leadership. They accused the premier of not listening to his cabinet anymore and of failing to address public concern over last year's provincial sales tax increase.

The NDP plummeted in opinion polls after the tax hike and has been far behind the Opposition Progressive Conservatives with an election slated for April 2016.

Selinger, who was not available for comment Thursday, has said he plans to lead the party into the next election. He has said anyone wanting to take his job is free to try to do so at the party's annual convention under a little-used section of the NDP constitution.

The NDP executive is working to set the ground rules for the leadership race. Those rules could include a decision on whether Selinger should step down as premier until the vote is held at the party convention March 6.

Oswald said the leadership vote could be moved to another date. The NDP constitution allows the party's council, which meets next month and will consider the rules set by the executive, to call a separate leadership convention.

"I have not yet heard that (March 6) is the gospel, so even that date, ... could be in question."

Oswald said she is considering a number of factors before making a decision on the race. She cited the potential impact on her family. She also said she is keeping in mind what is best for the party's future and its chance of remaining in power.

"Without a doubt, you can get more done when you have your hands on the steering wheel."