POLITICS

Selinger's challengers score early wins for delegates in Manitoba NDP race

02/08/2015 08:21 EST | Updated 04/10/2015 05:59 EDT
WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has fallen behind in the early stages of the provincial NDP leadership race.

NDP meetings are being held in constituencies across the province to choose delegates for the March 8 leadership vote that has been forced on Selinger by a caucus revolt.

Selinger has won only one of the 12 meetings so far — a slate of 34 delegates from the Point Douglas constituency that was chosen Sunday.

Selinger trails his two challengers, Steve Ashton and Theresa Oswald, who each have 105 delegates elected from their teams.

The vast majority of the 2200 delegate spots have yet to be filled, and Selinger's campaign co-manager Kathleen McCallum says the team remains confident.

The NDP called the leadership vote after five senior cabinet ministers, including Oswald, suggested Selinger resign in order to help the party survive the next election, slated for April, 2016.

Not only has Selinger failed to win all but one of the delegate meetings to date, but he has lost meetings in constituencies held by cabinet ministers who support him.

Theresa Oswald's camp took the St. James and Kirkfield Park delegate meetings on the weekend, represented respectively by Healthy Living Minister Deanne Crothers and Health Minister Sharon Blady.

In St. James, Selinger's team could not even field a full slate of candidates for delegate status. They put up 10 candidates for 13 slots and none were elected.

McCallum said Sunday night the Selinger campaign was not worried.

"This is a marathon. It's isn't a sprint," she said.

"I think you're going to see over the next two weeks ... a lot of shifting and movement."

Oswald's numbers to date have been helped by the fact delegate meetings for her constituency and those of some of the other rebel caucus members were among the first to be held.

Each constituency is awarded a number of delegates based on their membership, and some of the bigger constituencies are in the north, in and around Ashton's Thompson home.

Unions and other labour groups are also awarded delegates, and the largest one — the Canadian Union of Public Employees — has endorsed Selinger.

Selinger has been battling the public revolt since October. The caucus revolt was prompted largely by the government's 2013 sales tax increase, which caused the party to plummet in opinion polls.