POLITICS

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger To Meet With Cabinet Ministers Who Tried To Oust Him

03/18/2015 02:35 EDT | Updated 05/18/2015 05:59 EDT
WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said Wednesday he plans to meet soon with five former cabinet ministers who tried to oust him.

But he was unclear as to whether the rebels will fully regain caucus privileges and whether they will be allowed to run under the NDP banner in the next election.

"Every nomination meeting is something that has to be planned out ... but right now we're working on how we come together to make sure we're focused on the needs of Manitobans," Selinger said.

"All of these options are on the table as everybody makes their decisions on how we all come together."

Selinger survived an internal revolt when he beat former health minister Theresa Oswald by a razor-thin 33 votes on the second ballot of a leadership vote March 8 at the party's annual convention. Selinger captured 51 per cent of the ballots to Oswald's 49 per cent.

Oswald and four other senior ministers had resigned their portfolios to sit on the backbenches in November, after publicly suggesting Selinger consider quitting to help the NDP rebound from record-low poll numbers.

Selinger stripped the five rebels of some of their caucus privileges, including the right to attend caucus meetings. He promised at the time there would be a caucus reconciliation committee to find a way to mend fences, and said Wednesday that committee is now taking shape.

"Every MLA (legislature member) is valued in the caucus and we want to find a way for people to come together to provide the best service to Manitobans. Our No. 1 responsibility as elected officials is to serve the needs of Manitobans and all these things will be sorted out as we go forward."

Under the NDP constitution, the 25-member provincial executive gets the final say on candidate nominations. Selinger sits on the executive along with several people who supported his leadership campaign, including Ovide Mercredi, who was elected president after being endorsed by Selinger.

The New Democrats have yet to nominate candidates for the scheduled April 2016 election in many constituencies, including the five represented by the rebels.

Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Manitoba, said Selinger may want to extend an olive branch to try to reunite the party.

"He may think he has nothing to apologize for and there's no way he should be generous toward the rebels, except that it's probably in his self-interest and in the self-interest of the party to do so. It has to start somewhere."

Oswald said in a written message Wednesday that she wants to mend fences.

"I made a commitment to our members that regardless of whom they chose as leader, I would work hard to help reunite the party. I have told Premier Selinger I will honour those words."

The ongoing rift has resulted in a handful of Selinger's senior advisers quitting or being let go — most of them after working on Oswald's leadership campaign.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives said Wednesday taxpayers could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance pay. Selinger said any severance costs will be revealed when the government issues its year-end fiscal report.

"People are having discussions and we will move forward once those discussions are concluded."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the Progressive Conservatives estimated severance pay could be hundreds of millions of dollars.

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