06/01/2012 07:34 EDT | Updated 08/01/2012 05:12 EDT

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger asks NDP members not to be complacent

WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger asked his party's grassroots members Friday not to be complacent following the NDP's big election win last year.

"We need the consent of Manitobans to govern and we need that consent renewed on a regular basis," Selinger told delegates at the NDP's annual convention.

"And we need to do it by having direct contact with our friends and neighbours, not only in the labour movement, not only in the environmental movement, but neighbours in the community clubs, neighbours that we see every day."

The rallying cry comes at a time when the New Democrats have little to worry about, at least in the short term.

The party scored a modern-day record 37 of 57 legislature seats in last October's election, and the next vote is four years away. The opposition Progressive Conservatives and Liberals are looking for new leaders after failing to stop the NDP from winning a fourth consecutive mandate.

Selinger told the delegates he was "pleasantly surprised" by the election win.

"We weren't sure how it was going to turn out," he said.

The months that followed the election haven't been a cake walk, however. The government has faced controversy over free NHL tickets that were given to cabinet ministers. Selinger alluded to the matter when he joked that there were many convention raffle tickets for sale but "no Jets tickets."

Selinger also laid out, in broad terms, the course he plans to follow between now and the next election. There will be new spending in areas such as education, and no sharp cuts to government programs.

"You don't solve recessions with austerity. You solve recessions with growing your economy, getting people back to work and having projects out there that will make a difference," he said.

"We know an educated population is the greatest indicator of future success in this province. The better off and the better educated our people are, the better off we all are in this province."

Selinger is in the midst of five planned years of deficit budgets, and has promised a slim surplus by 2014. Severe flooding last year pushed the deficit to nearly $1 billion, but as the opposition frequently points out, overspending in other areas added to the red ink.