10/29/2014 04:37 EDT | Updated 12/29/2014 05:59 EST

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger Could Face Leadership Review

WINNIPEG - The future of embattled Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger remained unclear Wednesday as some of his caucus members said they support both him and the handful of cabinet rebels who say he should consider retiring.

"If the premier says he's staying, my job is to work with him and to work with my caucus and move forward," Tourism Minister Ron Lemieux told reporters called to his office.

Lemieux also had praise for the cabinet ministers who said earlier this week that Selinger should consider leaving to try to stop the NDP's slide in opinion polls. He said he hoped the rebels would not be demoted to the backbenches.

"These are not only friends of mine and my colleagues, but they're very bright political people, and with a real passion for the province. (Demoting them) is not my call and I would personally hope that would never happen."

Kevin Chief, children and youth opportunities minister, said he firmly backs Selinger, but also supports his cabinet colleagues and wants to focus on his job instead of the public party spat.

"The premier has always supported me in my job. So have my cabinet colleagues and so has caucus, and so have many members of the community. When you want to get things done, you reciprocate that support."

Selinger said Tuesday he would stay on as premier and lead the party into the next election despite public criticism from some of his top ministers.

Health Minister Erin Selby, Justice Minister Andrew Swan and Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers said Selinger has failed to persuade voters that raising the provincial sales tax last year was the right thing to do. They called on him to consider stepping down.

Jobs and the Economy Minister Theresa Oswald and Finance Minister Jennifer Howard were more measured in their criticism, but urged Selinger to reflect on his future given the party's standing in polls.

Other ministers are standing firmly behind him, although less than half his caucus were there Tuesday when he announced he wouldn't step down.

Selinger, who left the door open to a cabinet shuffle, was in Flin Flon on Wednesday. For the time being, he faces a divided cabinet and caucus and the possibility of a leadership review next March.

Under the NDP constitution, the party's provincial council — made up of more than 100 constituency representatives, party executives and others — can call a leadership review at the annual convention.

Chief and Lemieux would not say whether they support a leadership review. They said the decision is up to party members.

Darlene Dziewit, a member of the council and former union leader, said she might support a leadership review.

She said the New Democrats may be looking at huge losses in the next election slated for April 2016.

"I was in Nova Scotia last fall when the (NDP) government went to seven seats and third place. Manitoba today feels like Nova Scotia did last year," she said Wednesday.

"Voters are telling governments in both places loud and clear that they've lost trust in the premier."

The NDP government enjoyed strong public support from the time it took power in 1999 until last year, when it raised the provincial sales tax to eight per cent from seven.

Recent opinion polls suggest NDP support has dropped to the low 30s, well behind the Opposition Progressive Conservatives.

Paul Thomas, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Manitoba, said this week it will take all of Selinger's management skills to survive the in-fighting.

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