11/05/2014 01:33 EST | Updated 01/05/2015 05:59 EST

Embattled Manitoba premier forges ahead with legislature fall sitting

WINNIPEG - Manitoba's embattled NDP government plans to reconvene the legislature Nov. 20 amid low poll numbers and internal challenges to Premier Greg Selinger's leadership.

"If you look at my office ... during the flood (of 2011) I put up the famous poster, which actually came from the Second World War in Britain — 'Keep calm and carry on,'" government house leader Steve Ashton said Wednesday.

"I want to make it very clear that our government is keeping calm, we're carrying on, we're going into session and we will be accountable to the people of Manitoba."

The legislature is to sit for two weeks — one week shorter than most fall sittings. Ashton said there will be enough time for new legislation and a throne speech to outline the government's plans for the coming year.

Ashton's announcement came as a new opinion poll was released that suggested most Manitobans want the premier to resign.

The survey by Mainstreet Technologies, done for the Winnipeg Free Press, had 57 per cent of respondents agreeing with a statement that Selinger should quit. Fourteen per cent said he should stay. One in four respondents took no position.

The poll mirrored other recent surveys that show NDP support steadily dropping over the last two years. The Mainstreet survey pegged NDP support at 20 per cent. The Opposition Tories garnered 40 per cent, the Liberals 15 per cent and 26 per cent of respondents were undecided.

Mainstreet surveyed 2,019 Manitobans by telephone this week, using interactive voice response, and the results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.18 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The NDP enjoyed a long honeymoon with voters after taking power in 1999, but the party angered many people last year by raising the provincial sales tax to eight per cent from seven. Selinger had specifically said during the last election campaign that he was not planning to increase the tax. The government also sidestepped a referendum on the increase that had been required under provincial law.

Divisions within the party erupted into public view last week, when a handful of party officials and some senior cabinet ministers said Selinger should consider resigning.

He has refused to step down and has said he will lead the party into the next election in 2016. On Monday, the cabinet ministers of finance, health, justice, municipal government and jobs and the economy all resigned, saying the premier had stopped listening to them.

Selinger quickly appointed a new, less-experienced cabinet that will soon face the opposition in question period. The new cabinet met for the first time Wednesday and Ashton said everyone wants to put the political turmoil behind.

"I'm not going to get into the full details, obviously, of what we discussed in cabinet, but I can tell you ... we're governing and our focus this morning was on the throne speech — when, content — and all the other business of government as well."

But the internal battle is not over. The cabinet ministers who resigned remain in Selinger's caucus and he could face a leadership review at the party's annual convention in March. The party's council could also call a special leadership convention earlier if enough council members push for one.

The Liberals, who hold one seat in the legislature but have been surging in the polls as NDP fortunes sink, said Wednesday the New Democrats are "a train wreck in slow motion."

"Selinger’s focus is on political survival and not on delivering the government Manitobans expect and deserve," Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari said in a statement.