05/08/2015 11:32 EDT | Updated 05/08/2016 05:59 EDT

Seven former Manitoba government staff divide six-figure severance package

WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger would not answer questions Friday about severance packages given out following the NDP government's leadership crisis.

Selinger took a different door than usual out of the legislature chamber and would not stop to talk about $670,000 that was paid out to seven former staff members.

"These are personnel matters, and as you know, I normally don't comment on personnel matters in public," he said as he walked quickly down a hallway to his office.

"These (severance packages) were arrived at through proper advice from professional people, and the intention is to make sure that it's done in such a way that everybody is protected and looked after."

Almost every one of the premier's former top advisers left after a caucus revolt last October, including his former chief of staff, caucus director, issues management director, communications director and press secretary. Some of them supported Theresa Oswald in a leadership challenge that Selinger survived by a narrow margin in a March vote.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives said it is unfair for taxpayers to be on the hook for the severance packages.

"Why should Manitobans have to pay anything for the NDP family feud? Why should they have to pay for the dysfunction within the NDP party?" Tory legislature member Kelvin Goertzen asked in question period.

The government did not release a breakdown of how much each former staff member received. It had previously revealed details of one of the packages — $146,047 for former chief of staff Liam Martin, who had been on the job for about 2 1/2 years.

Opposition Leader Brian Pallister chided Selinger for avoiding the media. Reporters were told the premier would not talk about the subject and were handed brief written statements instead.

"Wouldn't it be right for the premier to at least come out and say to you and to Manitobans, 'I think this is the right thing to do' ... instead of running away and hiding?"

Pallister also said the severance packages seem exponentially higher than those offered to most Manitobans. Employees governed by the province's labour laws are entitled to a minimum of two weeks of notice or severance pay for every year of service.