NEWS
04/30/2016 15:02 EDT | Updated 05/01/2017 01:12 EDT

Manitoba NDP caucus and executive favour Flor Marcelino as interim leader

WINNIPEG — A cabinet minister with a relatively low profile, who was a loyalist to outgoing Premier Greg Selinger, is in line to become the interim leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party.

Flor Marcelino, the minister of multiculturalism and literacy, has been chosen by both the NDP caucus and the party executive to lead the New Democrats until a permanent leader can be chosen.

The move still requires the approval of the NDP provincial council at a meeting next Saturday, and would take effect immediately.

Marcelino would be the Manitoba NDP's first woman leader and was chosen in part because she is a team player, according to NDP provincial secretary Keith Bellamy.

"She was chosen by caucus. She's someone that everyone around the table feels they can work with," Bellamy said Saturday.

Selinger announced on election night, April 19th, he would resign as party leader. The NDP were ousted from power after 17 years and replaced by a Progressive Conservative majority that is the largest in Manitoba in a century.

The election followed a caucus coup that Selinger barely survived last year. Five of his most senior cabinet ministers and other party members challenged his leadership. Marcelino was among those who stood by Selinger and helped him retain his job at a party convention.

The fact a Selinger loyalist is taking over the party helm may not help the NDP's attempts to reunite after the divisive leadership crisis, according to political analyst Paul Thomas.

"She may be identified with one of the two camps that were very entrenched in the NDP caucus," said Thomas, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Manitoba.

But Rosann Wowchuk, a former cabinet minister who now sits on the party executive, said the party has reunited.

"I think that all of (caucus) see the division that happened is behind us and we're all moving forward."

Marcelino has represented the Logan constituency in Winnipeg's inner city since 2007 and has been in cabinet since 2009.

Born in the Phillipines, she moved to Winnipeg in 1982, ran a small business and was editor of a community newspaper.

She was not often a target for the opposition in question period and has little debate experience, according to Thomas.

"In the cut and thrust of the legislature, I don't recall her ever taking on some of the heavyweights across the aisle."

Marcelino declined an interview request Saturday.

The NDP has yet to set a date for when a permanent leader will be chosen, and no one has announced they are seeking the job so far.

Bellamy said the party is working with a rough estimate of 16 to 24 months to plan a leadership convention.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press