WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s opposition parties say embattled Premier Greg Selinger should be calling an election, not a leadership contest.
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister says infighting among the governing New Democrats is a distraction from the real concerns of Manitobans. He says all voters should be able to decide Selinger’s fate — not just card-carrying NDP members.
“Why should 99.9 per cent of Manitobans be excluded from deciding who the next premier of Manitoba is?” Pallister asked Monday. “Why should these democratic rights be limited to the members of the New Democratic Party and the few remaining supporters of the premier or of his rebellious ministers?”
Selinger didn’t respond to a request for comment, although his press secretary said he would issue a statement Monday.
At an NDP executive meeting on the weekend, Selinger agreed to a leadership contest at the party’s annual convention in March. The executive is to hold another meeting this weekend to set ground rules and a precise date. Selinger will stand as a candidate and has said it will give his opponents a chance to run against him.
The battle for leadership of the party has created an unstable government that is not focused on working for residents, Pallister said.
“Manitobans are telling us they’re concerned. They’re worried about their health care. They’re worried about their social services. They’re worried about the quality of their education,” he said.
“These worries … have been deepened as a result of them seeing a government that’s dysfunctional, a government that’s clearly focused on its own health more than the health of Manitobans.”
Liberal Leader Rana Bokhari added her voice to the call for an immediate election.
“Like the rest of the NDP, Selinger only concerned with his political survival. Can’t run for party leader and be premier at same time,” Bokhari posted on Twitter. “Manitobans must be allowed to choose the next premier now. It is not for unaccountable NDP insiders to decide.”
Selinger has been under fire from his own cabinet and caucus over last year’s decision to raise the provincial sales tax. The party has plummeted in the polls and one party source told The Canadian Press that half the NDP caucus wanted Selinger to step down during a retreat in September.
That evolved into open rebellion last week when five of Selinger’s most senior cabinet ministers resigned after publicly suggesting he should step aside. They have not reacted to the prospect of a leadership contest and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
The legislature is set to return Nov. 20 with a speech from the throne.