Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 14, 2015
When the dust settling from last weekend’s NDP convention, only one gunslinger remained in control of the party he has seen through plummeting support.
Premier Greg Selinger, as many Manitobans already know, survived his dust-up with longtime adversary Steve Ashton and upstart contender Theresa Oswald, with the province remaining in the tenuous grip of the premier after a razor-thin victory on Sunday.
As the votes shook down following Ashton’s surprise exit after the first round of voting earlier in the day, many started to see the impeding “writing on the wall” for Oswald. Plenty of the Ashton delegates chose to abstain in the second ballot or leave rather than vote for the candidate many viewed as the one poised to bring down all they as a government had built.
That fix appears to have been in the works from the time Ashton left the room after dropping off the ballot after the first round. The end for Oswald did not come by the sword of Selinger; the end came from Ashton and his delegates sitting on their hands when the bidding war began.
So with that said, the Gang of Five’s dart, which was championed by Oswald and destined for the premier, missed its mark, and all now find themselves in a very murky situation and without a clear path to their next option.
They also have publicly denounced the leadership of their party and one of their fellow MLAs in Selinger, a fact not lost on the Progressive Conservatives, who will play ad nauseum the messages of Oswald, Jennifer Howard and Co. during the election campaign. Those messages ranged from troublesome to outright distrust for the job Selinger was doing as leader of the government.
Given no indication whether the olive branch would be extended to them, where does the Gang of Five go next? Step down? Run as independents? Rejoin the caucus if the opportunity presents itself? Or lastly, and possibly the most intriguing idea, if they are truly steadfast on their comments about the government’s inability to lead, join the ranks of the Liberals or to a lesser degree the Tories to move forward into the next provincial election.
As crazy as that may sound, there could be some merit to the Liberal move at least.
First and foremost, for the Liberals to mount an offensive, they need some marquee names. Aside from current leader Rana Bokhari and former leader and the only Liberal MLA, Jon Gerrard, they are short on any form of name recognition, let alone star power.
Second, the party could use some attention and what better way to do that than to become the de facto centrist/left opposition to the current regime. There is a wide swath of support that may not swing quite as far as the Conservatives, but would be comfortable supporting an alternative in their area of the political spectrum.
And third, Bokhari, despite spending months on the road to build a grassroots brand, could use the help. She has to be tiring of the amount of work undertaken in a somewhat thankless post, so attracting some new blood with an axe to grind against the party’s biggest hurdle to legitimacy would be an absolute coup for her and the Liberals, who are looking to once again stake a claim on a piece of the pie in Manitoba.
As it stands now, although the premier has said “all options are on the table,” the rebellious MLAs are likely to end up back in caucus, but a return to cabinet would garner far worse odds, should the premier so choose to reinstate them. If he does cast them off completely, they would sit as full-time independents for the foreseeable future. If that is the case, there would most likely be a couple of eager suitors prepared to welcome them with open arms should their current party of choice walk away from the table.
The Gang of Five has never shied away from the fact that they bleed NDP orange, but in a scenario where they are left without an option and want to continue to serve, you have to wonder if their phones have been ringing.
So it is now the premier’s prerogative to decide their fate in the Ides of March. Greg Selinger has to feel burned by the whole situation and at this point, with his and the party’s support where it is, his only choice may now be to pick which deck the Gang of Five will be relegated to as the ship sinks.