WINNIPEG – If Greg Selinger is worried about possibly getting kicked out of the Manitoba premier’s office next Sunday, he’s showing no signs of it.
Selinger has appeared relaxed, affable and even chatty at public events, while fending off leadership challenges from once-trusted colleagues and adapting to the departure of most of his top advisers.
He says he is taking a business-as-usual approach and the leadership race that was precipitated by a caucus revolt has not distracted him from governing. He has campaigned on nights and weekends — often showing up at NDP delegate selection meetings — and deals only with government matters during the work day.
Still, he concedes, juggling the campaign with government duties has had an impact.
“There’s no question the pace is somewhat different and you have to be more focused when you’re going through a variety of experiences at once,” he said in an interview.
Selinger has proven resilient to his supporters and stubborn to his detractors. After the NDP raised the provincial sales tax in 2013 and saw popular support plummet, some cabinet colleagues began to quietly suggest he step down to help the party bounce back. He rejected the idea.
Five of his most senior ministers went public with their concerns last October and resigned from cabinet. Selinger insisted he would stay on and called on the party to hold a leadership vote.
His problems didn’t end there.
He has seen about two-thirds of the party’s constituency and youth delegate support go to his two opponents: Theresa Oswald, a former health minister who was part of the revolt, and Steve Ashton, a former infrastructure minister who stayed out of the public spat.
Most of his top advisers quit, were shown the door or took leaves of absence. Some are working on Oswald’s campaign. Selinger has replaced his aides with less-experienced staff.
He’s telling delegates he can help the party rebound by implementing good policies, building flood-fighting infrastructure and boosting the economy.
Selinger has not set a date for the spring budget, which is normally delivered in early April. He said it is being delayed in part because the federal budget has been pushed back and the province wants to see Ottawa’s fiscal plan.
A copy of his schedule for a two-week period in January, obtained by The Canadian Press, shows some of his work days looking busier than others.
It shows two half-hour meetings with staff on Jan. 5 and a half day of meetings with advisers and cabinet colleagues the following day. The next two days were somewhat busier, but descriptions of some meetings were blacked out in the released documents.
On Jan. 9, there were four meetings over a four-hour period, including a sitdown with his new, smaller circle of advisers. The following week he had a cabinet meeting, an appearance before a legislature committee, discussions with a restaurant lobby group and the Franco-Manitoban Society and preparations for a northern tour.
Selinger said it’s not uncommon for his schedule to be lighter in early January while the government ramps up after the Christmas break. He said he’s busy reading briefing notes and other material when his schedule shows no meetings.
“You have a stack of material on your desk every single day that you plow through that requires attention and requires thoughtfulness.”