WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger showed no signs Tuesday of extending an olive branch to NDP rebels who came within 33 votes of toppling him at a party convention Sunday.
Selinger parted ways with three staff members who had worked on the leadership campaign of his main opponent, Theresa Oswald. He had yet to reach out and speak directly with Oswald or Steve Ashton, who finished third in the leadership race.
Selinger also said a caucus committee announced four months ago to find a way to reunite the divided caucus had yet to be established. He would not even guarantee that Oswald and other internal critics would regain full caucus privileges.
“I think that would be desirable and I’m hoping everybody can get a comfort level with doing that, but I think we have some discussions to do and some healing to do before we can arrive at that point,” Selinger said in an interview.
The revolt against Selinger started last October, when Oswald and four other senior cabinet ministers suggested Selinger resign in order to help the party rebound from record-low opinion poll numbers. Selinger refused and the party organized a leadership race that saw Selinger eke out a second-ballot victory over Oswald.
On Monday, Selinger and three political staff members parted ways, according to two government sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the government or the party.
The three staff members had all worked for Oswald’s campaign and Selinger promised last December that staff was free to support other candidates without fear of retribution.
Selinger refused to comment specifically on the three staffers Tuesday, and would not say whether they were fired or left voluntarily. He said personnel changes are normal after a leadership vote.
“People have civil rights, but we also have an organization to run and everybody wants to find the best way to do that.”
“We have a deep talent pool in this province of excellent people that are interested in public service and … we always want to find a place where everybody can make their best contribution.”
For the immediate future, Oswald and six other caucus members who have challenged Selinger remain on the outs. They were given limited privileges in November, but are unable to attend caucus meetings or have any input on decisions.
Selinger was noncommittal on the future of the rebels who resigned from cabinet.
“Nothing’s off the table, all options are open, and these are discussions we need to have among each other and develop a comfort level with that. But we currently have a functioning cabinet, we’ve got some new people in there … we’ve got lots of work we have to do, but there are always opportunities in the future, and there should be.”
In the immediate future, Selinger plans to get the caucus reunification committee up and running. He also has to deliver a spring budget. No date has been set yet.
Selinger’s critics have said the party is doomed under his watch to lose the next election slated for April 2016. Selinger said he is committed to leading the party into that vote and believes a strong economy and his government’s achievements will resonate with voters.