WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger finds out today whether he will be booted from office by an internal NDP revolt.
About 1,700 delegates at the party’s convention will cast ballots for either Selinger or one of two former cabinet ministers trying to replace him — Steve Ashton and Theresa Oswald.
Selinger was essentially forced into the leadership race after Oswald and other senior party members called on him to resign last October, as the party slumped in opinion polls.
By all accounts, the race is too close to call and will almost certainly require a second ballot this afternoon.
Oswald’s campaign manager, Anna Rothney, says as late as yesterday, her team had a dozen people still working to lure delegates who were undecided or in other camps.
Whoever wins the race will have to reunite the party in time for the next election, slated for April, 2016.
All three candidates attracted support from roughly the same amount of constituency and youth delegates at meetings held across the province in the last month. The remaining 500 or so delegates, representing unions, the NDP provincial council and other party officials, are wild cards.
“There are still a lot of … delegates that haven’t necessarily declared yet,” Rothney said.
“Some have, some are wearing T-shirts, but not everybody has.”
The union vote could be key for Selinger. He was endorsed by leaders of two of the province’s biggest unions — The Canadian Union of Public Employees and the United Food and Commercial Workers union. But the unions have struggled to fill their allotted delegate positions, and some union delegates have said they are voting for another candidate.
Selinger has faced public anger since raising the provincial sales tax to eight per cent from seven in 2013. Oswald, a former minister of health who is more than a decade younger than Ashton and Selinger, has promoted herself as a fresh face that can help the party fight off the Opposition Progressive Conservatives. Ashton, who did not take part in the caucus revolt last fall, has promoted himself as the only candidate that can unify the party after the divisive squabble.
One of his campaign organizers said the fact Ashton did not take sides in the revolt should help him on the second ballot Sunday.
“Steve is the first choice for a number of delegates, but he’s the second choice for virtually all other delegates,” said Jim Rondeau.