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A nasty split in the NDP tests Greg Selinger's leadership skills

There's a split in Manitoba's ruling NDP and it's growing wider and nastier by the day.

The first crack in party solidarity developed when Thompson MLA Steve Ashton took on Finance Minister Greg Selinger for the leadership following Gary Doer's departure. There was no love lost between the men.

It was papered over at the leadership convention when Selinger topped the vote with 1317 to Ashton's miserly 685. But the split has obviously festered ever since and was positively oozing last Wednesday when Ashton's campaign manager Russ Wyatt tore several strips off unelected Premier Selinger at the last city council meeting of the summer.

Speaking on the debate over adopting Light Rail Transit as the priority for the city over Bus Rapid Transit, Wyatt attacked Selinger for failing to respect council's choices for its infrastructure priorities. Instead, the provincial NDP is trying to force the city of Winnipeg to spend all the money in the infrastructure pot on completing phase two of BRT to the University of Manitoba, he said.

Wyatt launched a blistering attack on Selinger and his bullying attitude towards Winnipeg:

"There is a disagreement taking place between this council and, specifically the mayor, and the premier of Manitoba. The premier is of the view that the Building Canada Funds that are available for Winnipeg, approximately 63 million from the federal government and 63 million from the provincial government and we have to come to the table, 63 million of our money, so 189 million is the total amount we're talking here... the premier believes they should go towards finishing off the BRT line..."
"... it's this council that sets the priorities. The premier was elected premier back in Oct but he was not elected mayor. I don't remember anybody cheering 'we just elected the premier and the mayor. It was the premier of Manitoba and that's what he was elected to be. He has a right to express his opinion but in the end of the day he has to listen to the elected officials coming from this chamber."

"if the premier of the province is hearing what we're saying, the roads and the bridges are crumbling. We want that to be the priority. We have ... said back in April that this was a priority and this premier refuses to respond to this council and address these concerns and the situation continues to get worse and worse."
"Mr. Speaker the debate is $189 million. $189 million that (we) as a council requested and the premier says he is broke. Well in 2008 he found $141 million... to build -- remember the dispute at the floodway with the government? $141 million of our infrastructure money, Mr. Speaker, that went to his legacy project...

After that announcement, the next announcement was ... 212 million to go into centre port. Not our priority. Of which 70 or $80 million was provincial funds that would have been earmarked to roads and bridges in this city..."
Two days later, Wyatt picked up the cudgel again as he stood by a railway crossing at Plessis Road with Mayor Sam Katz to say upgrades to Plessis were one of 11 infrastructure priorities endorsed by city council in April to be paid for with money from the Building Canada Fund. This time he declared he had the support of Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton.
Them's fighting words.
Selinger has to respond or lose face. He can't have a cabinet minister contradict him in public. He has either to demote Ashton or force Ashton to disavow his former campaign manager Russ Wyatt. And picking a fight with a take-no-prisoners maverick like Wyatt on the eve of a provincial election is fraught with danger.
Meanwhile, you can ask why the MSM political reporters are ignoring this story.

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