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NDP Plan B. Selinger out in the fall. A historic gamble. A snap election?


Manitoba political pundits feel hornswoggled, hookwinked and bamboozled.

For five months they've been covering the ins and outs and ups and downs of an alleged revolt of a handful of NDP cabinet ministers against Premier Greg Selinger. It was supposed to culminate Sunday in the ouster of Selinger as leader of the party when delegates to a party convention chose one or the other of two challengers for his job.

Except that he won. By a narrow margin, sure.  But he won.

The pundits gave out a collective gasp. This wasn't supposed to happen. Selinger was supposed to quit or be defeated. This was the worst outcome possible for the NDP -- a permanently split party and an invigorated Opposition.

"So what exactly was the point of all that again?... In one sense, the Manitoba NDP are back to square one, exactly where they were six months ago." said  Curtis Brown, vice-president of pollsters Probe Research Inc.

Who saw that coming?

Well, we did. Three months ago when we wrote how the "revolt" was a charade.
 
The evidence was clear.  The "Rebel Five", as the press called them, supported the NDP's policies, voted for all the NDP's bills, and never spoke of repealing any NDP legislation.  If their rebellion succeeded, nothing would change. If it lost, nothing would change.  Wow, if that's not revolution, we don't what is.

Their only beef was Greg Selinger, who, apparently, wouldn't listen to them when they spoke in caucus. About what? They didn't say.

So what, then, was the point of turning on the leader, asked Curtis Brown.

The polls show the NDP going to ignominious defeat in the next provincial election. They had to do something to reverse their collapse in popular support, and fast.

The past three months, since the leadership race was announced, have been a sort of trial election campaign. Except with the NDP running against the NDP.  

* You had the far-left hardcore socialist candidate, Theresa Oswald who went around promising millions of dollars in new spending on new social programs. 

* The populist, Steve Ashton, who would hold a non-binding referendum on raising the provincial sales tax three or more years after the tax was raised and he voted to raise (and spend) it.  

* And the steady-as-she-goes candidate, reigning Premier Greg Selinger.

Selinger is nothing if not a stalwart party soldier. He was willing to fall on the sword if either of the other two approaches were embraced by the public.  But the NDP brand is so toxic nothing moved the polls. It was time to hit the reset button.

And move to Plan B.

As the pundits quibble over the entrails of the NDP leadership farce...

"Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Manitoba, said the last five months have given Conservative Leader Brian Pallister a wealth of political ammunition for the coming campaign.
“Part of Mr. Pallister’s attack will be to say here is a premier who is not even trusted by his most senior political colleagues in cabinet and caucus,” Thomas said.?"  Globe and Mail

"University of Manitoba political science associate professor Royce Koop said, "I think it is very clear that not in his wildest dreams could (PC leader) Brian Pallister have hoped for a better result than this one."     National Post
 
"While Selinger and his caucus supporters were grinning ear to ear on stage Sunday, the ones who were probably beaming the most were the Brian Pallister-led Progressive Conservatives and Rana Bokhari-led Liberals."  Curtis Brown, Winnipeg Free Press.

... Plan B has been set in motion.

The next Manitoba election is in 13 months, April, 2016.  Greg Selinger turns 65 in February, 2016.  Does the NDP want a white-haired geezer collecting an old-age pension leading their campaign?   (Conservative Party leader Brian Pallister will be only 61 in April, 2016.)

You bet not.  Now that he's seized the reins of power again, Selinger can retire on his own terms and in his own time.  We're betting that this fall -- September, October or even November -- he will announce his resignation as Premier. It's time to turn the future over to a new generation, he'll say. 

He will still sit as an MLA until the election is called, but the caucus will elect an interim leader.  Let's call him "Kevin Chief" (who will be about 41, although he's secretive about his birthday).

Chief brings no unwanted political baggage to the job.  

He hasn't held any major portfolio, so he can't be blamed for 
- the collapse of the Manitoba medical system, 
- the bottom-of-the-country educational system, 
- the threatening bankruptcy of Manitoba Hydro, or 
- the ruinous taxation strangling the economy. 
 
He's young, smart, educated, polite, and carries the single most important attribute necessary for Plan B.

He's aboriginal.

So is Ovide Mercredi, the new President of the New Democratic Party, whose election was a shocker at the convention last weekend.  See where this is going?

The NDP will play the only card they have left---a wild card that's never before been played in a Manitoba election.  They will run on a platform of a New Deal for Aboriginals, in Manitoba and in all of Canada.

Where's Brian Pallister's advantage then?  The Conservatives will again be on the defensive.  Any criticism of the NDP and/or leader Kevin Chief will be denounced as racist. 

The NDP know that this will antagonize much of the voting public, but that's irrelevent.  They're not out to win more seats. 

The Conservatives need to win 10 seats to win the election; the NDP can lose eight seats and still win.

The big fear within the NDP is that their voters will either park their votes with the Liberals or stay at home in disgust.

By aligning themselves with a new official victim class, they hope they can recapture the social justice sentiment of these disaffected voters.
If they can keep enough voters from deserting them, they can hold their strongest seats; if they can lure enough Liberals (who know the Liberals won't form a government and won't win more than one seat at most) they might be able to fend off defeat in two crucial swing seats. That would be enough for an unprecedented fifth victory in a row.

Selinger could, of course, decide to head the party into the next election, gambling for glory with an historic win or throwing himself on the grenade and accepting the blame for an historic loss. 

A younger Selinger might have taken that gamble. A pensioner will know his time has passed.

The remaining question is when he chooses to go.  Six to nine months is plenty of time for the new, interim leader to solidify his profile with the public.

Or to call a snap election to get a mandate.

That ought to stir the pundits into a new frenzy.

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