Manitoba premier rallies party faithful after what he calls 'a tough year'
Greg Selinger at the Manitoba NDP Convention in Winnipeg, on March 8, 2015. (John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, October 31, 2015 11:18AM EDT
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger worked to rally his NDP troops Friday night, telling them that despite a year of infighting and low opinion polls, the party is regrouping to fight next spring's election.
"Let's acknowledge, last year was a tough year. We went through some challenging times," Selinger told 600 party faithul at the NDP's annual fall fundraising dinner.
"Our job is to stay focused on the priorities and values of Manitobans and we have done that ... and we are coming out of this experience even stronger."
The NDP government has been well behind the opposition Progressive Conservatives in opinion polls ever since it raised the provincial sales tax in 2013.
The following year, five senior cabinet ministers openly called on Selinger to resign in order to help the party rebound. He refused and won an ensuing leadership contest by a razor-thin 33-vote margin.
Three of the rebel ministers have since quit politics or announced they will not seek re-election. The other two are running again and won their riding nominations unchallenged.
But the polls numbers have not rebounded for the NDP with an election set for April 19 under provincial law.
Selinger spent much of his 20-minute campaign-style speech listing his government's accomplishments -- the Canadian Museum For Human Rights, the new downtown hockey arena that helped bring the NHL back to Winnipeg, and new education programs for both urban and northern students.
He warned that a Tory government would slash government services, as the opposition has promised to balance the budget and end Selinger's string of deficits that started in 2009.
Selinger also told the crowd the federal Liberals won the recent election on a platform similar to his -- deficit spending for infrastructure projects and other programs.
The premier showed little sign of worry about the looming election.
"I'm pumped about the opportunity to serve Manitobans," Selinger told reporters after his speech.
"Sure, there's going to be dark days but ... every day is a good day if you get a chance to do something for the people you represent."