Wab Kinew said the Manitoba NDP has the people — and the financial backing — to fight the next election competitively, as party members gave a strong endorsement Saturday to his leadership.
The Official Opposition leader breezed through a leadership review at the party’s annual convention, with 93 per cent support.
“I feel like this is a good vote of confidence for the momentum that our team has built over the past few years,” Kinew said in an interview Saturday after the convention, which was held virtually owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members were asked if the party should hold a leadership race, with 93 per cent of the 288 votes cast rejecting the idea.
Leadership review votes are now a party requirement after each election.
In 2019’s provincial election, the NDP won six more seats than they had when the legislature was dissolved. But the party’s 18 seats weren’t enough to keep the Progressive Conservatives from a second consecutive majority government. The PCs won 36 seats in 2019.
Change in fortunes for the NDP
Since the election, however, the provincial response to the pandemic has cratered the popularity of Brian Pallister’s government in recent opinion polls, with one suggesting the NDP enjoy more popular support for the Tories for the first time since 2016.
“I’m happy to continue this work and I’m happy that you’ll have me back, essentially, to continue this work,” Kinew told party faithful after the vote.
Earlier in the morning, he said the party’s momentum is demonstrated by its strong year-end fundraising totals.
The NDP has stashed away $250,000 in the bank for the next election, slated for fall 2023, and $100,000 in case of future byelections, Kinew said.
He boasted that the NDP has never had more first-time donors.
“We are bringing new people into this movement and we’re extending our reach.”
He told party members the Progressive Conservatives have shown how “out of touch” they are following recent reports of high-level Tories flouting the travel guidelines, including MLA James Teitsma and top civil servant David McLaughlin, a Pallister appointee.
The PCs have tried to distract from their sagging fortunes by shuffling their cabinet, Kinew charged, which included shifting Cameron Friesen, who he called the “worst health minister Manitoba has ever had,” to the justice portfolio.
The NDP saw no need to rearrange their opposition critic roles in response, he said.
“When I look around that caucus table, I can see the next cabinet of Manitoba starting to take shape.”
The NDP said it had 315 people registered at its convention.
The party adopted post-election leadership reviews back in 2017, following a bitter internal battle three years earlier over the leadership of then-premier Greg Selinger.
Kinew, who took party leadership in 2017, needed at least 50 per cent support to avoid having his job opened up to a leadership review.