WINNIPEG — A former Manitoba NDP cabinet minister is releasing a memoir which gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the government's fateful decision to break a campaign promise and raise the provincial sales tax. An open revolt by other cabinet ministers led to a convention where then-premier Greg Selinger held on to his job by 33 votes.
Gord Mackintosh, who was a cabinet minister the entire time the NDP were in power between 1999 and 2016, has written a book titled "Stories Best Left Untold," which covers his youth in Fort Frances, Ont., his time as a lawyer advising Elijah Harper on opposing the Meech Lake accord and his service in a variety of cabinet portfolios such as justice, conservation and family services.
In this excerpt, Mackintosh writes about how NDP politicians, including former finance minister Stan Struthers, tried to persuade Selinger to resign.
Party pollster and strategist Leslie Turnbull understood the dramatic shift in voter preference and met with Stan. Rumours abounded into 2014 that staff were politely raising resignation as an option with Greg to help reverse the slide.
The resignation in November 2010 of BC’s Gordon Campbell was held out as an example of when it's time to go. Stan took from the buzz that no MLA had approached Greg with this option so in June 2014, Stan did. The resignation of Dalton McGuinty of October 2012 was held out as an example.
The Premier conducted one-on-one canvassing of Ministers' concerns in summer and fall of 2014. He knew he might hear more of what Stan told him. With me, he kept postponing. Meanwhile, Turnbull called me at home to seek my support in asking the Premier to step down, "…to, well, save our Party." She reported other Ministers were asking him to consider resigning.
After a great deal of agonizing, I already decided what I'd say to him. This meeting and its outcome were a big deal. I’d say what I thought, damn the consequences, even if he sent me to the back row or, yikes, Family Services.
In late September 2014, I nervously walked into his office, looked him straight in the eye and, turning the tables, said "Hey, nice tie!" Once settled in, I confidently urged, "With the PST increase, there's a serious credibility issue, I'm hearing about it locally, and it's focussed on you. You gotta look closely at the polls. You should think about getting out on your own terms."
As on other occasions, he flatly rejected my advice. He firmly responded he hadn’t lied about the PST hike, said he did the right thing, and, "If I know our party, like I think I do, you don't get thrown out for that." I was surprised at his disinterest in questioning me or discussing it further.
Like everyone, Greg has shortcomings but one was an apparent belief he bested other Members. That's a problem when it comes to political smarts where advice can help avoid calamity. It can also sink you, and that's instead what guided him. I ended, "Well, I'm saying you should take a hard look at the polls and the credibility thing." He concluded by committing to deal with his credibility "head on." He said he had ideas how to do that. I accepted this commitment.
Some Ministers didn't accept this commitment when made to them. They decided to take it up a notch at two caucus meetings.
— From "Stories Best Left Untold" by Gord Mackintosh and published by Great Plains Publications. The book launches on May 23 at 7 p.m. in the McNally Robinson Atrium in Winnipeg.
The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected item. An earlier version used wrong information provided by the publisher that indicated the book launch was May 11