By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Author, indigenous rights activist and rookie politician Wab Kinew has picked up more endorsements in his bid to become leader of the Manitoba New Democrats.
Former member of Parliament Judy Wasylycia-Leis, former provincial cabinet minister Nancy Allan and Michelle McHale, who dropped out of the leadership race earlier this spring, have all thrown their support behind Kinew’s bid for the party leadership that will be decided in September.
“One of the most important things, if you’re going to be a leader, is you have to have the fire in your belly and you have to work like there’s no tomorrow,” Allan said Tuesday.
“I have seen that commitment and in the conversation that I had with (Kinew), I know that he is passionate about being our leader, bringing us together and winning government.”
Only two of Kinew’s caucus colleagues — Nahanni Fontaine and Matt Wiebe — have publicly endorsed his leadership bid to date.
Kinew, first elected to the legislature last year, is currently the only candidate running to lead the Manitoba New Democrats, who were in power for 17 years before losing last year’s election to the Progressive Conservatives. The NDP is trying to rebuild and currently holds 12 of the 57 legislature seats.
The endorsements came as Kinew promised to work toward having an equal number of men and women in caucus. He said specifics would be worked out by an advisory group that would include Allan, Wasylycia-Leis and others.
Kinew could face competition from longtime former NDP cabinet minister Steve Ashton, who has run twice for the leadership unsuccessfully and is not ruling out a third attempt.
A race would be much better for the NDP than having Kinew win unchallenged, said Kelly Saunders, who teaches political science at Brandon University.
“Leadership races are a really good opportunity for … people to get re-energized and excited about the party, and bring in new members and get some good media play,” Saunders said.
“But it’s also a great opportunity for the party to kind of do the heavy lifting — thinking about ‘OK, where are we going in the future? What do we stand for?'”
The deadline to enter the race is July 15.
Kinew said he has a lot of work ahead of him, regardless of whether he faces an opponent.
“If it’s not a contested race, then I have to work just as hard to make sure that our convention and rally this fall is an exciting event that brings the party back together and helps to launch us into being a strong opposition.”
Kinew was brought into the NDP as a star candidate by former premier Greg Selinger. Kinew ran into controversy when social media postings surfaced in which he had made homophobic and sexist comments. He apologized for the remarks and said he had changed his views in the years since he had posted them.