WINNIPEG — Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has removed former immigration minister and Riel MLA Christine Melnick from the NDP government caucus.
It’s the latest shot in a rare public dispute between a premier and a member of his government.
“The issue here is Ms. Melnick directed civil servants to do this work and then misled the house and the public,” Selinger said at a hastily called news conference outside his office at the Manitoba Legislative Building.
Melnick was dumped as immigration minister late last year after she admitted to lying to the legislature about her role in ordering civil servants to organize a demonstration of immigrants and immigrant workers at the legislature in April 2012.
Selinger has maintained he and his staff knew nothing about the move, but on Monday Melnick came forward to change her story. She claimed she was directed by the premier’s senior staff in the matter, and said she was made a scapegoat to protect the premier from criticism after the province’s ombudsman issued a report in 2013 critical of the whole affair. Melnick called Selinger’s actions “reprehensible.”
That sparked her ouster from the government benches Tuesday.
“Yesterday she made the decision to change course. In doing so, she has lost the confidence of myself and the caucus,” Selinger told reporters following a meeting of his MLAs. “I have made the regretful decision to remove Ms. Melnick from the government caucus.”
In an interview at her constituency office Tuesday, Melnick said she wasn’t surprised at being kicked out of the government.
“I believe yesterday I did the right thing. I stand by what I did yesterday. The decision to remove me from NDP caucus was the premier’s decision. Look, I came into this with my eyes wide open and I knew that was a possibility and now it’s happened,” Melnick said.
Selinger wouldn’t say if the caucus vote to boot Melnick out was unanimous, only that he had “strong support” for the move.
Melnick will now sit as an independent MLA.
Selinger said he informed Melnick, who was not at the caucus meeting Tuesday, of his decision shortly before announcing it to the media.
Former Manitoba cabinet minister Christine Melnick speaks about the immigration protest scandal.