Indigenous activist, author and rookie politician Wab Kinew is being accused of downplaying decade-old domestic violence charges as he heads into the final stretch of the Manitoba NDP leadership campaign.
The only other candidate, former cabinet minister Steve Ashton, says the public deserves to know more about the charges that were laid against Kinew in 2003 and dropped several months later.
“I don’t think the way he’s dealt with it has been appropriate,” Ashton said Tuesday. “He should have told people about this some time ago.”
The charges came to light last week when anonymous emails with detailed court records from Kinew’s past were sent to media. Kinew had previously admitted to convictions for impaired driving and assault, but had not publicly discussed the domestic violence charges.
The records show Kinew was accused in 2003 of two counts of assault. The charges were stayed and eventually dropped by the Crown.
Kinew said last week he did not want to discuss details of the accusations, but did say they were false and the case was dropped because “there was nothing to it.”
Ashton said court records show there were several hearings on the matter before it was dropped. He called that a sign that there must have been some basis for the charges.
“I don’t think his comments (last week) were an accurate reflection of what the facts are,” Ashton said.
Kinew, 35, said Tuesday that the charges were without foundation, but he did not want to discuss details to respect the privacy of the woman who filed the complaint.
“While there were allegations made, they were eventually dropped,” he said. “There was another person involved and I have to respect them.”
The accusation from Ashton, who said no one from his camp was behind the anonymous emails, came the same day the NDP revealed final delegate numbers for the Sept. 16 convention that will determine whether Kinew or Ashton will lead the party.
The New Democrats are replacing former premier Greg Selinger, who resigned after losing last year’s election, which relegated the party to Opposition.
Up to 1,425 delegates will cast ballots at the convention. More than half were chosen in the last two weeks by NDP members in the province’s 57 constituencies and its youth wing.
The Kinew campaign said 588 of its delegates were chosen compared with 339 for Ashton. About two dozen delegates so far are believed to be independents.
The party itself will not confirm the number of supporters for each candidate, and there was no immediate response from Ashton’s campaign.
There are still 285 delegates to be chosen from unions affiliated with the NDP, while 189 politicians and party officials get automatic delegate status. Most of the province’s major labour leaders have endorsed Kinew.
He said it is humbling to have a strong lead among delegates elected so far, but there is a lot of work ahead.
“We do have to work to ensure that our delegates show up for the convention and that they vote. And then, if we’re successful in doing all that, then we’ve only just won the right to start on the next phase of rebuilding and renewing the NDP in Manitoba.”