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Manitoba Liberal Party members resign with byelection looming

The Manitoba Liberal Party had several members resign but party leader Dougald Lamont (above), says it's not a big deal. Mike Arsenault / Global News

The Manitoba Liberal Party has suddenly lost some of its key members in the lead-up to a byelection where leader Dougald Lamont is seeking a seat in the legislature.

Party president Paul Brault, communications director Ian McCausland and a co-ordinator for byelection volunteers, Michelle Finley, all resigned this week. Also leaving is Karen Taraska-Alcock, who chaired the party’s election readiness committee.

Fundraising director Scott Newman appears to have also departed. His name was removed Monday night from the online list of party board members. In a written statement, Brault said he is quitting with considerable thought to his health, family and the future of the party.

“The Manitoba Liberal Party has experienced tremendous and positive change since the election of our new leader Dougald Lamont last fall. It is important that everyone supporting the party is empowered to contribute to the best of their abilities and in ways that fit with their own personal values.”

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McCausland said he is leaving to focus on personal and professional commitments.

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“I’m just not able to dedicate the time and the energy that something like (communications) during a byelection requires, and I just decided that somebody else would be better suited for that role.”

Finley and Taraska-Alcock declined to comment, Newman was not immediately available Tuesday, and Lamont did not respond to interview requests.

Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba, said the sudden departures point to ongoing strife in the Liberal party, which has only three of the 57 legislature seats.

“The fact that the Liberal party has been this third party in Manitoba politics helps to explain why we’ve seen these sorts of ongoing internal issues,” Koop said.

“Power is good for disciplining people, it’s good for giving them something to keep them in line. When you haven’t had power for a long time, you tend to have more of these internal disagreements, internal battles, and you can have what looks to be a mini mass resignation amongst the people that actually work for the party.”

The Manitoba Liberals have failed to win the four legislature seats needed for official party status for more than two decades. Former leader Jon Gerrard survived a revolt in 2009 but stepped down under pressure two years later. His replacement, Rana Bokhari, resigned after the party won three seats in the 2016 election.

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Lamont, who lost to Bokhari in the party’s 2013 leadership race, was chosen party leader last October. He was nominated last week to carry the party’s banner in a byelection in the St. Boniface seat in Winnipeg that was vacated by former NDP premier Greg Selinger in March.

The Progressive Conservative government has not yet set a date for the byelection but it must be held by Sept. 3 at the latest under provincial law.

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