Former Manitoba premier Gary Doer throws support behind NDP leader Wab Kinew

Former Manitoba premier Gary Doer speaks to media before a memorial service for Member of Parliament Jim Carr at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. Doer is back in the political spotlight. Doer, who resigned 14 years ago after a decade in the premier's chair, attended a NDP campaign event to support current party leader Wab Kinew for the Oct. 3 election.THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods. JGW

Former Manitoba Premier Gary Doer resurfaced on the province’s political scene Tuesday to support current NDP Leader Wab Kinew on the campaign trail for the Oct. 3 provincial election.

Doer, who led the NDP to three consecutive majorities and enjoyed strong public support before retiring in 2009, said he has seen Kinew listen to people and bring them together.

“I have come to the conclusion that Wab Kinew is open for advice from all Manitobans, and I’ve been impressed with that,” Doer said as he stood beside Kinew.

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Doer has agreed to serve as a volunteer adviser on trade with the United States if the NDP wins the election. Doer, now 75, served as Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. for several years after leaving the premier’s office.

“I owe it to my community, if I can be helpful, constructive (and) valuable with the contacts I still have in Washington,” Doer said.

While it’s not unusual for a former premier to endorse the new leader of their party, Doer’s endorsement is notable because he was popular beyond party lines and his support may win over some voters who don’t traditionally vote NDP, said political analyst Paul Thomas.

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“He won back-to-back-to-back elections on the basis of hitting that sweet spot in the Manitoba political culture where pragmatism meets progressive thinking,” said Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.

The Doer endorsement came one week after the NDP published a letter of personal support for Kinew by Lloyd Axworthy, a longtime federal Liberal cabinet minister also known for having support beyond traditional party lines.

The NDP received another apparent boost this week when the Manitoba Liberal Party failed to nominate candidates in eight of the province’s 57 constituencies. Three of the seats — Selkirk, Dauphin and Dawson Trail — are held by the governing Progressive Conservatives but have a history of previous NDP wins.

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Thomas said the NDP stand a better chance of regaining the three seats without Liberal candidates splitting the vote.

“When the Liberals do poorly, it’s usually the NDP that benefits from their limited support and (when) people are looking around for somewhere else to place their votes,” Thomas said.

While the NDP promised to bring Doer back as an adviser, the Tories promised more aid for farmers.

A re-elected Tory government would permanently cut in half rental fees for agricultural Crown lands and triple funding for adviser service districts, said Tory cabinet minister Derek Johnson.

Tuesday also saw the three main party leaders meet for the first time since the election campaign began a week ago.

They pitched their ideas on the economy, safety and other topics at a forum hosted by the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association.
There were no surprises at the event, which had the leaders answering questions from moderators and not debating each other directly.

Progressive Conservative Leader Heather Stefanson reiterated promises to cut business and personal income taxes to boost the economy if she is elected again as premier.

Kinew said he would keep electricity rates low to attract businesses and would focus on areas like hydrogen development and critical minerals.

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Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said he would set up a provincial business development bank so businesses could access capital more easily.

Doer was Canada’s ambassador to the United States for several years after retiring as premier.

He says he’s happy to help future governments, and says he relied on former Progressive Conservative premier Duff Roblin for advice on the expansion of the Red River Floodway that protects Winnipeg.

Click to play video: 'Early NDP election strategy reminiscent of Doer: political scientist'
Early NDP election strategy reminiscent of Doer: political scientist

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