Crim­i­nal past of front run­ner Wab Kinew fea­tures in Man­i­toba NDP lead­er­ship race

Cape Breton Post - - Canada -

Man­i­toba New Democrats will choose between two men Satur­day to be the op­po­si­tion party’s new leader _ one faces ques­tions about past crim­i­nal ac­cu­sa­tions and the other is a for­mer cab­i­net min­is­ter with his own con­tro­ver­sies and two failed lead­er­ship bids un­der his belt.

Wab Kinew, 35, a rookie politi­cian who is deal­ing with re­cent rev­e­la­tions about his brushes with the law, is widely con­sid­ered the front-run­ner. He scored ma­jor­ity sup­port among del­e­gates elected in the prov­ince’s 57 con­stituen­cies and who will cast bal­lots at the lead­er­ship con­ven­tion.

Kinew also re­ceived en­dorse­ments from the prov­ince’s ma­jor unions, which also send del­e­gates to the con­ven­tion.

“You never know what’s ac­tu­ally go­ing to hap­pen un­til all the num­bers are in ... but cer­tainly if we were to place any bets rights now, it does seem he’s walk­ing away with it,’’ Kelly Saun­ders, who teaches po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at Bran­don Uni­ver­sity, said Fri­day.

Kinew is fac­ing Steve Ash­ton, 61, a for­mer cab­i­net min­is­ter who ran un­suc­cess­fully for leader in 2009 and 2015.

Kinew’s cam­paign has had to deal with pre­vi­ously undis­closed court mat­ters, in­clud­ing an as­sault con­vic­tion in On­tario in 2004 and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence charges in 2003, which were later stayed by the Crown.

The com­plainant in that case, Tara Hart, went public this week and told The Cana­dian Press Kinew “flung’’ her across a room in the apart­ment they shared, which caused her to suf­fer se­vere rug burns. Kinew said he never hit or threw Hart.

Ash­ton has been us­ing the rev­e­la­tions to try to swing del­e­gates to his side for Satur­day’s vote. He has crit­i­cized Kinew for not dis­clos­ing the cases ear­lier, and his cam­paign has emailed party mem­bers to tell them Kinew’s ac­tions do not re­flect well on the party.

Kinew “re­fused to own up to the do­mes­tic as­sault charges ... ef­fec­tively call­ing the (com­plainant) a liar,’’ reads an Ash­ton cam­paign email sent this week.

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