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