WINNIPEG -- Some hard post-election feelings were evident Wednesday, as a defeated Manitoba New Democrat said the party fell victim to outgoing premier Greg Selinger's desire to hang on to his job.
Dave Gaudreau, who lost his St. Norbert legislature seat in Tuesday's election, said Selinger should not have fought to keep his job when a caucus coup erupted in 2014.
"If we would have swapped leaders, or had a different leader, I think we would have pulled it out. I think it would have been different," Gaudreau said as he packed up his constituency office.
"It's just too bad that good MLAs fell because of one guy's drive to prove that he was right."
The New Democrats were swept from power Tuesday night after 16 years and reduced to 14 seats. The party lost constituencies that had been NDP for decades, including Thompson, Brandon East and Kildonan. With 40 seats, the Progressive Conservatives won the biggest majority government in a century.
The NDP's popularity dropped when Selinger raised the provincial sales tax in 2013. Five of his most senior cabinet ministers went public a year later with a call for his resignation, but he stayed on and survived a leadership contest.
Gaudreau did not support the revolt, but later backed one of Selinger's leadership opponents, Steve Ashton.
Selinger's decision to stay on was a mistake, said Gaudreau. Opinion polls suggested Selinger's personal popularity was lower than the party's. Yet during the election campaign, NDP ads continued to focus largely on Selinger.
"This campaign focused on the guy that everybody was focused on getting rid of," Gaudreau said.
Other defeated New Democrats did not feel the same way.
Healthy Living Minister Deanne Crothers, Children and Youth Opportunities Minister Melanie Wight and others said Tuesday night the main factor in the campaign was a desire for change among voters after four terms under the NDP.
Wab Kinew, an author and indigenous activist who was brought in as a star candidate and won a seat for the NDP, said he remains loyal to Selinger.
"He has dedicated decades of his life to serving our city and our province and he has done a lot of good for our community."
Selinger accepted responsibility for the defeat and announced Tuesday night he will resign as leader.
The NDP executive will meet next week to formally accept the resignation and plan for a replacement. An interim leader will likely be chosen and there may be no rush to hold a leadership convention.
"We'll be moving thoughtfully and attentively forward with the process," NDP provincial secretary Keith Bellamy said, adding there are more immediate tasks to complete such as filing post-election paperwork with Elections Manitoba.
One analyst said the NDP campaign had problems, largely because it was run by less-experienced backroom strategists. Many of the veterans of the NDP victories of 2011 and 2007 left after the caucus revolt because they supported one of Selinger's opponents.
"Selinger didn't have the pros that had run the 2011 campaign backing him up," said Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.
"I don't think it was a superbly crafted and executed campaign."