A member of the Manitoba Liberal executive said Tuesday his party could be wiped out in the Oct. 4 election and the "writing may be on the wall" for leader Jon Gerrard.

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This article was published 27/9/2011 (3642 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A member of the Manitoba Liberal executive said Tuesday his party could be wiped out in the Oct. 4 election and the "writing may be on the wall" for leader Jon Gerrard.

Harry Wolbert, who is also a candidate in the constituency of St. Vital, made the comments following the release of two polls Monday pegging provincial Liberal support at 10 per cent or lower.

Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Jon Gerrard walks the beat in River Heights on the campaign trail Tuesday.

Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press Jon Gerrard walks the beat in River Heights on the campaign trail Tuesday.

Aside from growing speculation the Liberals could be shut out this campaign, some Liberals have also expressed concern privately the party could be in deep financial trouble if it fails to garner 10 per cent of the vote. That would make it ineligible for the normal government reimbursement of 50 per cent of eligible campaign expenses.

"If the Liberals don't get 10 per cent of the vote, they don't get that rebate. They could be plunged into bankruptcy quite frankly," said a campaign worker who asked to remain anonymous.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Wolbert took aim at Gerrard.

"I guess ultimate responsibility rests with the leader. There are some within the party, within the public, who don't like the leader," Wolbert said.

Wolbert did not take a position on Gerrard's future as leader, but said some want him gone.

"The writing may be on the wall. That's for Jon to decide and... we have to have a leadership review after every election, so Jon and the members will decide at that time."

Wolbert could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But, on Twitter, he played down his remarks. "I wish to make something clear. Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard has my full support. This needs to be a campaign about ideas, not personalities," he said in a posting Tuesday afternoon after the story quoting him appeared on the Free Press website.

On Monday, however, Wolbert tweeted: "Time for MB Liberals and their supporters to step up to the plate, especially if we don't want to see ourselves wiped off the political map."

And Tuesday morning he wrote: "With one week to go, Liberals need to rally the troops. It's not too late to turn things around. Our future as a political party is at stake!"

Gerrard said late Tuesday he'd had "a really good talk" with Wolbert and suggested the St. Vital candidate's comments hadn't come out the way he intended. "He's very supportive of my leadership and he's very supportive of us winning more Liberal seats."

A Probe Research poll in late June placed party support in Manitoba at nine per cent. On Monday, a poll conducted for CJOB and the Manitoba Real Estate Association pegged Liberal support at five per cent. It had a relatively small sample size of 579 Manitobans. Also Monday, an online survey done for The Canadian Press put Liberal support at 10 per cent.

Chris Adams, a political scientist and pollster with Probe Research, said comments such as Wolbert's are a sign of how tough things are not only within the Liberal party, but on the campaign trail for some candidates.

"This is just part and parcel of being in a difficult election," Adams said. "Strategically, it's not very useful for a party to have this happen."

Adams said the polls this week have not been good for the party's morale.

Dennis Trochim, the provincial Liberals' executive director, said he received calls from several concerned candidates after Wolbert's comments were published.

Trochim said he spoke to Wolbert and believes he was simply expressing his frustration at his reception at the door. He said voters tend to agree with the Liberals on the issues, but they're distracted by other things, such as personalities, campaign ads and polling.

"What Harry is talking about is a frustration that people are not talking about the issues, they're talking about poll numbers," he said.

Asked whether there is dissension about Gerrard's leadership within Liberal ranks, Trochim said: "When I talk to candidates, all the candidates are focused on a strong campaign. I would think there would be no more dissension than would exist in the Tories or ... the Greens or any other party that is trying to make an impact this election campaign."

 

-- with a file from Bruce Owen

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Focus on police beat

MANITOBA Liberals are calling for a bigger police presence in communities such as Fort Rouge in light of recent arsons and other criminal activity.

At a campaign announcement Tuesday, Liberal candidate Paul Hesse said he would fight for increased patrols in the area. He said while the NDP has been in power, Osborne Village lost a community police station, foot patrols have ended and cadets are rarely seen in the area.

Fort Rouge is one of several seats the Liberals have high hopes for in the Oct. 4 election. The incumbent is the NDP's Jennifer Howard, the province's minister of labour.

Hesse, accompanied by party leader Jon Gerrard, accused Howard of being silent as community policing services to the neighbourhood have been cut.

He said the area's arson problem persists, noting a recent fire damaged a garage and motorcycle on Jessie Avenue. He said he will push for more foot patrols and an expanded police cadet program.

"Now with the return of arson to Fort Rouge, it's needed more than ever," he said.

Howard, meanwhile, said she has been working with neighbourhood residents and businesses on safety issues since before being elected in 2007.

She said she also lobbied for a bigger police presence in Osborne Village. She noted the NDP has listened to residents' concerns by promising to fund an additional 50 police officers on the streets of Winnipeg.

 

Liberal showing at the polls

 

1999 provincial election

Fielded candidates in 50 of 57 ridings

Won 13.3% of the vote

Won one seat

 

2003 election

Fielded candidates in all 57 ridings

Won 13.1% of the vote

Won two seats

 

2007 election

Fielded candidates in all 57 ridings

Won 12.3 per cent of the vote

Won two seats

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

   Read full biography