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Too late for Greg Selinger to say sorry in latest political ad

The time to apologize was three years ago.

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“Is it too late now to say sorry?”

That’s the rallying cry for one of Canada’s least popular public figures.

Justin Bieber? No, Premier Greg Selinger.

Selinger is the star of the provincial NDP’s latest ad campaign, which features him standing alone in front of a stark white background (looking a little like he has passed on to political heaven) apologizing for everything that’s gone wrong over the past few years.

Well, sort of. He never actually says he’s sorry and never identifies his mistakes. Instead, Selinger simply acknowledges “It’s been a tough year, and we haven’t always gotten it right.”

The choice of “we” is an odd one, because by most accounts it was Selinger who decided to charge ahead with increasing the PST a few years ago over protests from his caucus, and it was Selinger who decided to stay on as leader 18 months ago when nearly all his senior advisors and a number of cabinet ministers told him it was time to quit.

But regardless of whether the premier alone is to blame for the NDP’s downfall, or if the mysterious “we” played a supporting role, the timing of this sorry-not-sorry is bizarre.

The time to apologize was three years ago when Selinger surprised Manitobans by increasing the provincial sales tax without any warning, or any plan on what to do with the increased revenue. That might have helped defuse the anger.

The time to apologize was two years ago, when the province finally devised a reasonable plan to invest the extra PST money in infrastructure. That might have allowed the government to move forward.

The time to apologize was one year ago, after the NDP’s bloody civil war came to an end with Selinger barely clinging to power. That might have helped unite the party and set the stage for the next election.

But now? It’s too little, too late. We’re less than 60 days from the April 19 provincial election, and Selinger is the least popular premier in the country according to recent surveys. The referee from last week’s Jets-Lightning game has better polling numbers.

For the NDP to have any hope of re-election, it should highlight members of its team — like Wab Kinew and Kevin Chief — who represent the next generation of party leadership. It should talk about its policies and priorities. It should change its colours or its slogan or its logo, or do just about anything other than push the premier front and centre.

Because if they don’t change course in a hurry, Selinger and the NDP will find the next four years are going to be a lot tougher than the last one.

Colin Fast is a communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg. Out of guilt, he avoided looking directly at his unused bike while writing this column. Find him @policyfrog on Twitter.