Thompson city councillor Jeff Fountain announced on Facebook Feb. 3 that he intended to call for Churchill-Keewatinook Aski NDP MP Niki Ashton’s resignation at a council meeting and then, apparently when his wish to put forth a motion to that effect was thwarted, in an interview with Rebel News that was posted online Feb. 16.
Fountain said himself that he didn’t expect his call for Ashton’s resignation would be successful though he said perhaps it would lead to her giving some thought to her actions as the region’s representative. So, the question becomes, why make the call?
Obviously, Ashton is not at her most popular right now, in the wake of her post-Christmas trip to Greece to visit her ailing grandmother, which, at a time when funerals were limited to only a handful of people and hospital patients were not allowed visitors except in end-of-life circumstances, came across as particularly tone-deaf. But it doesn’t seem very likely that she would seriously consider resigning from the career she’s had for more than a dozen years now.
Doubtless there are those who support Fountain’s call for Ashton’s resignation, particular among supporters of political parties other than the NDP, since her stepping down would accomplish what none of them have since 2008, though a parachute Liberal candidate came close in 2015 – defeating Ashton at the ballot box. No one can be blamed for feeling like getting the perennial winner to fall on her own sword would be a much easier means to an end than, you know, regrouping in the wake of an election defeat to build up an effective organization in the riding that might assist in getting the vote out and being a winner the next time. Grassroots politics, in other words.
As for Fountain’s choice to appear on Rebel News, which could be charitably described as having a particular axe to grind or perhaps less charitably and more accurately as ultraconservative, it probably doesn’t lend any extra credibility to his resignation call and is likely a case of preaching to the choir, as many of that outlet’s audience members would probably like Ashton and any other NDP MP to resign simply for being NDP members. To be fair, Fountain did contact this newspaper about his plans to call for her resignation at the next council meeting and we had planned to cover this issue after that call was made, which ultimately did not come to pass at the Feb. 16 council meeting.
There are certainly arguments to be made as to why having Ashton representing Northern Manitoba may not be advantageous to the region, whether because she has larger ambitions than simply looking out for her constituents, as evidenced by her past leadership bids, or simply because the NDP has never formed the federal government and only rarely been the Official Opposition, which means that they have little power to do anything but call on the government of the day to take this action or that action but essentially no leverage with which to compel them. That, perhaps, is one area where Fountain and Ashton share some common ground and see eye to eye.