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Manitoba cabinet ministers (left to right) Andrew Swan, Theresa Oswald, Jennifer Howard, Erin Selby and Stan Struthers hold a news conference in Winnipeg, Monday, Nov.3, 2014. The five high-profile ministers who are resigning from the cabinet of Manitoba's NDP government say Premier Greg Selinger has stopped listening to them.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger accepted the resignations of five senior cabinet ministers Monday and installed their replacements hours later as he stared down a political rebellion that has rocked his New Democratic government.

Mr. Selinger's leadership was openly undermined over the last week by the five dissident cabinet ministers, all of them prominent voices in the party. The rebels said they felt their views were not being heard at the cabinet table. With an election coming in 2016 and the party sliding in the polls, the knives came out in an effort to force Mr. Selinger from office.

After more than a week of questions, Mr. Selinger finally acted. He asked the gang of five, which included the ministers of finance, health, justice, municipal government and jobs, to either disavow their public statements or quit.

Jennifer Howard, the ex-finance minister, said she met face to face with Mr. Selinger on Sunday and it was clear the relationship would not be repaired.

"It was a significant meeting. I felt I had a good opportunity to talk to him about what my concerns were and he had a good opportunity to talk to me about his perspective. He gave me the option of resigning and I told him I would take that option," Ms. Howard said in an interview Monday. "The Premier is no longer listening to our advice and you can't continue in cabinet if that's [the case]."

All five resigned together, sending word to the Premier via an e-mail from Ms. Howard's BlackBerry on Sunday evening.

On Monday, Mr. Selinger said in a statement he was saddened by their decisions, but had made it clear they could either "focus on the priorities of Manitoba families as part of our team, or resign."

Within hours he was standing before the cameras to install four new cabinet members and shuffle the responsibilities of several others. How Mr. Selinger can continue to govern in these circumstances remains to be seen.

Divisions within the party are significant and painful. Mr. Selinger, despite 15 years in government, is perceived as an outsider by some in the party establishment because he was not a party activist nor does he come from the labour movement. That feeling has been exacerbated by Mr. Selinger's leadership style, described as stubborn and heavily reliant on his own judgment rather than that of cabinet.

A disastrous flip-flop that saw him raise the provincial sales tax, which Mr. Selinger admits "blindsided" the public, and sliding poll numbers that threaten the NDP with electoral oblivion, only worsened the internal unrest. All of that, combined with a failure immediately to shut down the dissent, has led to a cascading crisis.

"He has become increasingly isolated and distrustful and unwilling to take criticism," a party source said. "For him to lose these five people is a disaster.

"The stakes are very, very high. Everybody's playing with fire."

This kind of turmoil is unheard of in a province known for political stability. The NDP has been in office in Manitoba for 15 years and the party increased its majority in four consecutive elections, even after Mr. Selinger replaced premier Gary Doer, who resigned to become ambassador to the United States.

Paul Thomas, emeritus professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, compared the current crisis to the infighting that ate up the federal Liberal party in the early part of the past decade. The NDP built a strong political machine in Manitoba, he said, a broad coalition that included urban, suburban and northern ridings and appealed across party lines. They considered themselves the natural governing party, he said.

"Now we have something that resembles the Chrétien-Martin wars, when the Liberals fell to third place and are having to rebuild almost from the bottom up," Prof. Thomas said.

The gang of five will continue to sit as New Democrats and say they will vote with the government, but their very presence on the backbenches will be a continuing challenge to Mr. Selinger's leadership. They include possible leadership contenders such as former jobs minister Theresa Oswald and former justice minister Andrew Swan, as well as health minister Erin Selby and municipal government minister Stan Struthers.

In the cabinet shuffle, 24-year backbench MLA Greg Dewar was given the finance portfolio. Kevin Chief, seen as a potential future party leader, was promoted to minister for jobs and the economy, and James Allum was shifted to justice.

The next test for Mr. Selinger may come at a party council meeting next month. If a majority of constituency presidents calls for a leadership review, there could be a vote on Mr. Selinger's leadership, according to Prof. Thomas, and that could spark a leadership contest.