By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister faced renewed questions Friday over how much work he gets done while spending up to two months a year at his vacation home in Costa Rica.
Pallister said he reads and writes documents, and communicates by phone, while in the tropical country but rarely uses email. He said he also does not get documents sent to him electronically, barring an emergency.
“Principally, we use emails for emergencies — and, fingers crossed, there haven’t been emergencies — so, it’s been good, but I’m available, I’m accessible at any point in time if need be,” Pallister said Friday in an interview at the legislature.
“I prefer direct phone conversations. I just find the quality of the interactions a lot better.”
Pallister, who was elected last April, revealed in an interview with The Canadian Press last month that he plans to spend a total of six to eight weeks a year — not all at once — in Costa Rica while serving as premier.
The legislature resumes in March and the budget is expected in early spring.
Pallister describes himself as a workaholic and has repeatedly said he gets a lot of work done while at his Costa Rica home.
A report Friday by the Winnipeg Free Press said government records showed Pallister had no email communication with any of his senior political staff during his first three months in office, and there was no record of a specific email address for the premier in the government directory.
Pallister said he has a government email account that he rarely, if ever, uses. He also said he has a cellphone with him in Costa Rica — sometimes carried by his wife — and Internet access, and he personally covers all long-distance communication charges.
“The taxpayer is not paying because I’m in Costa Rica or anywhere else.”
Pallister showed reporters Friday several large documents he says he took with him on a trip to Costa Rica over the holidays — a report on pre-budget public consultations, an external review of government’s fiscal performance and more.
Transporting physical documents, as well as a flash drive containing electronic records, also provides a level of security over email, Pallister said.
New Democrat justice critic Andrew Swan, who served as a cabinet minister under two NDP premiers, said Pallister’s lack of email usage is concerning.
“I know as a minister, there was not a single vacation that went by that I didn’t receive briefing notes and other material that were necessary so that I could give direction and make decisions to make sure that my department was running the way it should,” Swan said.
“Many times, (Pallister’s) department or his political staff will have different alternatives on courses of action to take, and I would think that a premier would want to be aware of that to give the best possible direction.”