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Manitoba Premier’s Office Faces Complaint Over Parking-Lot Announcement

March 7, 2016 3:43 PM | The Canadian Press

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

Greg Selinger

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

WINNIPEG – Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger’s office is facing a complaint that it broke an election law by using government resources for an NDP campaign-style announcement.

The complaint to the provincial elections commissioner, obtained by The Canadian Press, accuses Jim August — an adviser to the premier and director in the government’s priorities and planning secretariat — of violating the Election Financing Act. The act forbids government resources from being used for partisan or election purposes.

The complaint comes from a government worker whose identity is concealed in the copy received by The Canadian Press. It accuses August of consulting civil servants for an NDP campaign-style promise last month to revamp surface parking lots in downtown Winnipeg.

“One of the premier’s government employees, Mr. Jim August, was soliciting information and advice from civil servants in the department of municipal government in preparing for this announcement,” the complaint reads.

“This is an inappropriate use of government resources for party election campaign purposes, and gives the governing party an unfair advantage in the (April 19) election.”

Elections Commissioner Bill Bowles would not comment Monday, citing his practice of not confirming complaints or investigations.

Selinger said he is aware of the complaint but it remains unclear whether Bowles’s office will formally investigate.

“They have received a complaint. They haven’t indicated whether they’re proceeding on it, but any queries or information they request from us, we’ll fully co-operate with them,” Selinger said.

The Election Financing Act forbids parties from using government resources for partisan announcements and also forbids any government announcements 90 days prior to an election.

The NDP was found guilty of violating that ban in 2011, when then- health minister Theresa Oswald took part in a media tour of a new birthing centre. The event happened within the 90-day pre-election period and government staff were used.

The law contains no specific penalty for breaking that provision and Oswald was not punished.

The Liberals complained that an NDP campaign promise in 2011 to fund after-school programs was in essence a government announcement. Bowles ruled it was not and no government resources were used.

Also in 2011, the Progressive Conservatives filed a complaint that a tour of Winnipeg’s new football stadium in which Selinger participated, and used government staff, amounted to a campaign announcement.

The elections commissioner ruled the event was in fact organized by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team, and Selinger and his team did not promote it or speak at it.

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