Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Red River Métis, Winnipeg, MB - On Friday, a judge ruled that Manitoba PC Premier Heather Stefanson broke Manitoba's conflict of interest law, but will face no sanction whatsoever because she said it was "inadvertent."
In her ruling, Justice Turner wrote, "The evidence before me establishes that Stefanson failed to file Form 2s as required by s. 11(3) of the Act."
The case, brought by MLA for St. Boniface and Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont at his own expense, is the first time the 1983 law has ever been fully put to the test.
In a 2018 report, Manitoba's Conflict of Interest Commissioner Jeffrey Schnoor described Manitoba's Conflict of Interest Laws as "probably the oldest and weakest in Canada."
Stefanson's family company, of which she is a significant shareholder, sold over $30-million in real estate without declaring it to the Manitoba Legislature, as required by law. One of the buildings was sold on July 4, 2019. Two weeks prior, Brian Pallister announced there would be an election in September.
Manitoba's conflict laws require that Members of the Legislature meet with the Conflict of Interest Commissioner before each legislative session to disclose changes in assets. Stefanson did not.
"I brought this case because no one else would hold the Premier to account, and to show what a sham Manitoba's conflict of interest law is. This is the first time this law has ever been enforced in the 40 years since it was first passed," said Lamont. "The Premier broke the law. But the law itself provides a 'get out of jail free card.' All an MLA has to do to avoid a penalty is say they didn't mean it. The premier never explained how she could forget $30-million in real estate deals. She just didn't think it was important enough to mention. So she's guilty, with no explanation."