Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of Red River Métis, Winnipeg, MB -
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont has filed a conflict of interest complaint against a member of the legislature, asking a judge to determine whether Premier Heather Stefanson violated Manitoba's conflict of interest laws.
As a sitting MLA and Minister, Stefanson sold more than $30-million in real estate owned by McDonald Grain Company Limited, where she is also Secretary and Vice-President, a board member, and a 34% owner of its voting shares. Stefanson admitted she failed to disclose the transaction within the period required by law.
While the NDP wrote a letter of complaint to Manitoba's Conflict of Interest Commissioner, under Manitoba's current Conflict of Interest legislation, the Commissioner has no power to take complaints, make investigations, or issue punishments.
That is why Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface, Dougald Lamont, had to file the complaint personally - because the law requires individual voters to gather evidence, file affidavits, and submit a complaint to a judge, along with a $300 filing fee.
"If Manitoba had anything resembling a functioning Conflict of Interest law, I wouldn't have to do this," said Lamont. "This is not personal, and it is not political. This is about the law."
Manitoba Liberals have submitted affidavits and documents asking a judge to assess whether Stefanson broke the Conflict of Interest act in two ways:
By failing to disclose she had disposed of assets within 30 days, which is required by law.
In 2018, as Minister of Families, Stefanson voted for a bill that stripped residential tenants of their right to make appeals based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, despite being a landlord.
In April 2018, the current Conflict of Interest Commissioner wrote a report recommending modernization of the act, saying, "Manitoba has the oldest and arguably the weakest conflict of interest legislation in Canada."
In other provinces and at the Federal level, Ministers and Premiers are required to place assets in a blind trust.
In 2016, the PCs promised to introduce new conflict of interest legislation, but didn't do so until after the 2019 election. It does not come into effect until after the next election, but Manitoba Liberals still believe it is inadequate.
"Manitobans should know that for decades, our province has some of the lowest standards in Canada when it comes to conflict of interest," said Lamont. "The fact that I am having to file a complaint against an MLA at all is an indictment of the system."
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