TREATY ONE TERRITORY, WINNIPEG, MB - Manitoba Liberals have filed a complaint with the Manitoba Ombudsman to investigate Brian Pallister's Director of Municipal Relations with the Priorities and Planning Secretariat in the Department of Finance, Michelle Richard, for violating the conditions of her employment agreement.
Provincial conflict of interest guidelines make it clear that provincial employees cannot have any "private arrangement for personal profit or have any financial or other personal interest that is in conflict with the performance of their duties."
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, MLA for St. Boniface, said the situation is unacceptable, but was clearly planned by the PCs all along.
"You have a former PC candidate, who is working in government with the ability to influence legislation that will directly benefit the clients at her consulting company," said Lamont. "This is not an isolated incident. It is part of the Pallister governments larger efforts, including Bill 37, to strip democratically elected officials and citizens of a say in development, and hand it to PC donors instead."
Richard's company website, Richard + Wintrup, states she has only taken a "leave of absence." The company's clients include Gem Equities and Shindico, both of which are awaiting favourable rulings or changes in legislation from the province.
In May, Richard presented on behalf of Shindico for a residential development near Polo Park. For decades, development in the "Airport Vicinity Protection Area" or AVPA, have been legally restricted so the Winnipeg airport could continue to operate 24/7. Richardson International is a critical part of Manitoba's transportation infrastructure and nearby residential developments could undermine that.
In May, City Council voted to delay a decision and punt it to a Manitoba Municipal Board hearing. The project is estimated to be worth $1-billion.
Shindico played a significant role in supporting Richard's 2019 campaign for PC MLA for St. James. Robert, Sandy and Diane Shindleman donated a combined $6,700 to her campaign; her campaign office at 1-875 St. James Street was owned by Shindico, and her campaign official agent, Justin Zarnowski, is a Shindico lawyer.
Several of Richard + Wintrup's clients were involved in controversial audits at the City of Winnipeg in 2014, including Shindico and Gem Equities. Audits showed that Shindico had been shown "favoritism" by the City and that the "Parker land swap" involving Gem Equities hadn't even priced out land before trading it.
Lamont said the issue is much bigger than just one consultant-turned bureaucrat because the Pallister government's controversial Bill 37 proposes stripping away power from citizens and municipalities to have a say in development decisions and hand it to the Minister or the government appointed Municipal Board instead.
Worst of all, the PCs "grand schemes" for the economy routinely undermine long-term productive, sustainable and local businesses in favour of short-term results.
"The PCs have no plan for economic growth. Small businesses are being ignored and they keep backing projects that risk driving existing companies out of business," said Lamont. "The PCs are willing to undermine the future of the airport, transportation and trade for a project that stops creating jobs when construction is over."