WINNIPEG — A former NDP MLA has quietly retained her duties as the province’s special envoy for military affairs—a job that has seen her old constituency office turned into a permanent office with an annual budget of $190,000.
Bonnie Korzeniowski was first appointed the province’s military envoy in February 2008 when she was MLA for St. James and has kept the post despite not seeking re-election in the Oct. 4 vote.
The NDP government made no formal announcement that Korzeniowski was keeping the job although Premier Greg Selinger re-introduced Korzeniowski as the province’s military envoy at the Manitoba Salutes event for the military at the Victoria Inn last November.
Dwight MacAulay, chief of protocol for the province, said Korzeniowski’s role now falls under his office, and was created as a way to continue the province’s relationship with the armed forces and the reserves that Korzeniowski helped create.
“We had the dynamic of an election coming up and the thinking was we wanted to build upon and certainly retain the relationship we had with the military,” MacAulay said. “This position was created so that she would continue in this capacity. It just sort of made common sense that we wanted to continue this relationship.”
But critics say there’s no reason a sitting NDP MLA could not have inherited Korzeniowski’s duties when she stepped down from political life.
In fact, the Canadian Forces Liaison Council, an arm of the Armed Forces to support the participation in the reserves, said in its most recent annual report that it encourages the appointment of a minister or an elected member to represent military interests in each province.
“It seems like the military is being used for a job for an ex-politician,” Canadian Taxpayers Federation prairie director Colin Craig said.
Craig also said for a government pleading poverty — the province is battling a $1.1 billion deficit — it makes no sense to create a separate office when a sitting MLA can be appointed military envoy.
Craig said new St. James MLA Deanne Crothers or even Brandon East MLA Drew Caldwell could easily do the job as each of them has a military base in or near their constituencies.
Tory finance critic Heather Stefanson also said she questions the additional expenditure.
Stefanson said she plans to introduce a private member’s bill in the next session which starts Tuesday asking for a review of spending in all government programs, including Korzeniowski’s position.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 14, 2012