Premier Brian Pallister appeared unapologetic when asked during Tuesday’s press conference to announce loosened health restrictions in the province if it was hypocritical of his government to hire a private investigator to investigate NDP Leader Wab Kinew.
In early July, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal said he had been followed by a private investigator in an attempt to catch him breaking COVID-19 rules. The private investigator had been hired by a lawyer for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, which was working on behalf of the group of churches challenging the province’s public health restrictions. Provincial Justice Minister Cameron Friesen expressed his concern at the time.
A year before the snap election call in 2019, Pallister’s office made plans to hire a private investigator to investigate Kinew.
Pallister ordered his senior political staff to hire a private investigator to dig up dirt on Kinew in the prelude to the 2019 election, a violation of strict guidelines preventing partisan activities from intruding on the business of government, it was reported recently by the Winnipeg Free Press.
"It’s our obligation to do research. And when we received allegations that someone has covered up a criminal record, it’s important to do the research and get the facts. This record was covered up. So we had a criminal record check done, and I think that’s an appropriate thing to do. I think research matters," Pallister said in Tuesday’s press conference.
Questioned about his justification for using taxpayers’ resources for the executive council to proceed with the plan to dig up dirt on Kinew, Pallister replied, "This closed criminal record is hardly the same as digging up dirt."
"When we had information brought to us, a criminal record, that the NDP had covered up and that their leadership candidate Wab Kinew had covered up, we didn’t take it at face value. We researched it first to make sure that it was factually correct. And it turned out it was."
Pallister said Kinew had covered up his record.
"It wasn’t in his book. It wasn’t in any of his previous statements," Pallister said. "He ran for public office, without disclosing a rather lengthy, over a number of years, interaction with the justice system."
Pallister said it’s his government’s obligation to do research in political parties, and media as well.
"That’s what we did. I would encourage people who want to enter public life to remember, just as I am reminded frequently, that your life is on display. And I encourage Mr. Kinew to come clean for any other interactions he may have had with the justice department for various criminal activities. Because the sooner he wrestles those demons, the sooner forgiveness will come. That’s what I hope for him."
During a period in which he admits to being an alcoholic, Kinew had had several run-ins with police, including incidents in which he assaulted a cab driver and faced criminal charges relating to allegations he physically assaulted a former girlfriend. The charges were eventually stayed.
Kinew secured 18 seats for the NDP in the 2019 election.
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from the Winnipeg Free Press