Premier Brian Pallister took aim at the opposition during a Monday afternoon media availability, chiding the Manitoba NDP after one of the party’s MLAs was found to have violated the Legislative Assembly’s respectful workplace policy last week.
Adrian Sala, the NDP’s MLA for St. James, had a complaint filed against him last December by former Treasury Board secretary and current assistant deputy minister Paul Beauregard.
The MLA had alleged Beauregard had improperly advised Manitoba Hydro on several business decisions, including one to give Beauregard’s former employer, Bell MTS, a $37-million contract extension to manage networking services at provincial government offices.
Last Friday, a private public relations company working on Beauregard’s behalf told media outlets that Sala had been found to have violated the province’s respectful workplace policy in an arms-length investigation.
The letter describing how Sala violated the rules has not been released to the public.
"For the past six months, a Manitoba public servant named Paul Beauregard has been the subject of repeated bullying and harassment actions through false allegations made against him of conflict of interest by an NDP member of our legislature," Pallister said Monday. "In this, he has been aided and abetted by the Leader of the Opposition."
According to the premier, Sala was found to have violated the workplace policy "on a repeated basis."
He added later that in the case of the networking services contract, the province decided it was best to extend it instead of testing the market due to the instability provided by COVID-19. Beauregard’s emails saying Manitoba Hydro wouldn’t put in a bid were merely him conveying cabinet’s messaging on the matter, said Pallister.
Pallister said that he and his government would personally defend civil servants from any instance of harassment and bullying. Then, he criticized the NDP’s response to the investigation, saying that the party is trying to politicize a non-partisan code of conduct.
"Mr. Kinew appears to want a structure that would put NDP MLAs somehow in a separate class above the rule," said the premier.
As he did last week, NDP Leader Wab Kinew stated in an email his belief that Beauregard’s complaint was intended to distract the public from issues surrounding Manitoba Hydro.
"The premier, through his abuse of an important process, is desperately trying to distract from his government’s ongoing interference in Manitoba Hydro," Kinew stated. "We know this government interfered to raise rates, sell off a profitable subsidiary and close down another piece of Hydro. Our team is proud of our fellow caucus member for standing up for Manitoba Hydro, and we refuse to be silenced by the premier’s repeated attacks. We will always fight for a public Manitoba Hydro and affordable rates for families."
Asked about the NDP’s allegation that Beauregard’s complaint was directed by him to prevent his government from being asked tough questions, Pallister called it false and an attempt to discredit the attempt to create a safer workplace.
Last Thursday, Pallister provided more details on Manitoba’s deal to purchase doses of a made-in-Canada vaccine from Alberta-based biotech company Providence Technologies and said that all the premiers and the prime minister would have a call to discuss the project on Friday.
However, Pallister had little to say about the results of that meeting on Monday. He reiterated why he thinks the Providence deal is a good idea while acknowledging that the federal government has made a small investment in the company already.
"The response is, as I would anticipate, very optimistic and I think very supportive," he said. "Most of the premiers and their senior officials are involved in an inter-provincial, I’ll call it a task force, to investigate the possibilities of moving further on this."
The premier did not address how many provinces were seriously interested in joining Manitoba’s vaccine plan, instead, he said that other provinces and the federal government are interested in investigating how the country can improve its vaccine research, development and distribution for either a future pandemic to create booster vaccines for COVID-19.
While specifics weren’t forthcoming, the premier said that the province is open to creating more COVID-19 support programs and that consultations with business officials are ongoing to create a new recovery support.
» email@example.com, with files from the Winnipeg Free Press
» Twitter: @ColinSlark