Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberal Says Manitoba Premier Must Answer Questions on Staged Immigration Event

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberal Says Manitoba Premier Must Answer Questions on Staged Immigration Event

Article excerpt

Manitoba Liberal says minister misled legislature

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WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger did not directly answer questions Thursday about whether one of his former cabinet ministers was untruthful about an orchestrated debate at the legislature.

Selinger said his government was still going over a report issued a day earlier by provincial ombudsman Mel Holley, who said Christine Melnick was behind an effort to fill the legislature's public gallery with immigrants and support agency workers last year.

"We will take a careful look at the report ... and we will make sure things are done properly," Selinger said.

Liberal legislature member Jon Gerrard said Melnick misled the public and the legislature last year by denying she was behind the effort. He said it's now up to Selinger, who demoted Melnick from cabinet in October, to answer questions.

"The premier has to show some accountability here. The premier is responsible for the actions of his ministers."

The controversy dates back to April 19, 2012, when Melnick, the province's immigration minister at the time, scheduled a legislature debate on a resolution criticizing the federal government's plan to take over some immigration programs run by the province.

The previous day, assistant deputy minister Ben Rempel had issued an email to immigrant service agencies telling them of the event and saying that people should feel free to come -- even if it meant taking the afternoon off work.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives immediately accused the government of politicizing the civil service to orchestrate a show of support for the government. The Tories repeatedly asked Melnick and Selinger whether a politician had told Rempel to send the email.

Melnick said in a media interview that she was not behind it. In question period, both Melnick and Selinger deflected the question, saying that Rempel was simply responding to questions from immigrant service agencies that were worried about the federal takeover. …

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