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McClung celebration will become elections act complaint: Pallister

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She helped win the vote for women almost 100 years ago, but her contribution — or celebrating it — will soon be the subject of an elections financing act complaint, Tory Leader Brian Pallister said today.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives say a Jan. 28 event at the legislative building to commemorate McClung, organized by the Manitoba Women's Advisory Council, is in violation of the Manitoba's elections law as it is a political event on the same day as two provincial byelections.

"The government has played fast and loose with the elections rules, historically. We want to make sure they aren’t doing it now," Pallister said today. "It would be in the government’s best interest, quite frankly, to make sure they’re not abusing the election rules before the event rather than find out they did after the event."

Section 92 of the Elections Financing Act restricts government advertising for general elections and byelections.

Specifically, it says:

(1) — Restrictions for general elections and by-elections

During the following periods, a government department or Crown agency must not advertise or publish any information about its programs or activities:

(a) in the last 90 days before election day and on election day, in the case of a fixed date election,

(b) in the election period, in the case of a by-election or a general election that is not a fixed date election.

(2) — Exceptions

Subsection (1) does not apply to an advertisement or a publication

(a) that is required by law,

(b) that is required at that time

(i) to solicit proposals or tenders for contracts or applications for employment with a government department or Crown agency, or

(ii) because it relates to important matters of public health or safety,

(c) that, in the case of a Crown agency, is in continuation of earlier advertisements or publications and is required at that time for ongoing programs of the agency, or

(d) that, during the election period of a by-election,

(i) is in continuation of earlier publications or advertisements and is required for ongoing programs of a government department, or

(ii) deals with a matter before the Assembly during the election period of a by-election, such as the throne speech, the budget, the introduction or passage of a bill or an order or resolution of the Assembly.

The NDP say the McClung event was organized before the byelections in Morris and Arthur-Virden were called and that it is a public, non-partisan event to mark the 98th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Manitoba.

Pallister also repeated his call for premier Greg Selinger to come clean about when he knew that former cabinet minister Christine Melnick lied about her role in inviting immigrants and immigration groups to a legislative debate last year.

"We’ve seen a cover up," Pallister said. "The premier has not been clear at this point about when he first knew about madam Melnick’s misstatements, her perjured evidence put before the house and a committee. Until he comes cleans we won’t know. We will have to speculate."

Selinger has said he only learned of the lie after the ombudsman began his investigation in the affair. The probe began in the mid-summer of 2012.

Pallister also said he had no regrets about a letter to the editor he wrote asking readers to imagine an scenario in which an unspecified NDP MLA used their political position to jump to the front of the line to get medical treatment for their mother.

Health Minister Erin Selby has said the letter was an attack on the integrity of government MLAs and those working in health care.

"Some felt it was clumsily done and I’m sorry they felt that way," Pallister said. "The reality is I only have the ability to raise questions and I asked the question, ‘How would you feel if that happened to you?’ It was clearly hypothetical, an imaginary situation. So clearly I wasn’t making an assertion or condemning anybody."

He said his intent was to get Manitobans to think about the importance of a non-partisan public service.

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