Opposition Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister is calling on the premier to investigate the conduct of his former immigration and multiculturalism minister and why she lied to a standing committee on her role in an April 2012 email sent by one of her senior bureaucrats.
Pallister, quoting from a transcript of a committee of supply budget estimates meeting May 30, 2012, said then-immigration and multiculturalism minister Christine Melnick denied directing an assistant deputy minister to send an email to immigration service agencies to the legislature for an event that turned out to be a confrontation between the NDP and four federal Conservative MPs over Ottawa's plan to seize control of the delivery of immigrant services.
In the budget estimates meeting, Melnick was being questioned on the matter by former Morris MLA Mavis Taillieu.
"The minister’s reply was, ‘We don’t know, there was no direction to send the email,’" Pallister said.
However, in a report released by the province’s Ombudsman on the matter this week, Melnick admitted she instructed her assistant deputy minister, Ben Rempel, to send the email.
Pallister said it appears Melnick lied to the committee when she denied instructing Rempel to send the email.
"What the premier must do today is remove this member from his caucus and immediately call an inquiry into not only the conduct of this former minister of his government, but the conduct of himself and his own members," Pallister said in a news briefing Friday morning.
"When did they know it was false? Did they continue to repeat it after knowing it was false?"
Pallister said under the Legislative Assembly Act (Sec. 40 (1)) it’s within the right of the legislature to investigate and sanction a member for giving false evidence to a committee.
"This to me, on the surface of it, is an example of the kind of conduct that must be addressed by our assembly," Pallister said. "The premier must call a committee of the house immediately and he cannot defer or delay taking action."
Pallister also questioned whether the Rempel’s email invitation and other events at the legislative building April 19, 2012 were limited to only Melnick or to other NDP MLAs and political staff.
In his report, Acting Ombudsman Mel Holley wrote the matter created a perception of partisanship when civil servants are to be neutral for the effective operation of government
Holley's probe focused on Rempel's email and not on whether other NDP MLAs or political staff were involved in organizing the event. His office attempted to find out who was responsible for allocating passes to the legislative building's public gallery, but was unsuccessful.
Premier Greg Selinger said Thursday the government will follow the recommendations of the ombudsman to come up with guidelines so civil servants avoid falling into the trap of political partisanship.
"We will take a careful look at the report and make sure that things are done properly," Selinger said following his Thursday address at a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
"The report, in my view, has said the civil servant did not do anything unprofessional, but there would be benefit by some additional guidelines on the interface between civil servants and elected people," Selinger said. "We will take that advice seriously."