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13 MLAs received 33 free Jets tickets: Selinger

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Premier Greg Selinger apologized Friday on behalf of his government for the ongoing Jets tickets scandal while announcing that he would ask MLAs from both sides of the legislature to eschew free professional sports tickets from Crown corporations, businesses and unions.

Selinger also released an updated list of government MLAs who have received free Jets tickets. It contains the names of 13 MLAs, including 12 cabinet ministers, who received a total of 33 free tickets.

The biggest recipient was Justice Minister Andrew Swan, who received eight tickets from four different sources. Finance Minister Stan Struthers received three tickets, one from Red River College and two from Manitoba Homebuilders.

"I’ve always believed that Manitobans expect their elected officials to uphold the highest possible standards for public life," Selinger told reporters at a 4 p.m. news conference. "Clearly, we didn’t get it right here and I accept responsibility for that."

The premier said he has told his MLAs to either repay the cost of the tickets or make charitable donations for the value of tickets received.

He did not indicate whether he would further punish any of the MLAs.

Selinger said he would ask the Legislative Assembly’s management committee and the province’s ethics commissioner to make sure that new guidelines against accepting professional sports tickets apply to all MLAs. He wants MLAs from both sides of the house to declare any tickets they have received from Crown corporations, unions and businesses.

Earlier Friday, Selinger said he would not ask his energy minister Dave Chomiak to resign over Chomiak’s acceptance of free Jets tickets from an oil exploration company.

"He’s been a very capable minister over the years," Selinger said Friday, adding he expects Chomiak will pay for the Jets tickets from Tundra Oil and Gas.

"We expect him to do the right thing," Selinger said. "He’s a good guy."

"Ministers do understand the conflict of interest," he added. "They should not be accepting tickets from either a Crown corporation or private business.

"People have to be more on the ball about these things."

Chomiak attended a game at the MTS Centre last Feb. 14.

Chomiak said in an interview with Global News that he did nothing wrong in accepting the tickets.

"It's doing business, you can’t not do business with companies that are in Manitoba, it has to do with jobs, job creation, there's several thousand people working in the oil field in Manitoba, I think it's appropriate to meet with these companies," he said, adding he also also accepted free tickets from telecom provider MTS last October.

Global News also reported that Chomiak had just that day disclosed he’s received the tickets from Tundra. MLAs are required by law to disclose gifts over $250. Tundra did not return calls from Global.

The revelation came the same day the NDP released a new policy banning cabinet ministers and government MLA from accepting free tickets to pro sports events.

The controversy erupted earlier this week after it was revealed the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission had been given hundreds of tickets to Jets games in exchange for a $250,000 advertising contract at MTS Centre. Most of the tickets were used by executives, board members and senior managers.

Manitoba Public Insurance, Manitoba Lotteries and Manitoba Hydro also had Jets season tickets.

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Updated on Friday, May 11, 2012 at 5:04 PM CDT: Adds new comment from Selinger.

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