Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jockey club says Rondeau in conflict of interest, applies for removal

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THE Manitoba Jockey Club has added another NDP cabinet minister to its hit list.

The jockey club made an application in court late Friday afternoon to remove Jim Rondeau -- minister of healthy living, seniors and consumer affairs -- from office on the grounds he is alleged to have violated the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Conflict of Interest Act.

That's the same argument the jockey club made at the end of May to have Finance Minister Stan Struthers removed from office.

Both applications will be heard Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Manitoba government said the Rondeau application is without merit and will be defended in court.

Jockey club lawyer Jeff Rath said he'll be asking the court to schedule a hearing where the club can make its case against Struthers and Rondeau.

Like it did with the Struthers application, the club is alleging Rondeau used confidential information to develop a plan to have the Red River Exhibition Corporation take over Assiniboia Downs, the site of horse racing in Winnipeg.

The conflict-of-interest law makes it illegal for any current or former MLA, cabinet minister and senior public servant to use confidential information for personal gain or for the gain of someone else.

For a politician, the penalties include any combination of: removal from office; suspension from office for 90 sitting days of the legislature; a fine not exceeding $5,000; and restitution to the government if there is personal gain.

The legal manoeuvering is part of the jockey club's war with the Selinger government, which is determined to strip the club of more than $5 million it receives from VLT revenue and a special tax on wagering at the track.

The government introduced budget legislation May 30 to strip the jockey club of the funds and prevent the club from suing the government or anyone else.

On Monday, the club will ask the court for an injunction that would halt the Selinger government's legislative efforts until the club's case can be heard during a trial.

In the Rondeau application, the jockey club's evidence includes an affidavit of a senior Assiniboia Downs manager who claims Rondeau told her during the 2011 election the province had a plan to ensure the Red River Ex would be positioned to take over the track from the jockey club.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 8, 2013 A14

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