Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lawyer KO'd from regulator, miffed at NDP

Claims he's being slapped for PST lawsuit

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Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files
Robert Tapper says his representing the Tories in a PST lawsuit shouldn�t affect his appointment to the sports commission.

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Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files Robert Tapper says his representing the Tories in a PST lawsuit shouldn�t affect his appointment to the sports commission.

One of the province's leading competitive boxing and mixed martial arts experts claims he's been dumped from the provincial commission that regulates the sport -- a commission he helped create.

Lawyer Robert Tapper alleges it was done by Premier Greg Selinger and a "vindictive" NDP government that got its nose out of joint because he's acting for the Opposition Progressive Conservatives in their upcoming court challenge of last year's PST increase.

"Selinger and his crew are in my view, a spoiled, petty, vindictive little bunch," Tapper said. "Frankly, I think it's a bit comical. It just shows just how petty they are. How else do you describe conduct like that than petty?"

Tapper said before Christmas, he was in contact with deputy premier Eric Robinson's office -- Robinson is responsible for the Manitoba Combative Sports Commission -- to confirm a three-year extension to his appointment on the commission. Tapper's appointment expired in December.

That changed days later when commission executive director Joel Fingard contacted him, saying the NDP had nixed it because of his role in the PST court case.

"Do I know who specifically in caucus made the decision? No, I do not," Tapper said. "I'm assuming Selinger had his hands in it. It certainly wasn't Eric Robinson, because he was the one who approved it."

The government said Tapper was not removed from the commission.

"His second term expired," cabinet press secretary Rachel Morgan said in a statement. "We thank Mr. Tapper for his two terms of service on the Manitoba Boxing Commission and Manitoba Combative Sports Commission. We hope he will remain on the commission until a new member is appointed."

Tapper said the NDP government is blurring the line between his job as a lawyer and what he does in his spare time. "To not understand the difference between a day job and a hobby is pathetic," he said.

Tapper said he became a boxing judge in the early 1980s and served two two-year terms on the former boxing commission.

He said he was involved in changing the commission to reflect the advent of mixed martial arts. "We are now the most supervised, sanctioned and licensed jurisdictions outside of Nevada. I brought all that here. I changed the sport. I made it more regulated and safer, more control, better."

Tapper said he has no idea who'll replace him. St. Boniface city councillor and former boxer Dan Vandal was reappointed to a two-year term.

"My suspicion is that it will be an NDP supporter who's never been to a fight in his or her life," Tapper said.

Conservative Ron Schuler said the NDP's treatment of Tapper is a low blow.

"Robert Tapper... is not doing a political job. He was asked to do a job as a lawyer. He should not be penalized for that."

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 3, 2014 B2

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