Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Selinger won't address charge Melnick lied to house

Report contradicts Melnick statement

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WINNIPEG -- Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger declined to answer questions on the weekend about the growing controversy over accusations one of his former ministers lied in the legislature.

After leaving a tribute to Nelson Mandela on Saturday, Selinger rejected a request for an interview about when he became aware Christine Melnick had told a senior bureaucrat to invite immigrants and immigrant service groups to the legislature during a debate.

The revelation, contained in a report from the provincial ombudsman last Wednesday, contradicts what Melnick told the legislature last year and has prompted calls for an inquiry.

Opposition Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said Selinger had to have known Melnick, when she was immigration minister, was not telling the truth.

"He failed to act on the certain knowledge that his minister had misled the people of the province, misled the house, broke her oath," Pallister said on the weekend.

"This calls for an inquiry and (Melnick) should be removed or at least suspended from her position in caucus until a committee of the house has had a chance to review all the facts."

The controversy stems from a legislature debate on April 19, 2012. Melnick had introduced a resolution criticizing the federal government's plan to take over some immigration programs run by the province.

The previous day, her assistant deputy minister Ben Rempel had issued an email to government-funded immigrant-service agencies telling them of the event and saying people should feel free to come -- even if it meant taking the afternoon off work. More than 400 people packed the public gallery and an overflow room.

The Tory Opposition immediately accused the government of politicizing the civil service and rounding up immigrants to orchestrate a show of support for the government. It also said government-funded agencies and immigrants would feel pressured to obey the request to attend.

The Opposition repeatedly asked Melnick and Selinger whether a politician had told Rempel to send the email. When Melnick appeared before a budget estimates committee on May 30 of last year, she denied being behind the plan.

"There was no direction to send this email," Melnick responded, according to legislature Hansard.

Provincial ombudsman Mel Holley issued a report last Wednesday that said Melnick did in fact direct her assistant deputy minister to send the emails.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 16, 2013 A5

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