Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NDP ministers caught with cookie jar crumbs

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So it seems not even NDP cabinet ministers can deny themselves the sweet siren song known as "Go Jets Go." The difference between us and them, however, is that we actually have to pay for our tickets, if we can get any.

 

Now ministers Steve Ashton, Gord Mackintosh, Andrew Swan, Dave Chomiak and more join the ranks of those elected officials who believe that they deserve so-called entitlements on top of their annual $120,000 taxpayer funded salaries.

This mentality is not exclusive to Today's NDP. Former Liberal MP David Dingwall famously told a House of Commons committee he was "entitled to his entitlements" in reference to his reported $500,000 severance package as head of the Royal Canadian Mint.

More recently, Conservative cabinet minister Bev Oda has been in the news for repaying the $1,350 difference between the hotel she was booked into and the five-star hotel she preferred.

Manitobans have every right to expect more from their elected officials, especially when Finance Minister Stan Struthers stated, "We don't want to have ministers... seen to have an advantage over regular, everyday Manitobans."

News flash for Struthers, they were seen.

Once again taxpayers receive the obligatory pat on the head and are told all is right in the world as those ministers have since paid for their tickets.

Of course, as federal NDP House leader Nathan Cullen noted in reference to Oda's repayment, "She only did this because she got caught" and the same applies to this situation.

What should also be of concern to Manitobans is that it appears when the minister responsible for MLCC, Jim Rondeau, told the Opposition, "We will provide the information in due course," it turned out the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation had been supplied the information almost five weeks earlier.

It's a sad day for democracy when even the simplest of requests can be denied in the name of political games.

Are there bigger issues facing our province? Yes, just read the Free Press report on our crumbling roads and the $13 billion infrastructure deficit, for example. However, the freebie Jets ticket issue gives us a peak as to the thinking of our elected officials.

When government has to bring in a no-free-Jets-ticket policy for cabinet ministers because we cannot rely on an individual's common sense to kick in and say, "Hmmm, this is probably not the best optics," then just maybe there is cause for concern. Transparency and accountability should be ideals to strive for, not crumbs found at the bottom of the cookie jar.

 

Shannon Martin is a Winnipeg political commentator.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2012 A19

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