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What’s Jon thinking?

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So there we were on Tuesday sitting up in the legislature press box for question period wondering when things might actually get interesting.

The Tories had just fired a bunch of questions on their favourite subjects, Bipole III and money, at the NDP.

The questions were pretty standard, the same kind of stuff they’ve been asking in QP going on for four years. Now they were harping about how Manitoba Hydro would buy land for the new transmission land without getting hosed and paying top dollar. The government replied Hydro hasn’t picked a final route yet; that’s it’s too early to talk about land acquisition.

Yup, question period got pretty boring pretty fast.

There were a few more questions about money and highways from the Tories, but nothing that’d crack the news cycle.

Then Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard got his turn.

One thing about Gerrard, you never know what’s going to come out of his mouth in QP. So you put down the Blackberry and pay attention.

Tuesday was one of those days when a lot came out of Gerrard’s mouth. None of it was good.

He attacked the NDP on why close relatives of cabinet ministers were allowed to work in government without some kind of review first into a possible conflict of interest.

Wow. He didn’t mention any names, but he essentially accused the NDP cabinet ministers of willy-nilly hiring their husbands and wives and other relatives to work alongside them, of bellying up as a family to the public trough and snarfling up all those public goodies without anyone being the wiser.

Now then, who was Gerrard referring to? Who was he pointing the finger at as being corrupt?

Premier Greg Selinger.

Selinger’s wife Claudette Toupin is an assistant deputy minister of Community Planning and Development.

And despite Gerrard’s bluster, Toupin and Selinger’s marriage is no secret. Neither is her job. In fact she’s worked in public service since 1982.

And when she was given her current position in June 2007, the record shows Selinger as then finance minister excused himself from the cabinet proceedings.

Gerrard, of course, knows this.

So why did he raise it on Tuesday? What was so gosh-darn urgent that he had to raise a stink?

"I think that it is important that Manitobans are aware of a situation where there is a potential conflict of interest and that we know exactly how the government is going to handle this," he said outside the house for the TV cameras.

Well, it just so happens a memo was circulated around government offices in the last couple of days that Toupin is leaving the province as of May 31. She’s going to go work for the feds as Prairie Director of the Canada School of Public Service; policy wonk school, I guess.

Did Gerrard read the memo? Did he decide to get his shot in knowing Toupin would be vapour by the end of the month?

Will he now take credit for uncovering this sordid affair? Will he take credit for forcing Toupin to pack her briefcase and hit the highway?

More important, is this the best he can do?

Whatever, the only good thing about Gerrard’s grandstanding is he didn’t utter the word "Bipole."

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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