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Dismissive Doer

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Something’s been niggling me about how Premier Gary Doer reacted to part of the 1999 campaign finance hubbub.

Last week, some very interesting letters from auditor David Asselstine emerged. He was the guy hired by Elections Manitoba to go through all the NDP’s campaign finance paperwork to make sure it was copacetic.

It wasn’t. The party claimed $76,000 in rebates it wasn’t entitled to.

In his leaked letters, Asselstine raised concerns with Elections Manitoba over how he was being treated by the NDP. He said party officials threatened to blackball him and were being uncooperative. Not long after, Elections Manitoba severed its relationship with Asselstine after the NDP complained. And, over a couple of years, Asslestine kind of harangued Elections Manitoba to do the right thing and disclose the full details of the rebate scheme. He suggested that the outcome of the 2003 election might have been different had voters known the NDP was forced to repay $76,000 in rebates.

Asked about the letters in scrums last week, Doer kept dismissing Asselstine as a "technician" who just worked for the two lawyers who ultimately recommended against charging the NDP with violating the election finance rules. At one point Doer said, with all due respect, he’d never even heard of Asselstine.

That night I went home and reread the remarkable Monnin report into the 1995 vote-rigging scandal. I read it because the NDP spent all of Question Period waving it around and quoting from it to remind us that the Tories are not lily white when it comes to elections (true enough) and that Monnin vindicated Elections Manitoba as a independent and relatively effective agency.

Anyway, about three pages in, Monnin gives a shout-out to Asselstine, thanking him for his work as the forensic auditor hired by the inquiry. Asselstine’s name is mentioned at least one more time in the same report the premier and the finance minister were touting.

The next day, the teacher’s pension annual report came out. Asslestine’s picture and bio are featured on page 12 because he’s on the fund’s audit committee. His bio says he’s done work for the IMF.

The IMF? Monnin? The $2.3 billion teacher’s pension? With all due respect, Asselstine is not exactly a "technician" no one’s ever heard of.

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About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first as a general assignment reporter and then covering city hall and the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter.

Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school, has won several Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

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