Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Melnick's deceit

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Opposition leader Brian Pallister is correct in saying an investigation is needed into the conduct of NDP MLA Christine Melnick, who misled and lied to the House in response to questions about whether a senior civil servant had acted in a politically partisan manner.

On May 30, 2012, Ms. Melnick, then the minister of immigration, was grilled repeatedly by Tory Mavis Taillieu as to whether her assistant deputy minister, Ben Rempel, acted alone or under someone else's direction when he sent an email inviting 500 immigration workers to the legislature to hear debate on an NDP resolution.

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"We don't know -- there was no direction to send this email," Melnick responded, according to Hansard.

Taillieu responded: "So, by admitting that, then, the minister is saying that the ADM (Rempel) actually did this on his own initiative.

"And the reasons I'm asking these questions is, I'm looking at the organizational chart... and I'm quite curious to know if staff are being asked to do the political work of the minister, for her own political party, rather than being independent civil servants?"

The minister dodged the question, as she did repeatedly that day and on at least two other days when the issue was raised in the legislature, unconcerned about the perception that either Mr. Rempel was a partisan civil servant, or that the NDP had politicized the civil service.

The minister had already told the media she did not direct Mr. Rempel to send the email, which the Ombudsman's office has now determined was a falsehood. Giving false evidence to the house is a violation of the Legislative Assembly Act.

The legislation empowers the assembly to punish offences "as breaches of privilege or as contempt of court."

Finally, Ms. Melnick apologized late Friday. It was the right thing to do, but she waited far too long.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2013 A16

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