Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NDP's 'power' plays

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Thanks to Greg Selinger's relentless quest for power, Manitobans can fairly wonder if Winnipeg Jets owner Mark Chipman is secretly part of his re-election campaign. It's an unfair perception, but there nonetheless.

The two men shared the limelight Friday at a news conference to announce they were joining forces to mentor inner-city youth. Mr. Selinger claims the election announcement is not a violation of a law that prohibits the government from disseminating information about its programs 90 days prior to an election because the mentoring program was previously announced.

The law is somewhat vague, but the NDP has taken full opportunity to drive a truck through every loophole. In fact, complaints against the NDP are piling up in the office of the Manitoba Commissioner of Elections for alleged violations of a legal provision that is intended to ensure the government doesn't take unfair advantage of its power.

One of the worst alleged offences occurred before the election was even called when NDP cabinet ministers Theresa Oswald and Nancy Allan took a stroll through a new birthing clinic. A campaign worker invited some media to the event, which was coyly described as a tour, not an announcement or a political opportunity. Would the Conservative candidates opposing Ms. Oswald and Ms. Allan be allowed to take a media-escorted tour today? Not a chance. In that respect, the NDP has also compromised the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, which runs the facility, but which wouldn't dare extend the same courtesies to anyone outside government.

The NDP has put other individuals and organizations in uncomfortable positions, too, not just during the election, but as part of what University of Manitoba constitutional scholar Bryan Schwartz has called The Supplicant Society.

"A dominating provincial government," Schwartz said, "crowds out and constricts the rest of society -- the business community, non-profits and local government. The dependent communities must then seek provincial patronage. Friends are rewarded; critics learn to be circumspect. The fed-up simply leave."

Manitoba is a big province, but it's really a very small place in terms of the relatively few circles of influence that govern its public and private operations.

Mr. Chipman's joyous smile at Friday's announcement was genuine, and so was Mr. Selinger's, but for different reasons.

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 September 17, 2011 A18

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