A Court of Queen’s Bench judge turned down a request by a government lawyer today for an urgent hearing into whether Finance Minister Stan Struthers and Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau should be removed from office over the province’s handling of Assiniboia Downs.
Judge Brenda Keyser said the allegations against the ministers was not an urgent matter and put it over to Sept. 25.
Lawyer Jamie Kagan said the sooner the allegations against Struthers and Rondeau are dealt with the sooner the public record can be cleared.
The Manitoba Jockey Club alleges Struthers and Rondeau violated the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Conflict of Interest Act and should be removed from office. The club argues Rondeau used confidential information to develop a plan to have the Red River Exhibition Corporation take over Assiniboia Downs, the site of horse racing in Winnipeg. It also says Struthers is conspiring with the Red River Ex to drive the jockey club into bankruptcy, allowing the Ex to take over Assiniboia Downs.
It just one of several legal salvos the jockey club has launched against the Selinger government and its intention to cut $5 million in video-lottery terminal revenue from the club. The club argues without that money the remainder of the horse-racing season will have to be cancelled because it won’t have the funds to operate.
"It’s putting at issue their reputations in the community as being individuals who may have broken an act and alleging a conflict of interest and a financial benefit to themselves," Kagan told Keyser. "The ministers are seeking leave of this court that it be heard on an urgent basis so that they can have their reputations cleared.
He also said the materials filed against Struthers and Rondeau do not meet a legal threshold and that the two cabinet ministers are entitled to a have their day in court quickly.
He also said the ministers should be treated the same as the Manitoba Jockey Club, which on Monday was granted by Keyser a June 27 court date for their own urgent hearing against the province.
Keyser, without giving specific reasons, said the case did not meet the standard of an urgent matter. The other factor is the courts effectively shut down for July and August while judges are on holiday.
"In the middle of June this is absolutely not urgent," Keyser said. "I will not have it set down for an urgent hearing. There are legitimately urgent matters that we’re trying to find time to cram time for. This is not one of those matters."
Keyser said she appreciated the potential harm to the reputations to Struthers and Rondeau, but added the filing of court documents cannot be seen as an attack on their reputations, "until there is some merit attached to those allegations."