Hydro bought hockey tickets to ‘support campaign’

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MANITOBA'S biggest Crown corporation got sucked up in the mad whirlwind to buy Winnipeg Jets season tickets last year, snapping up two of the 13,000 before they sold out.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/05/2012 (3852 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MANITOBA’S biggest Crown corporation got sucked up in the mad whirlwind to buy Winnipeg Jets season tickets last year, snapping up two of the 13,000 before they sold out.

Dave Chomiak, the minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, said Wednesday in the legislature Hydro officials bought the tickets “in order to move the Jets campaign over the 13,000.”

Under questioning later from the media, Chomiak repeated that Hydro’s executive bought two season tickets as part of the “push” on season-ticket sales.

Winnipeg Free Press archives Manitoba Hydro bought two season tickets for Jets games.

The claim Hydro bought tickets to help sell out the MTS Centre was met with skepticism by the Progressive Conservatives and even Chomiak.

“I’ll double-check that with the Crown, but that’s what I was advised,” Chomiak said.

The waiting list for tickets next season is about 8,000 people long and each game this past season was sold out.

Chomiak also said Manitoba Hydro got another two season-ticket packages as part of its promotion of the Power Smart energy conservation on the MTS Centre scoreboard.

He said out of all the tickets Hydro’s executive had at their fingertips, only one government-appointed board member used them to go to one game — former chairman Vic Schroeder and a guest.

Former Hydro president and CEO Bob Brennan purchased his own season ticket, Chomiak said.

“None of them went to any members of the government,” Chomiak said. “They went mostly, I understand, to corporate customers and employees.”

The Jets ticket affair dominated for a third day at the legislature with the Progressive Conservatives pushing for the names of people who attended free games using tickets obtained through the province’s Crown corporations. Manitoba Lotteries, Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) and Manitoba Public Insurance each got season tickets in exchange for advertising at the MTS Centre.

The issue had been bubbling beneath the surface for about six weeks, starting when PC MLA Ron Schuler asked at a committee meeting for the names of people who attended Jets games using MLCC tickets. That request has since extended to other Crowns.

“It comes back to what right does the public have,” Schuler said. “We think the public has the right to know who got those tickets. Who got them? Where did they go? That’s all we’ve been asking since Day 1.”

The MLCC appears to be the worst offender as of the 10 season tickets it acquired; 188 went to head office staff, 62 went to executives and 66 went to board members.

The NDP has responded by saying they will create a policy that will forbid cabinet ministers, senior bureaucrats and Crown corporation board members from accepting free Jets tickets and likely free Blue Bombers tickets. Three cabinet ministers who got free Jets tickets through a Crown agency have since paid for their tickets.

Finance Minister Stan Struthers, the minister responsible for crafting the new directive, said it will also cover government MLAs.

“It will be a policy that’s very clear. It will govern government members. If members of the opposition want to buy into this as well, I would encourage them to do so,” Struthers said. “I think we all, as legislators, have to be clear that we’re not putting ourselves ahead of Manitobans.”

Chomiak said Hydro’s new president, Scott Thomson, laid down rules on use of Hydro’s Jets tickets in Feb. 22 memo. Thomson said the tickets can only be used for business purposes.

“Hydro will now adopt the same policy that’s gone through all Crown corporations that the government has announced,” Chomiak said. “No tickets will go to any politician or any board member or any senior manager unless it’s for specific purposes.”

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Cheeky motion

It’s part of the script in the province’s legislative process known as estimates.

Opposition MLAs get to grill government ministers on just about everything under the sun.

Part of the script calls for an opposition critic to move a motion that the premier or minister’s salary should be reduced to zero.

On Wednesday it took a different twist.

Progressive Conservative Leader moved a motion that Premier Greg Selinger’s salary should be reduced to $199, the equivalent of the price of a ticket to a Winnipeg Jets game.

McFadyen’s motion was defeated.

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