‘He earned his money’: Pallister addresses contract for campaign chief
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/06/2020 (955 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Premier Brian Pallister says he didn’t find out until last week his director of stakeholder relations had worked on a federal Conservative candidate’s 2019 campaign while drawing a provincial government salary.
Nor could he specify what exactly clerk of the executive council David McLaughlin did for a $25,000 consulting contract that was not disclosed until May 27, a week after his appointment as head of Manitoba’s public service began.
The two recent revelations have raised new questions about Tory spending on senior staff, which Pallister attempted to answer for the first time Thursday.
The premier said when he found out last week Michael Kowalson had worked on former Winnipeg city councillor Marty Morantz’s 2019 federal election campaign, he took swift action. (Morantz was successful in his bid for the Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley seat.)
“You’re talking about one of the most renowned environmental experts, respected across the country and globally.” — Premier Brian Pallister
“I instructed within an hour that the wage claimed while Mr. Kowalson worked part-time (be) refunded to taxpayers and an apology was issued — and Mr. Kowalson complied with that,” Pallister said.
However, there was no need to apologize for or explain why McLaughlin (appointed Manitoba’s top civil servant May 20) received a $25,000 direct award contract that wasn’t disclosed until May 27, Pallister said.
“You’re talking about one of the most renowned environmental experts, respected across the country and globally,” Pallister said when asked if there is any evidence of work done by McLaughlin for the payment.
“He was the key architect of the drafting of Manitoba’s green plan, which has been acknowledged by the former federal environment minister as the best plan designed in the country,” the premier said.
“He is fundamentally known across the country as a Progressive Conservative party strategist and campaign manager.” — Nahanni Fontaine, NDP justice critic (St. Johns)
“We needed Mr. McLaughlin to help with the implementation of that plan… so we can continue to be Canadian leaders in making sure that we leave the planet better than we found it.”
McLaughlin signed a contract in November 2019 for consulting work that was not to exceed $25,000. That agreement was disclosed publicly by the provincial government in February.
A second $25,000 contract to McLaughlin was disclosed May 27.
A spokesperson for Pallister said Tuesday the latter was for an extension of the November contract, dated March 20, but “processing was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Pallister did not explain what work McLaughlin was doing on the implementation of the Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan, as the province responded to an unprecedented health and economic crisis.
“He earned his money, as he has always done,” the premier said.
NDP justice critic Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns) said McLaughlin’s reputation is for earning his money as a Tory strategist rather an “environmental expert.”
“He is fundamentally known across the country as a Progressive Conservative party strategist and campaign manager,” she said Thursday.
McLaughlin has served as deputy minister to New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord, chief of staff (briefly) to Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney and to former Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty as a member of Stephen Harper’s administration.
McLaughlin oversaw the Manitoba Tories’ last two successful campaigns. Following the 2016 win, he helped draft the carbon tax plan Pallister eventually abandoned.
“The premier threw what he was working on in the garbage,” said Fontaine. “We have looked high and low for evidence he produced any work since the (November 2019) contract began and there’s nothing.”
Fontaine filed a complaint with Manitoba commissioner of elections, Bill Bowles, asking him to investigate the two contracts awarded to McLaughlin since the fall, and if there was a possible Elections Financing Act violation.
“In the absence of any evidence of work performed for government and his ongoing work for and with the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, it appears Mr. McLaughlin has been paid by the government of Manitoba to do partisan political work,” the letter stated.
“Manitobans deserve to know if their taxpayer dollars went to pay for the services of David McLaughlin for his expertise and strategies for the PC Party of Manitoba,” Fontaine said in an interview. “You’re not allowed to do that.”
The Free Press has previously reported a PC official saying McLaughlin had not worked for the party since last fall’s election.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.