Tory MLA requires waiver before policy talk

Constituents need form to ask questions about issues

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A Manitoba Tory MLA requires constituents to sign a privacy waiver before discussing government policy.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/11/2021 (459 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Manitoba Tory MLA requires constituents to sign a privacy waiver before discussing government policy.

“It’s unusual that you’d have to sign a waiver or fill out a form before an MLA decides if they want to talk to you or not,” said Chris Wiebe, who lives in the electoral district of Dawson Trail.

On Oct. 30, Wiebe wrote to his MLA, Bob Lagassé, asking whether claims the PC government was intervening in the University of Manitoba’s collective bargaining were accurate.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS University of Winnipeg professor Chris Wiebe wrote a letter to a PC MLA and received a form seeking his contact info and also seemed to be a privacy waiver which he was asked to sign.

Lagassé’s staff responded, asking him to sign a form to “Hereby authorize… to exchange all personal information contained in my file regarding the aforementioned issue.”

Wiebe, who is seeking the NDP nomination in the constituency for the expected 2023 provincial election, said he wasn’t expecting a bunch of legalese.

“I was very surprised, because I think MLAs should be accessible and accountable,” he said. “Other constituents, if they got that, they might be intimidated.”

The form asked for Wiebe’s address, phone number and a summary of his concern, all of which were in his original letter.

Wiebe said he had written to Lagassé with concerns multiple times, and claims he either got no answer or a list of talking points. “It seems like another barrier of communication.”

Lagassé was not made available for an interview Thursday. His staff didn’t respond to Wiebe’s concern that they steer away constituents from interacting with their MLA.

“The constituent intake form is a standard process in our office to ensure all relevant constituent information is collected and then disseminated to the appropriate government department,” the office wrote, adding staff can also fill out the form if they get verbal consent.

“The authorization is required to share all personal information with government personnel.”

The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba did not respond to emails asking whether it has a policy on how its MLAs handle questions from constituents.

The NDP and Liberals say they might ask a constituent to authorize sharing personal information for casework — such as to sort out what’s happened with a pension or problems accessing welfare — but not to discuss a policy issue.

“Constituents who come to us are seeking different levels of advocacy — and it’s up to MLAs offices to serve, while being conscious of barriers,” wrote NDP public affairs critic Malaya Marcelino. “At the NDP, we are committed to serving community members in the most accessible and safe way possible.”

The Liberals take the same approach.

“If there are questions about where they stand on an issue or what they are doing on a particular issue, the office or MLA will respond directly,” wrote Liberal spokesman Colin Roy.

Last month, the Liberals filed a complaint to the elections commissioner, due to Lagassé offering a pair of sneakers in a draw to anyone who signed up as a PC membership in support of then-leadership candidate Heather Stefanson.

The Liberals have asked whether that violates financing rules.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

Privacy form for Dawson Trail constituents

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