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Minister encouraged by MPI-insurance broker talks

Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer wants brokers and MPI to work together to come up with a solution that would work for everyone. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer wants brokers and MPI to work together to come up with a solution that would work for everyone. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press)

Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer says she has not given a ministerial directive to the Manitoba Public Insurance board regarding disputes over its proposed service modernization plans, but stopped short of saying one wouldn’t be issued in the future.

Those comments came Tuesday at the Manitoba legislature as Mayer fielded questions from reporters for the first time since news broke last week about a spat between the Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba, MPI and the province.

When asked if she plans to deliver a written directive to MPI, Mayer side-stepped.

“What I am going to say about this matter is I encourage brokers and MPI to work together for the betterment of Manitobans. That’s cost-effective rates. That’s better service. I believe that both parties can work together to find a solution that will service Manitobans,” she said.

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Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer says she has not given a ministerial directive to the Manitoba Public Insurance board regarding disputes over its proposed service modernization plans, but stopped short of saying one wouldn’t be issued in the future.

Those comments came Tuesday at the Manitoba legislature as Mayer fielded questions from reporters for the first time since news broke last week about a spat between the Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba, MPI and the province.

When asked if she plans to deliver a written directive to MPI, Mayer side-stepped.

"What I am going to say about this matter is I encourage brokers and MPI to work together for the betterment of Manitobans. That’s cost-effective rates. That’s better service. I believe that both parties can work together to find a solution that will service Manitobans," she said.

On March 21, the Free Press reported the MPI board took the extraordinary step of soliciting a legal opinion, in the wake of directors facing pushback from the provincial government over its service delivery modernization plans.

MPI has been developing plans to allow customers to perform certain basic transactions — such as renewing a driver’s licence or auto insurance — online. The move is being opposed by insurance brokers through their association, which, sources told the Free Press, has the ear of senior levels of government, including Premier Brian Pallister.

The Free Press reported the MPI board is so concerned over this dispute there could be mass resignations from the Progressive Conservative-appointed body if the situation isn’t resolved — much like what occurred with the Manitoba Hydro board last year.

Should Mayer deliver a ministerial directive to block MPI’s online plans, the move would have to be made public within 30 days, according to the 2017 Crown Corporations Governance and Accountability Act.

When asked if she is expecting resignations from the MPI board, Mayer flatly said: "No."

"No board member has contacted me to give their resignation. I read the media just like everyone else does. I heard some comment about that, but again, I don’t work on that. I work on when individuals come to me," the minister said.

"I’m not going to speculate why boards may or may not until they tell me, that board member, their reasoning behind that. Again, I’m encouraged that we are coming back to the table and continuing negotiations."

Mayer also denied the provincial government has a pattern of being unable to work with its own hand-picked board of directors for Crown corporations, despite a number of high-profile disputes.

In March 2018, every member of the Hydro board — except then-Progressive Conservative MLA Cliff Graydon — resigned following a dispute with the province and an alleged inability to meet with the premier. (Graydon was subsequently expelled from the PC caucus in October, after it was revealed he made inappropriate comments to multiple women.)

More recently, Polly Craik was removed as the chairwoman (and board member) of Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corp. before her term expired. She claimed a dispute arose when the government bypassed the board to provide "financial direction" directly to the Crown corporation’s management.

"I think there are different opinions, of course," Mayer said, when asked about these instances.

"We were elected (in 2016) to come into government to fix the finances and repair the services and I think that’s something that all of us, board chairs, corporations, we all have in common and we’re going to work towards that."

— with files from Larry Kusch

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 at 4:20 PM CDT: adds video

March 27, 2019 at 7:17 AM: Final

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