Manitoba Liberals are calling for a public inquiry into political meddling into the affairs of Crown corporations.

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This article was published 7/7/2019 (651 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba Liberals are calling for a public inquiry into political meddling into the affairs of Crown corporations.

Leader Dougald Lamont said an inquiry would uncover instances of interference and give recommendations on how to protect Crown corporations from such meddling.

The Liberals cite interference with Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI), Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries by the current Tory government. They say the NDP meddled into MPI’s affairs when it was in government.

Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files

Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files

The latest instance that has come to the attention of media involves MPI. Documents obtained by the NDP show the Pallister government pressured MPI last fall to extend what the Crown corporation felt was a rich contract for private insurance brokers by two years. The deal also calls for annual upward adjustments for inflation.

The compensation deal, in force until Feb. 28, 2021, is designed to give the two sides time to work out an agreement on how to deliver online services to Manitoba motorists.

The ability to purchase a driver’s licence or renew an insurance policy online presents potential savings for MPI — and possible commission losses for private insurance brokers, depending on how the deal is structured.

The Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba has demanded total broker control over online sales, a position MPI rejects.

The government of Premier Brian Pallister, a former insurance broker, is accused of interfering into MPI business concerning payments to insurance brokers. (John Woods/ Winnipeg Free Press files)

The government of Premier Brian Pallister, a former insurance broker, is accused of interfering into MPI business concerning payments to insurance brokers. (John Woods/ Winnipeg Free Press files)

Lamont said Pallister did an end run around MPI’s board and that the NDP is responsible for creating the "minimum compensation" deal in 2012.

"At a time when he is cutting and freezing everything else, the premier is forcing MPI to raise rates to give free money to an industry he’s connected to," Lamont said.

"We have to stop treating political interference in Crowns as ‘business as usual’ in Manitoba."

He pointed out that in 2000, the NDP was going to use MPI funds to finance university expansions until the government of Gary Doer backed down after public outcry. In 2001, MPI funds were going to finance hiring more Crown prosecutors to go after car thieves, and in 2010, the NDP tried to force MPI to fund infrastructure improvements.

He said the Liberals would introduce legislation, if elected, to create a transparent, merit-based appointment process for Crown boards through an arm’s-length nominating committee, under a re-established Crown Corporations Council.

The Tories scrapped the Crown Corporations Council, a civilian board that oversaw Crown corporations, in 2016.