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This article was published 25/2/2019 (337 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Polly Craik's ouster as chairwoman of Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries is evidence the Pallister government is interfering in the operations of the Crown corporation and proof of the premier's inability to work with others, the province's Opposition leaders say.
Craik, a businesswoman appointed to the MLL board shortly after the Progressive Conservatives formed government in 2016, was dumped Feb. 13, although the move didn't come to the public's attention until late last week. Her term had been set to expire May 11.
She told the Free Press Friday that there had been "a difference of opinion" between herself and the government concerning "governance protocol." She said she had been appointed with the understanding the board "provided oversight and was responsible for the financial direction of the corporation."
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said Monday it appears the MLL board is not being allowed to run the Crown corporation "as it's supposed to, without government interference."
"You have to let people do their jobs, and you can't just fire them when they disagree with you," Lamont said. "But that's what (Premier Brian Pallister) seems to be doing."
NDP Leader Wab Kinew, referring to the mass resignation of the PC-appointed Manitoba Hydro board last March, said it appears that another "well-established, well-respected member of the Conservative scene" is unable to work with Pallister.
"He (Pallister) can't work with the mayor, he can't work with the prime minister, he can't even work with well-established members of his own political party apparently," Kinew said, adding this does not bode well for the future success of the province.
The government remained tight-lipped Monday about Craik's termination. In a press release late Thursday, the government announced Randy Williams, a former executive director of commercial gaming with the former Manitoba Lotteries Corp., was promoted within the board to the role of chairman. A new board appointee — Christine Van Cauwenberghe, an executive with Investors Group — was also announced.
Craik's name, however, was conspicuous by its absence in the official announcement. She was not thanked for her service, which is customary in government press releases when changes are made to boards.
Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer has been unavailable for comment since the Free Press learned of Craik's dismissal last week. On Monday, a spokesman for Mayer said the minister was "travelling," and the government would have "nothing further to add to this story."
Williams, the new MLL chairman, was out of the country and unavailable for an interview, a corporation spokeswoman said.
Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba, wondered why the government would force a high-profile party member "to undergo the indignity" of a premature ending to her term when her term was mere months from expiring.
"It leads to questions about whether there was an event that precipitated this early departure," he said. "If Craik decides to be silent on the nature of the disagreement, we don't know whether the board was stalling on doing something that the premier wanted done."
At about 5 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, just moments after announcing appointments to the MLL board, the government issued a news release announcing two new appointees to the Manitoba Public Insurance board, including a new chairman.
The press release quoted Mayer as thanking the outgoing members of the board "for their dedicated service" without saying who they were. It turns out that one of them was Brent VanKoughnet, who had been the MPI chairman. He was replaced in the top job by Portage la Prairie dentist, Dr. Michael Sullivan.
Unlike Craik, however, VanKoughnet will serve the remainder of his three-year term as a member of the board. His term ends on May 11.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.