The New Democrats demanded Friday that Premier Brian Pallister intervene in the deal to sell MTS to Bell --- and got absolutely nowhere.

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This article was published 20/5/2016 (2070 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The New Democrats demanded Friday that Premier Brian Pallister intervene in the deal to sell MTS to Bell --- and got absolutely nowhere.

"We could see the rates double," MLA Jim Maloway (NDP-Elmwood) claimed during Question Period.

When the Tories allowed MTS to be privatized in the 1990s, said Maloway, "Tory insiders made millions from the sale of MTS, and stand to make millions more."

Maloway did not elaborate or offer evidence of his charges.

Finance Minister Cam Friesen said that even as Maloway was speaking, Pallister was in Morris announcing that Bell will add three cell towers along Highway 75 to eliminate dead zones in cell coverage along Manitoba's major trade corridor with the U.S.

And, Friesen said several times, the deal is evidence of the Conservatives' vow to bring economic development and new jobs to Manitoba.

The NDP repeatedly attacked the government over omissions such as poverty, labour, affordable housing, and missing and murdered indigenous women and girls that Pallister failed to include in his mandate letters to ministers made public Thursday.

"It appears labour is nothing more than a disposable commodity to this government," said Tom Lindsey (NDP-Flin Flon).

The Tories in turn challenged the NDP why the former government had never released a mandate letter in its almost 17 years in office.

Said Attorney-General Heather Stefanson: "The members opposite had 17 years --- shame on them."

Sustainable Development Minister Catherine Cox said she will meet next Thursday with federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna. Her mandate letter directed Cox to develop a made-in-Manitoba climate action plan which includes carbon pricing.

But Cox said later that it's just a first meeting between the two, with nothing substantive on the table. McKenna will be in Winnipeg for the federal Liberals' annual general meeting.

Citing a Free Press story last weekend, Wab Kinew (NDP-Fort Rouge) pressed Education Minister Ian Wishart to confirm in the house that school boards and post-secondary schools will receive the operating grants the NDP promised them in January.

Wishart said that the money was built into education budgets months ago, and the Conservatives have to be responsible about funding the school system. "I would encourage (Kinew) to show some patience and wait for the budget" which will be tabled May 31, said Wishart.

That amounts to equivocation, said Kinew, who twice demanded that the Tories promise to maintain through their four-year mandate the legislated cap on tuition increases on postsecondary tuition.

Again, Wishart told Kinew to wait for the budget.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca