Manitoba's new top civil servant quarterbacked Brian Pallister's successful re-election campaign only eight months ago, but he has not worked for the Progressive Conservatives since that time, the party says.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/5/2020 (736 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba's new top civil servant quarterbacked Brian Pallister's successful re-election campaign only eight months ago, but he has not worked for the Progressive Conservatives since that time, the party says.

On Thursday, the premier announced that David McLaughlin would replace Fred Meier as clerk of the executive council, effective Wednesday, May 20.

David Mclaughlin, at the party for Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservative Party after winning the 2016 provincial election.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

David Mclaughlin, at the party for Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservative Party after winning the 2016 provincial election.

McLaughlin brings more than three decades of political and government experience to the job, having held senior positions in Ottawa and in his home province of New Brunswick, where he served as deputy minister to PC premier Bernard Lord.

At the federal level, he served as chief of staff briefly to former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney and to former Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty during Stephen Harper's administration.

"His vast experience in government at both the provincial and federal levels and knowledge of the Manitoba government's needs and priorities make him the right choice and fit to serve as clerk at this time," Pallister said in announcing the appointment Thursday, a day after the Free Press reported that McLaughlin appeared to be a leading candidate for the job.

Manitoba Liberal Party leader Dougald Lamont.

TIM SMITH/THE BRANDON SUN FILES

Manitoba Liberal Party leader Dougald Lamont.

Opposition politicians condemned the appointment.

"I think it's a kind of corruption and an unacceptable politicization of the public sector," said Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont. "That position is not a patronage appointment that's supposed to be filled by PC friends."

Lamont said while he recognizes that the clerk's role requires someone who is politically savvy, McLaughlin has been highly partisan — sharing his views publicly on Twitter until he recently closed his account.

"If the previous clerk of the executive council said the sort of things that McLaughlin said on Twitter... they'd lose their job — for good reason," he said.

"I think it's a kind of corruption and an unacceptable politicization of the public sector. That position is not a patronage appointment that's supposed to be filled by PC friends." — Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said McLaughlin's appointment as the province's top civil servant may herald "more economic pain" for Manitobans.

He noted that during the 2019 election campaign, which McLaughlin masterminded on behalf of the PCs, the party pledged to pay for its promises by reducing spending by $856 million in other areas — a figure virtually identical to the spending cuts the government is now implementing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's pretty tough for the premier to justify giving his friend a really high-paying six-figure salary when he's giving out pink slips to so many other Manitobans," Kinew said.

Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/JOHN WOODS

Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew.

McLaughlin has worked periodically for the government since helping Pallister's PCs win their first successful election in 2016.

He was the principal architect of the government's Climate and Green Plan, which was unveiled in 2017. Most recently, he received a $25,000 tendered consulting services contract.

However, he has not received any payment from the PCs since his work in last fall's election, said party treasurer Gestur Kristjansson.

"It's pretty tough for the premier to justify giving his friend a really high-paying six-figure salary when he's giving out pink slips to so many other Manitobans." — NDP Leader Wab Kinew

"He's certainly not reporting to us. There's no day-to-day activity with the party," Kristjansson said Thursday.

Neither is McLaughlin being reimbursed by the PCs for any expenses, including for travel to and from his Ottawa home, the party official said.

"There's no compensation or expense reimbursement to David now from the party," he said.

McLaughlin did not return a request for comment.

In 2017, the Pallister government came under fire when the Opposition New Democrats obtained documents under freedom-of-information legislation showing the province had covered about $60,000 in travel and other expenses incurred by McLaughlin — mainly to and from his Ottawa home.

On Thursday, Pallister said McLaughlin would take up residence in Manitoba.

As far as moving expenses, the premier said McLaughlin would receive "no more than any other civil servant would receive" to take a job in Manitoba.

In addition to his other duties, McLaughlin will serve as secretary to cabinet and deputy minister for the province's Climate and Green Plan Implementation Office.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

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.