In a campaign that will determine the province's next lawmakers, there are a number of candidates — including the current premier — who don't appear to be following the rules.
The Tories, NDP, Liberals and Greens all have candidates running Winnipeg campaign offices without proper paperwork, a Free Press search of the City of Winnipeg's occupancy permits database shows.
Tory Leader Brian Pallister has been sharing a campaign office in a space that doesn't have an occupancy permit, which would require City of Winnipeg approval to make sure the office is safe for volunteers and the public.
Now, amid the frenzy of this summer's provincial election campaign, some are scrambling to secure temporary documentation.
The city received only 20 permit applications for campaign offices, despite efforts to set up a "hassle-free" process for political candidates during this election, a civic spokesman said. Those 20 applications had been granted as of Friday.
There are about 117 provincial election candidates in Winnipeg ridings, but not all have campaign offices and many belonging to the same party are sharing space.
A PC spokesperson confirmed Pallister's Fort Whyte riding campaign is sharing an office with Fort Garry PC candidate Nancy Cooke. A search of the City of Winnipeg's occupancy permits database revealed the office at 1391 Pembina Hwy. doesn't have a permit.
"All of our Winnipeg campaign offices have filed the necessary paperwork for their occupancy permits. Some approvals may still be in process with the city," the spokesperson responded in an email.
Green Leader James Beddome expressed embarrassment over his lack of a permit to occupy his Mulvey Avenue office.
"It looks like that was an oversight on both the part of our landlord and us on the campaign," he said. "We are in the process of making sure we rectify everything."
Other political parties are finding themselves in a similar situation.
Although NDP Leader Wab Kinew was issued a permit for his Fort Rouge campaign office Aug. 19, and Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont doesn't have a campaign office, both parties had candidates without the required permits.
Both parties issued emailed statements to the Free Press saying they are working on getting documentation for all candidates who need it.
"Not all of our campaign offices are currently in compliance, however, those which are not in compliance are working to either submit an application or are waiting for an approved permit from the city," an NDP spokeswoman said.
The Free Press contacted Point Douglas NDP MLA Bernadette Smith's campaign office, which doesn't have the paperwork, and was told a campaign spokesman was on another line, trying to get an occupancy permit.
The permits are required under a municipal building bylaw that has been in effect for at least 25 years.
It is illegal, according to the bylaw, for a new tenant to occupy a commercial space without a permit, even if the building was already designated as office space and even if there are no changes being made to the building. Before the permits are issued, city employees are expected to check for safe exits, working fire alarms and sprinkler systems and loose wiring, and to inspect for other electrical, mechanical and building code issues.
Even candidates working from home may have to get home-business permits if they have volunteers or employees working there, too. The city relies on complaints to enforce the bylaw, and those who violate it can be fined.
Leading up to the 2019 election period, the city's embattled planning, property and development department tried to streamline its temporary permit process for candidates, simplifying the application and review process for campaign office permits. The department put together a fact sheet for candidates and asked Elections Manitoba to help inform them.
On Aug. 10 — two days before Pallister set the election date — Elections Manitoba circulated information to political parties about the permits, a spokeswoman wrote in an email. Still, some said they weren't told in a timely manner.
Volunteering at Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux's campaign office Thursday, her father, Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux, said permits aren't necessarily candidates' top priority.
"There’s all sorts of things on candidates’ minds, you know, ordering signs, brochures, canvassing, getting materials… There’s a pile of things, we’re in the middle of summer and you try to get things moving," he said.
The Inkster Boulevard office in the Tyndall Park riding doesn't have a permit; Kevin Lamoureux said organizers are in the midst of getting one.
“I don’t think there’s any campaign of any political party that is trying to not comply. The issue is, just be patient, understand the situation that candidates are in. It’s important that candidates be allowed to do what they need to do in the middle of summer, because at the end of the day, we want candidates to be doing well no matter what political party.” — Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux
"Cindy’s first priority right now is to get elected, first and foremost. She needs to have a campaign office, and she will be getting the permit and, hopefully, the city is patient with it. It’s a part of democracy. Sometimes it’s not the easiest process to go through but it’s important that we get the necessary paperwork for it, and we will," he said.
"I don’t think there’s any campaign of any political party that is trying to not comply. The issue is, just be patient, understand the situation that candidates are in. It’s important that candidates be allowed to do what they need to do in the middle of summer, because at the end of the day, we want candidates to be doing well no matter what political party."
When he was a provincial candidate for the Liberals in 2016, Paul Brault said it took him two weeks to obtain the permit for his campaign office. The retired private-sector health and safety manager has been using social media to urge current candidates to get their permits — something they were required to do before moving into campaign offices.
"It is in place to protect the public," he said, adding he's realized not everyone knows the rules.
"I find it ironic that somebody who is vying to become a lawmaker would not do due diligence and not study what the law is, and follow the law."
Manitobans go to the polls Sept. 10.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.
Updated on Friday, August 23, 2019 at 8:20 PM CDT: Updates dates