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This article was published 9/1/2017 (1108 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitobans should be provided with proof their premier is working while at his vacation home in Costa Rica, the citizen watchdog group Democracy Watch said Monday.
There's no way Brian Pallister should be out of the country for eight weeks every year, organization co-founder Duff Conacher said in an interview, and voters should not have to accept Pallister's word that he's working while away in the tropics.
"How is he proving that he's doing any work when he's down there? If I was a voter in Manitoba, I'd want proof of what he's doing," Conacher said.
"No one can see him working. He should have no problem submitting to an audit by the auditor-general," Conacher said.
The premier's office won't respond to Conacher's comments, said Olivia Baldwin-Valainis, Pallister's director of communications and stakeholder relations.
Pallister has said repeatedly that he expects to spend eight weeks a year at his vacation home in Costa Rica — over the holidays just ended, later this month, and in July and August — all when the legislature is not in session.
The premier says he works 60-hour weeks at the legislature, which he considers the equivalent of working 15 months in a 10-month period. Last week he covered his desk in reading material prior to an interview with the Free Press, in an attempt to show reporters the volume of work he packs in his vacation luggage.
Pallister has a personal government email account he's never used, indicating it's for emergencies only. He said in Costa Rica he stays current on Manitoba news online and is in phone contact with his office, adding he personally covers the long-distance bills.
Conacher is not impressed.
"That's a lot of vacation," he said. "I would question how dedicated any politician is when he spends that much time away from the province. What about just being in touch with voters? I don't see a message of dedication to your job."
Conacher said he doubts voters could make a similar argument for eight weeks of vacation time after 10 months at their jobs.
"They can't go to the boss and say, 'I already worked a full year, I'll see you in eight weeks'."
Pallister said he can read and retain written information far better without interruption while he's away, and he marks up books and reports with extensive personal notes.
Conacher said the premier should not expect to be taken at his word. If he used email, he could point to the amount of exchanges he has with staff and ministers, said Conacher, who contended that Pallister should at least release his phone logs to show how much time he spends on the phone and who he's speaking with from Costa Rica.
"You have to be able to verify your work somehow," he said.
Democracy Watch believes all politicians should be subject to random audits to prove they're working.
"I think auditors-general should be auditing every politician's office for value for money," he said. "There should be a job description — there's not even a set number of hours they work each week. It's something Democracy Watch advocates, to verify their honesty."