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This article was published 14/6/2016 (1222 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Premier Brian Pallister is on the defensive after an email produced by the NDP called into question his sick day on Monday.
Pallister came under fire by the Opposition NDP Monday after his staff and fellow Progressive Conservative MLAs refused to explain his absence in the legislature, stating he was "unavailable." He said Tuesday he’d had a cold, so he stayed away from the legislature during the day and Monday evening’s vigil for victims of the Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub shooting.
"I wasn’t in Costa Rica, let’s be clear," Pallister said. "I’m sorry I missed the vigil. I took my first sick day in about a decade."
Pallister’s comings and goings became a hot topic during the April election after CBC revealed he’d spent one out of five days in Costa Rica since being elected in 2012. The records revealed he was in Costa Rica during the worst of the 2014 flood, despite telling the Free Press was at a wedding in Calgary.
'I wasn't in Costa Rica, let's be clear'— Premier Brian Pallister, responding to criticism surrounding his absence Monday from the legislature and a vigil for Orlando, Fla., shooting victims
An email sent Friday from an NDP staffer to party MLA James Allum revealed Pallister had arranged to be away from Monday’s executive council estimates meeting.
Pallister contends he planned to be in the legislature Monday, but needed to postpone the meeting. He said he spent Saturday cycling the Trans-Canada Trail and then got sick.
"I was sick. I am now. I am sick of questions already," Pallister said. "I had a lot of work to do and things to prepare, and I just needed a day to do it, so I asked for it."
Asked why his staff didn’t just say he was sick Monday, he replied: "I don’t think anyone likes to admit they were sick. I don’t."
He empathically denied allegations his absence Monday was tied to wanting to avoid commenting on the Pulse nightclub shooting or attending the vigil. He accused they NDP of playing "wedge politics."
He called the attack in which 49 people were fatally shot while at a gay nightclub, "appalling and disgusting."
"It is unsettling, I think, to all Manitobans and obviously, the LGBT community which already has people who live in (it) feel vulnerable," Pallister said. "Just an absolutely offensive act and one that, I think, serves to remind us of the importance of reaching out."
NDP house leader Jim Maloway said he got a call from his PC counterpart, Kelvin Goertzen, late Friday night, informing him Pallister would be unavailable Monday and needed to postpone the estimates committee meeting.
"I would say some people would ask for sick notes or doctor’s notes, but that is not my job. I simply have to slot people in," Maloway said. "If the house leader tells me he (Pallister) or anyone else is unavailable, I have to take his word for it."
Maloway said he asked why Pallister would not be available Monday, but didn’t get an answer, adding Goertzen isn’t always aware of the premier’s plans.
Political analyst and author Chris Adams said the incident reflects a pattern of stubbornness by Pallister.
"This is part of a pattern we’ve seen. If he feels that it is not anyone’s business what he is doing or where has been, then he doesn’t feel he has to be forthcoming," Adams said, citing his numerous trips to his Costa Rica holiday home as further example.
"The more you push him, the more he resists. It is a stubborn characteristic of him not being open."
Pallister ran into trouble last week after he struggled to produce a list of $122 million in savings Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said was found in the 2016-17 budget.
"We are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt... but after a while, they are going to have to shift gears with their explanations. Being new to the scene is only going to last so long," Adams said.
Updated on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 3:49 PM CDT: Updates with NDP comments
8:20 PM: Adds video
June 15, 2016 at 9:16 AM: Updates with NDP comments