THE province's election watchdog has rejected a batch of complaints filed by the Tories and the NDP, leaving at least 15 more allegations in limbo with just five days left in the campaign.

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This article was published 28/9/2011 (3649 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE province's election watchdog has rejected a batch of complaints filed by the Tories and the NDP, leaving at least 15 more allegations in limbo with just five days left in the campaign.

Still outstanding are two high-profile grievances -- one involving the Winnipeg Jets and another involving a playground grant given out by NDP MLA Ron Lemieux.

The bevy of complaints -- more than in past elections -- are the first tests of new and sometimes confusing election rules that limit pre-writ government advertising and impose strict spending limits. Delays in getting complaints resolved have sparked a new round of criticism of the province's election officials.

In letters that arrived Wednesday, Commissioner of Elections Bill Bowles dismissed three complaints made by the Conservatives against the NDP. Among other things, Bowles found an advertising campaign by the Manitoba Federation of Labour was not created in collusion with the NDP, as the Tories alleged.

Meanwhile, the NDP complained Tuxedo MLA Heather Stefanson was advertising on grocery dividers at Safeway that weren't marked "authorized by the official agent."

Bowles sent an investigator to Safeway to check and found the dividers were properly marked.

The NDP also complained after Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen used the phrase, "Greg Selinger is running a desperate campaign of lies." The NDP said that phrase violated the Elections Act ban on "false statements about a candidate's character."

Bowles dismissed the complaint, saying McFadyen's statement was clearly one of opinion, not fact.

"If the statement was treated as a statement of fact, an investigation would have to be made to determine if the NDP's campaign was "desperate" and if it was "a campaign of lies." That would be absurd," wrote Bowles.

Of the more than 22 complaints filed by all parties, not quite a third have been resolved so far.

Last week, the Tories again wrote to Bowles, pleading for some resolution to the party's outstanding complaints before election day.

Bowles said his office is working as fast as it can, but his priority is conducting a full and proper investigation.

He said no complaints are so serious they could alter the outcome of Tuesday's election.

But a couple have created considerable buzz on the campaign trail.

That includes a complaint filed by the Liberals nearly two weeks ago that alleges the NDP made a government announcement, not an election pledge, when Premier Greg Selinger joined Winnipeg Jets owner Mark Chipman for a press conference touting the NHL team's youth-at-risk program.

Under the rules of the Elections Finances Act, the government can't make any program or funding announcements 90 days prior to an election.

That's the same rule the Tories say NDP cabinet minister Ron Lemieux broke when he publicly presented a $15,000 cheque for new playground equipment in Landmark in early August.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca