Free Press columnist Shannon Sampert was asked to step down as a moderator of a Thursday night environmental forum featuring three party leaders, due to concerns expressed by the NDP.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Eric Reder, one of the forum’s organizers with the Wilderness Committee, acknowledged there were conversations between the party and organizers about her role. In the past, Sampert has written several columns critical of Kinew and the party.
"The decision is up to the organizer as to who they want to host their event," Kinew said Thursday when asked about the event.
Reder said it was "unfortunate" the organization had to decide on the event day to ask Sampert to step down, replacing her at the last minute with Molly McCracken from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The move was done in an aim to get at least three party leaders (Kinew, Dougald Lamont of the Liberals and James Beddome of the Greens) on board to talk during the campaign, he said.
Tory Leader Brian Pallister chose not to attend the debate or send a representative.
"It’s crucial that the candidates that are vying to lead the province speak about the environment and the climate crisis in public as much as possible," Reder said. "So when an issue arose... we had to make a decision (Thursday) morning."
Sampert was one of three moderators scheduled to participate in the panel (environmental activists Anne Lindsey and Sunny Enkin-Lewis stayed on).
"I am stunned by this," Sampert said.
"Here’s a man who obviously is not ready to be premier and does not like strong women," she said of Kinew. "This is payback for my column on his domestic violence history and his misogyny, and clearly, he still has a problem with women."
Manitobans go to the polls Sept. 10.
No Manitoban would have to travel more than 20 minutes to access primary health-care services under a Liberal provincial government, leader Dougald Lamont has promised.
The Liberals pledged that if elected, their party would ensure 80 per cent of Manitobans can access either a doctor, nurse practitioner, access centre or quick or mobile clinic within 20 minutes of travel time by the end of their first term in government.
The party said it would work to bump that percentage to 100 per cent during a second term.
"Better local care is also essential to Manitobans — too many of whom have to travel for hours to get health care," the party said in a news release Thursday.
The party’s costed campaign platform will be released Sunday.
Manitoba’s New Democrats underlined they would not privatize health-care services, including the Cadham Provincial Laboratory.
NDP Leader Wab Kinew alleged the Tories, if re-elected, would transition to private diagnostic and laboratory services, according to plans published online by Manitoba Health on Aug. 29. The Tories denied the allegation.
Kinew was adamant the Cadham lab "has to stay public."
"This is about protecting the public health of all Manitobans. This is about ensuring that if there is ever a disease outbreak, like we’re seeing right now with syphilis and hepatitis B and hepatitis C (on) the streets of Winnipeg, then we have a lab that can help protect Manitobans’ health," he said Thursday. "To me, we can’t put a dollar value on that."
The NDP said the lab costs about $18 million per year to operate, and has around 115 full-time employees.
Kevin Engstrom, a Progressive Conservative spokesman, shot back by email: "To be clear, Cadham Provincial Laboratory’s role in the public health system will be enhanced as part of system transformation."
PC candidates attacked the previous NDP government’s wind-farm contracts, while the NDP accused the PCs of trying to privatize Manitoba Hydro.
At a Thursday announcement at Hyland Provincial Park, the Tories claimed ratepayers are losing millions due to "ill-conceived" projects the NDP agreed to while in power.
PC candidates Derek Johnson (Interlake-Gimli) and Jeff Wharton (Red River North) raised the spectre of higher hydro rates and new provincial debt if the NDP were to follow through with a plan to invest more in wind power.
The PCs claim wind-farm contracts signed in 2005 will result in an estimated $962 million in lost revenue, because wind-generated power is being sold at a loss to American buyers.
On Thursday, the PCs released a briefing note prepared for government that says the net loss of Manitoba Hydro’s three wind-farm projects — St. Joseph, St. Leon and St. Leon Expansion — is $327 million thus far.
The farm contracts are set to expire in 2038-39. The briefing note stated Manitoba Hydro is not engaging in any more active discussions with wind-energy developers.
"This sets a precedent of NDP mismanagement of the Crown corporation," Wharton said.
The NDP, meanwhile, accused the PCs of attempting to privatize and "sell off" Manitoba Hydro. In a statement Thursday, the NDP said the wind-farm criticisms are "nothing more than a cheap distraction."
The NDP criticized Pallister’s past actions on Hydro, saying he’s undermined the Crown corporation’s work and caused the Hydro board to resign in protest last year.
Wharton said the PCs have "no plans to privatize Manitoba Hydro."