Manitoba's NDP leader dusted off an old criticism of Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister on Sunday, using Costa Rican immigration documents to attack the premier over his regular trips to his vacation home in the Central American country.
"There's a meth crisis going on in our streets, there's a health care crisis in our hospitals, there's a recession potentially looming on the horizon," Kinew told reporters during a news conference on Sunday.
"And yet Mr. Pallister seems to have forgotten who he's working for. I will never forget who I'm working for, because I'm working for you, the people of Manitoba."
The four pages of immigration records released by the NDP appear to show Pallister's entry and exit dates to and from Costa Rica from January 2011 to February 2019. Kinew said the government records were publicly available documents.
By the NDP's count, Manitoba's Progressive Conservative premier has spent a total of 128 days in Costa Rica since taking office in 2016, spread out over nine trips. Assuming each trip required a full day of travel each way, the NDP added 18 "travel days" to Pallister's vacation time to arrive at a total of 146 days, or almost five months since Pallister took office in 2016.
The NDP offered no evidence to back up the assertion that Pallister had indeed spent 18 days in transit to and from Costa Rica during his time as premier. Other vacations taken by Pallister during his time in office, such as a November 2017 trip to New Mexico in which the premier fell and broke his arm while hiking alone, were not included in the NDP's tally of Pallister's vacation time.
Pallister told the Winnipeg Free Press in 2017 that he planned to spend about five weeks at his Costa Rica vacation home that year, a figure that was revised downwards from a previous plan to spend up to two months there. The Costa Rican documents released by the NDP appear to show that Pallister ultimately spent 27 days in Costa Rica in 2017, or less than four weeks. The immigration records show he spent 40 days in Costa Rica in 2018, or nearly six weeks.
In contrast, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he has taken between two and three weeks of vacation per year since being elected in 2016, including the week between Christmas and New Year's. (Pallister's trips to Costa Rica have also included that week.) If he becomes premier of Manitoba, Kinew said he would take the same amount of vacation time he currently takes.
Asked to comment during a Progressive Conservative campaign announcement later Sunday afternoon, Progressive Conservative candidate and Pallister cabinet member Rochelle Squires didn't mention her party's leader by name.
"Our government has worked incredibly hard to advance the lives of Manitobans since the day we took office," Squires said following the announcement of her party's new women's health initiative.
"We will continue to do that with our commitment to Manitobans that we've been making, and today's announcement is just another example of how our party is committed to furthering the initiatives and the interests of all Manitobans."
In a statement, the Liberals said, "It is no surprise that Brian Pallister is and will continue taking too much time off and leave the country while Manitobans feel the pressure of his party’s cuts. This is a premier that is completely out of touch with the needs and wants of people in the province, all while spending months at his vacation home in Costa Rica. Manitoba Liberals are committed to working for Manitobans year-round."
Solomon Israel is a full-time reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press and for two years, the lead writer for Free Press cannabis news site, The Leaf News. He continues to provide coverage of the cannabis beat while covering business in the city and province.
Updated on Sunday, August 25, 2019 at 3:57 PM CDT: Adds Liberal statement, art and related stories
7:08 PM: Corrects error by NDP made on number of days Pallister spent in Costa Rica. It is 128 instead of 129.