Winnipeg – August 17, 2017 – When floods were ravaging Manitoba in 2014, the province’s then-opposition leader, Brian Pallister, was nowhere to be found. When asked why he did no visit the flooded areas, he claimed he was attending a family event. Later, Pallister apologized for misleading people because he was not in fact at a family event – instead, he was on vacation at his luxury retreat in Costa Rica. In fact, it was revealed that while Pallister was leader of the Official Opposition, he spent 1 out of every 5 days at his vacation retreat.
When Pallister was then elected Premier of Manitoba, he said he would still be spending up to 8 weeks a year in Costa Rica. After questions were raised about how the Premier could spend so much time out of the province on vacation, Pallister cut the 8 weeks to 5. The Premier claimed he would be available every day while he was on vacation, and would be in touch with his senior staff “virtually every day.” However, later questions began to arise about whether Pallister communicates abroad when a freedom-of-information request showed there to be no records of any e-mail correspondence between the premier and his senior staff.
Then, in 2016, Premier Pallister spent 19 days in July and August at his vacation retreat. Records obtained by the NDP through a freedom-of-information law show that there were no e-mails, text, or phone calls between the premier and his chief of staff, special assistant, director of communications, or cabinet ministers during this time.
With the help of the Manitoba Ombudsman’s office, the NDP secured records of Pallister’s business conversations using a private cell phone. They showed he only had two phone calls involving government business that coincided with his Costa Rica vacations. The phone calls took place on December 19 and only lasted a total of 15 minutes. These phone calls happened at the time the provinces were in negotiations with the federal government on a new health accord.
Further requests for records show that the premier was provided with sensitive documents from senior staff – including budget documents – but these items were sent via his wife. And this raises all kinds of concerns about Pallister’s handling of sensitive government business.
At a time when Manitoba’s Conservative government is making major cuts to health care and education, and public sector workers are facing wage freezes and cuts, it appears the premier is sitting on the beach at his luxury vacation spot, completely out of touch with what is happening in the province.