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Liberal leader wants Manitoba premier suspended for allegedly violating conflict of interest rules

A judge in Manitoba is being asked to rule on whether Prime Minister Heather Stefanson violated rules on conflicts of interest, as alleged by the leader of Manitoba’s Liberal Party.

Dougald Lamont first brought the civil suit last year when Stefanson admitted that she failed to follow conflicts of interest rules following the sale of three Winnipeg properties by the McDonald Grain Company, in which she holds a 20 percent voting interest.

Under the Conflicts of Interest Act of the Legislature and Executive Council, politicians in Manitoba must disclose any acquisition or disposal of assets within 30 days — something Stefanson confirmed she did not do for those sales.

In her affidavit, Stefanson said all violations of the law were unintentional.

“At the time of the order … it had not occurred to me that a filing might be required by law and I have not filed a Form 2 with respect to these McDonald Grain orders,” the affidavit reads. “I just wasn’t paying attention to whether the law required a special filing in relation to these orders. Any failure to comply with the law was unintentional.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Stefanson failed to withdraw from meetings where she had a conflict of interest as an MLA for Tuxedo.

“During the meeting dates a matter arises in which a member has a direct or indirect financial interest, the member must disclose the nature of that interest, withdraw from the meeting without voting or participating in the discussion and at all times refrain from doing so trying to influence the matter,” according to court documents.

Specifically, the lawsuit cites a 2018 meeting of the Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development on Bill 12, which included amendments to Manitoba’s Residential Tenancies Act (RTA).

“Although the Respondent is a director and beneficial owner of a company that owns both commercial and residential rental real estate, and notwithstanding the fact that the conflict of interest was brought to her attention repeatedly by the Applicant, the Respondent did not withdraw from the discussion and subsequent Vote on Bill 12,” the lawsuit reads.

In her response, Stefanson said there was no conflict of interest for her at the time.

“During the review of Bill 12, no issues were reported to me with respect to properties affected by the Bill 12 amendments to the RTA,” Stefanson’s affidavit reads.

Lamont is demanding that Stefanson be suspended as prime minister for three months and pay a $5,000 fine if found guilty.

In an email reply to CTV News Winnipeg, Stefanson said she would leave the matter to the courts.

“Our government has worked to strengthen conflict of interest legislation so that all elected officials in the province are held to the highest standards of ethics and accountability. Everything I have to say on the matter in court was contained in the affidavit that was filed. We are committed to working for Manitobans and will continue to focus on their priorities,” the email said.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for February 13.

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