Ministers got inside track to Jets tickets

Canadian Taxpayers Federation Prairie Director, Colin Craig, holds Winnipeg Jets tickets in front...

Canadian Taxpayers Federation Prairie Director, Colin Craig, holds Winnipeg Jets tickets in front of the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. There is controversy over the usage of tickets that were given to the Manitoba Liquor Control Comission. (QMI AGENCY)

ROSS ROMANIUK, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:13 PM ET

WINNIPEG - It’s like getting caught with a hand in the cookie jar filled, instead, with Winnipeg Jets season tickets.

That’s the situation that a few NDP government cabinet ministers and a Manitoba Crown corporation’s brass found themselves in on Tuesday after the opposition Conservatives raised questions about hundreds of Jets ducats purchased for the past NHL season.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) revealed that the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission had been given 440 season tickets in return for spending about $250,000 through a sponsorship arrangement with MTS Centre — the team’s home arena.

Citing numbers acquired from the MLCC through an access-to-information request, CTF Prairie region director Colin Craig said four of the tickets went to the office of Jim Rondeau, minister responsible for that corporation. Another 66 went to the MLCC’s board, 188 to its head office staff, 108 to Liquor Mart store managers, 62 to MLCC executives and eight to the MLCC Social Club.

After all that, only four tickets were given to charity.

“A lot of taxpayers are kind of upset about this, because Jets tickets are so hard to get,” Craig told the Winnipeg Sun.

“And here the government ended up getting more than 400 of them.”

Craig added that the small number of tickets going to charity, and the monopolistic MLCC’s expenditure for self-promotion, don’t make sense.

The CTF produced the ticket information after Rondeau said at the legislature that MLCC staff were trying to compile the ticket numbers in response to the Tories’ questions. Craig pointed out that the MLCC had handed him the numbers about five weeks ago.

Conservative MLA Ron Schuler blasted the governing New Democrats, as well, after it was revealed that cabinet ministers Steve Ashton, Andrew Swan and Gord Mackintosh had each been given between one and four Jets season tickets acquired by provincial Crown corporations — tickets that the NDP insisted the ministers had paid for after receiving them. Schuler also took a swipe at a claim by Stan Struthers, minister responsible for Crown corporations, that the NDP has been working “for weeks” at creating a policy for allocating such tickets responsibly.

“It was one minister. Then it was two ministers. And then ... a third minister’s name,” Schuler said of the cabinet members with the tickets, and the government’s “damage control” after answers didn’t come earlier.

“Seldom is the crime the problem. It’s usually the cover-up.”

Struthers said “it’s fine for Crown corporations to provide sponsorships and advertisements,” and stressed that the province is well on its way toward a policy “that provides clarity” on such ticket allocations.

“We don’t think it’s right that everyday Manitobans scramble for tickets, and some people, because of their positions, can elbow their way to the front of the line,” Struthers said.

“We need to be prepared for the next hockey season. That’s what we’re working on.”

ross.romaniuk@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @RossRomaniuk


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