Manitoba NDP MLA's interference allegations violated respectful workplace policy: investigator
Adrien Sala accused Treasury Board secretary of preventing Manitoba Hydro subsidiary from bidding on contract
A third-party investigation states Manitoba NDP MLA Adrien Sala violated the Legislative Assembly's respectful workplace policy, when he accused a high-ranking bureaucrat of interfering in the awarding of a major provincial contract.
Late last year, the Opposition NDP claimed then Treasury Board Secretary Paul Beauregard prevented Manitoba Hydro International — the Crown corporation's commercial branch — from bidding on a contract to provide networking services to various government offices across Manitoba.
The original $120-million contract was signed in 2010 with Manitoba Telecom Services. When it expired, an extension was awarded to Bell MTS (the company created after Bell acquired MTS) without going to tender, Sala said.
Beauregard once served as an executive at MTS.
Sala revealed in December that he was the subject of a formal complaint under the province's respectful workforce policy because of his accusations against Beauregard.
On Friday, an email from a spokesperson for Beauregard said that Sala had been sent a formal letter from the Legislative Assembly, informing the St. James MLA he had been found in violation of the policy.
The spokesperson would not provide a copy of the letter.
Legislative Assembly Speaker Myrna Driedger said that she could not confirm or comment on any complaint against Sala under the assembly's respectful workplace policy.
However, she said that when a complaint is filed against an MLA, the assembly's usual practice is to engage external counsel who will work with independent investigators.
Sala confirmed Friday that an investigation had ruled against him in the complaint. He said he completely rejects its findings, arguing that he was doing his job as the NDP's critic for Manitoba Hydro, the provincial Crown energy corporation.
"The statements that were made and that were identified as someone being in violation of the policy were all factually true," he said.
"It was simply that I was doing my job as the Official Opposition, fighting for Manitobans and working to make sure that we keep Hydro public."
NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he and the entire Manitoba NDP caucus stand behind Sala. The complaint was frivolous and deeply flawed, Kinew said.
No conflict of interest
Meanwhile, a letter from Manitoba Civil Service Commissioner Charlene Paquin to Beauregard says that she found no conflict of interest in how he carried out his duties as secretary to the Treasury Board of Manitoba.
In the letter, dated Feb. 8, Paquin said she believes Beauregard's involvement was limited to communicating a decision made by the government in the fall of 2019 to Manitoba Hydro, "and your role in those communications was to reiterate that decision or the intent of that decision, as the secretary to the Treasury Board."
The NDP took offence with documents, which they obtained under freedom of information, in which Hydro officials said they were told by Beauregard that Manitoba Hydro International could not bid on a contract..
Paquin also said that Beauregard disclosed his past employment with Bell and MTS and that there is no evidence that he continued to have financial interests with respect to that company that may have caused conflict.
Beauregard said in a statement that the comments made by Sala were disrespectful and untrue.
"In my view, parliamentary privilege has never been unlimited, and should not give elected officials a free pass to engage in the harassment, bullying, humiliation, intimation and defamation of a public servant," he wrote.
In a joint statement, Legislative and Public Affairs Minister Kelvin Goertzen and Central Services Minister Reg Helwer accused the NDP of trying to "score political points" at the expense of a public servant.
MLAs who have violated the respectful workplace policy following a formal complaint may face discipline from their caucus.
Beauregard resigned from his role in January. Brenda DeSerranno was appointed as acting secretary to the Treasury Board. As of Jan. 26, Beauregard was employed by the government as a technical officer at the deputy minister level.
- An earlier version of this story indicated Paul Beauregard once served as an executive at Bell MTS. In fact, he was an executive with MTS.Feb 19, 2021 7:02 PM CT
With files from Ian Froese