Jets tickets conflict widens around politicians

New details are emerging in the controversy over how Manitoba politicians have been getting tickets to NHL games.
Justice Minister Andrew Swan, right, watches the Winnipeg Jets play from rinkside seats during a game in March. He had his own ticket to that game but admits he accepted four tickets from Manitoba Public Insurance to a game in February. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

There's more heat coming down on the Manitoba government about cabinet ministers getting free Jets tickets.

Initially, the government said three ministers received tickets from Crown agencies, tickets the agencies received in exchange for buying ads at Winnipeg Jets games this season.


Ministers who received free tickets:

  • Finance Minister Stan Struthers
  • Justice Minister Andrew Swan
  • Energy Minister Dave Chomiak
  • Advanced Education Minister Erin Selby
  • Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau
  • Tourism Minister Flor Marcelino
  • Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh
  • Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton

But it now turns out at least five other ministers received tickets from non-government groups, such as Red River College, Labatt Breweries, and an oil and gas company.

Energy Minister Dave Chomiak has disclosed that he got tickets from Tundra Oil and Gas. Advanced Education Minister Erin Selby got tickets from the president of Red River College.

In an email to The Canadian Press, Red River College said it also provided tickets to Finance Minister Stan Struthers and Justice Minister Andrew Swan for a game last December 23rd.

Swan also got four tickets from Manitoba Public Insurance.

Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau received tickets from Labatt Breweries in March, while Tourism Minister Flor Marcelino was handed tickets from hotel chain Canad Inns.

Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh and Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton also received tickets. Mackintosh received four from the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission and Ashton received one ticket from Manitoba Lotteries.

Premier Greg Selinger said all of the ministers have paid back the price of the tickets.

"It has made everybody more conscientious about their responsibilities as a MLA or as a minister. I know it will be better going forward because we have a clear policy now," he said.

In all, more than 2,400 Jets tickets went to Crown corporations in the province.

The government has tried to quell the controversy by establishing new policy that would forbid politicians from accepting any tickets to pro sports events.

Conflict commissioner unaware

Manitoba's conflict of interest commissioner won't comment on the so-called ticketgate.

Ron Perozzo said his job is only to provide advice to the government on the Conflict of Interest Act.

He told CBC News he is unaware of the controversy surrounding cabinet ministers because he has been away "in the wilderness on Lake Superior" and won't be back till June.

Perozzo is also Manitoba's Freedom of Information officer and lobbyist registrar.

Premier apologizes

Friday afternoon, Manitoba Greg Selinger apologized for what happened. He released a list of government politicians who received free sports tickets and called upon all ministers and MLAs to disclose if they received free tickets.

Selinger said he has asked the province's ethics commissioner to ensure new guidelines are applied.

He also asked anyone who has not repaid the cost of a ticket they received improperly to make a charitable donation in the amount of the ticket.

In addition to receiving free tickets from provincial Crown corporations, the list Selinger provided confirmed that some private companies also gave free Jets tickets to six cabinet members.

CBC News canvassed people on the streets of Winnipeg, for their thoughts on the issue.

Mary Lou Bourgeois said it was upsetting.

"I just really feel it's so unfair and these people should be ashamed of themselves for even taking advantage of that," Bourgeois said.

Arthur Schafer, a University of Manitoba expert on ethics, said accepting the gifts is wrong especially when they come from sectors a politician oversees.

"It's a conflict of interest," Schafer said. "It's unprofessional. It's unethical."

Political scientist Paul Thomas said he is shocked and appalled that cabinet ministers accepted the free tickets. They should have known better, he said.

Thomas says the ministers may have filed conflict of interest documents but ethically, they had a duty to do better.

"It's more important that ministers and public servants be ethically aware and listen to the little voice in the back of their head that tells them this is not the right thing to do," he said.

Thomas also said the public should have better access to politicians' conflicts of interest documents. Right now, someone must go to the legislature to see the documents, which cannot be photocopied or removed from the office.

Although the Jets were the hottest ticket in the city last season, 32 of the tickets given to the Crown corporations went unused.

Those tickets had been given to Manitoba Lotteries and Manitoba Hydro. The latter did not give any tickets to charity or kids' sports teams.

Jets tickets distribution

Charity/Kids sports teams1,1154641,050610
Business purposes/promos3381430296**210
Board members1094.5669322
Cabinet ministers90.44140

SOURCE: Province of Manitoba

**Includes one ministerial assistant staffing a delegation from the Saskatchewan government at one game

***108 tickets were distributed to customers and community groups; no list of recipients exists.

Percentages may not equal 100 per cent due to rounding of numbers.

With files from The Canadian Press