Manitoba liquor, lottery corp. promises Jets ticket policy

Manitoba's newest Crown corporation, a merged liquor and lotteries corporation, says a new policy will prevent top officials from getting free Winnipeg Jets tickets.

The head of Manitoba's newest Crown corporation, a merged liquor and lotteries corporation, says a new policy will prevent top officials from getting free Winnipeg Jets tickets.

The Crown Corporations Council is drafting the policy, which will come into effect imminently and apply to all of the province's Crown corporations, according to the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp.

Winnipeg Jets tickets were hard to come by in the team's inaugural season as fans packed the MTS Centre from the first pre-season home game to the last one of the regular season. (Nico Wlock/CBC)

The new corporation was announced earlier this spring as a merger of Manitoba Lotteries and the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (MLCC).

The existing liquor commission has been under fire this week, after it was revealed that four Jets tickets the MLCC had received as part of an advertising agreement were given to the office of the minister responsible of that agency.

About 130 MLCC board members and executives also received tickets, which were highly coveted because Jets games were sold out throughout this past season.

Tannis Mindell, the newly-appointed chair of the merged liquor and lotteries corporation, said she pays for her own tickets, and so should board members and senior staff.

"We will absolutely be bringing in a new policy. I'm honestly not sure what the existing policy says at the moment, but that would be my position on a new policy," she said.

Mindell said she expects the policy to state that no senior executives or board members at a Crown corporation will be allowed to receive Jets tickets through connections.

An exception, she said, might be if a board member is invited for a specific reason, such as taking part in a coin toss before a game.

MLCC received 400-plus tickets

The MLCC received more than 440 Jets tickets in exchange for $250,000 a year it spends to advertise at games.

Documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation revealed that four tickets went to the minister's office, while 66 went to the board, 188 went to head office staff, 108 to store managers, 62 to MLCC executives, eight to the MLCC social club.

Four of the MLCC's Jets tickets went to charity, according to the documents.

Mindell, who was appointed to the merged corporation earlier this month, said she was surprised to learn freebies had been handed out to MLCC board members and executives.

"Tickets should not be going to board members, nor should they be going to senior staff," she said.

"They should be used for charities or non-profit organizations or [to] help support the community."

Mindell said she is not yet sure if she will ask the 130 or so board members and executives who did accept free tickets to pay for them.

Cabinet ministers accepted tickets

Controversy surrounding the free tickets erupted on Tuesday, after it was revealed that three cabinet ministers had accepted free Jets tickets.

The cabinet members in question — Justice Minister Andrew Swan, Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh and Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton — have since paid for those tickets, according to Finance Minister Stan Struthers.

On Tuesday, Struthers said the government is drafting its own policy barring cabinet ministers and Crown corporation heads from accepting free tickets from those agencies.

The opposition Progressive Conservatives have been pressing the NDP government on the issue for the past week.

The Tories continued to attack the NDP on Wednesday in what the party has dubbed "Ticketgate."

"So far at least 12 tickets have been shown to go to the offices of NDP ministers, while at least another 72 have gone through Crown boards of directors — bodies packed with NDP insiders who donate to the NDP party," the PCs said in a release.

"All told, Crowns have over 2,300 individual Jets tickets, and over 1,800 individual Bomber tickets."

Bombers tickets also questioned

The MLCC received 126 Winnipeg Blue Bombers season tickets, according to a document obtained by the Tories under a freedom of information request.

About 100 of those season tickets went to charity, representing about 1,000 individual game tickets.

Twenty-six season tickets, representing 286 individual game tickets, were not accounted for.

Officials with Manitoba Lotteries told CBC News that it had 32 Jets season tickets, 24 of which were given to charity through the Manitoba Lotteries Flight Deck Program.

More than 1,000 young people attended Jets games through the program last year, a spokesperson said.

Four of Manitoba Lotteries' tickets were given to the province's casinos as promotion prizes.

Four tickets were used for business partnerships — for example, when a gaming supplier visits the city — and another four were used to recognize employees.

Manitoba Lotteries also had four Blue Bombers season tickets, which were all used for customer and employee recognition, according to the spokesperson.