NDP leader promises 'cheaper' public insurance during Winnipeg Sikh gathering

Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew chose a Sikh-community gathering to promise cheaper public insurance — but his party later said he was merely repeating his claim his Progressive Conservative counterpart has driven up the cost of insuring vehicles.

Party later clarifies NDP leader was repeating claim PC leader meddled with MPI

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, left, and NDP leader Wab Kinew attended Nagar Kirtan in Winnipeg. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Provincial NDP leader Wab Kinew chose a Sikh-community gathering to promise cheaper public insurance — but his party later said he was merely repeating his claim his Progressive Conservative counterpart meddled with Manitoba Public Insurance.

On Sunday, thousands of Winnipeggers paraded through downtown and then gathered at the Manitoba Legislature for Nagar Kirtan, a Sikh cultural and religious celebration.

Dozens of politicians from all three levels of government attended the event, including Kinew, who repeated his pledge to reopen the emergency wards at Seven Oaks and Concordia hospitals.

"We also want to create more jobs and keep life affordable, starting by making Autopac cheaper in Manitoba," Kinew told the crowd during a brief address.

When CBC News asked the NDP to expand upon this promise, the party stated it is not planning to reduce Manitoba Public Insurance costs. 

Instead, the NDP pointed to its three-month-old accusation that PC leader Brian Pallister's government forced the board of Manitoba Public Insurance to turn over all of its online services to private insurance agents, despite the corporation's objection this will result in unnecessary expenses.

The NDP would prevent MPI rates from rising as a result of this practice, party spokesperson Emily Coutts said.

"Pallister's political interference with MPI's decision to develop online services cost MPI millions. By not interfering in MPI's operations, Wab Kinew would put the needs of drivers ahead of insurance brokers so that Autopac rates stay affordable for families," Coutts said in a statement.

Pallister has denied exerting undue influence on MPI. His party issued a statement claiming it was the NDP that "abused their relationship with MPI for political gain and personal favours."

The Nagar Kirtan procession follows this float containing the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Kinew made his statements following a lengthy introduction and endorsement from federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who's been a staunch ally of the Manitoba NDP leader.

Singh spoke mostly in Punjabi before making a pitch in English for voters to elect an NDP government in Manitoba in September and make him prime minister in October.

"So far, the governments we've chosen have put the wealthiest — the people at the very top — as a priority. They've made their lives easier and they've made it harder for everyone else," Singh said.

Kinew returned the political favour.

"I am very proud to live in a country like Canada, where a turban-wearing Punjabi brother like Jagmeet Singh can run to be prime minister," the Manitoba NDP leader said.

Most of the other politicians who took the stage stuck to platitudes.

"I love the Punjab!" said Winnipeg North Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, donning a turban for the occasion. "Our Sikh community continues to grow and prosper and lead Canada in many, many different ways."

"I love the Punjab," Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux, right, said as he shared the Nagar Kirtan stage with Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Waverley West Coun. Janice Lukes wore a chunni, a Punjabi headscarf.

"To all the beautiful ladies in the crowd, you're gorgeous," Lukes said.

The political addresses were a small aspect of Winnipeg's Nagar Kirtan celebration, which is centred on a procession behind a float that carries the Sikh holy scripture. The parade included both religious and secular music and terminated at the legislature grounds, where tents were set up to offer free food to participants and observers.

"Everybody's welcome," said Simmy Rakhra, who attended with her family.  "We're celebrating our culture and diversity on this special occasion."

Chana masala - spiced chickpeas - are doled out at Nagar Kirtan. (Travis Golby/CBC)


Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.


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