NDP leader promises 'cheaper' public insurance during Winnipeg Sikh gathering
Party later clarifies NDP leader was repeating claim PC leader meddled with MPI
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.
- Province ordered agreement involving brokers in online auto insurance at expected cost of $23M: MPI documents
- Province would never meddle in MPI's negotiations with insurance brokers, Pallister vows
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."
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."
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."