NDP slams Brian Pallister after disclosure of Costa Rican companies

Manitoba Progressive Conservatives say Premier Brian Pallister's disclosure of shares he owns in two Costa Rican companies Monday sets an "improved tone from the top" on transparency, but the Opposition disagrees.

Premier only transparent 'when he gets caught,' NDP MLA justice critic Andrew Swan says

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has officially declared his investments in Costa Rica. (The Canadian Press)

Manitoba Progressive Conservatives say the new premier's disclosure of shares he owns in two Costa Rican companies shows he is committed to transparency, but the Opposition disagrees.

Brian Pallister filed papers with the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly on Monday that show he owns shares in two companies in Central America.

"Our government will be developing a more modern and robust statutory framework to bring about higher standards of openness and transparency," a PC spokesperson said in a statement about the filing.

"In the meantime, the premier has set an improved tone from the top by making a level of voluntary disclosure that goes beyond current reporting requirements."

But NDP MLA and justice critic Andrew Swan said Pallister's 11th-hour disclosure is telling.

"For someone who is trying to convince Manitobans he's all about transparency and accountability, it's very questionable, and it shows that he believes when it comes to his own circumstances, he's only transparent and accountable when he gets caught," Swan said.

MLAs required to disclose

All MLAs were required to disclose potential conflict of interests with the clerk's office by May 30 at 5 p.m. Manitoba conflict of interest laws say MLAs must reveal any assets or companies they own, regardless of where the investments are located.

It's disappointing that it had to come to this before the premier would now disclose it.- Andrew Swan

On the back page of the document Pallister submitted, items of interest include a section titled "Additional Voluntary Disclosure" and the following statement:

"The following items are not subject to declaration and disclosure, as per advice received from the conflict of interest commissioner. However, for the purposes of greater openness and transparency, I confirm the following interests."

In the leadup to the April 19 provincial election, a CBC News investigation revealed Pallister had spent roughly one in five days (240 days total) in Costa Rica since becoming PC leader in 2012. The Costa Rican Star then reported Pallister owned two companies, including a numbered corporation and Finca Deneter Doce Sociedad Anonima.

Pallister later said he has a bank account and vacation home in Costa Rica and explained he didn't initially publicly share his connection to the country, in part, out of family privacy concerns.

'Conflict of interest act is very clear'

"He could have filed a letter from the conflict of interest commissioner, he could have put that on file at the clerk's office, which I presume would not have referred to where the corporations were or what they did," Swan said. "He chose not to do that."

Swan said the public still doesn't know the full story behind the companies and what purpose they serve.

"The conflict of interest act is very clear," Swan said.

"The idea is to disclose it so that everything is out there so that you don't have to play this cat-and-mouse game that the premier seems to think is appropriate," Swan said. "It's disappointing that it had to come to this before the premier would now disclose it."

With files from Laura Glowacki