RCMP looking into untendered Tiger Dam contracts, Brian Pallister says

Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives say the RCMP has launched a preliminary probe into the NDP government's awarding of almost $9-million worth of untendered contracts for flood-fighting equipment.

Tories spoke with RCMP's serious and organized crime unit, says party leader

Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister speaks to reporters in Winnipeg on Wednesday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives say the RCMP has launched a preliminary probe into the NDP government's awarding of almost $9-million worth of untendered contracts for flood-fighting equipment.

Leader Brian Pallister said Progressive Conservative Party officials met with the Mounties on Tuesday to discuss the untendered contracts for Tiger Dams.

"We spent over an hour in discussion with members of the serious and organized crime unit yesterday," he told reporters at the legislature in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

"We provided them with more than 100 pages of documents that we have obtained — some from government … and also from other sources."

Last year, a whistleblower alleged Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton's department committed to a $5-million untendered contract for the purchase of Tiger Dams.

The only company in Manitoba that sells Tiger Dams is controlled by Winnipeg businessman Peter Ginakes, who has contributed to Ashton's electoral campaigns in previous years.

On Wednesday, Ashton said he was surprised by Pallisters comments.

"I know the federal government is looking into the $5 million contract that was let for flood equipment. That's part of the public record," he said. "My understanding is he didn't back it up in terms of any facts or in terms of the laws itself."

Pallister has said his staff uncovered nine more untendered Tiger Dam contracts, totalling $8.7 million, that were issued between 2009 and 2014.

On Wednesday, Pallister said the party had learned from unidentified members of the provincial civil service that the RCMP was "looking into this" and investigators are conducting a preliminary probe into the matter.

"We received information the RCMP was looking into this issue, and we offered them the opportunity, if they wanted documents, to contact us and they did," he said.

"We have met with their investigative people and we provided all the information we can."

The RCMP confirm the meeting with the PC party, but will not confirm or deny if they were looking into the contracts prior to Tuesday. 

"We were contacted by officials from the Progressive Conservative Party and during the meeting that followed, we were provided with information that we are currently reviewing," said media relations officer Sgt. Bert Paquet.

"In order to respect the privacy of individuals or group, but also to protect the integrity of any potential investigation, no other details will be released until further review of the information received has taken place."

Ashton called Pallister's public statements reckless.

"Every accusation he's made so far has been proven to be unfounded. The only way I would describe the comments that he's made, they're reckless. He came out today making accusations without backing up in terms of any fact or in terms of the law," he said.  "Quite frankly, I'm not going to respond to anything that Brian Pallister said because, thus far, it's hard to determine what's fact and fiction."

Pallister was asked why he wouldn't show media the information his party passed along to RCMP. 

"We didn't want to do anything to jeopardize their work. We actually did consult with their communications people and we're handling it according to the guidance we were given," he said.

Documents blacked out

In estimates on Tuesday, Premier Greg Selinger tabled 300 pages of documents on the contracts. However, Pallister said 200 of the pages are partially or completely blacked out.
A whistleblower alleged last year that Steve Ashton's Infrastructure Department committed to giving a $5-million untendered contract for the purchase of Tiger Dams, similar to the ones pictured here. (CBC)

Pallister said he has handed those documents, along with others, to police. He would not say what was in the other documents or how the Tories had obtained them.

The Tory leader added he is concerned the NDP is withholding information about the quality of the Tiger Dams, as well as research into the products and the timing of the purchases.

Pallister stressed he is not alleging criminal activity but teased the media by saying the RCMP found the information provided by the Tories to be "interesting."

With files from the CBC's Chris Glover

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