Manitoba cabinet minister received government contract, faces disclosure questions

A Manitoba cabinet minister is being accused of hiding the fact he has a contract with the provincial government.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives filed a complaint Monday with the province’s ethics commissioner, alleging Ian Bushie, the minister of municipal and northern relations, was unfairly granted a contract without allowing other people to bid on it.

The Tories also allege Bushie failed to reveal the contract in his disclosure statement, which all Manitoba politicians are required to fill out in order to show their business interests and other holdings.

“The ethics commissioner and the (Conflict of Interest) Act has a process that you have to abide by,” interim Progressive Conservative leader Wayne Ewasko said.

Bushie is the sole proprietor of Grandpa George’s, a family-run gas station and convenience store on the Hollow Water First Nation on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

The government’s online contract directory lists the company as having received its most recent contract, worth $100,000, in April. The directory also says the contract was awarded directly — other businesses were not allowed to bid — because Grandpa George’s is the only such operation in the immediate vicinity.

On his disclosure form, Bushie lists the store among his holdings. But in a section of the form that asks politicians whether they have any contracts with the provincial government, Bushie did not list anything.

Bushie told reporters the contract is to supply groceries and goods for wildfire crews and has been renewed consistently since it was first signed several years ago. He also said that while the contract is listed as worth up to $100,000, the actual amount paid is “very minimal” as it depends on fire activity and how much food and goods are needed in any given year.

“We are the only grocery business in about a 100-kilometre radius, so it is an ongoing agreement that we’ve had for almost a decade,” Bushie said.

His office later said Bushie’s store was paid $1,872 in the fiscal year that ended in March.

Bushie said he did not disclose the contract because he felt he was not required to.

“I took that to be an agreement that we have and not necessarily a contract per se, so I think that’s … a little bit of misunderstanding on my part. So I will have that followup conversation with the ethics commissioner to see how we can best clarify this going forward.”

Ewasko, in question period, called on Premier Wab Kinew to remove Bushie from his portfolio until the ethics commissioner’s probe is complete. Kinew did not answer the question.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2024

View original article here Source