WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s Opposition New Democrats are accusing the Tory government of spending a large amount of money on travel for one of its top advisers.
The New Democrats say documents obtained under the province’s freedom-of-information law show roughly $60,000 has been spent this year on trips by David McLaughlin, the government’s adviser on climate strategy.
The vast majority of the trips have been between Winnipeg and Ottawa, and NDP legislature member Andrew Swan says it’s not clear what Manitoba has gained from all the travel.
Swan says the travel expenses — which include hotels, airfare, food and more — are on top of McLaughlin’s six-figure salary.
Premier Brian Pallister says McLaughlin is a recognized expert on climate-change strategies and has helped the province prepare its response to the federal government’s plan for a carbon tax.
Pallister also says the spending pales in comparison to almost $700,000 spent by the former NDP government on severance payments for senior staff who were fired or quit during an internal revolt against then-premier Greg Selinger in 2015.
“In light of the premier’s refusal to work with the federal government on climate-change issues, can the premier report today on what exactly his adviser was doing on his many trips?” Swan asked Thursday in the legislature.
“As opposed to the previous government who paid people to quit, who paid people to leave … we actually pay people in this province to work,” Pallister responded.
Manitoba has rejected a plan by the federal government to set up either a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax that would start next year at $10 a tonne and ramp up to $50 a tonne by 2022. The federal government has said if a province refuses, Ottawa will enact a similar tax.
Pallister has repeatedly hinted he will bring in a lower levy and has said the province deserves credit for having spent billions of dollars building its clean-energy hydro grid.
A document obtained last month by The Canadian Press said the province was eyeing a $25-per-tonne carbon levy. The government has said the document was a draft and has refused further comment on it.