NDP Leader Wab Kinew wants answers to how these contracts were awarded
Winnipeg – Wab Kinew, leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Official Opposition, is calling on Premier Heather Stefanson to answer questions regarding access to government information and contracts awarded to companies represented by the Principal of Upstream Strategy Group, Michael Diamond.
According to the information listed on Diamond’s website, “Michael was a senior advisor to Heather Stefanson’s leadership campaign for the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba and served on Premier Stefanson’s transition team following her victory in 2021.”
In the release issued by the party spokesperson, it said, “public records state Diamond’s lobbying activities have as a goal to “influence the awarding of a contract by or on behalf of the MB Government.” It further added, “he has lobbied “the special assistant to the Minister of Health in January 2023, as well as the Premier and her Chief of Staff in 2022, and other government ministers.”
According to the party spokesperson, “Diamond is a registered lobbyist for a number of health care companies, including Bayshore Healthcare, that has received millions in contracts from the Manitoba Government.” This has raised questions of conflicts of interest, particularly since Diamond stated he was a senior advisor to Stefanson’s leadership campaign.
On June 23, 2022, Bayshore Health received a directly awarded contract valued at $3,069,834.40. Bayshore Health was among several vendors, according to the information contained on the government of Manitoba’s website, that received contracts without tendering. This is standard government practice to award contracts to providers selected from an existing roster of prequalified vendors based on specialized and unique knowledge.
The Manitoba NDP is concerned about the potential impact of Diamond’s lobbying activities on the awarding of contracts and access to government information. Kinew is calling on the Premier to provide a full and transparent account of the contracts awarded to companies represented by Diamond and to clarify the processes used in awarding these contracts.
“The Premier and her hand-picked staff shouldn’t be mixing business and politics. Manitobans need to know there is a level playing field, and the Premier’s campaign chair does not have access to insider information. The Premier should answer questions about what access this person has and commit to recusing herself from any interactions with him,” said an NDP Caucus spokesperson.” said an NDP Caucus spokesperson.
The Premier’s decision to engage Michael Diamond in his lobbying efforts, despite the potential conflict of interest, has raised concerns about ethical propriety. By failing to recuse herself, she has left herself open to allegations of wrongdoing. This could be seen by Manitobans as undermining public trust in the integrity of the tendering process.
This situation could have been easily avoided by simply stepping away from the lobbying entities involving Diamond to avoid placing herself in a compromising position. The importance of avoiding conflicts of interest cannot be overstated. The Premier’s team should have taken the necessary measures to ensure that the premier is always insulated from meetings that posed potential conflicts of interest when scheduling.
The public deserves to have confidence in the integrity of the government’s procurement process and access to information. Kinew is urging the Premier to address these concerns and to ensure that the award of contracts is based solely on merit and not influenced by lobbyists or other outside interests.
We contacted the Premier’s office for comments but did not receive a response. After the story was published, this was the statement forwarded to The Daily Scrum News on February 7, 2023, by the Government of Manitoba.
“Michael Diamond is not a campaign chair, nor will he be playing a role advising the Premier or the PC party of Manitoba.”
Manitobans are headed to the polls to elect their next government on October 3, 2023, which is shaping up to be a tight race between the PC’s and the NDP.