Manitoba Liberals Call on Ombudsman to Investigate Manitoba Government Director of Stakeholder Relations

June 11, 2020

Manitoba Liberals have filed a complaint with the Manitoba Ombudsman to investigate the Government of Manitoba's Director of Stakeholder Relations, Michael Kowalson, for violating the conditions of his employment agreement, including running private businesses and being paid to run the campaign of Conservative MP Marty Morantz.

Director of Stakeholder Relations, like other civil service positions, is supposed to be a non-partisan position. Manitoba's conflict of interest rules make is clear that "employees are expected to place the public interest first ... and that real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest may reduce public trust and confidence in the integrity and impartiality of government."

In April, 2019, Brian Pallister promoted Kowalson from Manager of Stakeholder Relations, which pays $89,000, to Director of Stakeholder Relations, which pays between $141,262 and $177,000 a year.

It goes on to say that an employee must not "undertake outside employment, a business transaction or other private arrangement for personal profit or have any other financial or other personal interest that is conflict with the performance of their duties."

Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface Dougald Lamont said documents make it clear that Kowalson was running multiple businesses, including charging Conservative candidates to work on their campaigns.

"This looks like yet another example of Brian Pallister not knowing where the PC party stops and government begins," said Lamont. "You cannot be impartial while being paid on the side by a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada."

Kowalson appeared in the media as a spokesperson for Conservative MP Marty Morantz, but he was not just a volunteer. Elections Canada returns from Morantz' campaign show that a company owned by Kowalson, North American Franchise Sans Group Ltd., was paid $5,250 to manage Morantz' campaign.

Another of Kowalson's companies, Kowintco, Inc. was reimbursed $2,440.39 by Morantz's campaign for meals, entertainment and election night events. Kowalson was personally reimbursed $280.08 for his own expenses.

Kowalson also owns a number of Subway franchises. Joyce Bateman's campaign for the Conservative Party of Canada in Winnipeg South Centre shows a one-time meal expense for $1,500 at Subway.

The Liberals submitted their official complaint to the Ombudsman on Thursday, June 11.

"None of this passes the smell test. The Premier must have known this was going on. He needs to explain why he signed off on it," said Lamont.

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