Pallister invites opposition leaders to meeting amid election speculation

Premier Brian Pallister has invited the Liberal and NDP leaders to a meeting Monday. John Woods/Canadian Press

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has invited the two opposition party leaders to a meeting on Monday amid speculation about an early election call.

Pallister’s office and the official Opposition New Democrats aren’t commenting on the get-together.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont says all he has been told is that the subject of the meeting is election financing.

He says he was surprised by the invitation, because Pallister has never agreed to a face-to-face meeting.

Pallister has hinted for months now that he may call an election well in advance of the scheduled date of Oct. 6, 2020.

WATCH: Pallister hints at early Manitoba election call

In question period Thursday, Pallister fielded questions from Lamont on the timing of the election and said he would keep his opponents in the loop.

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“I want to give the member comfort, genuinely. We won’t abuse the announcement rules. We won’t give any election in this province a chance to happen without a heads up to him and his friend in the NDP,” Pallister said.

The premier’s Progressive Conservatives and the opposition have been fighting over election financing changes contained in a government bill currently before the legislature.

WATCH: Manitoba fixed election date not so fixed, says Pallister

The bill would remove rebates that reimburse political parties and candidates half their election expenses. The Liberals and NDP, who took more than a year to pay off their 2016 campaign debts even with the rebates, said the change would make it harder for smaller parties to compete.

Lamont said he is curious about what exactly the premier wants to discuss.

“I have no idea because I’ve never had a sit-down meeting with (Pallister),” Lamont said.

“We’ve met in the halls and we’ve met in question period and occasionally socially, but this will be the first-ever sit-down.”

The New Democrats put forward their own election financing bill this week that would reinstate election expense rebates and reduce the limit on how much money individuals can donate to political parties each year. The bill was quickly defeated by the Tory majority.

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