Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is not attending a trade summit in the United States.
His office tells Global News Pallister turned down the chance to attend meetings in Washington with the deputy Canadian prime minister, five other premiers and a number of U.S. officials, choosing to skip the meeting for some family time.
Chrystia Freeland and the Canadian premiers are in Washington Friday for a three-day National Governors Association meeting, where economic growth, trade, and infrastructure and other topics are on the agenda.
Pallister was also invited, but chose not to attend, according to his office.
“The Premier was unable to attend the National Governor’s (sic) Association meeting in Washington that is being attended by some Premiers, around which the meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister arose,” a spokesperson for the premier said in an email to Global News late Thursday afternoon.
“Premier Pallister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland have an ongoing and extremely positive working relationship. The two have met twice in the last two months to discuss a variety of topics of joint interest and concern, including CUSMA ratification, international trade and inter-provincial trade.”
‘It’s a question of priorities’
Manitoba NDP finance critic Mark Wasyliw acknowledged Pallister should be allowed to take time off to be with his family, but questioned why he didn’t reschedule or send someone else to the meetings in his place.
“This is the premier of the province, this is our largest trading partner in Manitoba,” Wasyliw said.
“If he couldn’t be there someone from the government at least should have been, and there is simply no excuse why we’re not represented at a very important meeting and Manitobans are going to suffer for it.
“Quite frankly this should be priority No. 1 with this government. They should be promoting Manitoba, and they just haven’t been … It’s a question of priorities.”
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont agrees Manitoba should be represented at the meetings.
“In politics, family time matters, you need some downtime as well, but on matters like this, sometimes you either cancel or postpone your family vacation or send somebody else,” he said.
“You have an opportunity to build bridges and make those connections and say, ‘Look we want to be a partner in this,’ but Manitoba is off the radar.
“Instead of having all hands on deck, the premier is off lounging somewhere in a deck chair.”
No word on premier’s whereabouts
The premier’s office refused to say where Pallister is but did say he is expected back at the Manitoba legislature next week after two weeks away.
The premier’s office did not reply when Global News asked specifically if he was at his vacation home in Costa Rica.
Pallister has been criticized in the past over his trips to his villa in Costa Rica.
Last February he caught heat after pictures of snow in Winnipeg were posted on his social media accounts even though Pallister was at his vacation home.
One shot had a caption asking people if they liked the snow and another warned of more snow and strong winds in the forecast.
The premier’s office later confirmed that Pallister was in Costa Rica and staff members posted the pictures.
–With files from Brittany Greenslade and The Canadian Press