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Opposition cries foul as Manitoba premier says some government ads will continue

Click to play video: 'Provincial government will continue to ‘inform Manitobans’ during election campaign blackout, premier says'
Provincial government will continue to ‘inform Manitobans’ during election campaign blackout, premier says
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said on Thursday that the government will continue to release information to residents regarding rebates and other promises made before the campaign advertising blackout on Aug. 4. Stefanson also responded to concerns surrounding Minister Klein's claims of Métis heritage – Aug 3, 2023

The Manitoba government is planning to continue to run
advertisements promoting rebate cheques and some other programs in
the lead-up to the Oct. 3 provincial election, despite accusations
from the Opposition that it’s an unfair use of taxpayer dollars.

The Election Financing Act forbids many types of government
advertising, announcements and news conferences in the 90 days prior
to an election, with some exceptions such as matters of public
health and continuations of ongoing ad campaigns at agencies such as
Crown corporations.

The law is aimed at preventing the governing party from having a
campaign advantage over other parties that do not have access to
government resources.

In 2021, the Progressive Conservative government changed the law
to allow for more exceptions, including continuations of ongoing ad
campaigns by government departments.

The change also shortened the time frame of the restrictions _
known as the blackout period _ to 60 days from 90. The blackout
period this year starts Friday.

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Premier Heather Stefanson said the government plans to continue
to run ads on health issues such as West Nile virus.

She also said the government needs to continue to remind people
of the availability of cheques that have been mailed out this year _
one was a rebate on property taxes, the other was a “Carbon Tax
Relief Fund” cheque to offset costs associated with a federally
imposed price on carbon.

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“There’s actually a lot of people who haven’t cashed their
cheques, so we just want to make sure that it didn’t get lost in the
mail or something of that nature,” Stefanson told reporters.

“I think it’s informing Manitobans about how they can get the
moneys that they should be getting,” she added.

Many other ad campaigns are ending or have already ended,
Stefanson said.

The premier’s office later clarified in a written statement that
future ads about the cheques will be strictly to remind people that
there is a Sept. 30 deadline to apply if they did not already
receive their payments.

The Opposition New Democrats accused the government of tilting
the electoral playing field by changing the law and continuing to
advertise with an election looming.

“They’re using loopholes now that ultimately, I think, will …
give them some justification that they’re going to use now to say,
‘Well we have to keep advertising,”’ NDP justice critic Matt Wiebe
said.

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Wiebe would not commit to reinstating the previous advertising
restrictions if the NDP wins the election. He said details of any
NDP plan would come later.

The last day before the scheduled advertising blackout was a busy
one for the government.

There were millions of dollars in announcements, including a
pledge of up to $1 million to support a bid by the Winnipeg Sea
Bears to host the 2025 Canadian Elite Basketball League
championship.

Other announcements have included $11 million for a sobering
centre and transitional housing projects in Brandon and $6.7 million
for a feasibility study on a potential Indigenous-led trade corridor
from Fort McMurray, Alta., to the coast of Hudson Bay in northern
Manitoba.

Opinion polls over the last two years have suggested the Tories
are trailing the New Democrats, especially in Winnipeg, where most
legislature seats are.

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