PRESS

A matter of ethics

DOUG SMITH July 7 1986
PRESS

A matter of ethics

DOUG SMITH July 7 1986

A matter of ethics

PRESS

The Winnipeg Free Press investigation that forced the May 19 resignation of Manitoba Energy Minister Wilson Parasiuk has spawned a second controversy: the newspaper’s own coverage of the story. In fact, during the first two days of a judicial inquiry into a possible conflict of interest involving Parasiuk, the former

cabinet minister’s lawyer, Alan MacInnes, questioned the journalistic ethics of the paper. And he told inquiry commissioner Samuel Freedman that his client was the victim of “a trial by media, trial by headline.” Since April the newspaper has printed two series of articles examining some of Parasiuk’s financial connections. But those reports have come under attack from the energy minister’s colleagues. Indeed, in an editorial published two days after Parasiuk’s resignation, the Free Press itself stated, “On the face of it, the facts published in this newspaper since last Saturday do not point to a conflict of interest.”

Following Parasiuk’s resignation, Premier Howard Pawley appointed former Manitoba Chief Justice Freedman to conduct an inquiry into the affair. The inquiry adjourned on June 4 but will resume July 2. And Parasiuk

has said that he expects to return to the cabinet when Freedman issues his report next month. At the centre of the controversy is The Brokerage, an 87-year-old office building in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, an area currently undergoing extensive renewal. In 1982 Brokerage owner Michael Decter, the former clerk of the province’s executive council, convinced some friends and family members to invest in his building to raise money for renovations. Among the investors were Parasiuk and Douglas Davison, a former Manitoba assistant deputy minister of employment services. Then, in June, 1984, Davison asked his partners to buy him out. A month later Davison’s consulting firm received a $40,081 contract from the Manitoba Energy Authority, part of Parasiuk’s portfolio. This year, on May 17 the Free Press reported those events under the headline, Parasiuk Partner Gets a Hydro Contract. Two days later Parasiuk resigned.

Earlier, on April 19 the Free Press had reported that Parasiuk, his mother and his sister had saved more than $86,000 on their income taxes by investing in a company of-

0 fering scientific research tax

1 credits. Described by former I Manitoba finance minister z Victor Shroeder as “legalized S theft,” the federal program

was intended to stimulate investment in scientific research when introduced by the Liberals in 1983. The Conservatives cancelled the credit program in October, 1984, after federal finance department officials uncovered widespread abuses. A week after the story appeared, Parasiuk said he regretted his actions.

Meanwhile, William Neville, a political scientist at the University of Manitoba who was once an aide to former Manitoba Conservative leader Sidney Spivak, said: “This kind of thing has become an occupational hazard of being in politics. I think there is a kind of zeal which has to raise questions as to whether sensible people would want to hold public office.” But Parasiuk, his supporters and his critics will all have to wait until the inquiry report is released in mid-August to see if Freedman shares that opinion.

—DOUG SMITH in Winnipeg