POLITICS

More details in controversy over NHL tickets in Manitoba: Hydro has tickets

05/09/2012 04:30 EDT | Updated 07/09/2012 05:12 EDT
WINNIPEG - Manitoba's Crown-owned hydro utility has four season tickets to Winnipeg Jets games, but none were given to cabinet ministers, the minister responsible said Wednesday.

The revelation from Dave Chomiak came as the government faced more accusations that insiders have been getting special access to sold-out NHL games.

"(The tickets) were distributed to employees and customers and no politicians, no MLAs, were given those tickets," Chomiak said.

"One board member attended one game using those tickets with their partner, and that's the extent of it."

Earlier this week, the government said that three cabinet ministers received free tickets from Crown agencies such as the liquor and lotteries commissions. The commissions receive tickets in exchange for advertising they buy at Jets games. Each minister later reimbursed the agencies for their tickets.

In March, the president of the liquor commission told a legislature committee that his commission's tickets were to be given to customers through promotions. But documents released this week show many were given to executives, staff and board members at the liquor commission — some of whom are appointed by the NDP government. Four single-game tickets went to a minister's office.

The opposition Progressive Conservatives have accused the government of running a "Ticketmaster-style" agency that grants NDP insiders tickets while fans are shut out.

The Jets sold out every home game this season, their first since the original Jets departed for Phoenix in 1996. Single-game tickets sell for up to $200 officially, and can go for much more through scalpers.

"We think the public has a right to know who got these tickets ... and how many are out there," Tory legislature member Ron Schuler said Wednesday.

The government was still unable Wednesday to provide a full tally of how many tickets are owned by Crown agencies. Some have provided details: the liquor commission, for example, has 10 season passes — a total of 440 tickets when broken down into individual games.

Manitoba Hydro received two season tickets in exchange for advertising it buys, Chomiak said Wednesday, and purchased another two before the season began.

The government has tried to quell the controversy by promising a new policy that would forbid politicians from accepting tickets from Crown agencies.

But the policy is very much a work-in-progress. Government ministers have given different answers this week when asked whether it would also cover the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Struthers was unable to say whether the policy had been written down.

"There's been discussions at the cabinet level, we've had people come forward with options for consideration, we've done inter-jurisdictional comparisons," Struthers said.

"We have written, on paper, drafts of what we've been discussing. When we land exactly on the policy, it'll be made public."