11/19/2014 04:36 EST | Updated 01/19/2015 05:59 EST

Manitoba premier under fire over attendance at NHL game, denies freebie

WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger is facing questions for attending a National Hockey League game as a guest of a Saskatchewan politician and not telling a legislature committee about it.

Several cabinet ministers were criticized in 2012 for accepting free tickets to Winnipeg Jets games, but Selinger told the legislature at the time he had always paid for his tickets.

Selinger released a list of ministers who had accepted freebies to watch the team, which had been relocated from Atlanta. His name was not on the list.

Now, Selinger has admitted to attending a Jets game on Dec. 29, 2011 with Saskatchewan Party MLA Ken Cheveldayoff and not paying for the ticket directly.

Selinger declined Tuesday to answer questions about the ticket. He sent an emailed statement saying he offered to pay, but Cheveldayoff refused, so the premier made a donation to a non-profit housing organization.

That was the same as paying for the ticket, he suggested.

Later Tuesday, the premier's spokesman, Paul McKie, sent out a "clarification" from Selinger saying he made a $300 donation to Friends Housing Inc. on Feb. 7, 2012.

"Every Jets game I’ve attended I paid for, including the 2011 game in question, which I paid for by donation," the statement said. "I also purchased season tickets directly from the Jets."

In a legislative committee meeting in May 2012, Selinger was asked directly by then-Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen whether he had "any tickets provided to him that he didn't pay for personally?"

"No," said Selinger, according to the official transcript.

"So did the premier directly purchase his tickets, then, from the Jets box office?" McFadyen asked.

"I directly purchased my own tickets, yes," Selinger responded.

"And were they purchased directly from the Jets organization?" McFadyen continued.

"Yes," Selinger said.

The day after the exchange, the government set out a policy banning the acceptance of tickets to professional sports events.

Opposition Leader Brian Pallister stopped short of saying Selinger misled the legislature, but he did say he plans to review the transcript of Selinger's comments in the legislature to see whether he was telling the truth.

Pallister said he's been offered free NHL tickets before, among other gifts, but has declined. He couldn't say if anyone in his caucus accepted tickets before he became leader in July 2012, but Pallister said the rules are clear now.

"They do not take gifts or tickets of any kind. That's the rule," he said Wednesday. "It's not a question of taking them and then later donating money."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version misspelled Cheveldayoff's name.

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