WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
The confusion is understandable — no, the provincial Assiniboia constituency doesn't cover all of the west side of Winnipeg on both sides of the Assiniboine River.
And no, if signs for Independent Assiniboia MLA Steven Fletcher show up at the University of Manitoba campus, that won't make it part of the constituency.
Fletcher said Monday he's putting up the signs wherever his constituents may go in west Winnipeg, though he pays out of his own pocket if it's outside the constituency.
He may soon be putting up the signs as far afield as Fort Whyte or the U of M campus in Fort Garry, the former Tory said.
Fletcher would not address the coincidence that most of the signs outside the Assiniboia boundaries are going up within the Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley federal riding, in which he's announced he'll seek the Conservative nomination. He lost the seat in 2015.
Winnipeg School Division trustee Mark Wasyliw spotted one of the signs this past weekend while at his child's hockey game in Varsity View Arena in south Charleswood, the riding of Charleswood MLA and Speaker Myrna Driedger.
"I have never seen in my time in hockey in Winnipeg an MLA or councillor ever advertise in a rink that was outside their riding/ward. I understand that Mr. Fletcher has expressed public interest in running for MP of the riding where Varsity View Arena is located," said Wasyliw.
Such advertising increases public cynicism towards politicians, Wasyliw said. "If he is paying for ads out of his own money that are clearly intended to advertise for his federal run in politics, is he going to disclose and account for them in the spending limits for the federal nomination run for that riding? Something about this simply does not pass the smell test," said Wasyliw.
Elections Canada could not be reached Monday.
"Huh, that’s odd," was Fletcher's response. "Why would a trustee even care?
"I have signs in all the community clubs in west Winnipeg and all the curling rinks. People from my riding use these facilities. The signs have been up for many months. Everything is done in accordance with the rules with Elections Manitoba and the legislature," Fletcher said by email.
Fletcher said he's well aware that the rules for MLA members' allowances allow him to use public money only for non-political signs placed within his riding.
"I will have more signs up and bus benches as time goes on," he said. "There are no limits in the location of signage. Perhaps, some will appear in Fort Whyte or Wellington Crescent or at the university. Everything is done within Elections Manitoba guidelines, rules and the same with the rules governing the legislature."
The government Tory caucus booted Fletcher out last year after he went rogue once too often. He continues to be a thorn in the side of Premier Brian Pallister's government, filing numerous private member's bills and holding up legislature business on points of order and points of privilege.
Pallister is the MLA for Fort Whyte and lives on Wellington Crescent.
The provincial parties had no immediate comment Monday afternoon.