When the Jets came back to Winnipeg, they quickly became the hottest ticket in town, with 13,000 season’s tickets sold for a rink that seats just over 15K. Those who didn’t call within the first 17 minutes were left scrambling to snag single-game seats—including several Manitoba cabinet ministers, who got by with a little help from their friends.
As the CBC reports, no fewer than eight members of the MB NDP cabinet accepted Jets tickets from friendly, sports-loving corporations, including the ministers of finance, justice, tourism and healthy living. In fact, here’s Justice Minister Andrew Swan looking on from the front row in a brand new Jets jersey as Evander Kane lays out a vicious hit:
Suffice to say, citizens of Manitoba are quite upset, and not just because the fat cats got to see some games for free that they forked out a small fortune for. There’s a conflict of interest inherent in a politician accepting free gifts from groups that fall under his mandate, whether it’s Tundra Oil and Gas giving up the goods to Energy Minister Dave Chomiak, Red River College edu-taining Advanced Education Minister Erin Selby, Labatt Breweries serving some up to Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau or Canad Inns accommodating Tourism Minister Flor Marcelino—all instances that were documented by the CBC. Even if Rondeau ends up drinking Molson Canadian at the game, it can still be seen as a sign of favoritism—once the word gets out.
Unlike in the States, where politicians raise millions of dollars from “concerned citizens” (and corporations) and are expected to repay the favour on Capitol Hill, the Canadian political system aims to be more transparent by limiting individual donations, and even scrapping voter subsidies. That said, it’s hard to appear uninhibited when you’re sporting a brand new jersey in a front-row seat paid for by Manitoba Public Insurance. Maybe next time, the ministers will just hafta settle for nosebleeds…