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Kicking the Can: MPI external review aims to ‘buy time’ ahead of election, NDP MLA says

Winnipeg, Manitoba — Manitoba Public Insurance’s long-delayed “Project Nova” online transition effort has yet again found itself in the crosshairs of the Opposition in Parliament amid criticism of last Monday’s call for an external organizational review of the insurer.

Matt Wiebe, a New Democrat MLA representing the Concordia district in Winnipeg, called out the province’s Conservative government during question period last week for a move he considers to be a political misdirect leading up to an election.

“Instead of taking accountability, the government is now trying to buy time with a nine-month review, a review that just so happens to be complete after election day,” Wiebe said.

“It’s clear the PCs desperately want to buy time and to shift blame.”

Wiebe said he wants the government to reassure customers that they will not see a rate hike once the review is concluded.

In last Monday’s press release announcing the MPI review, Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen did state that “The review is to be completed by Dec. 31. While it is ongoing, MPI will continue to engage with the PUB (Public Utilities Board) to address issues previously identified by the board.

“Until the review is complete, MPI is directed to not propose any changes to rates for service or materially change its operations.”

The review is expected to coincide with PUB rate application hearings set to take place this summer and take effect in 2024.

Responding to Wiebe’s criticism on behalf of Goertzen, Economic Development Minister Jeff Wharton countered that the NDP had plenty of time to make improvements to the public insurance company over the 17 years it held government in Manitoba.

“We are taking the initiative to ensure that we bring MPI into the 21st century,” said Wharton. “Our government will definitely not put ratepayers at risk.”

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