While Small Businesses Struggle, Are Clients of PC Consultant-Turned Bureaucrat Getting Special Treatment?

November 25, 2020

TREATY ONE TERRITORY, WINNIPEG, MB - Manitoba Liberals are questioning the Pallister PCs decision to hire a former PC Candidate, Michelle Richard, as Director of Municipal Relations with the Priorities and Planning Secretariat. As a consultant, Richard has a number of clients who have benefited, or stand to benefit from, rulings by the government.

Richard is a partner at consulting firm "Richard + Wintrup" and is involved in a number of major, and sometimes contentious, projects that require or received government approval in the past months.

Among the projects that have been, or are, under review by the province on which Richard + Wintrup were consultants include:

  • Starlight Developments: On the Saturday of the May Long Weekend, the Manitoba Government announced they would provide $28.7-million in tax increment financing to the Toronto Developer, which has purchased Portage Place.
  • CanWhite Sands, which is pushing the Vivian Sands sand mine project. Local residents asked that the controversial project be subject to a stringent environmental review, since it involves punching boreholes over Manitoba's largest aquifer. Richards ran the public consultation for CanWhite in May.
  • Munro Construction on the contentious Lilyfield Quarry decision, in which a municipal board overruled the RM of Rosser, its residents, and a number of court cases. Richard went from attending the Municipal Board hearings in August to work for the government before the Board's decision was delivered. The hearings were in July 27, 28, and August 18. Richards was hired on September 9, and the Municipal Board decision was released a week later, on September 17.
  • Andrew Marquess - Fulton Grove / Parker Lands Redevelopment. Marquess and the "Parker land swap" were subject to an 2014 audit that found the land had not been appraised nor was the deal put out to tender. Marquess donated $2,500 to the 2019 re-election campaign of Riel MLA Rochelle Squires, who is now the Minister for Municipal Affairs.

While Richard was hired at the province on September 9, her company's website still features her prominently as a partner and says she is only on a "temporary leave of absence." The company boasts that, "It is not bound by convention or structure," and "We will start with the concept of economic development and not land use regulation... Does the regulation line up? If not, is it feasible to change it?"

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, MLA for St. Boniface said that aside from the potential for conflicts, Richard's hiring should raise red flags because of Bill 37, the PCs planned overhaul of Manitoba's development laws. The bill strips democratically elected officials and citizens of the right to have a say in how their communities grow, and hands it to the Minister instead.

"While thousands of Manitoba businesses have been pleading for help in this pandemic and getting nothing, businesses connected to PC consultants are getting tens of millions of dollars," said Lamont. "This would be bad enough, but the PCs are also planning to force through Bill 37, which has nothing to do with efficiency and everything to do with cutting corners to benefit Pallister's cronies."


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