Elaborate Manitoba swearing-in ceremony almost took place outdoors, documents show

By The Canadian Press

The ceremony that saw Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew and his cabinet ministers sworn in at the province’s new horticultural showcase cost $19,600 and was almost held outside, information obtained by The Canadian Press shows.

The newly elected NDP government, having ended seven years of Tory rule, opted to hold the Oct. 18 ceremony at The Leaf, a $130-million indoor attraction that opened last year with thousands of plants, a butterfly garden, and a six-story waterfall.

READ MORE: Manitoba MLAs officially sworn into office

When governments change in Manitoba, swearing-in ceremonies are held away from the legislature in order to have a space large enough to accommodate more than a dozen new ministers and their families, as well as dignitaries and other guests. Minor cabinet shuffles, which involve fewer ministers taking oaths, are usually more low-key affairs held in a ceremonial room at the legislature.

The last time the government changed hands – when the Progressive Conservatives defeated the NDP in 2016 – the swearing-in ceremony cost roughly $6,000, figures provided by the province show. It was held inside a section of the Canadian Museum For Human Rights. Some $3,400 of the total was for the hall rental and catering.

The ceremony this year was held in the main hall of The Leaf, and prompted the biomes that contain all the plant life to be closed to the public. The government did not say what portion of the $19,600 total was the cost of renting the space, and an official at the conservancy that runs The Leaf deferred questions to the government.

Documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the freedom of information law show Kinew, then the premier-designate, considered holding the ceremony outdoors.

A person whose name was redacted from the documents “advised that the premier-designate is interested in the outdoor space, which was not discussed,” Brad Robertson, chief of protocol, wrote in an Oct. 6 email to the associate clerk of the executive council.

“This presents some weather contingency issues that I am yet to discuss with The Leaf.”

The ceremony went ahead indoors and marked the election of the first First Nations premier of a province. The event was rich in tradition, with First Nations drummers and singers, Metis musicians and dancers, and the lighting of an Inuit Qulliq, or oil lamp.

Kinew was unavailable to comment Monday. He was scheduled to fly back from Hamilton, where he had spent the weekend taking part in Grey Cup events. The Canadian Football League championship saw the Montreal Alouettes defeat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 28-24

A political analyst said the higher cost of this year’s ceremony could rub some voters the wrong way.

“Governments have to look out for these kinds of self-inflicted problems,” Royce Koop, who teaches political studies at the University of Manitoba, said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 20, 2023

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