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Manitoba Crown corporation head ousted after review, board chair says

WINNIPEG — The chief executive officer of Manitoba’s auto insurance Crown corporation was let go on the long weekend after an internal review of his conduct, officials said Tuesday.

Eric Herbelin’s dismissal from the top post at Manitoba Public Insurance is the latest in a string of moves following cost overruns and plans by the Crown corporation that have been questioned by provincial regulators at the Public Utilities Board.

“I can’t provide specifics on the investigation itself or the substance of the board discussions out of respect for Mr. Herbelin’s privacy, other than to say that when the findings were discussed with the board, the board determined that the employment should be terminated,” MPI board chair Ward Keith said Tuesday.

The Canadian Press was unable to reach Herbelin for comment. No other changes on the corporation’s executive are planned as a result of the review, Keith said.

Keith himself was recently appointed board chair after the former chair, Michael Sullivan, quit earlier this month.

The highest-profile trouble at MPI has been an overhaul of its core information technology systems, called Project Nova. The projected cost has nearly tripled in three years from its original $106-million price tag.

More recently, the corporation submitted plans to increase its staffing by 420 people, or 21 per cent, from the level before the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the new staff would be linked to Project Nova.

That prompted a warning from the Public Utilities Board in January. It said the hiring seemed imprudent and Project Nova was lacking in management control.

There were also questions raised about untendered contracts. Kelvin Goertzen, the minister responsible for MPI, cited that as one factor last month when he ordered an external review of the corporation. That review is expected in December, some three months after the date set for the provincial election.

Goertzen said he has confidence in the remaining board members.

“I don’t underestimate the value of Mr. Keith’s 30 years of experience at MPI and I support the direction that they took on the weekend,” Goertzen said.

The results of the review into Herbelin’s conduct were received by the board late last week and they called an emergency meeting on Sunday — the soonest allowed under board rules, Keith said.

The Opposition New Democrats said the events at MPI are leading to higher premiums.  

“It’s a mess that’s costing the people of Manitoba money,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2023.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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