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Winnipeg firm hired for multimedia campaign

Tories get help to polish their message

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OTTAWA -- You know those pesky political flyers that land on your doorstep?

The ones that we pay for as taxpayers so MPs can speak to us about what is going on in government but which political parties have started using as partisan tools to attack each other?

Get ready for them to go live.

The Winnipeg new media design firm, Mars Hill Group, has landed a contract with the federal Conservatives to "deliver their message to supporters nation-wide."

The company's website says they will be helping individual Conservative MPs and Senators make personal, customized videos. The first one will star former CTV host turned Conservative Senator Mike Duffy and will "start hitting inboxes early this fall."

Now don't worry. These aren't going to be paid for by John Q. Canadian. There is nothing in the parliamentary allowance to pay for video messaging. At least not yet.

But maybe they'll help the fledgling video creations already out there by MPs.

Like Manitoba's own James Bezan.

Bezan, the Conservative MP from Selkirk-Interlake, has launched his own YouTube channel and has three episodes so far.

The introductory video comes complete with Bezan riding up on his horse, Woody, and has him delivering an afternoon-nap inducing statistical profile of his riding.

But Bezan should get credit for trying. Politicians can't rely on a basic website to reach voters anymore.

They need to go all Barack Obama and hit computer screens and blackberries everywhere with tweets and Facebook messages and YouTube.

So Bezan might be onto something if he can remember the camera company is called "Kodak" not "Kodiak", convince Woody to stop trying to head-butt him out of the shot, and get some editing assistance from Mars Hill so he is no longer heard in the videos telling people when to start speaking.


"ö "ö "ö

It's been four years since Canada and the United States announced at the 11th hour of the opening of the Devils Lake outlet that they'd come to an agreement to have the U.S. build a permanent filter on the outlet.

In exchange Manitoba agreed to do something about the road along the U.S. border between Manitoba and North Dakota that acted like a dike and kept farm fields on the U.S. side sodden in the spring while the Manitoba side was high and dry.

The agreement has gone nowhere.

There is no filter on the outlet beyond the temporary gravel filter that was put in as a stop-gap measure. Manitoba said it won't do anything to the road until North Dakota and the U.S. live up to their promises.

Legislators from Midwestern states and Canada's prairie provinces are trying to light a fire under everyone yet again.

At the 64th annual meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference in Kansas last week they passed a resolution asking both sides to live up their agreements.

Winnipeg NDP MP Jim Maloway, who attended the event, said he was surprised the resolution passed. Maloway worked on the resolution but couldn't introduce it himself because he's not from the U.S. But two North Dakota state legislators agreed and the resolution went through by a vote of 41 to 28.

It's not overwhelming support since there are over 1,500 legislators in the conference and about one-third of them attended the event. And Maloway said the vote took place on the last day when everyone was packing to go home.

Either way, the resolution will go to the White House, Ottawa and the provincial and state governments and maybe this thing can finally get resolved once and for all.


"ö "ö "ö

Manitoba was overrepresented this week at the special Health committee hearing on H1N1 influenza. Conservative MP Joy Smith was the chair while Liberal MP Anita Neville and NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis were both in attendance.

With Manitoba first nations being ground zero of this flu's impact on reserves it is perhaps fitting that we had so many seats around that table.

But Manitoba Premier Gary Doer made an appearance twice and he wasn't anywhere near the nation's capital.

Doer -- who has always seemed to pride himself on coming up with the sound bite du jour for us short-attention span media types -- was quoted during the meeting by both Wasylcyia-Leis and Dr. John Maxted, from the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

His quote?

Comparing the H1N1 influenza to a "truck coming around the corner."

It wasn't Doer who had the quote of the day however.

That went to another Manitoban: Wasylycia-Leis, who fresh off an interview with Toronto's Citytv about federal stimulus cash for tourism being used to help bring former U.S. President Bill Clinton to a Toronto speaking engagement.

When she was criticizing the government for forcing the provinces to cover 40 per cent of the cost of H1N1 vaccine Wasylycia-Leis couldn't help but bring it up.

"You have money through this stimulus package to bring in Bill Clinton," she said. "Why don't you have money for the vaccine."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2009 A6

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