Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Under siege? Blame the media

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DEAR Hon. Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety:

I'm writing a letter to you because this seems to be your favourite mode of communication these days.

While I didn't receive your latest missive, which was distributed to your usual email fan base Wednesday, it's all over the Internet now, so forgive me if I take this opportunity to respond in kind.

You're up to your old tricks in this latest one, Mr. Toews. You've always enjoyed setting up the Winnipeg Free Press as the nasty "Liberal-dominated" media that picks on you, and I guess that tactic must help you deflect criticism or you would have desisted long ago.

But your latest letter goes a little further than that, doesn't it?

It personally attacks our Ottawa reporter Mia Rabson over a blog she wrote after charges of impaired driving and cocaine possession were dropped against former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer.

In the blog, Rabson starts off noting that the Crown said it had no chance of a conviction in the case, and that it is not uncommon for cases like this to have similar results.

She goes on to describe the political furore that ensued in the House -- Liberal MP Anita Neville accusing the Conservatives of being "conspicuously silent" on the issue; Justice Minister Rob Nicholson calling Neville's comments "completely irresponsible"; and then you, Minister Toews, weighing in later with your advice to reporters that "I believe the Liberal -- the Liberal government in Ontario would be responsible for that."

Rabson then credits and excerpts her colleague David Akin's blog, which found the judge in the case, Doug Maund, is a longtime Tory.

"This is not to say Judge Maund did anything inappropriate," Rabson writes. "Jaffer's plea was the result of a negotiation with the Crown and, as noted above, Maund did remind Jaffer he was getting a break." But she winds up criticizing you for politicizing the issue, under the circumstances.

And if there's anything you can't stand, it's being criticized, isn't it?

So Wednesday you write your own version of reality.

Among other things, your letter accuses Rabson of doing a "smear job" and advancing the "Liberal spin". It says things like "this is the kind of conspiracy theory story that Mia Rabson regularly engages in because they don't involve a great deal of thought or work."

It even accuses her of "pirating" Akin's work -- "If the speed dial to Anita Neville's telephone isn't sufficient to fully accomplish her goal, why not just pirate the work of a colleague if it supports a Liberal spin on the story?"

It's a long, angry attack that resulted in Rabson and senior executives at this paper getting calls from media across Canada.

As a trained lawyer, Mr. Toews, you must know you've crossed the line.

My question to you, though, is: Have you any idea how foolish you look?

You're a senior cabinet minister. The world is not divided into Tories and evil-people-out-to-get-you. These letters -- and there have been many attacking the newspaper's 'bias' over the past few years -- reveal a surprising world view for a veteran politician.

For the record, the Winnipeg Free Press is full of writers of all political stripes. We are accused of having a Conservative bias just as often as we are accused of being NDP apologists, or Liberals.

We uphold the rights of all to their opinions.

So here's the thing. By all means continue to use the Winnipeg Free Press as the reason for all that ails you, if you think that's still working for you. We'll continue to cover the stories and issues that matter to our readers and your constituents.

But Mr. Toews? Mia Rabson's just doing her job.

She's a good reporter and will continue to try to talk to you, and accurately depict what's going on, as she has all along.

That's what professionals do.

If you can't take the heat, please feel free to drop me a line. For a change.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 11, 2010 A10

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