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On (Not Exactly) The Campaign Trail

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I'm loving the election. In large part because I haven't been burdened with having to follow of any one campaign full time. But by the end of this week I will have snagged a taste of the three major campaigns. Here are the best bits and bites I've uncovered:What's with the all-star line up of non-supporters surrounding Premier Gary Doer during his campaign announcements?First, it was University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy, appearing with the premier on Earth Day. Then Moose owner and all-around smart guy Mark Chipman showed up at an event at the MTS Centre to lavish praise on Doer. All this happened just a few days after Doer masterfully managed to produce a nifty photo opportunity with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the announcement of federal support for the Museum of Human Rights. (Doer didn't even wait until the seatbelt sight had been turned off on the prime minister's departing plane before dropping the writ.)This isn't just a coincidence. Doer has cultivated support from a lot of important people who cross all party lines. He helped fix Axworthy's university, helped build Chipman's arena and has generally stayed out of Harper's way. That doesn't mean any of them will vote for Doer or the NDP, but it does mean they're not likely to work to defeat him. It also means he has markers to call in and as he goes for three straight majorities, you can bet he's calling them in. That's big.****You know, the first thing I thought of when the heard about infamous Erin Selby "prop" controversy arose was - haven't I seen this before? Not the controversy, but the photo op.In 2003, in the early days of the campaign, Doer appeared in the backyard of then rookie candidate Theresa Oswald's backyard for a photo opportunity. Oswald didn't have triplets to show off, but her family was out in force for a barbecue. And as I remember it now, like Selby, Oswald didn't have that much to say either.This is not, however, a suggestion the premier was using anyone as a prop. Leaders lead, and quite often eclipse candidates at events. If you look at the party websites you will see that "Hugh" is doing this and "Gary" is doing that. Based on the ass-backward theory that the less you say the more likely you are to be a prop, that makes the other 56 candidates in each party props.The prop controversy was nothing more than mischief orchestrated by a news organization that, in the end, made both the NDP and Tories seem silly. Oswald clearly wasn't a prop, as witnessed by her meteoric rise to the position of health minister. The premier didn't abuse Selby or her children, and if Tory MLA Jack Reimer had been disciplined enough not to repeat a reporter's question in his answer, there would have been no story. There wasn't a story in 2003 because, well, it wasn't a story then either.****We are now through two events in what appears to be the Hugh McFadyen campaign decathalon. The Tory leader is doing all he can to exploit the fact he is 20 years younger than either Doer or Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard. He's got the young family. His website and news releases have the youthful lingo. ("Kickin' It In A New Direction" blared one recent release.) And he's been out showing off his nimble, youthful athletic abilities.First, it was the McFadyen 100-metre dash and he canvassed home to home with a Winnipeg candidate, otherwise known as the running prop. And then on Sunday, Hugh did his finest Pele impression by bouncing a soccer ball off his knees. The mid-air picture that appeared on all news outlets was a thing of beauty. But that has me wondering - what's next?The next decathalon event could be throwing a javelin at a picture of the premier. Then, he could clean and jerk 100 copies of the auditor general's report on the Crocus Investment Fund. If you have ideas on what other events could be used to flesh out the McFadyen campaign decathalon. All suggestions (that observe good taste) will be posted here.****In the battle of the environmentally friendly vehicles, the parties all appeared pretty even. The Liberals have their Toyota Prius, and the Tories and NDP are driving Ford Escape Hybrids. But wait a minute - perhaps they're not all quite as even-steven as they appear.This reporter personally confirmed this morning that the Tories have TWO Ford Escapes. Which begs a question.Does that make them twice as environmentally friendly, or are they the party that needs two cars when the others other need one?Once again, your comments and suggestions would be appreciated to help sort out this pressing conundrum.****The subject of the Tories theme song came up today at a news conference. If you've loaded the PC Manitoba web site you will have discovered that a jingle starts playing. I won't comment on the tune, except to say the first couple of times it happened, it scared the dickens out of me.When I complained to Tory spin doctor Michelle Bailey about the music, she frowned at my comment, and looked at me as if I was the old man yelling out the front door at the kids to turn down the car radio. "Turn down your speakers," she said.My bad. I'm clearly not going to be Kickin' It with the Tories anytime soon.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.

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