Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

If it walks like a politician and talks like a politician....

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After spending a couple of weeks in Toronto, some thoughts about the rough-and-tumble Ontario election.For political animals watching the Ontario election, the Toronto Star is producing some fabulous on-line material. In particular, the Sausage Factory loves the Six Questions feature, which can be found in the multimedia section of their election page. Star reporters are asking each of the three party leaders - Premier Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Liberal Party, Ontario PC Leader John Tory and NDP Leader Howard Hampton - six questions about their views on politics and their own careers.The first question is "What do you consider your greatest achievement in politics?" The charismatic-free McGuinty references achievements he claims for his government in restoring funding to public schools. Hampton noted NDP efforts to stop a previous government from privatizing the provincial hydro utility. Tory, well, he has a rather unique approach to the question.Tory is a Tory (I know - don't you just love that?) who is constantly trying to show his compassionate side. He flaunts his experience as a chair of the United Way in Toronto, and national board member for the Salvation Army. He also can't escape the fact he has only been in politics a few years.So his greatest achievement? It was a small victory he earned for a constituent. Not a bad answer, but there was more to Tory's response that caught the attention of the Sausage Factory. In admitting his lack of experience, Tory says: "I'm not a career politician, and I don't intend to become one."Say again?Tory is campaigning to be premier of Ontario. If he doesn't want to be a career politician, then what do you call his pursuit of Ontario's highest political post? A hobby? A flirtation? A stage he is going through that he will one day outgrow? Midlife crisis anyone?Tory is demonstrating the tried and somewhat untrue strategy I call the "anti-politician politician." Tory wants you to believe that despite being leader of a major political party, and running to be premier, he is not one of "them." HE is one of YOU, and as such will help YOU fight THEM. It's a strategy that has been used to some degree by the Reform Party and its successors, and by former Ontario Premier Mike Harris. It's a populist slight of hand that attemps to, and sometimes succeeds in, making some voters forget that anyone who wants to be premier of a province is by strict definition a career politician. At least at the very moment they are running for election.Tory is in fact trying to debase politics and politicians, the very career he has choosen and the job description that best fits him. Ironically, running for higher office on a "I'm not a politician" agenda is probably the most disengenous, most insincere thing a politician could do.So John, repeat after me: I'm a politician, and I'm proud.*****It may be an unkind observation, but has there ever been a politician who appears more uptight than Dalton McGuinty? Watching him on television, I am reminded of a throw-away line from a favorite film, Ferris Bueller's Day Off.Modified, the line goes something like this: "Dalton is so uptight, if he swallowed a piece of coal, it would come back out as a diamond."Nuff said.*****All three major parties in the Ontario election are proposing multibillion-dollar public transit proposals.Wow. What would have to happen in Manitoba to get that to happen? Transit is so overlook and neglected here, it's almost not worth saving. I would hazard a guess that politicians here ignore the issue because we, the Manitobans, don't think it's a priority.We should think it's a priority. And if we want it to become an election issue, we ought to let someone know we're changing our minds.-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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