Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

You write about MPI at your own risk....

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A column in today's Free Press written by yours truly has proven once again that Manitoba Public Insurance is a touchy issue.The column essentially congratulates MPI for forcing owners of theft-prone cars to install immobilizers. It goes on to argue that if MPI took the same aggressive approach to road safety, we'd all be much better off. In particular, the author would like to see some of the enormous cash reserves amassed by MPI spent on improving intersections, building grade separations and replacing Winnipeg's aging traffic light system.The emails have been flying in on this one. It seems it's not nice to try and defend a government monopoly, no matter what they do. And it seems MPI in particular tends to bring out the conspiracy theorists and "Live Free or Die" crusaders like no other issue. I'm having trouble following all the arguments flying in my direction, but apparently MPI is controlled by Masons, was involved in killing JFK and may be responsible for global warming.Consider the following reader comments:"Your article is a complete disappointment and is a disgrace to the Winnipeg Free Press," wrote one spunky reader.One letter the editor commented: "So Dan Lett wants to give MPI a mandate to start spending its captive audience’s rate premiums to fix our city and province,s disgraceful roads and infrastructure rather than rebate the money to the rate payers they over charge in the first place. And here I thought infrastructure was one of the things I should expect to have looked after out of the 48% of my wages I already shell out in one form or another of city, provincial and federal taxes."One somewhat unintelligible reader offered this theory on a FP-MPI consipiracy: "There will come a day when your words and your articles will be perfect proof of the Winnipeg Free Press-MPI partnership & regarding the immobolizers, you missed the boat, but hey whatever floats yours is all that realy matters anyways."Huh?Anyway, it seems that any time government or its agencies do something bold, the libertarians come flying to the rescue to point out how horrible they are being treated. I imagine that upon learning of MPI's Draconian measures, the internal conversation in the minds of many libertarians went something like this:"Who cares if it's easier to steal my care without an immobilizer? YOU CAN'T FORCE ME TO GET ONE IF I DON"T WANT TO."Followed by: "OKAY, YOU CAN FORCE ME BUT I WON'T LIKE IT."Finally: "I REALLY DON'T LIKE THIS AND I WANT TO EVISCERATE ANYONE WHO THINKS IT IS A GOOD IDEA."I remember as a young reporter working in Alberta while that province was debating mandatory seat belt use. Like the anti-immobilizer folks here, the "average" Albertans I interviewed couldn't care less about safety and insurance rates. It was about their rights as an individual. Especially the right to be lazy and not take precautions to protect themselves and others on the road.-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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