Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

I know a set up when I see one...

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Federal Conservatives should probably reconsider their strategy when it comes to dealing with, and trying to intimidate, regulators of any kind. The big splashy execution of a search warrant at federal Tory HQ last week was a clear signal that it's not nice to mess with the Chief Electoral Officer.The Tories and Elections Canada have been locked in a legal battle over the latter's decision to reject expense claims by 67 Conservative candidates in the 2006 general election. EC has alleged the candidates were part of a scheme to launder national advertising expenses through local campaigns. The Tories have challenged Elections Canada in court.I'm not going to get into the substantive details of the allegations made by Elections Canada - that will come in the days ahead in the dead-tree version of the paper - but let it be said now that it appears the legal strategy employed by the Tories has backfired. How do we know that? Because the entire search warrant raid was a massive set up that is causing the ruling party no end of embarassment.Experienced police reporters will tell you that you only get to witness the execution of a search warrant if the police involved want you to see it. Elections Canada clearly wanted the media to see this one. I was stunned to see investigators surrounded by television cameras and reporters as they knocked on and entered Tory HQ. But that was not the only evidence of a set up.Within days of the raid, Canwest News Service obtained copies of the information used by police to get a search warrant. Experienced reporters will also tell you that it is very rare to see that information so soon after the execution of a warrant, unless of course the people executing the warrant want you to see it.Was it a set up? It sure looks that way. Was it dirty pool? Well, that depends on whether you're more outraged by Elections Canada using a weapon of mass destruction to deal with a mouse-sized problem, or by the arrogance of the Conservative Party.The moral of the story? The laws of probability state that even if you THINK you're the toughest guy on the block, sooner or later you'll meet someone tougher.-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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