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Campaign Day One - two planes, two hotels and an election

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I'll admit it. I waited one day too long to book my election plane ticket to Vancouver and I had to do a connecting flight to keep the price down for the WFP. I'm here to take in the first few days of the campaign in a province destined to help decide this election. On my long and winding road to Lotus Land, a coupla things jumped out at me...I'll give the Canadian Taxpayers Federation credit - they don't play favorites.The CTF released a scathing attack on the Conservative government for a $8.8-billion pre-election spending spree. Previously, I thought it was just the Liberal and NDP governments that suffered the sting of the CTF's ham-handed accounting. Thankfully, the CTF knows no fear or favor when it comes to manipulating the numbers.The pre-election spending spree is, really, a misnomer. Governments that call elections often time spending announcements to give them a lift. But the gross majority of that money - most times, all of the money - is already accounted for in the budget they delivered in the spring. So, while the timing is affected, the money is still the same. So it's not like the Conservatives decided to spend $9 billion more than they budgeted for in the lead up to an election.There may some exceptions to that general rule. The several hundred million dollars lavished on General Motors to save assembly plants in Ontario had to come from somewhere. And given the Conservative government didn't like the idea of corporate welfare for GM just a few months ago, it's not likely in the budget per se. So, I'll wait until I find out exactly where that money came from (some involved forgiving federal government loans made in 2005) before passing final judgement.Those of you who read the link will note that the CTF found program spending was up in the first quarter of this fiscal year by more than eight per cent. Evidence of a pre-election spending spree? Remember that any government that actually wanted to get re-elected would probably massage spending announcements to get as much of the good stuff out as possible before a writ is dropped. (Governments cannot make announcements during election periods, so if you've got money to spend, you have to make the announcement prior.)I'll stick by my guns that the CTF is unfair in criticizing the Tories for pre-election spending, just as they were unfair to do it to the Liberals, or the Manitoba NDP. On the other hand, I applaud their sense of fairness. Pain and suffering for all politicians - that's the ticket.I'd love to talk more about cool election stuff like this, but I have decided my hotel smells like the back of a restaurant - a bit putrified actually. So I'm scouting out new digs for tomorrow night and getting ready to see the PM in action.Release the hounds.-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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