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Over the hill? That's what she said

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Did Tory MP Shelly Glover really suggest that Liberal MP Anita Neville should be defeated because she's too old? Glover said in a television interview Monday that Neville was "past her expiry date." Liberals, some voters and seniors' organizations criticized her making an "ageist" remark. For the past 24 hours, she's steadfastly refused to apologize, suggesting that she was not taking issue with Neville's age, only her lack of fresh ideas.

So, Does Glover really think Neville is over the hill? She denied it, but all evidence suggests that's exactly what she is thinking. In fact, it is one of the reasons why Conservatives in Manitoba are so frustrated about not being able to capture Neville's Winnipeg South Centre riding. Many Tories have confided that they simply do not understand how Neville, who is 68 and somewhat mobility challenged, can hold on to a seat when Liberal support in Winnipeg has dropped so profoundly. In this hyper-partisan world, it's not unusual for operatives from one party to look for any reason to disparage candidates from other parties. In Neville's case, age is the number one issue that Tories raise when they start talking her down.

Is Neville's age a relevant concern? Neville has not been the most dynamic personality in Manitoba's federal political scene. When the Liberals were in power, she was not at that time a leading candidate to be promoted to cabinet. She is, however, a diligent constituency politician with a broad network and a solid profile throughout her riding. She is good at retail politics, providing constituents with more than enough reason to re-elect her as representative for the riding.

The surprise in this story is not that Glover and many Conservatives think Neville is over the hill. It's the fact that she would say it out loud. However, in her short time in federal politics, Glover has shown herself to be a somewhat loose-lipped commodity. She is caustic, which can be an asset for politicians, and has no problem turning things personal, which is perhaps not as much of an asset as people like Glover think it is. In many ways, I have always thought she is a younger, female version of Manitoba's regional minister, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who is as tough and caustic as they come.

So while Glover may not apologize for suggesting Neville was too old, there should be little doubt that she meant to suggest Neville was too old. As a campaign strategy, it's a loser with a capital 'L.' The Tories couldn't hold on to their candidate in Winnipeg South Centre. Winnipeg School Division trustee Joyce Batemen was expected to step into that vacancy, but has not yet been confirmed.

Apology or not, it was a dumb move to come anywhere near the issue of Neville's age. So perhaps before the campaign is over, Glover will consider apologizing. If not to Neville, then perhaps to the unfortunate soul who takes on the Winnipeg South Centre Tory nomination.

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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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