Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

The chicken, the egg and the love affair with Justin Trudeau

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For readers who are already convinced Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada are getting more than their fair share of attention, the events of recent days and those to come will do nothing to dispel those thoughts.

National and local stories in the last several days have been dominated by Trudeau. He visited Winnipeg last week so he got coverage in our paper for that. On Saturday his Ottawa home was broken into while his wife and kids slept, and a menacing note left behind. The coverage of that is still dominating national stories, including a question of whether or not he needs his own security detail.

This week Liberal MPs are meeting in Edmonton for a caucus meeting, generating coverage about a Liberal push in Alberta.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have the fortune of being in government and therefore getting press simply by being the deciders. Harper’s annual arctic tour which kicks off later this week will get lots of coverage because he is the prime minister and he gets to go around announcing stuff people want.

Sadly that is not the case for Thomas Mulcair. He is neither the decider nor the young Dauphin.

His main appearances in the news in the last week have been about his party being chastised by the House of Commons for using Parliamentary budget dollars to pay for satellite party offices in Quebec. It’s a story which tarnishes the image the NDP have long tried to project as a party which is not tainted by the same kind of questionable operating tactics as the others.

His visit Monday to Terrace, B.C., generated little attention and almost nothing on a national scale. He is in Vancouver today but it likely won’t generate much more attention.  Meanwhile Trudeau’s name is in a headline (or two or three) in pretty much every major newspaper in Canada this morning.

A story in the Globe and Mail last week had some NDP insiders bemoaning the coverage Trudeau gets, and complaining that as the official opposition their party should automatically get second billing in every media story.

Now they face the possibility that the third-place guy is going to get his own RCMP security detail and their guy is well, not really needing a security detail.

Whether Trudeau and his family receive protection should not be fodder for political debate but one can hardly blame the NDP for bristling at the idea since it is just one more indication their guy is simply not as big a star as Justin Trudeau.

Mulcair is a great politician. He can glad hand on the streets with the best of them. When he wants to be, he can be warm and charming. His ability to prosecute the government in Question Period is second to none.

But what gets more attention in the public? Question period or a politician practically juggling an infant during a parade.

What will generate more votes? A politician who strolls through pavilions, smiling and posing for selfies with every Tom, Dick and grandmother waiting or a politician who complains he doesn’t get a private tour of a flood zone during a major natural disaster?

Fair or not, Trudeau and his team have found a formula that gets attention in the social media-dominated, 24-hour, play-by-play news cycle we live in today. Yes, it is helped along by a news corps that leaps eagerly at handsome shiny baubles. Yes it is aided by the fact a lot of Canadians loved Pierre Trudeau and have a je ne sais quois crush on his son. And yes it is annoying when personality trumps policy.

But we have a chicken and egg situation here – the media cover the Trudeau circus because the public eats it up and the public eats it up because the media is covering the Trudeau circus. And around and around we go.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.


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