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A friend in D.C. for Manitoba

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Manitoba was going to have two pretty big connections to the new White House when it comes to some of the issues close to the heart of Gary Doer’s administration.

But then Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew from Barack Obama’s cabinet-select. But still Manitoba Premier Gary Doer has a good relationship with Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and Manitoba officials are hopeful Napolitano’s presence in Washington might help some of the causes near and dear to Manitoba, because they are also near and dear to her – namely cap and trade, renewable energy and border issues  to ensure security while allowing easy tourism and trade.

There is even some hope she might help Manitoba’s voice against various North Dakota water projects reach a little further.

Doer and Napolitano became friendly through the Western Governor’s group – Doer regularly attends meetings of the western governors, as governors often attend meetings of the western premiers. They are also both among the initial parties signing on to the Western Climate Change Initiative, the closest thing North America has to a cap and trade system at the moment (though it has a ways to go and doesn’t involve every state and province).

Napolitano also delivered the keynote address - at Doer’s invite - at a big conference on climate change in Manitoba in 2007.

Napolitano has a strong record behind her and she isn’t afraid to tackle tough battles. She’s a democrat in a pretty strong red state (Arizona is the home state of John McCain and has voted for a democrat for president just once in the last 40 years) but she is popular there and won re-election in 2006 by a considerable margin over her republican opponent. (She got over 62 per cent of the vote).

In 2005 she was named by Time magazine as one of the coutnry’s top five governors, recognized for slaying Arizona’s $1 billion budget deficit within two years of taking office without raising taxes.

She has also been lauded by many for her work against the illegal immigration that haunts U.S. border states with Mexico, and also for her environmental programs, including legislating emissions reductions and pushing for more use of renewable energies.

Someone close to Doer said Doer and Napolitano have a lot in common – "She’s got that common-sense, pragmatic approach – to that end, her and Gary Doer are politicians cut from a similar cloth."

Now the economy obviously is going to trump a number of other issues in the short run. Surely Napolitano will have a lot of things to worry about when she is sworn in and Manitoba’s water woes with North Dakota aren’t going to rank high on her list of priorities.

But it can never hurt to have a friend in high places. Right?

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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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