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Benefit of the doubt

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Manitoba Conservative Shelly Glover got some national attention yesterday after she said Manitoba Liberal Anita Neville has "passed her prime." Glover made the comment to Winnipeg’s Global television when she was being asked about the fact the Conservatives still do not have a candidate in Winnipeg South Centre.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons asked her to apologize for being ageist. Neville said it is typical of the Conservatives to descend to personal attacks when they have nothing useful or substantial to say.

Neville is 68. She has been an MP for more than a decade.

Glover, through a spokeswoman Monday and in a statement released this morning, says she was referring to the latter when she made her comment.

"My remarks were clear: I was referring to Ms. Neville’s performance as an MP and only that. In my opinion, Ms. Neville has ceased to be an effective representative of her constituents."

Twitter was all a-flutter last night about the comment after CARP’s request for an apology. Several news outlets picked up on the issue.

Glover did not apologize for her remarks. She does not feel she has to since she does not feel she said anything disparaging.

Is it possible she was thinking Neville is old? Maybe. But isn’t it more likely she really just meant after a decade in politics it’s time for a change. There is no love lost between Neville and Glover, and Glover would think Neville should be replaced whether was 38, 68 or 108.

Could she have chosen better language? Probably. But should she be sent to her room without supper because of it? No.

In a political world however where half-truths and complete falsehoods have taken precedence over the sharing of real information, where political games to doctor every thing to meet the spin-control needs of political parties desperate to win your vote, anything and everything we say can and will be used against us.

It’s a sad reality and it is likely part of what contributes to so many voters tuning everything and everyone out. It’s easier for the media to cover "he said, she said" accusations that create tension than it is to explain who will benefit from an income splitting tax cut for families with kids or what the impact will be of a promise to provide $1,000 to $1,500 annual education grants to Canadian students.

But it’s also why increasingly political parties keep their candidates and MPs to spouting talking points dreamed up by the central campaign organizers preventing voters from actually seeing and hearing from the people behind the political persona. Politicians aren’t allowed to be human anymore because humans make mistakes. They go bankrupt. They flub their lines.

I’ve seen several times how something I’ve written and thought was unambiguous was read, misinterpreted or purposely distorted by political players. I’ve seen exactly the same sentence be called biased in favour of the Conservatives and the Liberals by opposing camps. People can read almost anything they want into anything people say, write or do.

Liberal Kevin Lamoureux’s camp did so Monday when he called up some local media outlets to complain NDP federal party spokeswoman Kathleen Monk said the NDP had "12,000 marks" in Winnipeg North in last year’s by-election.

Lamoureux said voters shouldn’t be considered "marks." Because no politicians keep list of all the registered voters in a riding, and put check marks next to the ones which have committed to voting for you. No Mr. Lamoureux. That never happens.

It would be rude and offensive for political parties to target voters and keep lists of the ones that support you so you can try and get them all out to vote on election day.

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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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