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Eroding democracy one bad decision at a time

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Immigration Minister Jason Kenney got into hot water last week for blending partisanship and government.

As the minister of immigration Kenney gave a certificate of appreciation to an Ottawa Chinese restaurant that had been subject to a slur by a Liberal strategist. The certificate had all the provincial coats of arms, the miniter’s title and signature and in the background a giant Conservative Part of Canada logo.

Coming on the heels of a fundraising letter sent out on Kenney’s MP letterhead (that resulted in the staffer responsible quitting) it was proof, opposition MPs said, the Conservatives were using government money to fund partisan activities.

Oh no!

Because that never happens.

In the highly politicized world we live in it is virtually impossible to separate politics and governing.

I used to have a shelf behind my desk in my office in the the Manitoba Legislature with every provincial budget for more than a decade lined up beside each other. Almost all of the budgets from the 1990s were blue. Since 2000 most of them were orange or green or shades in between.

Coincidence that before 2000 the budgets were compiled by a Conservative government and that since it has been NDP?

Nope.

Pre-2006, federal government backdrops used to almost always be red. (And don’t think for a second that’s really because red is also on the Canadian flag).

Since 2006 they’re usually blue.

It may be subtle but the colours are reminders of who is in power.

It is an unfortunate reality that when you’re in government you are going to have taxpayers money at your disposal that will help promote your party. It may not always be as overt as the putting party logos on big cheques handed out at government funding announcements. Or Kenney’s party-logoed certificate.

Every spring when the provincial NDP in Manitoba get to flood the airwaves and your mailboxes with brochures and commercials promoting the budget, it’s not NDP money footing the bill. Nor will it be Conservative dollars behind the $4 million advertising campaign planned for the upcoming federal budget. Despite both campaigns clearly patting the government on the back for a job well done while cleverly omitting any of the budgets’ negatives. Like deficits, fee hikes and cuts to spending that might upset people.

It would be nice if the politicians in power had the courage to be as non-partisan as possible in government advertising. But that would be akin to waiting for Godot.

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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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