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Libraries and cotton candy

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There was movement last week on several bills with Manitoba roots.

Conservative MP Merv Tweed's private member's bill passed to extend the reduced shipping rate for library materials between libraries to other media including CDs and DVDs. It is particulary important for rural libraries which can't afford to buy every title but can share them between each other so people can access the materials.

The House of Commons passed the bill without any dissent last Wednesday.

Also former NDP MP Judy Wasylcycia-Leis's legislation passed to make it easier to get cheaper, generic versions of lifesaving HIV drugs (and other medicines) to patients in developing countries who otherwise can't afford them. It passed by a margin of 164 to 119 with the NDP, Bloc all but one Liberal and more than a dozen Conservatives voting in favour, and Liberal Keith Martin and 118 Conservatives voting against it.

Since Wasylycia-Leis resigned the bill was taken up by Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar.

Of course if (read when) the election happens both bills will die and two more pieces of legislation with practical and in the latter case, life-saving, implications, will die.

Somehow we've got to have a better way to get private members' business through the house faster.

Wasylycia-Leis's push to get the government to ban mini cigars flavoured like candy (grape, cotton candy and peach are among some of the popular flavours) also was back in action last week, this time with the help of Halifax NDP MP Megan Leslie. The bill Wasylycia-Leis generated to ban the candy-flavoured cigarellos which appeal greatly to kids was taken up by the Health Minister and passed by Parliament more than a year ago.

But the bill only banned flavoured cigars of a certain size. Unfiltered, larger ones, and flavoured smokeless tobacco are still allowed, mostly getting around the ban.

Leslie had a news conference on the Hill last week to get attention to push the ban even further.

In this case the election might actually help. When Wasylycia-Leis introduced her private members' bill to ban the candy-flavoured products the Conservatives made it an election promise in the campaign a few months later. Keep an eye out to see if extending the ban gets its second round on the government's agenda during this campaign. (If you can see past all the mid slinging that is).

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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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