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Senators’ mailings okay

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Last fall, Manitoba Senator Don Plett got some attention for mailing a newsletter into Winnipeg South Centre. At the time it was the only Liberal held riding in Manitoba. (It was before Kevin Lamoureux won the byelection in Winnipeg North.)

The newsletter was mostly an outline of the Conservative philosophy on crime and justice however it did take some time to criticize the Liberals for being soft on crime.

Ontario Senator Bob Runciman sent out a similar flyer to the Ottawa riding of Liberal MP David McGuinty. Runciman told the Toronto Star he was asked to send it by the party. Plett said he sent the flyer of his own accord.

The two flyers together raised eyebrows as to whether it was the Conservatives getting around the ban on MPs sending 10 percenters into other MP’s ridings by using Senators to pick up the slack. Winnipeg South Centre is the most highly desired riding in Manitoba for the Conservatives and before the 10 percenters ban, residents there were probably subjected to Conservative flyers more than in any other riding in Manitoba.

The Senate committee which oversees administration of the upper chamber, including rules about mail outs, looked at the issue and didn’t find anything wrong with it.

Committee chair David Tkachcuk, a Conservative senator from Saskatchewan, told me today the committee didn’t really make a decision about the flyers. He said they didn’t break any rules as it stands now. After Parliament resumes later this month the committee is going to discuss whether Senate-funded mailings should include photographs of MPs.

Tkachuk said there is going to be partisan leanings in Senate newsletters because just like MPs, senators have certain political leanings. He said banning a senator from saying certain things in a flyer borders on censorship and he will not endorse that.

But Tkachuk said it’s clear senate materials should not be used for campaign purposes.

Ultimately, it’s once again up to voters to decide if they like this practice or not and whether it will influence how they vote.

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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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