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Stop the photo op already

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The disaster in Haiti is just heartbreaking.

As I drove home last night, hoping to make in time to scarf down a banana and throw on my gym clothes before heading off to a basketball practice, the radio was playing stories about Haiti.

I could not help but think philosophically about the situation, be grateful for the life I am privileged to lead and stop racing through traffic worrying about being late.

Today my reporter's cap came back on and the cynic within me made an appearance.

Late last night we got a photo from the prime minister's office of Stephen Harper on the telephone, presumably with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, discussing the situation in Haiti.

Today Defence Minister Peter Mackay is posing in Halifax as the HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Halifax leave for Haiti.

At about the same time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, were staging a photo op making a donation to the Canadian Red Cross.

Enough already. Stop posing for photo ops and just get on with the business of helping Haiti.

Much like Jean Chrétien was heavily and rightly criticized for getting in the way in a photo op of him throwing a sand bag onto a dyke in the middle of the 1997 flood in Winnipeg, these kinds of photo ops smack of political opportunism and are out of place.

Canadians compelled to donate to relief organizations helping the millions of Haitians in desperate need will not do so because of a photo of a prime minister handing over a cheque. It will be because the photos and videos coming from Haiti are horrific and the evidence of need is immense.

Canadians want to know the ships are on their way and what we're sending so we know Canada is doing what it can to help. A photo op of a minister can do little but delay the voyage.

The Canadian response to Haiti thus far has been prompt and thorough. Let's stop the photo ops and just keep the aid flowing.

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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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