The Capital Chronicles

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  • One. Two. Cold.

    08/25/2014 2:20 PM

    Manitoba politicians are getting in on the action as part of the ALS ice bucket challenge.

    Regional minister Shelly Glover was nominated by her daughter and a small crowd of supporters cheered her on in front of the Norberry-Glenlee Community Centre Sunday when two volunteers dumped a blue recycling bin about one-third full of icy water onto her head.

     Glover posted the video on her Facebook page.

    She then nominated three others, including Manitoba Conservative Senator Don Plett. Plett was at his family cottage in Buffalo Point, MB, but still rose to the chilly challenge. He tried to pretend he was mad at Glover for doing it to him.

     "I will get you for this Shelly Glover," he said, before he nominated two fellow senators and CBC reporter Rosemary Barton.




    The ALS Associaiton in the United States credits the creation of the ice bucket challenge to Pete Frates, a 29-year-old former college baseball player from Massachussetts who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012. It became a viral social media sensation in July, as major politicians, celebrities and tech geniuses jumped into the game. Everyone from Bill Gates to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg posted videos of melted ice cubes being dumped on their heads. Recently NHL star and Winnipeg's own Jonathan Toews added a little pizazz by dumping a bucket on his head while wake surfing near his cottage in Clearwater Bay, Ont.



    Once you're nominated, the challenge is to either donate $100 to ALS research or have a bucket of ice cold water dumped on your head. Many people are doing both however. Since July 29, ALS Associated in the United States has raised nearly $80 million, compared to $64 million in all of last year. The ALS Society of Canada has brought in more than $5.6 million. Initially their fundraising goal for the year was $100,000. 

    ALS - amytrophal lateral sclerosis - is a fatal progressive neurodegentive disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Between 2,500 and 3,000 Canadians over 18 are living with ALS right now.


  • The chicken, the egg and the love affair with Justin Trudeau

    08/19/2014 8:53 AM

    For readers who are already convinced Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada are getting more than their fair share of attention, the events of recent days and those to come will do nothing to dispel those thoughts.

    National and local stories in the last several days have been dominated by Trudeau. He visited Winnipeg last week so he got coverage in our paper for that. On Saturday his Ottawa home was broken into while his wife and kids slept, and a menacing note left behind. The coverage of that is still dominating national stories, including a question of whether or not he needs his own security detail.

    This week Liberal MPs are meeting in Edmonton for a caucus meeting, generating coverage about a Liberal push in Alberta.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have the fortune of being in government and therefore getting press simply by being the deciders. Harper’s annual arctic tour which kicks off later this week will get lots of coverage because he is the prime minister and he gets to go around announcing stuff people want.

    Sadly that is not the case for Thomas Mulcair. He is neither the decider nor the young Dauphin.

    His main appearances in the news in the last week have been about his party being chastised by the House of Commons for using Parliamentary budget dollars to pay for satellite party offices in Quebec. It’s a story which tarnishes the image the NDP have long tried to project as a party which is not tainted by the same kind of questionable operating tactics as the others.

    His visit Monday to Terrace, B.C., generated little attention and almost nothing on a national scale. He is in Vancouver today but it likely won’t generate much more attention.  Meanwhile Trudeau’s name is in a headline (or two or three) in pretty much every major newspaper in Canada this morning.

    A story in the Globe and Mail last week had some NDP insiders bemoaning the coverage Trudeau gets, and complaining that as the official opposition their party should automatically get second billing in every media story.

    Now they face the possibility that the third-place guy is going to get his own RCMP security detail and their guy is well, not really needing a security detail.

    Whether Trudeau and his family receive protection should not be fodder for political debate but one can hardly blame the NDP for bristling at the idea since it is just one more indication their guy is simply not as big a star as Justin Trudeau.

    Mulcair is a great politician. He can glad hand on the streets with the best of them. When he wants to be, he can be warm and charming. His ability to prosecute the government in Question Period is second to none.

    But what gets more attention in the public? Question period or a politician practically juggling an infant during a parade.

    What will generate more votes? A politician who strolls through pavilions, smiling and posing for selfies with every Tom, Dick and grandmother waiting or a politician who complains he doesn’t get a private tour of a flood zone during a major natural disaster?

    Fair or not, Trudeau and his team have found a formula that gets attention in the social media-dominated, 24-hour, play-by-play news cycle we live in today. Yes, it is helped along by a news corps that leaps eagerly at handsome shiny baubles. Yes it is aided by the fact a lot of Canadians loved Pierre Trudeau and have a je ne sais quois crush on his son. And yes it is annoying when personality trumps policy.

    But we have a chicken and egg situation here – the media cover the Trudeau circus because the public eats it up and the public eats it up because the media is covering the Trudeau circus. And around and around we go.


  • Polling polling everywhere

    08/11/2014 12:24 PM

    The latest poll on federal voting intentions probably has the Liberal Party of Canada enjoying this Monday a bit more than the Conservatives or the NDP.

    The EKOS Politics poll has the Liberals narrowing in on majority territory if an election were held today, with 38.7 per cent support, compared to 25.6 per cent for the Conservatives and 23.4 per cent for the NDP. EKOS president Frank Graves said if these results were what happened on the next election day the current Conservative government would find itself not just out of government, but down in third place.

    That’s thanks to the fact that the NDP vote is a bit more efficient in seat-rich Quebec, and the Conservative numbers are bolstered somewhat by its dominance in Alberta, where there are fewer seats to be had.

    He also said it is worth noting governments tend to do better in the polls when they are not currently sitting, since it gives them less time under fire in Question Period and more time out making vote-influencing announcements.

    Of course pollsters have taken a pummeling of late with poor predictions of provincial election results. Although EKOS it should probably be noted did well recently accurately predicting the Liberal majority government in Ontario, and the popular vote result of the opposition Tories.

    There is also more than a year until the next election and lots of room for something big to happen. The federal Conservatives may be down but with the most experienced leader (okay the only experienced leader), the biggest bank account and an enviable understanding of the electorate with its voter database, it would be foolish to write the party off.

    So what should Manitobans take away from this latest poll?

    Even Graves acknowledges the answer is probably not a whole heck of a lot.

    This particular poll has the Liberals topping the Manitoba field with 34 per cent, followed by the NDP at 28 per cent and the Conservatives at 26 per cent.

    Wait, you might be asking. The Conservatives, the party that currently holds 11 of Manitoba’s 14 seats, they are down in third place?

    Well yes, the poll would respond, they are.

    But nobody need offer up an oxygen mask to Prime Minister Stephen Harper just yet because the sample size in Manitoba is just not big enough to know whether these numbers are accurate in any way. This poll is based on responses from fewer than 100 people in Manitoba, and the margin of error is almost 10 percentage points.

    That means the Conservatives could be as high as 36 per cent and the Liberals as low as 24 per cent. EKOS has shown Manitoba numbers to be all over the place of late – in May the Conservatives were ahead of the Liberals by 13 points. Last January the Liberals had nearly a 23 point lead.

    This is the same problem you will have looking at almost any national poll. The Manitoba numbers are just not reliable because of a huge margin of error.

    So while it’s definitely fair to believe that the upswing in Liberal fortunes taking place elsewhere (in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic particularly) is at least a little bit present in Manitoba, it is far too premature to be writing the exit stories for most of the Conservative MPs in Manitoba.

    As the one-year countdown to the next federal election nears you are going to likely see a ton of polls reported on who is leading the horse race. Take all with a grain of salt when they tell you what’s happening in Manitoba unless the sample size is significantly bigger than 98 people.


  • Tweet Tweet. D'oh.

    08/5/2014 10:18 AM

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper likes Homer Simpson.

    Or does he?

    CBC reported over the long weekend that the fabled, donut-loving cartoon dad was among the 223 people Harper follows on Twitter.

    Not long after, Simpson got the boot.

    Have no fear Homer. You are in good company as Harper also does not follow Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron or any other G7 leaders. But let's be real.

    Is analyzing Harper's twitter account really going to tell us much? What are the odds he actually uses it himself? Slim to less than none. 

    @pmharper follows 224 Twitter users as of 1:20 p.m. Eastern time today. He has tweeted 2,581 times and has 493,000 followers.

    Most of his tweets are repeats of official news releases (albeit in shorter form), and the occasional "Hey, I'm a regular person just like you" injection, such as a photograph of himself at the Ottawa Red Blacks game Saturday night. (A game I was at but only knew he was in attendance because I was texting with someone who was watching the game on television).



    It's unlikely we'll dredge up anything remotely interesting (read: not preplanned for specific political gain) on his Twitter feed or even those of the opposition leaders for that matter. But what about regular old jane or joe MPs? Even cabinet ministers are allowed to tweet themselves and many do.  

    Treasury Board President Tony Clement (@TonyclementCPC) is one of the best at it, using the medium expertly to both disseminate talking points but speak directly to his friends and foes alike. Sometimes it gets him into trouble - such as picking an online fight with a teenager. But the technology also gives him a human side, and a glimpse at the man behind the name.

    Backbench and opposiiton MPs mainly run their own Twitter accounts, including reading the tweets and choosing who to follow. 

    So What about our Manitoba MPs? Generally they follow people you'd expect: other politicians, mostly in their own political party but all follow some in other parties, people in their areas of interest or expertise, media. This in itself can be useful information, giving a glimpse perhaps of who they admire, or where within their own parties they tend to lean.

    Some, such as Joyce Bateman, Shelly Glover and rookie Provencher MP Ted Falk, appear to stick solely to people and organizations connected to their political roles. 

    NDP MP Pat Martin and Conservative Bob Sopuck are not on Twitter. (Martin quit the site in 2012 after a slew of hot-headed tweets landed him in hot water.)

    But most seem to have a few on their lists that might give you a glimpse at the person behind the politician.

    A quick synopsis follows. The "last tweet" embedded is the last tweet the politician posted that wasn't a retweet.

    Niki Ashton, NDP


    Tweets: 6,080

    Followers: 9,213

    Follows: 1,410

    You might be interested to know she follows: Ron Burgundy (fictional lead character in Anchorman movie series), the Saskatchewan Roughriders (no Bombers Niki?), comedian Ricky Gervais, actress Lena Dunham, former first daughter Chelsea Clinton.

    Last tweet:



    Joyce Bateman, Conservative


    Tweets: 343

    Followers: 512

    Following: 195

    You might be interested to know she follows: Assiniboine Park Zoo, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Pride Winnipeg 

    Last tweet:



    Candice Bergen, Conservative


    Tweets: 1,655

    Followers: 3,365

    Following: 1,305 

    You might be interested to know she follows: Prime Minister of Israel, Frank Magazine, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Jennifer Jones curling team, Milt Stegall

    Last tweet:



    James Bezan, Conservative 


    Tweets: 679

    Followers: 3,504

    Following: 1,163

    You might be interested to know he follows: Winnipeg Cinematheque, Winnipeg Pizza Blog, Burton Cummings, Royal Winnipeg Ballet 

    Last tweet:



    Rod Bruinooge, Conservative


    Tweets: 227

    Followers: 5,177

    Follows: 3,389

    You might be interested to know he follows: Mike Puffy (satire of Conservative Senator Mike Duffy), Winnipeg Jets, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Useful Cannabis.

    Last tweet:




    Ted Falk, Conservative


    Tweets: 53

    Followers: 228

    Follows: 80

    You might be interested to know he follows: Mennonite Heritage Village, Tip Dreg (Jesus-inspired rapper from Blumenort, Manitoba)

    Last tweet:



    Steven Fletcher, Conservative


    Tweets: 1,017

    Followers: 5,366

    Follows: 2,521

    You might be interested to know he follows: Think Geek, NFL and college football, @popehat, @vampirewiki and @superbadadvice

     Last tweet:



    Shelly Glover, Conservative 



    Followers: 2,208

    Follows: 56

    You might be interested to know she follows: Canadian country music artist Brett Kissell, Clarence House (official residence of Prince Charles), British Monarchy

    Last tweet:



    Kevin Lamoureux, Liberal 


    Tweets: 420

    Followers: 1,922

    Follows: 93

    You might be interested to know he follows: Ace Burpee, Jian Ghomeshi 

    Last tweet:



    Larry Maguire, Conservative 


    Tweets: 1,121

    Followers: 1,208

    Following: 996

    You might be interested to know he follows: Ontario curlers Rachel Homan, Brad Jacobs, Brandon Marlins baseball

    Last tweet:



    Joy Smith, Conservative 


    Tweets: 2,215

    Followers: 2,520

    Follows: 2,206

    You might be interested to know she follows: Melinda Gates, The Winnipeg Jets, Curler Jennifer Jones, Team Canada Women's hockey, Olympic hockey players Hayley Wickenheiser and Meghan Agosta.

    Last Tweet:



    Lawrence Toet, Conservative 


    Tweets: 324

    Followers: 768

    Following: 372

    You might be interest to know he follows: soccer player Christine Sinclair, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell, the Rocky Mountaineer 

    Last Tweet:




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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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