Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Dear Vic, I can be your patsy, too

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Dear Vic;

Thanks for reading the Winnipeg Free Press.

It’s great you and your friends follow the paper as close as you do and what we’re posting on our website. It’s a great news website, isn’t it?

You’re one of the busiest guys in the country with all the responsibilities the prime minister has assigned you, so taking the time to visit our website and providing feedback is much appreciated.

I’ve reciprocated your patronage to our paper by registering with your website.

But enough happy talk.

I understand you’re upset at how our paper, and me in particular, covers your government and all the great things it’s doing for Canadians.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to share with our readers a note you recently sent out concerning me and the paper. My boss forwarded it to me as you were remiss in sending me a copy:

Dear Friends, Colleagues and Others,

One of my constituents drew an article in today's WFP to my attention (click here to see article).

In doing so, he also indicated that he had been noticing a very clear pattern of WFP "news reports" omitting any quotes from, or indeed often omitting to mention the presence of, a federal Conservative MP at announcements involving joint federal/provincial funding. He wondered whether in fact a federal MP had been involved in the announcement referred to in the article and why the WFP would characterize this particular initiative as solely "the new way in how the Selinger government will fund addictions treatment".

A good question especially since a federal MP - Joy Smith I am advised - was present and this type of initiative is certainly an approach that our government supports.

The fact that the WFP continues to minimize the Conservative government's involvement in these types of initiatives is not startling. As a general rule the input of a federal Conservative MP is sought only when there is an attempt by the WFP to cast the Conservative government in a bad light.

At the same time no comment from or a minimal reference to any participation by our federal government is the general rule when the story is generally positive.

As I told my constituent, I don't expect a political opponent to tell the full story when it comes to talking about our government's initiatives. And in Manitoba, the partisan political efforts of the WFP are no exception to that expectation.

Vic Toews

Vic, so you know it was me and me alone who chose to ignore Joy Smith. I also ignored Manitoba’s Housing and Community Development Minister Kerri-Irvin Ross and Point Douglas city councillor Mike Pagtakhan, who both also spoke at the announcement. (If you’re curious about what they had to say, the official news release is posted here).

It’s not because I have any real political bias – I can be anyone’s patsy. That’s how I flow.

I just thought none of them had anything interesting to say. I guess in a way you could say not only did I ignore a federal Tory, but I also ignored an NDP cabinet minister and a Liberal city councillor. My bias that day was spread equally among each party.

I was content that day to only quote Heather Leeman, executive director of the North End Women’s Centre, and a client of the centre’s services, Rosalee Genaille. In my estimation what they said mattered more than three politicians slapping themselves on the back.

In walking back to my car I had a quick chat with Jim Rondeau, the province’s Healthy Living minister and one of the provincial government’s main people responsible for addiction services. He didn’t speak at the announcement, but was there as a guest.

We stood in the shade at the corner of Selkirk Avenue and Aikins Street and talked about our summer holidays and the pros and cons of owning a cottage.

That’s when he volunteered his comments about the new transitional housing centre just announced.

Rondeau’s recently been under fire for ignoring addiction services, so I thought what he had to say had a bit of news value. So I quoted him.

Was it the right call? Who knows? These days it seems the only time I make the right decision is when I agree with my wife and kids.

Anyway Vic, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And Vic, next time we bump into one another, let’s chat. We’ve known each other a long time from our court days. I can be your patsy, too, OK?

I hope your summer has been as good as mine.

Your pal, Bruce

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca
 

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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