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$2m for (boring) byelections

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A reader inspired a good question today – how much will this spate of federal and provincial byelections cost? I checked. The answer is $2 million.

That includes roughly $885,000 for each of the federal byelections — one in Merv Tweed’s old seat in Brandon-Souris and one to replace Vic Toews in Provencher. It also includes about $250,000 for a provincial byelection to replace MLA Larry Maguire in Arthur-Virden.

Elections aren’t the time to penny-pinch, and it’s small-minded to be miserly about the chance to exercise our democratic right. But it’s still a wee bit galling to spend $2 million on such boring byelections. I fear none will result in a fulsome exploration of national or provincial issues, and even Liberals and NDPers have to admit there is minimal chance anyone but the Conservatives will win in the three ridings.

Worse, the Tories aren’t even giving us our money’s worth with lively nomination battles. Both Maguire and Steinbach Credit Union chairman Ted Falk were acclaimed as their party’s candidates. We'll see what happens with Arthur-Virden down the line.

Just for comparison, $2 million could double what the city will spend repairing community clubs over the next three years. Or it could build another couple of kilometres of the east side road. Or it could give everyone on disability in Manitoba an extra $100 a year.

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About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first as a general assignment reporter and then covering city hall and the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter.

Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school, has won several Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

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