Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
A tale of three Tories
Let me acknowledge something right up front: Journalists like people who return their calls and say stuff. We sometimes mistake accessible, open politicians for those with real talent, smarts or insider knowledge.
With that caveat, let me tell you a bit about putting together today's story on physician-assisted suicide and what it revealed about some long-standing issues we've had dealing with Manitoba's Conservative MPs.
I'll start with Steven Fletcher, who is either on fire with interesting policy proposals and opinions, or systematically kablooey-ing his political career. I genuinely hope it's the former, since it's not a huge exaggeration to say he's made more news -- on powerlines, assisted suicide, moose -- since being punted from cabinet than he did the whole time on the inside.
He's typically been reasonably accessible (which means he'd comment maybe half the time) but now he's offering something better than the occasional returned phone call: Real ideas and opinions. By testing the limits of PMO control over MPs, could Fletcher be clearing the way for other Manitoba Tories to speak out just a smidge more?
Next, on to Bob Sopuck, MP for Dauphin and environs. He surprised me yesterday by promptly returning my call when I phoned for comment on physician-assisted suicide. Sopuck gave me a fulsome, personal, thoughtful and eminently quotable position on the issue. Then we talked about fishing. (It's awesome this year, btw.)
Sopuck's a policy guy, with an interesting background doing wonk work that included a posting as Filmon's sustainability guy. He's got an interesting perspective from a corner of the province we inside the Perimeter don't attend to enough. It would be great to hear more from Sopuck, and other Tory backbenchers like him, including Winnipeg South's Rod Bruinooge and Winnipeg South Centre's Joyce Bateman.
Let's end with Lawrence Toet, who has not been quoted in the Free Press since election night, 2011. Yep, not once in more than two years, that I can find. I checked with Mia Rabson, our Ottawa correspondent who's now on mat leave, and she confirmed that, to the best of her recollection, Toet has never returned one of her calls. Same for me yesterday, when I called to ask about physician-assisted suicide. Not even a terse, one-line email repeating the PMO's talking points.
Mr. Toet, if you don't want to talk about euthanasia, I totally understand. Those are dangerous waters. We could talk about something else. What Transcona ought to get in the new federal infrastructure fund? Rail safety? Poverty issues in Elmwood?
Call me. I'm pretty easy to impress at this point, and I'll talk about anything you want.
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About Mary Agnes Welch
Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first covering city hall and then 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. She has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category.
She was a Southam journalism fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College in 2012-13, where she studied indigenous issues, urban planning and political science. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists and has served on several boards.
She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.
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