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Chicken

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I was at a debate last week at the University of Winnipeg, one organized by the Women's Studies department. It was a packed house, full of young voters wedged into the stairwell of Eckhart-Grammate Hall, the same young people politicians always say fail to participate in the process. Granted, some were taking notes for a class assignment, but still, it was a good turnout.No Tory, though, a trend across Canada that has seen Conservative candidates shun public events. Kildonan-St. Paul MP Joy Smith was supposed to attend but copped out. She also cancelled an appearance at another forum this week.I heard several students grumble about that as they filed out. I don't know why Smith chickened out. She's combative and well-spoken. She's a spotlight hog off the campaign trail. She would have made it a much more lively and relevant debate. Why didn't she show up, put up her dukes and make her case? The students probably would have lobbed the toughest questions at her, but, as it was, the crowd was painfully polite. The candidates spent more time promoting the sisterhood than really slagging each other off. This is Women's Studies for God's sake. It's not the Teamsters. What does it say about the Tories when they don't trust a veteran politician in the most tame of environments?Meanwhile, I just got an e-mail from the organizer of a debate tomorrow night in Winnipeg South Centre, where Tory Trevor Kennerd has failed to meet any of his opponents in head to head combat. This one was at Riverview School and we were planning to cover it. Turns out Kennerd has pulled out. The organizer said, as a constituent of Winnipeg South Centre, he finds it very hard to vote for someone to speak for him in Ottawa when that person can't even speak for themselves in front of a crowd.

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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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