Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Cheesy move, NDP

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My boss on our news desk got an innocuous call this morning from a staffer in the Selinger government’s media office. The staffer (who was also at the NDP’s 2015 vision launch yesterday) cheerfully offered us a tour of the new birthing centre in St. Vital.

That’s an obvious attempt to do an end run around the very election spending legislation the NDP overhauled with great fanfare a few years ago.

According to the Elections Finances Act, the government cannot "publish or advertise any information about its programs or activities" in the 90 days before an election. Since early July, there’s been a ban on press releases and ministerial appearances and the deluge of photo-ops we usually see from the province.

But there’s no ban on pitching happy-love stories to media outlets. By calling us up and offering a tour of the birthing centre, the NDP aren’t publishing or advertising. They’re getting the Freep (and CTV, who were also on the tour) to do it for them. Making matters worse, two NDP cabinet ministers – Health Minister Theresa Oswald and Education Minister Nancy Allan – were on the tour. Both represent south Winnipeg ridings the Tories are targeting.

A cheesy start to an election that technically hasn’t even begun.

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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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