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I can't blog about this because it doesn't exist

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Here's my favourite obfuscation of the day: "The minister is unable to comment on legislation that does not exist."

That was the line from the Doer government yesterday when my pod-mate Carol Sanders tried to get Labour Minister Nancy Allan on the horn to talk about why the province has no anti-scab legislation. The impetus for the question was a move by Safeway to hire scab workers in advance of an expected strike.

Usually companies hire replacement workers quietly, knowing it's frowned upon by even the most lukewarm union supporter and knowing it exacerbates ill will between union and management.

Not Safeway. They took out quarter-page ads and held a job fair at a Polo Park hotel.

Anyway, that all begs the question - why does an NDP government led by the former boss of one of the province's most powerful unions not have anti-scab legislation? So Carol asked the question the NDP government has probably been asked dozens of times - and got the world's silliest answer: We can't talk about what we haven't done because we haven't done it.

If the government can't talk about hypothetical legislation, then it can't talk about pet bills before they're proclaimed or Plan Winnipeg amendments needed for the IKEA development or changes it wants Ottawa to make to young offender laws.

The funny thing is, Nancy Allan herself probably had a pretty smart, combative and convincing reason why there's no anti-scab legislation - like maybe it's not really needed because strikes are actually pretty rare in the province or a better way to deal with labour strife is through arbitration, not heavy-handed laws.

But cloaking the minister in patently irrational statements when 3,300 workers in the province are about to hit the bricks helps no one.

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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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