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March Farce: The Free Press defends its Ottawa shill

We had no sooner started our spring cleaning--which consists of clearing our desks of stories we haven't gotten around to---when the first story we picked up almost caused us to spit out our morning coffee.

Winnipeg Free Press Editor Margo Goodhand had written an "open letter" to Manitoba MP Vic Toews defending the FP's Parliament reporter Mia Rabson. She is not a Liberal Party shill, declared Goodhand.

"Mia Rabson's just doing her job."

"She's a good reporter..."

Rabson "accurately depict(s) what's going on, as she has all along," according to Goodhand.


We needed a good larf.

Right there in our story pile was the proof of how "accurately" Rabson depicts what's going on.

The week before Parliament reconvened, Rabson went to work--- on the Conservatives.

For the Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010, paper, she wrote a story not-so-subtly accusing the Conservatives of hypocrisy for scuttling their own tough-on-crime legislation by proroguing Parliament while blaming the Liberals for stalling the legislation in the Senate.

First quote: Anita Neville, Liberal, Manitoba, who attacked the Conservatives for accusing her party of being soft on crime. When Toews said Mia Rabson has Anita Neville on her speed dial, he wasn't kidding.

Second quote: a Toronto university professor who attacked the Conservatives for using crime to win votes. "It's a populist kind of politics...Proroguing killed all their crime legislation" sniffed Peter Russell. Russell's credentials include accusing Stephen Harper of putting "parliamentary democracy in danger" and silencing opponents through tactics "characteristic of authoritarian governments."

Third quote: a spokesman for an Ontario defence lawyers association who, you guessed it, attacked the Conservatives--- for being too tough on criminals and not addressing "the root causes" of crime. Andras Schrek may have been thinking of his client, Kenneth Wagner, second in command of the Niagara chapter of the Hells Angels, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison as the first person in Ontario to be convicted of directing others to act for a criminal organization.

One, two, three....Rabson went to all the proper left-wing sources.

Somehow she couldn't find a real human being to defend the get-tough-on-crime legislation, so she used polls.

Then she used Stats Canada and her university egghead to contradict the polls and insist crime is down, even violent crime.

Bwahahahaha. Oh, stop....

Rabson spun a story of the Liberals being falsely accused of scuttling crime bills when it's the Conservatives who are really to blame.

"For the last year, any time Liberals in the Senate attempted to make amendments to a crime bill, they were accused of "gutting" the legislation."

Without going into details, she claimed two justice bills were passed before prorogation with a third well on its way. "If Parliament hadn't prorogued, the auto-theft bill could have finished its ride through the Senate and received royal assent in January."

Not so fast... The story changes radically when the truth is re-inserted.

The Conservatives tried to get three major crime bills through Parliament last year. One would eliminate the two-for-one credit for criminals who couldn't get bail before they were convicted. Another would make auto-theft a crime in itself, carrying tough penalties. And a third imposed mandatory minimum jail terms for drug traffickers.

The "dead time" bill passed in a fashion, but only because the Conservatives compromised on how much of a break to give criminals. Instead of insisting that an eventual sentence be reduced no more than one-for-one for the time held without bail pending conviction, the Conservatives accepted one-for-one-and-a-half.

The bill to drop the hammer on drug traffickers was amended by the Liberals in the Senate to remove some of the mandatory minimum provisions. It was awaiting final approval when Parliament prorogued, but even then it does not mean the bill would have passed.

It would have been returned to the House of Commons where MP's could either accept the Liberal amendments or overrule them and ping pong the bill back. Even a minor amendment by the Liberals effectively scuttled the bill.

Note how carefully Rabson tried to suggest the auto-theft bill was a hairsbreadth away from passage. It "could have" received royal assent in January, she said. Could have? Yeah, like you "could" report the truth.

There was no way the auto-theft bill would have survived the Liberal Senate control intact. The Liberals would have amended it to remove some of the mandatory minimum provisions, which they oppose on principle. It then would have joined the drug bill in boomeranging back and forth between the houses of Parliament.

"Mia Rabson's just doing her job." wrote Margo Goodhand.

We know her job.

She's following in the footsteps of former Parliament reporter Paul Samyn whose super-cozy relationship with the Liberals in Ottawa meant that the Free Press got leaked every government report a day before the rest of the press and he could boast an "exclusive."

What did the FP give in exchange, to ensure those exclusives kept coming?

When the Liberals got booted out of office, Samyn's "exclusives" dried up. But you've got to keep priming the pump if you hope the well will fill up some day, don't you?

Mia Rabson's just doing her job.

Too bad the job doesn't include accurately reporting the news.

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