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Viva Manitoba? Much news of latest Orange Wave fails to reach Alberta

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Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger

Knee-Dips sweep back to power in Manitoba? Premier Greg Selinger, who was chosen to replace Gary Doer when he trotted off to serve Stephen Harper in Canada's bunker in Washington, handily re-elected? This isn't what we were told would happen!

Other than the CBC -- the turbulent national broadcaster the Alberta-centric federal Conservatives would love to break up or kill off -- there's never been all that much interest in other provinces' elections out here in oil-drenched Alberta.

Even if the election in question happens to be right next-door in British Columbia, where we all hope to retire, or on the other side in Saskatchewan, whence most of us seem to come, local news sluggos are hard-pressed to tear a report off the wire the morning after a provincial general election in those places.

The media and their many friends in the Alberta government find it better that way, one supposes -- it keeps the locals from getting the idea that it might be OK to change a government, or not change one as needs dictate, every decade or so.

Still, even by these perennially low standards, the coverage of yesterday's Manitoba general election was so remarkably bad it's hard not to suspect an agenda is at play.

After all, by any journalistic measure it was a good yarn -- an overwhelming come-from-behind victory by a supposedly tired old Manitoba New Democratic government that the media, the pollsters, the pundits and the Conservative Noise Machine have been writing off for months as finished, over, passé, terminated, wrapped up and done like dinner.

Yet here these same allegedly clapped-out social democrats -- sooo 1990s when there's another shiny new Tory leader waiting in the wings, as we had been told repeatedly -- roaring back like the Winnipeg Jets in their crisp new jerseys!

Not only did the NDP kick the Tories' sorry market-fundamentalist butts, but they were smashing records all over the place: unprecedented fourth consecutive victory, largest number of seats, first Manitoba premier to get re-elected after a midstream takeover, another Tory leader takes the high jump in humiliation, etc.

It wasn't supposed to be like this! Another upstart Tory government -- backed by bazillions in corporate support -- was supposed to be swept into power by market-crazed consumers-cum-voters just in time to provide a little encouragement to Ontario to do the same thing when it goes to the polls today.

Given the outcome, the Edmonton Journal, which is arguably the best newspaper produced in these parts, managed a scant nine little paragraphs on the affair hidden in a back corner of page 10.

This adds up to about five of what we used to call column inches. Back in the day, considerably more ink than that would have been devoted to an election in a province that is home to a lot of Albertans. Elections in Luxembourg and the Balkans get better coverage than this in the pages of Alberta's moribund newspapers.

If you want to know more than that, you're going to have to Google the Winnipeg Free Press.

But you can count on it that if the Manitoba Conservatives had won -- the outcome that was not supposed to be a surprise -- the Alberta media would have paid much more attention. After all, if that had been the case, a lesson could have been spun from the vote about how Albertans should elect a Wildrose government to move this province even farther to the right.

But the way things are, one gets the sense that Alberta's media won't be spending a lot of time analyzing how this NDP victory came about -- except, of course, for a piece or two from the "Frontier Institute" or some such right-wing AtsroTurf group that'll show up in a month or two explaining that Manitobans elected social democrats again because they really crave free markets and privatization, starting with the Wheat Board in downtown Winnipeg.

And speaking of agendas and Manitoba, as we were, what was with the timing of that Air Canada announcement that it didn't want its aircrews staying in the dangerous wasteland of downtown Winnipeg? I don't know if you noticed but, with the Knee-Dips safely back in power, the only national airline with its labour relations department in the federal Tory caucus, quickly modified the reasoning behind its diktat. Turns out this upset was all about the price changed by downtown hotels, not the gangs of miscreants allegedly rampaging through the 'Peg's dusty boulevards.

Well, whatever… On the morrow there is a general election in Ontario, which is said to be a close fought battle among the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP.

If the Conservatives, whose support pollsters say has been slipping, should somehow win, coverage here in Alberta will be reassuringly detailed. If the Liberals win, as we are told is expected, it will be sparing but adequate.

But if the Ontario NDP should unexpectedly ride an Orange Wave to victory, well, you'll need to go to the CBC or the Toronto Star's website to learn anything useful.

Viva Manitoba por siempre! And, Go Jets!

This post also appears on David CLimenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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