Archive for the ‘Manitoba Issues’ Category

Robert-Falcon Ouellette is in the process of introducing the Indian Residential School Genocide and Reconciliation Memorial Day Act in the House of Commons. Not everyone likes this idea of having a day each year to “dredge up” or “dwell” on something that’s, you know, like, over and done with.

I’d guess that most people feel that way, actually.

And there is a wide variety of ways for naysayers to tell us why the Residential Schools Outrage doesn’t need to keep being brought up:

  • “It was a different time, and I wasn’t around for it, and we need to move on, already, jeez…”
  • “My family is from India/Russia/Paraguay/Equestria so I don’t see why it has anything to do with us or any other New Canadians”
  • “It was the churches who did it, not the government. Blame the churchies for it. (and Praise Sagan/Hitchens/The Flying Spaghetti Monster, while we’re at it)”
  • “Those aboriginals already get free money all the friggin time, man, so it’s not like they need some new form of handout and/or pat on the back”

But one of the newer ones I’ve seen, which I think is a much more clever way for someone to delude themselves, is this one:

“This was years ago, it’s in the past, and the First Peoples have not only survived, but thrived. And that’s what I choose to celebrate.”



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It is with great vigour, excitement, and simulated frisson that I announce the start of the start of my run for the leadership of the Manitoba Liberal Party.

I am the perfect candidate. Smart, but not too smart. Attractive, but not too attractive. Rich, but not… well, not rich at all, really.

There is no reason why we can’t have a province to be proud of, where solutions are actually based on rational thought and discussion rather than talking points and partisan orthodoxy.

You know, I used to run around saying that the NDP in Manitoba were ethically bankrupt. Now, thanks to so many years of NDP “leadership” I can say that the bankruptcy has spread to cover every aspect of the NDP in our province, like the ever-reaching tentacles of our dark lord Cthulhu.

from http://squeakybonbon.deviantart.com/art/Cthulhu-Girl-2-303981491

So in order to take back our province, I need to raise $2,500 and gather a hundred signatures with ten signatures each from at least six regions.

So I’m basically unstoppable. Like Cthulhu.

from http://cthulhucrochet.blogspot.ca/2010/05/cuddly-cthulhu-with-free-pattern.html

For media inquiries, please email me at wolfrom@wolfrom.ca, fill out the contact form below, or tweet dirty pictures at me.

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Is there really any point in talking about it?

Almost every blogger I’ve read in Manitoba who’s covered political issues had mentioned that the NDP has been up to something. Manitoba Hydro Smash-and-Grab, Public Utilities Board Gouge-and-Grab, WRHA Mad-Cow-Expansion-and-Grab, PST Change-The-Law-To-Take-More-Money-and-Grab

But what’s the point in talking about it anymore? So we keep whining about it, and then maybe if we’re “lucky” the NDP will lose and the “Progressive” Conservatives will win and we can start complaining about the upcoming Hydro Privatization-and-Switch, or the Health Care Slash-and-Switch, or the Education Blah-Blah-and-Switch

It’s gangrenous turtles all the way down, folks.

The system rewards parties who polarize. The system rewards candidates who focus on politics at the expense of leadership. And the system rewards the non-partisan bodies that help to maintain it.

So let’s change the system!


Do we really care enough to do that? To do more than write the occasional diatribe on the Free Press website, more than show up at the occasional reverse-the-decision-now-that-it’s-too-late-to-change-it rally, more than whine at McD’s or Timmies or Sals about those stupid politicians with their heads up their asses?

Not really.

You see, I know this first hand.

I have a blog. And I’ve organized those kinds of rallies more than once. And I can bitch and moan with the best of them. But I don’t think I care enough to see things through…

…because my kids are still healthy, my wife occasionally lessens the pressure of her heel on my throat, and I can still afford to spend lunch at Polo Park sampling thirteen different varieties of steamed white rice at the food court.

So what can I do to change that? What can I do to care more?

Not much. I don’t want Winnipeg to start looking like an exploding slice of Syria just so people start to give a damn.

I’ll take the complacency.

It’s like our lovely Conservative government in Ottawa. I know that Stephen Harper is destroying the Canada I’ve gotten somewhat fond of, tearing down the things that make us special, like our (almost) even-handed foreign diplomacy, our public broadcasting system, our once sacred separation of Stupidity and State.

But all I can do is bide my time and wait for him to screw this country up enough that people finally start voting Liberal again, whether or not the Liberals actually deserve their vote. (actually, this time I think they might deserve it again, but that’s another post that I probably won’t write)

I don’t even have that hope in Manitoba.

I’m worried (and I’m at about one step short of being totally convinced) that Manitoba has fallen into the trap of two parties taking turns screwing things up. The NDP know that no matter how poorly they’ve messed up the books (and I’m getting the impression that it’s as bad as I’d thought), they’ll be re-elected again once the PCs mess things up (probably with the books, too — poor books).

So the NDP raise the PST, so we get angry and vote PC. The PCs don’t end up lowering the rate, and mess up some new stuff. So then the NDP get back in and finally give into the super secret demands of the WRHA to build an 80-story Fortress of Bureaucracy that’s mostly made out of parking garage. So then the PCs take over and pour money into a Pro Skeeball Team, Arena and Condo Complex to “revitalize” Assiniboine Forest. This could go on forever, until finally we look back and say “hey, it doesn’t seem so ridiculous by comparison that the NDP thought they could just change all the laws they didn’t feel like following”.

I’m Canadian. I don’t plan on changing that, like, ever. But I don’t think of myself as a “Manitoban”. Sure, I could make idle threats about moving away, as if I have any real say in the matter (married with children, you see)… but that’s not really the issue. The issue is that I haven’t been a Manitoban for a few years now… I don’t follow local news as much as I should, I let my work deadlines get in the way of my community obligations… and I’ve given up hope that I’ll ever think of myself as a Manitoban again.

To me, that’s sad. Meanwhile, to my neighbours — who think I need to mow my lawn more often — it’s a hopeful harbinger of me finally packing up and leaving forever.

Don’t let my (reasonably justified) neighbours win. Show me that this province is still alive and kicking.

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No, seriously… what the fuck is wrong with you?

(Oh… apparently this post has foul language. We can deal with my personal issues later, though.)

Backstory: here and here

(good intentions or not, the damage was done and I believe a public apology for the apparent misunderstanding is the right thing to do)

Sexy soundbite:  So the Manitoba Liberals aren’t in the pooper; we’re already flushed halfway down the drainpipe. Nobody’s buying what we’ve been selling, and to be honest I can’t fault anyone for that. We used to rely on the Federal Liberals throwing a tiny life preserver into the toilet for us, but now they’re circling the bowl, too.

It’s our own fault, but that means that we are the ones who can fix it.

I’ve said this before (albeit in a more polite manner), but I’ll say it again, since I’m nothing if not shrill and repetitive:

Conservatives hide their poop.

Dippers hide their poop.

Liberals fling their poop at every other Liberal in the room.

Used to be a clever magnet at AllPosters.comI don’t like being covered in poop; some people do, like those two lovely girls in that video with the cup, but I’m not like that. And I change enough diapers to know that I don’t want that stuff touching my skin (or my eyes, or my mouth, or my vas deferens).

If you are unhappy with something, find constructive solutions. One of my year-and-some son’s favourite books is called Roadwork, and it shows various workers and machinery building a road. Now, if a person wanted to build a road for the Liberals, one that leads from, say, the sewer pipe in the basement up to a place high enough that we wouldn’t need to smell like poop anymore, that person would construct said road, as opposed to tossing hand grenades at the work site and hoping that eventually you’ll get a paved ribbon out of it.

Construction is how you build things. My son has grasped the concept firmly, more firmly than walking on his own or not dropping cheerios down his pants.

But is there a point in doing all this work? Is there any hope for the Liberals?

I think so, but don’t take my word for it. I spend most of my time building a business and writing stories about garden-gnome-on-girl romance. This isn’t my area of expertise.

But I can tell you one thing. There is no party in Manitoba other than the Liberals that I feel I can support in good conscience.

I believe the NDP are corrupt, tired, and ineffective.

I believe the PCs are reactionary, untrustworthy, and ineffective.

I believe the Greens are impractical, inexperienced, and ineffective.

Now the Liberals? Hot dog! They’re intelligent, progressive, and ineffective.

So you can see why I love them so much.

So who is effective, then? Well… in Manitoba, there are plenty of people who are effective, people who know how to get things done and then get those things done, often by asking for advice and help when they need it, and respecting the concept that other people may disagree from time to time. Those people are sometimes called “everyday heroes”, but usually we just call them people who aren’t in politics.

And they aren’t in politics because they enjoy being effective. You don’t get into politics if you like getting things done. Well, you might get into it, but you probably wouldn’t last very long.

When my neighbours and I were trying to save a community centre in Winnipeg, we joined as a team and worked together, focusing primarily on revitalizing the club as opposed to waxing political. We were politically inexperienced and we were motivated by what we felt was the right thing to do, and I still don’t know the political leanings of many of the people I worked alongside.

And when the city shut us down I cried, not because of politics or rivalries, but because I knew that the kids in the neighbourhood were losing something they’d grown proud of.

We weren’t effective in politics (who is, really?) but we were effective in giving kids something to believe in, at least for a little while. If you ask me what part I liked, if it was speaking at city council and doing interviews or if it was working with the kids and building something special, my answer will be pretty clear.

And if I were to do it all a second time, I’d hope to come back into it with enough resources to focus on the kids and stay out of the politics as much as humanly possible. Because like normal people, I enjoy being effective.

Will I return to politics some day? I don’t know. I think about it sometimes, but I’m not sure I’m cut out for it.

I don’t want to pretend that everyone’s uninformed opinion is worth listening to ad nauseum, or that it feels perfectly normal to beg people to vote for you like they’re doing you a favour. If a voter believes a candidate will do the best job, the voter has a duty to vote for that candidate; the candidate’s duty is to do the best job possible.

That’s all there is to it.

So I’ll stay out of the political cage matches for now. If people decide someday that my skills, experience, and ideas are valuable in the public octagon, they know where to find me.

But this isn’t about me. Well, everything’s really about me. But I’ll indulge you for a moment.

The Manitoba Liberals have a fever, and the only prescription is being more selective.

People badmouth the leader publicly? Drop them like a turd, especially if they don’t apologize and particularly if they try to deflect, backpeddle, or act like a misquoted victim (this isn’t a single incident I’m talking about, but a sad series of them over many years). “How’s the leader doing?” “Great.” That’s how it’s done.

Unqualified or unreliable people want to be candidates? Don’t nominate them and accept that you won’t have a full slate. The extra funding from those votes isn’t worth the opportunity cost of damaging the brand by running bad candidates. Bad candidates include anyone who publicly disrespects the leadership, has no intention of campaigning actively, or is running just because they have an axe to grind.

People want you to beg for their vote? Tell them that you’re not in the business of sucking up. I don’t want people to support me or my party as a “favour”. Either we’re the right choice, or we’re not. We’ll do our jobs, and hopefully a handful of voters will do theirs.

I’d rather be a member of a small, principled, and disciplined party that gets a genuine 1% of the vote than a hot mess that gets 5% based on habit or pity.

I’m not sure I’m still a member of the party, actually. I guess that makes it okay for me to mention the Manitoba Liberals and the word ‘poop’ over and over again in a blog post.

About working with the Greens: why not? Is it a merger? No. A federalist Canadian party can’t merge with a Global Greens party; one or the other would die in the process. But if Greens run in Wolseley while Grits run in Fort Rouge? Why not try it? Will the rivers run in red and green blood? Would you even notice the difference in the water?

A while back I crunched the numbers and found that if the Manitoba Liberal Party limited its candidacies to the dozen or so constituencies where it felt it could be competitive, the vote percentage of the party would drop like a stone. We’d go from 7.5% to less than 5%, assuming we could do as well in those ridings.

So a Votepocalypse in traditional terms. That’s true. But how has being traditional been going for us lately?

Manitoba Liberal Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again while flinging poop at the leader’s head.

The only thing we’ll get out of that is Manitobans sitting back and watching the death of the MLP with a bucket of popcorn.
Oh, and more of the same rotten politics in Manitoba.
So smarten up, Liberals. You know you’ve sunk pretty low when a blogger who keeps saying “poop” starts to look like the voice of reason.

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I’m getting ever closer to accepting that I am not a politician by nature… part of that process is letting go of the self-censoring.  If I want to say something that’s controversial, I should just say it.  Life’s too short (at least it is now that I’m in my thirties) for continuous diplomacy.  Rather than playing it safe and listening to people yawn whenever I open my mouth, I’m going to give people a chance to truly hate me… I mean TRULY… like sick to their stomach, shaking with disgust… that’s the hate I’m talking about.  Or maybe people will like that I’m speaking my mind… it’s possible…

Winnipeg, MB

No real change in the city, even with large changes in council.

  1. Civic Election. I am pleased that Thomas Steen won Elmwood, because the NDP needs to learn that it doesn’t own a single piece of this city.
  2. Civic Election Redux. Wasn’t surprised to see Sam win again, since doing nothing while looking busy is one of the official passtimes of Winnipeg, His Worship being team captain.
  3. Bike Lobby. If I hear another mention of a project done “for the cyclists”, I will either vomit or simply descend into madness by perpetually paraphrasing Helen Lovejoy: “won’t somebody please think of the cyclists!”
  4. Roundabout/Traffic Circles/Turnamatrixes. Why did no one make any noise about the traffic circles?  Not “we need a story for the news” noise, but serious “WTF is wrong with the traffic department?!” noise.  “It’s just like Seattle”, I heard, but of course, Seattle does it based on citizen’s petitions and tends to actually install circles with dimensions that qualify as traffic circles.  Who asked for these circles?  Helen Lovejoy?
  5. North End shootings. What shootings?  It’s okay… we all forget about what happened to people who don’t live in the suburbs.
  6. University of Manitoba. Winnipeg used to be made fun of for comical reasons, like our creative drivers and big game mosquitoes.  But the U of M is trying its best to establish a new comedy routine.  It appears that some degrees are now being granted based on the same selection criteria as pinning the tail on the donkey.  I heard of someone who turned down a job at U of M to work in New Jersey!  There may be a punchline in there somewhere, but right now I feel like crying.
  7. University of Winnipeg. (Proud alumni of sorts.)  Not content to be the liberal arts college that time forgot, the U of W has decided to swallow up entire blocks in its urge to make gentrification and over-expansion a lifestyle choice.  I like shiny new buildings, especially when they block out superb examples of brutalist architecture (that’s sarcasm, friends), but wouldn’t it make sense to put some energy into improving the quality of the education?  Is U of W getting students because of academic excellence, or because for half the city the trip to U of M seems a little long?
  8. Rapid/Mass/Bus!Bus!Bus! Transit. I take the bus, but whenever I do, I feel like I’m kidding myself.  It’s not really saving me money, and I’m not sure I can justify the extra forty minutes it adds to my commute.  I saw someone I know taking the bus who is from all accounts wealthy and respected.  But do you know what my first thought was, deep in my Winnipeg psyche?  That guy must’ve gotten his license suspended; I didn’t realize he was such a drunk!  And that, my friends, is why Bus Rapid Transit is not the right choice for Winnipeg.  We’re just not bus people.  That’s probably why city council likes to increase the price of bus fare every two weeks.
  9. Canwest Global’s Big Screen. Yes, I know this is old news, and that Canwest has gone the way of my political ambitions, but seriously: who actually thought people would watch a screen that doesn’t face traffic?  It must be a big hit with the thirty people who work across the street, or the two guys who fish for cigarette butts in the garbage cans nearby.  Of course, that could be their target demographic.  I didn’t check how many commercials were for cigarette butt recycling operations.
  10. Canadian Museum for Human Rights. A museum about human rights in a city with what’s close to record-breaking levels of poverty, alcohol abuse, and untreated mental illness.  That’s like a Museum of Hockey Greatness at Maple Leaf Gardens.  Don’t worry, though… they’ve got most of their funding… by coercing government and crown corps (so more government) to hand over money.  I’m not usually a “don’t go to space, solve Earth’s problems first” kind of guy, but I feel like a hypocrite just living in a far-from-perfect city with a human rights museum.  I’m not saying that Winnipeg is a festering cesspool, but something about glass houses keeps popping into my head while I’m in the shower… which, by the way, interrupts my time thinking about hot pants.

Manitoba the Have-Not Province

This province and I have a love-hate relationship.  It’s hard to see so much potential and so much disappointment.

  1. Budget Deficits. If we change the law, they’re no longer deficits.  Next up: poverty now called “monkish asceticism”, adultery known as “creative fidelity”.
  2. Manitoba Hydro. Whistleblower says company is deluding itself; in fact, company is deluding itself, but by even bigger proportions.  Does Bob Brennan have an all-marble office at the top of the Hydro Building?  I don’t think I’ll ever be invited to find out.  None of it matters, though, since our government can just bail out Hydro if things go wrong.  And because we don’t actually admit to the existence of deficits…
  3. Drinking and Driving. People are dying at alarming rates, sometimes on their way to work, because some dumb f*** thought that sleeping on his friend’s couch was a fate worse than vehicular homicide.  Why is this not a bigger issue?  We’re madly in love with plug-in hybrids that may or may not work in our climate, but no one gives a crap about technologies that could prevent drunks from starting their cars.  But wait, you say… the drunk could just get someone else to start their car… but I have a theory… when idiots let idiots drive drunk, it’s usually an indication that those initial idiots are also drunk.  Would you stay up until five or six in the morning with a drunk a*** if you were sober?  I know you may have counterarguments, which I’d then have to counter… but this is supposed to be point form, so move it along, okay?
  4. The Bodies Exhibit. Unclaimed bodies, Falun Gong prisoners… either way, those people did not give their consent, so they are victims of an indecent act.  I read a comment about the exhibit: “Their bad luck is our good luck because this is something to be seen.”  I like that comment.  It’s like the Swiss banker who said “hey, look at all these thousands of gold teeth those nice Nazis just dropped off.  It’s too bad their previous owners had to get rid of them, but hey, we’re making money!” Godwin’s Law notwithstanding, I do think this analogy is not as much of an overstatement as you may think at first.  Because you don’t know where those bodies came from, and you do know that the Chinese government has been accused of harvesting organs from unwilling Falun Gong practioners.  But wait, David Matas‘ paws were all over that report, too; isn’t he the guy who wants those exhibit bodies buried simply because Manitoba law states that the bodies can’t leave the province?  What’s with that guy?
  5. Manitoba Slogans. I remember what happened the day that we became the land of Spirited Energy.  The influx of new investment, business, and immigrants was up 500% from the day before.  People felt like the slogan really captured what they were looking for, so they changed their life plans to be a part of the action.  That’s how all the great centres of innovation and industry were formed:
  • Rome, Italy – 1st Century BCE: “Roma, a dirty pit of disease and unemployment… but we do kill a lot of gladiators!”
  • Oxford, England – 14th Century CE: “Students: come for the deadly riots, stay for the plague.”
  • Silicon Valley, USA – 20th Century CE: “Only squares live in Boston.”

My point?  Slogans are silly.  They are either going to make us sound like the guy who is always last to be picked for intramural soccer, or they’re going to blatantly conflict with reality.  Do you know what brings success to a region?  Pre-existing success.  How do  you nurture and develop that initial success?  There are a lot of ways, like education, incentives, culture… but generally NOT SLOGANS.

Country formerly known as the Dominion of Canada

I love this country, not just because I live here, but because I honestly can’t think of another country that’s as close as we are to getting things right.

  1. Bashing the Monarchy. We have a Queen for a reason.  Her Royal Highness is detached and separate from normal society through wealth and privilege, FOR A REASON.  We do not elect presidents in our country; we believe that people elected through money- and media-skewed popularity contests tend to be narcissistic and ambitious to a dictatorial fault.  So we have a person who is outside of the “rat race” to be there to ensure that if things go very wrong in our political structure, that person (or a local representative of similar mindset) can step in and dissolve the whole bunch.  It may not be an ideal solution, but anyone who followed US politics from 2000-2009 may agree that being a republic has an even uglier side than the occasional Heir to the Throne’s mention that he’d like to be reincarnated as a tampon.
  2. The NDP-Liberal Merger. There is no idea that would be quicker to kill the Liberal party than merger with the NDP.  As Canadians base much of their identity on not being American, so do many Liberals base their political life as being different than the NDP.  I like left-leaning Liberals, just as I like right-leaning Liberals… but the notion that cherished liberal beliefs should be set aside for the views of a party that exists for union members first and everyone else maybe sometime later is enough to make me start wondering if there’s enough progressive left in those Conservatives to make me a Harperista.
  3. Chicanery in the House of Commons. I would love to vote for a party that disciplined its members for showing a lack of decorum in the House and beyond.  I’d like there to be a party that actually realized that this is an issue that is destroying any remaining respect that Canadians have for their politicians.  At times I’ve said and done things that may not be in keeping with what I believe; it’s part of being human.  But I don’t make a career out of it.
  4. Hatred of Quebec. What is this, 1995?  I still hear that joke about building a wall around La Belle Province and filling it with water.  Granted, it’s fun to make GOOD jokes about the Quebeckers when you’re among friends (like when you’re in Acadia; those people know some really good ones), but let’s be honest.  What would Canada be without Quebec?  Answer: North Dakota.  A surprisingly beautiful place and good people, but no one goes there for the cosmopolitan atmosphere.
  5. Hatred of Aboriginals. We are all treaty people… there is no way around that.  If you don’t like it, see if your distant relatives in Britain, Germany and/or the Ukraine will take you back.  Oh, they don’t want you, either?  Seriously, though… what would Canada be without Quebec and our aboriginal peoples?  Well… we’d no longer qualify as North Dakota.

Other Items

Miscellany.  Its inclusion here is only to allow for the use of the word “miscellany”.

  1. Being Unfriended on Facebook. Why does it hurt so much?  So VERY MUCH?  Well, not that much, but when I saw that someone had dropped me it was worse than losing ten Twitter followers (hell, I’d unfollow me if I could).  It’s like that person is saying that our friendship fifteen years ago didn’t mean a thing…  I guess it didn’t, but to just go and unfriend me…
  2. Red Lobster. Who actually knows a group of people who are all willing to eat seafood?  This is more a mystery than a complaint.
  3. Payday Loans. I hate that people profit from the poor financial decisions and situations of others, but I have trouble envisioning other ways for a person who needs two hundred bucks OR ELSE to get the cash.  Why can’t there be more easy answers?
  4. Self-absorbed Bloggers. Self-important windbags born with silver spoons in their mouths, who type their rants about traffic circles and Facebook without actually wondering if they are contributing to society in a meaningful way.  Couldn’t they be spending this time trying to cure cancer?  Or reading to old people?  Or cleaning up the fifteen garbage bags that they piled up next to their garage two weeks ago?  Truly disgusting.

Note to startled onlookers:  Not only was I not drunk when I wrote the above, but I even saved the draft and reviewed it later.  I really have no explanation or defense for having pressed the Publish button.

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I won’t comment on whether or not it’s appropriate for the Premier and Finance Minister to be spending so much time in a hot tub even as they expect their cabinet ministers to take a pay cut.  What I will say is that it’s truly remarkable how often the NDP government finds itself unexpectedly in years past.  It seems like a surreal concept at first… I mean, a hot tub that functions at a time machine… but how else can you explain NDP policies?

Now, unlike the movie, they’re not always transported back to 1986, as that year is usually reserved for the NDP approach to business regulations.  Today’s episode (#354) has Rosann Wowchuk planted firmly in 2008.  The rest of humanity lives on in 2010, looking for signs of recovery and debating how to pay back the deficits from the past two years.  Meanwhile, the NDP are looking full speed behind, looking at changing their own balanced budget law so that they can continue to run deficits until 2014 after spending all of 2009 bragging about how well the Manitoba economy has been doing.  Here’s how I see it: Either Manitoba fared well, and we should have a shorter period of deficit than everyone else (or none at all), or Manitoba fared just as badly as the rest of the country and four straight years of deficit is justified.  It can’t be both things; if the NDP is trying to claim that it is both things, there is only one explanation: mismanagement of public money.

Cherenkov has a good post, Budget analysis: ouch, talking about the numbers, and Curtis has some good points about the idea of fake frugality (Frugality Is Dead: Long Live Frugality).  And Dr. Gerrard also shows the NDP overspending with his post, NDP budget: For ten years the NDP have shown poor budgeting and poor expenditure management.

To me, the most concerning aspect of this budget is what it means for 2014.  As Cherenkov points out, the NDP always misses the mark in its planning, spending more than it originally set out to do.  As well, the Rainy Day Fund is likely to disappear altogether, as the government’s initial estimate is that the fund will be brought down from $800 million to $200 million; we’re already used to overly optimistic estimates from this government during easier times.

How does the Manitoba government plan on balancing the books in 2014?  More Rainy Day transfers from an emptying account?  More service fees?  A moratorium on paying for the City of Winnipeg’s pet project of the month?  The truth is, there is no plan.  None at all…

No, wait… that’s not fair…

The plan is: keep treading water until November 2011. Once the election hangover has passed, the NDP will come up with something to tell Manitobans, be it new taxes, program cuts, or perhaps a new venture involving the marketing of Manitoban’s organs to the Chinese government.  It’s surprising that there are no Toga parties in the NDP offices at the Legislature considering the dorm-room mentality.  Why study the budget today, when you can have fun and spend?  We won’t need to do any work until 2012… woo-hoo!

Ah… so there’s that hot tub again… it’s not always for time travel.  Sometimes it’s just for having a good time.

“Party on, NDP!”

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Manitoba is hooked on gambling.  No, I’m not talking about the NDP’s bizarre understanding of balanced budgets, or the risk of relying too much on federal transfer payments… I’m talking about the actual gambling, specifically the casinos.

The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba  (AFM) has a website called GetGamblingFacts.ca.  This is part of the concept that there is nothing the least bit ridiculous about a government that runs gambling while telling people about the dangers of gambling; the AFM is of course a government entity, not a not-for-profit organization.  It began as The Alcoholism Foundation of Manitoba, to allow beer to once again be sold in Manitoba.  (The beer parlours were government-run and were for white men only, but that’s a whole other story.)

So basically, the founding purpose of the AFM was to justify the government’s vice rackets, beginning with alcohol, and being joined later by tobacco and gambling.  If prostitution were legalized, I would imagine the AFM would be tasked with creating a program for problem johns.  The AFM also does work with illegal narcotics addictions and other important issues such as impaired driving and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, so I wouldn’t want you to think that they are simply apologists for the government.

The point here is that the provincial government is in charge of telling people not to use the services of the provincial government.  In any other matter, this would be considered a gross conflict of interest.  There are rules for doctors, lawyers, real estate agents and most other professions to prevent situations where an individual would be tempted to corrupt their motivation based on a differing interest.  But the provincial government is rife with conflicts of interest, to the point where almost every government action has an equal reaction.  This can be extended far beyond vice; consider Elections Manitoba, which is tasked with maintaining fair elections, but which can be easily influenced by whichever political party stands to be benefitted by an unfair election.  Or Manitoba Hydro, which is mandated to provide low cost power to Manitobans, but is also expected to incur new costs due to political decisions (Bipole III and paying water royalties to the government); Hydro cannot raise its domestic rates, but cannot override costly government mandates.

But gambling is the most obvious example, because I have a government that says on one website that I may have a gambling problem, while another website tells me that there’s an extra $20,000 in cash and prizes at the casino in honour of St. Patrick’s Day.  To me, this entire system is unethical.  The Manitoba Government collects $658 million in revenue from gaming in a province where approximately 5% of the adult population is estimated to have a moderate to high risk of gambling addiction.  AFM does not seem to have statistics of how many Manitobans use VLTs, Casino slots, and Casino dice/card games; they do have stats of each, but that does not hint at the total.  They consider raffle tickets to be the same type of gambling as slot machines, which means that when I buy tickets for a silent auction at a social I’m a gambler, as are 85.6% of the Manitoba population as of 2006.  But obviously this does not give us any indication of the true number of gamblers.  Since lottery tickets, pools, and raffles are recorded as costing the least amount per month at $5-8 on average, I would much rather know the percentage of Manitobans who participate in all other types of gambling.  (Sources: http://www.problemgambling.ca/EN/Documents/GP_Manitoba.pdf and http://www.afm.mb.ca/documents/ManitobaGamblingandProblemGambling2006.pdf)

Either way, one third of problem gamers are from the lowest income group.  This means that a large number of the people who can least afford to gamble are gambling far more than they can afford.  And the next largest group of problem gamblers is the second lowest income level.  Over half of gamblers with a moderate to heavy risk of problem gambling make less than $40,000 a year.

So what is the solution?  Ban gambling altogether?  Well, not altogether… for one thing, raffles are a big way for organizations such as the Lions Club to raise money to serve communities.  For the Lions Club of East Kildonan, we make the majority of our money from raffles, and every cent of those funds goes directly to worthy causes  (Lions pay all overhead and administration costs out of their own pockets); this is work that should be allowed to continue.  And lottery tickets, while not something I enjoy purchasing, seem to be a favourite and less expensive form of gaming for a majority of Manitobans.  The problem comes from VLTs and Casinos, where more money is spent per person.

Do we need to close our casinos?  I’m not sure… I wouldn’t miss them, but I’m not sure I’m in the majority.  But there are changes that could be made to how our casinos operate:

1. Eliminate higher coin slots.  There is no acceptable reason for loonie or toonie slots.

2. Prevent the use of more than once machine at a time by an individual. A personal cannot sit at a table in a restaurant and drink three bottles of beer at the same time; why can a person play three slot machines at the same time?  Isn’t this an indicator of problem gambling?

3. Reduce hours of availability for casinos and VLTs or set spending or time limits for gaming. If the gambling cost can be reduced by lower bet levels and limitations on the number of machines a person can use, further reductions can be achieved by lowering the amount of time a person can spend gambling.  Hours of operation is simple to change, but time limits would be more difficult to enforce, and could involve a token system where only so many can be purchased, or a ticket system that operates similar to a bus transfer; an employee would be required to check tickets for expiration at predetermined intervals.  This is a little like drinking in a bar; after so many drinks, you are supposed to be cut off.  There is no reason why this should not be extended to gambling.

The Manitoba government likes to defend its gambling policy by saying that giving the money to indigenous groups makes everything okay.  That does not make it okay.  Lives are ruined by problem gambling, sometimes leading to bankruptcy, divorce, and suicide.  The Manitoba government should be working to reduce gaming; there is no other way to reduce problem gambling.

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