Archive for the ‘Winnipeg 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.”


Read Full Post »

It’s good.


But it feels strange. We spent years fighting to keep Kelvin Community Centre open, and then the community spent a few more years after that trying to keep the land from being sold.

It was long and hard, and it always seemed like it was just a matter of time before the land was sold and the chance for a new Kelvin was dead.

Things look better now. Hopefully this will work out.

The fight to save Kelvin taught me and gave me a chance to try and help out my community, but it wore me out.

But I’m happy.

It’s good.

If the people of Elmwood hadn’t fought in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012, we wouldn’t have this today.

Congratulations, Elmwood. You deserve it.

Read Full Post »

Clara has just finished her Olympic career with a great performance in London, finishing fifth. She and Cindy Klassen, another Winnipegger, are tied for the most Olympic medals by any Canadian, at six each. Clara is also the only Canadian to have won medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics, and the only Olympian in the world to have won multiple medals in both the summer and winter games.

So that makes Clara one of the most successful Olympic Athletes EVER.

And it’s time Winnipeg finally recognized one of its most famous daughters.

Luckily for us, there is a perfect opportunity to do that right now. With style.

Elmwood resident Nelson Sanderson had an idea back in the spring to rename Disraeli Freeway to Olympian Freeway. It’s a good idea, considering that both Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen have roots in the River East communities that are served by the newly-rebuilt link from downtown.

Now it’s been around twenty years since I liked the use of the word “freeway” to describe Disraeli; when I was a kid I imagined from the south end of it (having never gone over) that it was like one of those huge California highways that led to all sorts of interesting places. (I had the same expectation of Concordia Avenue from the off-ramp on Lagimodière, so you can guess that my teenage years were filled with bitter disappointment.

I’d prefer calling our new link Olympian Way.

And of course, Olympian Way connects to Henderson Hwy, and it’s only a few blocks from there to the new community facility that’s planned for where Kelvin Community Centre once stood. (Oh yeah… I’m a gonna beat that dead horse a little more. Whack! Whack!)

That facility will be administered by Bronx Park Community Centre, but some Elmwood residents aren’t big on the idea of sticking the Bronx Park Bruin up on the wall. And obviously Bronx Park and the City of Winnipeg aren’t about to call it “Kelvin Community Centre”.

As other residents have suggested, Kelvin should be renamed Clara Hughes Centre.

Clara Hughes Centre will include one ice rink, a “skills park”, a basketball court, a playground, athletic fields in the back (one baseball and two soccer), and a modest community building with two change rooms, a lounge area, a canteen, washrooms, and a meeting room.

I can’t think of a reason why this doesn’t make sense. Can you?


Note: The facility design images are adapted from the Open House boards created by Scatliff Miller Murray.

Read Full Post »

I sometimes think of my washroom as a think tank, not just due to the sheer amount of genius ideas that come to me during my various bathroom tasks, but because at certain inopportune moments my powder room gives off the same stench you’d find in news releases from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

My latest idea, however, doesn’t smell anything like what you’d get if you mixed Burger King and Indian food into a blender and added a couple drops of Sambuca. In fact, my latest idea smells just like an Order of Canada.

Introducing: The Canadian Museum and Waterpark for Human Rights and Splashtastic Excitement (CM/WHR/SE)

That’s right… a somber reflection of man’s inhumanity to man combined with much-too-young girls in bikini tops and gently used and removed band-aids swirling around the grayish warm waters of a hot tub.

Now I haven’t had enough time to fully flesh things out, given that I only have so much hot water for my weekly shower and I use half of it to steep my peppermint tea, but I think that what I have come up with so far will make Winnipeg a world class city that could rival Spokane, Washington.

Selected Attractions:

  • Kuryong Drop: a North Korean-themed slide. Six people stand at the top of the slide wearing blindfolds and every thirty seconds one of those six is shoved into the launch tube. The rider then freefalls for approximately five meters. Upon splashing down into the pool at the bottom, that lucky and possibly still blindfolded person has a one in ten chance of being abducted and sent on a lifelong trip to North Korea to teach members of the inner circle about such curious Western artifacts as Chili Cheese Fries, Daniel Tosh, and Sad Keanu.
  • The NGO Circle Jerk: a waterslide that contains only one loop, but through the use of cutting edge technology the rider is continually pushed through that same loop for around twenty minutes, making absolutely no progress and eventually realizing that they are going nowhere. At that point a trap door opens and they are dropped into a hot tub and given two shots of Johnnie Walker Black Label to help them through their newfound existential crisis.
  • The CM/WHR/SE Fundraising Wave Pool: because cost overruns tend to multiply like Parisian bunnies downing Viagra on V-E Day, there is a need for an attraction that will increase the tithe received from each visitor. The waves will be pretty intense, varying from Tsunami to Much Bigger Tsunami, and you will notice a difference in the experience based on your individual contribution. Donations are classified in multiple levels much like you’d find on a layer cake, pyramid scheme, or naked Abu Ghraib prisoner dogpile: Gold level members ($500+) are given an inflatable raft and a crew of six, while Silver donors ($100-499) get two pool noodles. All other contributors will have their drowned corpses fished out with a pool skimmer at closing time, and any personal effects found on their person or in their lockers will be auctioned off to pay for additional urinal troughs in the men’s washrooms.
  • The Jewish Quarter: there was some controversy about whether or not the original CMHR was intended more as a holocaust memorial rather than a universal human rights edutainment centre. This controversy sometimes brought up good points, but often descended quite quickly into arguments like “I’m not racist, but have you noticed the Jews control everything?” and “Hitler wasn’t all bad… what about the Volkswagen and TV dinners?” The current plan for the CM/WHR/SE does include an area highlighting antisemitism; it’ll be a tastefully decorated lounge area with a couple of whirlpools and a big screen TV playing an endless loop of Family Guy episodes, along with an explanation that most of what Mort Goldman says is still crossing the line even if some of your friends are Jewish. But maybe I just don’t have a sense of humour…
  • First Nations Area for Parents and Papooses:  because the CM/WHR/SE is well-aware that it would seem hypocritical to talk about human rights without at least paying token lip service to the issues affecting Aboriginal peoples in Canada, a special area will be created in an unheated and poorly lit part of the building. The water used in these slides and pools should be boiled before drinking or touching to your skin in any way, and please keep in mind that while people disappear from the middle of these slides all the time, none of those missing people matter because… how can I put this… they’re not white.

    Makeshift home of someone who is... again... not white.

So that’s what I’ve got so far. If you believe that we can make this vision a reality, please make a donation to The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Be sure to e-mail the Friends and let them know that you are supporting the amended Splashtastic Dignity Plan with this donation. If you would be more comfortable sending me money, it’s as easy as e-mailing me and asking for my mailing address; please specify in your message whether you are planning to send me cash, a cheque, or an explosive device.

Together we can fill up this money pit with lukewarm and heavily chlorinated pool water and score one for human rights and banana hammocks.

I urge you to send me money today.

Read Full Post »

I am truly saddened by the ignorance on display in Winnipeg this past weekend.

As part of the Winnipeg SlutWalk, a large group of women, men, and children — many of whom decided to make up some signs or get some from those people who printed my business cards — went out and marched from the Burton Cummings Theatre to the Legislature.

I’m not upset about that part.

How can so many people respond to this walk with what can objectively be classified as complete and utter ignorance? Not only was there a small group of nearby men shouting out mostly incomprehensible hatred as the people walked by (I believe the word “whores” was part of it, but I’m not 100% on that), but the most ignorant website commenters in Winnipeg history (and that’s quite an achievement in itself) decided to descend on news coverage with inexcusable statements like these (I’ve bolded some of the worst):

  1. “Rape is not always Just the fault of the man.”
  2. “If you walk like a duck, talk like a duck and look like a duck, you are probably a duck. Ladies, please dress like ladies and you won’t have this type of problem. If you wish to be treated as tramps the answer is simple. Look like a tramp, walk like a tramp and talk like a tramp. Sorry I have no respect for this type of female”
  3. “If you dress conservatively, and do not put yourself in a vulnerable position, your chance of being victimized are drastically reduced.”
  4. “Slutwalk is a joke. A total joke.”
  5. “Its doesn’t protest violence. It states I want to be self centered and have no regard for reality. Well I want to walk down any street with $100 bills hanging out of my pocket. but I know better.”
  6. “You want respect and some protection from attack, then show respect, act respectful, dress respectful. Which is more inviting for attack; a 200 lb 5’5″ woman dressed in jeans and sweatshirt or a 130 lb 5’5′ woman dressed in a scantly clad outfit baring much of her body.”
  7. “There’s been no real controversial issue about women’s rights to take a stand on recently and this one remark has provided more of a weak excuse to rally for women’s rights than a bonafide platform.”
  8. “Perhaps women can begin taking responsibility for their violent acts rather than blaming the nearest man all the time, that would go a long way to giving this movement credibility…of course the cops would have no one to arrest then.”
  9. “This makes me ashamed to be a woman. No wonder men don’t respect us. I wear clothing that clearly makes me look like sex object, and I expect men to not treat me like a sex object? Get a life.”
  10. “If you go to a party, get smashed, have no plan on how to get home, fall over any guy that buys you a drink, and hike your skirt up to your waist every 5 minutes… well, you still aren’t to blame if you get raped!”
  11. “In related news, sexual aggression was reportedly up 10% overnight in nearby bars and homes.”
  12. “Bottom line is: you run a risk of attracting the wrong men if you choose to have your boobs and butt hanging out of your clothing.”
  13. “I cannot believe that people are fighting for the right to dress like sluts, it’s really pathetic. Just think about it people.”
  14. “This walk was no different than the Zombie walk. A lot of incoherrent people wandering aimlessly and mindlessly with no thought given to the utter futility and silliness of their bizzare behaviour.”
  15. “These are just angry people who know damn well that their personal choice to dress this way places them also ironically by choice in harms way!”
  16. “Seriously, it’s common knowledge, dress conservatively, rapes go way down in numbers. Most of the time, woman bring these things on themselves. But that would be taking responsibility. Some would still happen, but the numbers would be drastically lower.”
  17. “If I dress myself in wieners and honey and walk through the bush, is it the bears fault or mine when I get eaten?”
  18. “Is it just me or aren’t the very women who participate in walks/demonstrations such as this, the very ones who are the least likely to attract unwanted male attention in the first place?”
  19. “The next time some naive young girl gets raped because of being dressed like a $lut, we should put some of the blame where it actually belongs. On these promoters of slutdressing who have convinced her that she has the right to dress any way she pleases no matter what.”
  20. “This is HYPOCRITE FEMINISM at its worst. The most abusive creature on the planet is the violent woman who knows the cops will blame the nearest man for her actions.”
  21. “Now i’m not about to go and rape anyone, but does anyone reading this think a guy does not choose who he rapes? He has to give it some thought. So if there is a woman dressed up or “slutty” vs. a homely looking person all covered up. My guess is he looks at the skanky one. I may be way off base but you don’t see too many ugly rape victims.”
  22. “More like Douche bag walk…LOL”
  23. “Wow! Some of these ladies sure have some ENTITLEMENT ISSUES!!”
  24. “I’m almost thinking this is for a weight watcher’s convention after looking through the pics….”
  25. “After looking at the picture of the three organizers , I can honestly say ….. they should  have NO WORRIES AT ALL about getting attacked…. I mean seriously…Look at them!!!”
  26. “These ugly chicks are just looking for attention. nobody would want them so they join the slutwalk cause there so nasty. look at them, eww. get out of here. the slutwalk has to be the funniest thing iv heard in years!”
  27. “Yar!Not a looker in the bunch!”
  28. “Oh yeah, one more note.  I have to agree that a great number of those that participated in the protest really had no reason to worry about getting raped … there is not enough alcohol or drugs in all of Manitoba for that to happen to some of them loud mouth yard-apes.”
  29. “Just another example showing how out of control these fembos are getting.”
  30. “Definitely there are people who don’t understand that flaunting is just as bad as the person who violates another person through unwanted physical contact.”
  31. “Useless Trashwalk, Time for your next positive STI test ladies”
  32. “The pupose of these events is for these people to advertise their promiscuity. It does serve a purpose, which is to clarify to men who do respect women of character that these are not the types you want to associate with. It tells clear thinking men that these are not women capable of meaningful lasting relationships. It serves to enhance the stature of honorable women.The end result is that men and women who can respect each other will connect. The women in these events will be relegated to interacting with men who are users and more likely to be rapists. Everyone gets what they deserve.”
  33. “Make me a sandwich”

From comments on the Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Sun websites.

It seems like a convenient excuse for people to say “I don’t like the word ‘slut’, so I can’t support this movement.” The name SlutWalk brings attention from the media and the public by its very controversy, and it also weakens the power of a word used to oppress and belittle women.

The word “slut” is offensive because it is wielded as a weapon against women; only by taking control of the narrative can that word lose its power. We’ve seen this before with other words; the best example is “queer”. “Slut” is probably closer to the word “fag” in that there’s less chance of it ever gaining respectability, but it is possible to take away its power to harm. And it is never acceptable to use the word to attack or demean anyone, and it is up to each individual woman to decide whether or not she feels comfortable using the word to self-identify for any purpose.

Not only was each woman (and man) at the SlutWalk an individual deserving of respect, but every one was attractive in their own way, and I’m sure a large number of the women there would have been held up as attractive in any other context by the very men who felt the urge to insult their appearance. They did this, of course,  as a way of trying to take power away from these women. Since sexual violence itself is about the same thing, taking power away from someone else, it is shocking and unacceptable to see so many disparaging comments on the physical appearance of those involved.

I believe the victim blaming that overwhelms the comment feeds is not just the refuge of would-be rapists waiting for their opportunity, though sadly I know that there are far too many men in that camp; I believe a far more prevalent group is made up of people who want so much to believe that the victim is to blame, because to them it’s the only way they can feel that their loved ones can stay safe.

The thinking seems to be: if these women asked for it, if these small children or elderly ladies or mentally-disadvantaged people did something to bring on the violence, then my wife/daughter/mother/friend will be able to make different choices and avoid being attacked.

Not only is this untrue, but the very notion is dangerous, not only for awareness of the true nature of sexual violence, but also to the victims, many of whom already face their own concerns that they somehow brought the attack upon themselves. They don’t deserve to feel that way. They don’t deserve to be victimized a second time by callousness and ignorance.

It doesn’t matter how much faith you have in the idea that the victim could have somehow avoided the attack; that idea has been shown to be wrong again and again. I have known many survivors of sexual violence and sexual abuse; for every one of them there was no way for them to avoid what happened. The attack was not their fault in any way. Because of those survivors in my life, I do not have the option of living in ignorance on this issue. And considering that somewhere between 25-33% of women have been victims of sexual abuse (and perhaps as many as 15% of men), I doubt any of us can continue to be ignorant when so many around us are being affected.

All of us know people, be they women, children, or men, who are survivors of sexual violence. There’s no getting away from this, and we’ll never make any progress against sexual violence unless we fight against victim-blaming and stereotypes. Judging from the comment threads on the Free Press and Sun, we have a long way to go.

I took part in SlutWalk Winnipeg. And there I saw survivors regaining their voice.

It was important to them.

For that reason alone it should be important to all of us.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

In the past five years since I returned to Winnipeg, I’ve been disappointed, dissatisfied, and oftentimes in complete disbelief of how governance is done in Winnipeg.  I’ve seen community centres and historic buildings knocked down simply to create empty lots for cars and/or garbage.  I’ve seen construction projects planned that seem to revel in increasing costs while alienating neighbouring residents and businesses.  I’ve even seen a mayor who changes his mind on rapid transit more often than I change my pants.  Whether or not I change my pants often enough, you can guess that there’s too much flip-flopping on the transit issue.

So because of my love of sticking my nose into this or that issue, I’ve had some people ask me why I don’t run for city council.  I seem to know about the issues, and I apparently have the ability to stand up in front of council and voice my opinion.  I also think that it’s something that I could devote myself to, hopefully for the right reasons.

But life happens, and it happened quite a bit to me.  Unfortunately, I have been dealing with a serious illness in my family, one that has been progressing for many years and has now reached the point where it sometimes takes me away from my normal life for days and weeks at a time.  That is sad, but there is happy, too… exhausted happy… my wife just gave birth to my second child, a son, and over the second half of September we’ve been getting used to the life of having both a newborn and possibly the world’s most active toddler.  So obviously we’ve been pretty busy.

But those aren’t the only reasons why I had to step back from politics.  The truth is, politics is a full-time job.  Every time I’ve gotten deeply involved in something political, I’ve had to choose between work and politics, and one or the other always suffers.  For now, I’ve chosen work.

But wait, there’s more…

There are too many candidates in Elmwood-East Kildonan for me to want to enter the race.  There’s the NDP-nominated candidate, the candidate who lost the NDP nod and was allegedly then expelled from the party for still deciding to run, the Conservative/PC party’s hockey-themed candidate, and two others, Nelson Sanderson and Gordon Warren.  If I were going to run in such a race, I would have needed to start around May at the latest, and the task would have required my full attention through the summer and up to Election Day.  Even then, I’d be running against a candidate that all NDP members are supposed to vote for, and a candidate that all Conservatives are supposed to vote for.  Sounds too much like another election I ran in.  🙂

The truth is that I don’t know which Elmwood-East Kildonan candidate is the right choice, nor do I know if some or all of them would have done as good or a better job than me.  Running for office should be done for the right reasons.  I ran in the provincial by-election for Elmwood because I felt that it was important to give voters a choice between the NDP (not a fan) or the PCs (also not a fan); I didn’t do it because I thought I could win (although I did start to hope that I could), and I certainly didn’t do it for a paycheque or for the approval of the people I went to high school with.  If I had run in Elmwood – East Kildonan this year, it wouldn’t have been for any reason other than the fact that some people think I should, and that I think it would be interesting.  If I’m going to switch back to politics for six months, I’m going to do it because I know it’s the right thing to do.

Maybe in 2014 I’ll find the right reason to run… but since I’m going to put so much effort in, maybe I should just run for mayor.

Read Full Post »

Photo from CTV Winnipeg

Eliminator-RC recently moved their business into a new storefront on Higgins.  This move took both money and hard work, not just from owners Mike and Laurrie Gobeil, but from their family, friends, and contacts in various trades.  Like many other investments, the initial cost of setting up the new location is more than someone would pay for an empty building.  That’s because the investment is based on future revenues, and not on the “market value” of the property.  And this revenue comes from good products, good service, and a good location.  Now the City of Winnipeg intends to take away the location and force the Gobeils to start over with less money than they need to set up a new store.  And on top of that, there is no compensation from the city for the stress and loss of business that expropriation will bring.

This is all in the name of progress, to move Waterfront Drive over so that a pier can be built for the new Disraeli.  But like many other decisions made in this city, there are good alternatives that are not being considered.   Expropriation is unnecessary.

Bridge piers don't always need to block roads.

Yes, the current bridge design requires a pier to be placed where Waterfront Drive currently lies.  However, this does not automatically mean that Waterfront Drive needs to be placed where Eliminator-RC currently stands.  Even if the bridge pier is not redesigned to allow the road to flow underneath (which is more difficult technically and would likely increase costs and delay construction), it is possible to temporarily reroute Waterfront through MacDonald Ave and Gomez Street until the new bridge is complete.  At that time, Waterfront can be shifted to the West instead of the East.  That shift may also be temporary, as the development plans for Point Douglas with regards to both the Provincial Park plan and the Higgins Realignment / Louise Bridge Reconstruction may call for Waterfront to follow the river eastwards.  This will obviously depend on whether or not the industries in the path of such a redirection move to new locations as part of the long-term plans for the Point.

So why hasn’t city looked at these alternatives?  I don’t know the answer to that, just as I don’t know why the city did not look at a temporary span to double the capacity of the Louise Bridge during Disraeli Construction, or why the city needed to tear down a community centre a year before its replacement facility was built.  If I were to guess, I’d say the city doesn’t look at alternatives because the mayor and councillors don’t think they need to.  Mike and Laurrie aren’t going to be able to stop the city unless they can convince the province to get involved.  Barring that, their best hope may be a mayor who is willing to say as part of his or her election platform that they will do what is necessary to prevent the destruction of a longtime Point Douglas business.

Are there any mayoral candidates who are willing to stand up for a local business and its loyal customers?  Or simply to stand up for common sense?

Read Full Post »

“I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”
– 19th century British statesman and Winnipeg freeway namesake Benjamin Disraeli.

A few bloggers (Graham the rabblerouser and the ever-mysterious Black Rod) have mentioned that some citizens, including myself, had brought plans forward regarding the Disraeli Bridges Project.  My plan, based on conversations with literally hundreds of Winnipeggers, was to twin the Louise Bridge with a temporary span before any Disraeli closure was to take place.

However, the plan was not perfect: it required leasing of private property (a shed and equipment yard) and would have increased traffic on Higgins Avenue, which did not please some Point Douglas residents.  But I did feel that it was the best option considering the limitations that had we had been told existed.

Of course, most of Winnipeg found out in January of 2010, after four years of talk, that the bridge did not need to be closed at all.  Is that good news?  Yes and no.

It’s good news because the closure of Disraeli was unthinkable without increasing the capacity of other bridges.

It’s bad news because it shows that the city was completely wrong about the limitations of the project, and misinformed the 100,000 affected Winnipeggers for FOUR YEARS.   Not only did this cause undue worry, it also caused several businesses on Henderson to move to another part of the city.  In addition, there is still no plan for the Louise Bridge.

The options the city presented were either a) $250-300 million six-lane bridge still using the old piers and adding some new ones, or b) $125 million bridge refurbishment with 16 months of closure.  Now, the city is saying that a brand new four-lane bridge can be built for $195 million without any closure.

How can a third option come out of nowhere when the city made it abundantly clear that there were only two options?  There are two possibilities for this:

1. The city did not research the project thoroughly before deciding on what they found to be the easiest solution (particularly because they didn’t rely on the bridge to get to work each day).

2. The current project estimates are far too low, meaning that the $195 million price tag will be inflated significantly once construction has begun.

As a public-private partnership, the second option may not be a bad thing, depending on the specifics of the contract.  The city is borrowing $75 million up front, while the private consortium, Plenary Roads Winnipeg, will finance the remaining $120 million.  It is not clear from the information I have seen if cost overruns will be the responsibility of the private group or of the city, or if both will share the extra expense.

At this point, all that is clear is that the city did not think the closure was a big issue until the provincial government finally woke up and decided that it was an issue during a by-election campaign.

So in the end, is the new Disraeli plan a triumph?  No.  It’s a solution that should have been inevitable, but one which the city spent four years decrying as impossible.  The city and province both showed a serious lack of leadership on this issue.  At a time when we are all watching with curious dismay as the US House and Senate whittle away any chance of health care reform due to shortsightedness, partisanship, and selfishness, we see our own governments spending four years avoiding an issue that should have been resolved in four months.

I’m not sad that the city didn’t choose my fancy Disraeli plan, or that the city didn’t bother to consider it on any level; that’s the way government works around here, so it’s like being sad that pigs don’t fly.  But what I am sad about is that the leadership in this city and province has not even considered the damage that this four-year stunt has caused to the Elmwood residents and businesses at the foot of the bridge.

Read Full Post »

George Costanza was a visionary, despite being a fictional character based on Larry David.  Well, in truth, I just wanted a name to describe a concept, and most names are taken.  Even The Human Fund is taken, by an organization in Cleveland.  But that didn’t stop me…

So here’s the pitch: many of us who frequent blogs are idealists who hope for a better society, whether our focus is on local issues or on global affairs.  Some of us donate money to various causes, while others feel as though charities are simply “in the business of charity”, worrying that the administration and salaries might be taking too much of the donation money.

As an East Kildonan Lion, I know first-hand that there are charities that are truly working to help the communities they work in; Lions, for instance, do not spend any proceeds on administration costs, which means that all of the money from fundraising and donations goes directly to worthy causes, and not to salaries or awards dinners.  I’ve also seen the work that groups like the United Way and Siloam Mission are doing in Winnipeg, and they are worthy causes.

But there are other projects that I feel would benefit Winnipeg, and they don’t always fall under the auspices of charity in the traditional sense.  Some of these projects are on a line between charity and angel investing, because they are near a break-even point economically, so may not be considered viable enough for standard capital or not-for-profit enough for donations.

One of these projects is the Grassroots Apartments Project I talked about in an earlier post.  Another idea that I might write about in future is Youth Cafés.  Either of these projects, if they could be given a solid business plan, could receive capital from a rag-tag assortment of Winnipeggers who want to see some of their spare change used to enhance the build environment of our city.  This same concept could be extended to provincial, federal, or worldwide issues, whether it’s money for a prorotype of an algae biofuel plant or a little bit of cash to research the effect of Martian gravity on the development of embryos in mammals in anticipation of building a settlement on Mars.

If any of these projects sound good, great; if any of these projects sound incredibly stupid, that’s good too.  Because I believe that there is room for a fund that allows its investors (or sometimes more accurately, its benefactors) to pick and choose which projects to invest in.  This would be handled through a website that lists all projects once approved by a volunteer committee.  The benefactors would be able to choose the projects to invest their funds in, based on the type of project and its apparent viability.

Some benefactors may choose to automate their investment choices, while others would choose manually on a project-by-project basis.  Some projects could be donations to other charities, while others could be microloans to local entrepreneurs.  It would possible for one benefactor to treat the fund solely as a place to donate money, while another benefactor would use the fund as a way to earn back a small income from projects they deem worthy and viable.

This type of project could be started immediately with the creation of a website and a not-for-profit organization.  Rather than making donations in an official sense, participants would be purchasing virtual goods.  These virtual goods would be traded to various projects, where the executives of that project would borrow money from the organization using the virtual goods as collateral (often along with other guarantees), or they would sell the goods to the organization outright (in the case of a donation); it would also be possible for the organization to enable shared ownership of a portion of a for-profit project by a project’s benefactors, similar to buying shares.
If a project executive failed to repay a loan, the organization would use conventional means of collection to retrieve the funds.  All funds recovered would be distributed back to benefactors, and all dividends from shared ownership would be distributed as well.  All benefactors would be able to withdraw their funds at any time when their funds are not committed to a project.

So is this a worthy endeavour?  Is it something that could be made to work, avoiding both fraud and over-complexity?  Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »