Posts Tagged ‘disraeli’

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?

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Transcona resident and newly elected Elmwood MLA Bill Blaikie decided to make it clear that he thinks that the important issue of the Disraeli Freeway is something to make light of.

From Hansard:

I mean, if there ever was an ecumenical moment in northeast Winnipeg, it’s the way in which, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a federal, provincial, or municipal, whether you’re Conservative or New Democrat–I don’t believe we have any Liberals in northeast Winnipeg, which is a happy situation–but not wanting to transgress on the non-partisan nature of the debate, Mr. Speaker, we were all united, even those who were unelected, on the unacceptable nature of the 16-month closure that is part of the current plan the City has.

Blaikie then proceeds to speak at length without providing any actual information, and then takes another parting shot at those who dared to speak out against the NDP’s history of neglect in Northeast Winnipeg:

There was a temptation, certainly in the recent by-election, to “partisanize”–I don’t know if there’s such a word–the issue.

Of course, there was no mention in his speech about viable and cost-effective alternatives, such as the immediate twinning of the Louise Bridge with a temporary span, which was of course an idea brought forward by the Manitoba Liberals.  Just as with every other issue, including the outright theft of money from motorists driving under the regular posted limit inside unmarked and poorly marked construction zones, the NDP and Mr. Blaikie show their contempt for the voters of Manitoba.

Let’s keep the bridge open while it’s being repaired, either by, as I say, building a second span first or by finding a way to repair it and keep it open at the same time.

Obviously Mr. Blaikie’s non-partisan approach includes ignoring any ideas that might come from the non-existent Elmwood Liberals.  If I existed, I’d be pretty disgusted right now.

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So I was looking at the calendar and realized that I’ve been gone for a month, not just from this blog but from politics in general.

I was expecting that after a week or so of rest and quiet, I’d feel re-energized and ready to get back to work on Kelvin, Disraeli, and a few new battles that have appeared in the past few months.  But after a week, then two weeks, then even three and four weeks, I didn’t feel that burst of new energy.  In general, I’m still pretty tired.

I think I’ve been looking at this the wrong way.  I won’t feel energized by taking time away from the work; I need to get back to work to start feeling renewed.

From what I can see, nothing has been accomplished by the provincial government for the Elmwood constituency since the election.  (The flood isn’t a good enough reason for nothing to be happening.)  All of the talk about “solving” Disraeli has evaporated into that familiar NDP status quo.  Meanwhile, the province is still silent on the other issues, and completely unresponsive to the ongoing crisis in healthcare.

But if I had expected the NDP and Mr. Blaikie to actually solve problems in Elmwood, I wouldn’t have ran against them in the by-election.  So in the absence of leadership from the provincial NDP, it’s up to all of us to get to work on the issues that matter.

Here are my plans for the month of May; if anyone would like to help out, please let me know.  More people not only makes the work easier, it also makes it much more fun.

  1. Bring a hang-out night to Kelvin.  I don’t have details yet, but it would consist of one evening a week where we’d bring out whatever equipment we have, open up the long lost Kelvin canteen, and reconnect with all of the people who thought of Kelvin as their club.
  2. Put together a new Disraeli traffic plan that meets the needs of Elmwood, River East, and Point Douglas.  This plan will improve on some of the ideas I’ve mentioned here and on betterdisraeli.com and will be formally brought before the City of Winnipeg.
  3. Talk to Manitoba Housing about their complex on Watt Street near Chalmers, to see what it would take to get a playground installed.
  4. Continue to work with the city to find a proper use for the Kelvin frontage on Henderson.
  5. Get more details about the upcoming drop-in programs for summer, and see what assistance is needed to make them successful.

If anyone has information that can help me out on any of these, please e-mail me or post a comment.

And as an ongoing activity, I will of course remember to post about events in our city and province.  What kind of blog would this be if I didn’t do that?

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I’m sure it came as a surprise to many councillors that I came out in support of the budget at city hall on Tuesday.  I think that it was well-received by most of city council, but not by Councillor Swandel, who did not like my remarks on the Disraeli and Louise bridge projects, and asked me how much of a property tax increase the people of Elmwood and EK would like.  What I see as a shuffling of timelines and budget priorities, he apparently sees as an attempt to spend more money.

Here is the text of my speech:

I am here today to voice my support for the 2009 Capital Budget.  Like most people, there are a few things that I’d like to see changed, but overall I think this is a good budget that focuses on infrastructure at a time when the economy is uncertain and infrastructure is a priority.

I know that the people here today, whether we are city councillors, city activists, journalists, or Your Worship the mayor — that we are all here because we truly want what’s best for our city.  I don’t believe that we will make any progress in Winnipeg if we don’t work together, and I think that together we have the ideas that will move our city forward.

Like the Winnipeg Citizens Coalition, I am not yet convinced of the effectiveness of Private Public Partnerships.  However, I believe that if the city is willing to accept requests for transparency by making public all future arrangements with contractors, including maintenance contracts, that most residents are willing to accept these capital construction projects using the P3 model.  We can’t move forward if we are unwilling to experiment; however, we won’t get anywhere if we can’t openly examine the results of these projects.

Like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, I would love to see more spending in areas that are sorely in need of new funds.  However, I do not feel that it is prudent at this point to raise taxes, and I believe that surcharges to new housing starts and tolls for out-of-town residents will increase competition and animosity in the capital region and could make any future accommodation with our municipal neighbours much more difficult, if not impossible.  I personally believe that any successful initiative for a capital region funding plan will need to come from the provincial government, and I certainly hope that they will show some leadership in this matter.

I know that active transportation has become an important issue for many voters, and as a fair-weather cyclist, I can understand why.  However, it would be disingenuous for me to say that I believe that it’s more important than the majority of current infrastructure projects or riverbank stabilization.  If city council does believe that a doubling of the active transportation budget is feasible without affecting priority projects, then I certainly would not disagree.

There has been some genuine concern in the past from residents of Northeast Winnipeg that our infrastructure needs were not being addressed as promptly or as fully as the needs of South Winnipeg.  Many residents were upset by past decisions by the city, including the closure of Kelvin Community Centre and some aspects of the current Disraeli Freeway rehabilitation plan.  But there have also been some encouraging moves made by the city that have not gone unnoticed in these communities, including the Northeast Pioneers Greenway along Gateway and Raleigh, the Bronx Park community centre expansion, and now the Louise Bridge twinning project.  These projects are beginning to send a message that the residents of the Northeast are equal partners in Winnipeg.

There is however, one outstanding aspect of the capital bridge projects that is causing some serious concern for residents.  It’s not an issue of cost, but more of timelines and planning.  As there is a project to rebuild the Louise Bridge as a two-span, four-lane bridge, can this project be coordinated with the Disraeli rehabilitation project in such a way to reduce congestion related to bridge closures?  Is it possible to include a new Louise span as part of the existing Disraeli project?  An additional component of the Disraeli requirements could be for the construction of a new two-lane span for the Louise, either beside the existing span or sited at the alternate East-West crossing site.  Once the Disraeli rehabilitation project is complete, a new second span of the Louise can be constructed.  If the alternate East-West crossing is chosen, the current Louise Bridge could possibly become an Active Transportation link, removing the need for a third bridge to be constructed.

I know that this request is not an easy one to grant, as it will take some planning and ingenuity in a short timeframe, but I do believe that it would go a long way to showing the residents of Northeast Winnipeg that our mayor and council are actively working to improve our neighbourhoods.

All in all, I do believe that this capital budget plan can make things better for Winnipeg, and I feel that if this council can continue to be receptive to the issues and concerns of Winnipeg residents, we can build a city that we can all be proud of.

I will be sending a note to Councillor Swandel to better explain my request; I’ll be sure to post any results here.

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Overall, I’m okay with the City of Winnipeg’s 2009 Preliminary Capital Budget. I expected to have some big problems with it, particularly regarding community centres and transportation, but most of my concerns are relatively minor.

I’m not convinced the P3s (public/private partnerships) are more affordable than the traditional public financing methods, but I don’t feel that it will bring disaster upon us at the moment. If things don’t work out too well with the current projects, we’ll most likely have a chance to choose new councillors and a new mayor before we start moving towards increased service delivery by private companies.

The one big thing that I am hoping for (and will be asking for) in this budget is some adjustment of timelines. If the will is there, I believe that the city could move up the Louise Bridge project and merge it with the Disraeli Freeway Rehabilitation project. Doing this would allow for a new span of the Louise to be completed before the Disraeli closure, with the second replacement span being completed after the Disraeli rehab is complete.

I read through the alternative budget created by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and while I certainly agree with many of their spending initiatives, I can’t say I’m in agreement with their revenue plans. I believe that taxing new housing starts in the city will only increase the expansion of suburbs in neighbouring municipalities, and I don’t believe that a commuter tax is feasible in our current economic and political climate. As property taxes are increasing due to higher assessments, I don’t think now is the time to increase the rates as well, especially as we’re working to maintain consumer confidence in difficult economic times.

The one thing that I would like to see is a stronger (and more strongly communicated) vision from the mayor and council for the future development of Winnipeg. Nine years of a provincial government that has a love for mediocrity has made me hungry for some vision, and I know we have a few councillors in this city who can help give us that vision.

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I’m sure I’m not the only person wondering why the Premier would bother parachuting Transcona’s Bill Blaikie into a constituency that already had two potential candidates.

“Blaikie said Doer approached him to run in Elmwood – not the first time the premier has tried to woo Blaikie into provincial politics.”  Winnipeg Free Press, Dec 5, 2008 – http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/Blaikie_.html

Of course, there had been several other rumours about the Premier pushing for a transplant for Elmwood:

Past rumour that Scott Smith is moving to Elmwood: http://hacksandwonks.blogspot.com/2008/10/elmwood-gossip-that-wont-go-away.html

Phil Walding, Son of Pawley-government kaibosher Jim Walding, approached to run in Elmwood by-election to succeed Jim Maloway: http://tgcts.blogspot.com/2008/10/september-guest-and-story-review.html

What’s wrong with choosing a candidate from among the people who live in Elmwood?  Why is it that citizens like Darryl Livingstone, who has worked for years with Councillor Lillian Thomas, or Ed Innes, who has been fighting alongside former MLA (and current MP) Jim Maloway on the Disraeli bridge issue, are not considered worthy of the seat?  Why did the Premier decide that he needed to search high and low for a third choice from outside of the area?

I’m not sure why an esteemed Member of Parliament would retire from politics, only to run for a provincial seat in an area he doesn’t live in.  I’ve certainly heard the rumours that Mr Blaikie wants to be the next leader of the Manitoba NDP, and/or that Mr Doer decided that he needed a favour from a big name because the voters of Elmwood have been left feeling neglected after years of, well, neglect.   All I can say is that I do not believe that Premier Doer gave any consideration to the actual needs of Elmwood when he made his choice… he seems to be more focused on what HE needs.

In these days of uncertainty about the motives of some Federal politicians, I think it’s a bad idea for the Premier to be meddling politically in a constituency that already has its local talent.   There are far more important things that our Premier should be spending his time on.

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It’s funny.  Sometimes we’ll hear from the Premier on issues such as the price of admission for indoor soccer, and whether or not an Ikea might be coming to town.  But on the current bad plan for the Disraeli?  Not a word.  Some people say it’s because he doesn’t like the private-public partnership, while others say it’s because the NDP is more interested in making friends in the South of Winnipeg rather than helping out its “safe seats”.  What do I think?  I think that the Premier has no reason to get involved… not yet, anyway.  I don’t think he’s going to bother with Disraeli until the pressure starts building.

Now’s the time to start with that pressure.

The Better Disraeli campaign begins next week.

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