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Posts Tagged ‘elmwood’

It’s good.

Yeah.

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.

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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.

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The other day, a resident of Elmwood was saying that he was so disappointed in my candidacy that he chose to cancel his Liberal membership.  When I asked this resident about why he was so disappointed with me, he gave me several reasons.  I’d like to respond to his remarks, in case there are other people who are thinking the same things:

  1. You were bashing Elmwood while trying to save Kelvin Community Centre: I’m not sure what I said or did that could be classified as bashing, but I imagine it might be drawing attention to the issues in Elmwood that led me to believe that a local community centre is a necessity for the neighbourhood.  While I understand that some residents don’t want to talk about the negative things that are happening in Elmwood, it doesn’t change the fact that Elmwood has problems with crime, gangs, and at-risk youth.  When I talk about crime and gangs, and about children who do not have enough positive role modeling, I’m not criticizing the thousands of Elmwood residents who make a positive contribution to their community.  All I am doing is responding to problems that are very real, and saying that we require action on the part of residents and government to find positive solutions.
  2. Kelvin Community Centre should have been shut down years ago: I am well aware that there are significant numbers of Elmwood residents who believe that Kelvin was a lost cause and that our community is no worse off without it.  Some residents tell me that they have no problem driving to Bronx Park or Gateway for recreation, while others say that the people of Elmwood don’t deserve a club if they can’t be bothered to volunteer to run it.  The problem with both of these arguments is that they are leaving out the fact that the children who won’t make it out to Bronx Park or Gateway and whose parents are unable or uninterested in volunteering are the ones who are in danger of turning to crime and gangs.  Our personal feelings towards these children or their parents don’t change the fact that without alternatives to petty crime and bad influences, these children will take the wrong path in life.  And these are the children who live in our neighbourhood, so the decisions they make affect all of us.
  3. You had nothing good to say about Bronx Park before, and now you’re grabbing all the attention for it: there were a few occasions when reporters would ask me about the Bronx Park expansion, seeing if I had any criticisms for the project.  It certainly would have made a good story for there to be a dispute between Elmwood and East Kildonan about community centres, but it never did happen.  During the campaign to save Kelvin, we were in regular contact with representatives of Bronx Park and other community centres in Northeast Winnipeg.  The Bronx Park expansion project was not related to Kelvin Community Centre in any way when it was originally promised; it was only after the decision was made to close Kelvin CC that the General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres (GCWCC) started to mention Kelvin square footage being “allocated” to Bronx Park.  So there never has been a conflict between Bronx Park and Kelvin, just as there was no conflict between Kelvin and Chalmers CC.  My current duties as Vice President of Bronx Park do involve some work with the Bronx Park campus, but most of my focus is still on the Kelvin site and on programming in general.  The volunteers at Bronx Park and Good Neighbours who worked for years on the expansion project are the ones who deserve our gratitude and applause, and I am pleased to see that there was positive coverage of those volunteers in the media rather than any preoccupation with myself and Kelvin.
  4. You didn’t have a chance against Bill Blaikie, who has done far more than you ever will: when we started our campaign, there were two or three names that had been floated for the NDP candidate, all of whom we felt would be strong challengers.  When the news came in late November that Bill Blaikie was considering the position, we were definitely surprised.  However, the reputation of Bill Blaikie is no reason for me to suspend what I feel are legitimate criticisms of both the NDP government and Mr. Blaikie himself.  I won’t repost those criticisms now (I have mentioned these criticisms on this blog before), but I stand by my belief that the NDP government of Manitoba is not serving the interests of its citizens, and Mr. Blaikie’s willingness to join a government that acts counter to what he espouses to be his ideals opens him up for criticism.  His acceptance of nomination as a MLA in the NDP government means that he is now accountable for the failings of this government.  As far as the argument that Mr. Blaikie has done far more than I ever will, obviously there is no way to prove or disprove this statement as I can’t say what I’ll accomplish in my lifetime as I’ve yet to read my obituary.
  5. Continually spamming our mailboxes: there were definitely some problems with our flyer campaign, and if I could do it again I’d certainly do it quite a bit differently.  The materials and process used in printing were less environmentally friendly than they should have been, and the content of the flyers was specific in its criticisms but not specific enough in communicating my personal ideas and goals.  However, I do stand by my criticisms of the NDP and Mr. Blaikie, and I believe that the record of the NDP is evidence on its own that they do not deserve re-election.
  6. Going on and on about the Disraeli Bridge: my platform was well-rounded in my opinion, but obviously the attention was placed on the upcoming closure of the Disraeli Bridge.  Unfortunately, most voters still aren’t aware of my position on Disraeli, as it was printed in the media and stated by other candidates that all candidates support keeping the bridge open during construction.  It is not feasible to keep the bridge open for the entire construction period as a single-span bridge, as there will need to be some periods of closure.  That is why I have recommended that construction of a temporary span to twin the Louise Bridge before Disraeli construction begins.   This, along with some traffic routing changes, would relieve congestion during the periods of closure which are necessary to do the job properly.
  7. Too many phone calls: to this day, I am still not sure how many phone calls went out.  I personally recommended against the recorded messages, but because a by-election campaign is not a one-person show, I deferred to other opinions.  We chose to have one initial phone blast informing voters that the by-election had been called and a phone blast for Election Day.  A Disraeli-themed phone blast allegedly occurred during the middle of the campaign which some voters attributed to me, but which did not come from my campaign.  We also employed a professional phone bank to poll voters and to remind voters on Election Day, but there were some technical issues that resulted in multiple calls to voters even after they had voted.  In my opinion, the phoning was excessive and the errors were unacceptable.  I do know that the NDP and PC parties also conducted extensive phone campaigns, but if I could do it all over again, I would consider not using the phone at all.
  8. You went to the NDP first for the nomination and they turned you down: this rumour is not only untrue, it’s actually a reversal of the truth.  I was approached by members of two other political parties, one of which was the NDP.  Several NDP members asked me to seek the nomination, but I was never approached by any official representatives of the Doer government or the NDP constituency association in Elmwood.  I chose the Manitoba Liberal Party because I felt that it was the party which best shared my beliefs, and because Dr. Gerrard is a respected and honourable person who has always worked for all Manitobans.  I did not choose the NDP, and that is because I feel that the NDP has been irresponsible and negligent in its governance, and that Premier Doer and his cabinet should be held accountable for many wrongs over the past decade.  In hindsight, I do not know if I could have won the NDP nomination, because I don’t know when Bill Blaikie decided to run.  He didn’t contact NDP members about the possibility until long after I was already the Liberal candidate, and while I don’t know if things would have gone differently had I been seeking the NDP nomination, to presume that it would have affected his decision would be foolhardy on my part.

There were definitely things I could have done better as a Liberal candidate, and there were things that I could have done better in my work with Kelvin and Bronx Park.  We all make mistakes, and what distinguishes success from failure is whether we learn from those mistakes.  Was I the best candidate for the Liberal party in the Elmwood By-Election?  Probably not.  I’m sure there’s someone out there who is more qualified, who has campaign experience, and who has a stronger record for results.  It’s important for Liberal members to work to find that better candidate, and if that person is not available, to work with the candidate you do have to compensate for the weaknesses and amplify their good qualities.

The only way to provide an alternative to the corruption of the NDP government is to win campaigns on the ground, and that can only happen if we all work together.

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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 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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