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Posts Tagged ‘ndp government’

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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A strange fundraising campaign has been launched by the Manitoba PC Party.  They are asking people to donate $10 for a “virtual cell phone” that will cover up part of a photo from Nov 2008 (a year ago) of Deputy Premier Rosann Wowchuk using her cell phone while driving, a shocking and rather stale example of NDP hypocrisy.

So of course, I needed to get a piece of that action.  I’ll get into that later…

I just don’t understand how these antics demonstrate that the Progressive Conservatives are ready to assume leadership of this province.  Their Chicken Wing Party of Manitoba of 2008 still has a Facebook page, and one can only hope that during its active phase it had more than the 30 members it has today.

Curtis has an unusual response to the latest PC campaign, while Cherenkov says what I think most of us are thinking.  So what would I have done better?  That’s a difficult question.  I can certainly understand the frustration that the PC party is feeling; as a Liberal, I’m frustrated, too.  The NDP have been responsible for some very serious scandals over the past decade, including mistakes that have cost lives, as well as an ongoing matter with Manitoba Hydro that could result in billions of dollars being lost.  But at the end of the day, many Manitobans are still supporting the NDP party.

I have a few ideas I’m working on for how to get Manitobans to start listening to alternatives, and I may try some of them out on this very blog.  But for the time being, I’ll just leave it at this: for anyone who donates a minimum of ten dollars to the Manitoba Liberal Party, and who e-mails or posts a comment to let me know (we can use the honour system and clever pseudonyms, since I won’t bother checking), I will add one package of Beef Jerky to cover up this banner for the PC Victory Fund.

Exhibit A: The Beef Jerky of Liberal Justice

Exhibit B: The Victory Fund Banner (until the takedown notice arrives).

Note: As this brilliant campaign took 10 minutes to develop, I won’t be too upset if I don’t get my 30 fans.

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I’m not surprised that many people aren’t big on mandatory bike helmets; it’s a big inconvenience to wear a helmet when it’s 35 degrees outside.  In fact, it’s so uncomfortable that I sometimes consider shaving my head in summer to get some kind of relief.

But here’s the issue: bike helmets can prevent brain injury and death.  Unfortunately, we just had a death of a child in this province that probably could have been avoided if a helmet had been worn.  The problem with the argument of “common sense” is that common sense doesn’t actually include knowing just how powerful an impact a fall from a bicycle can bring.  It’s the same situation with booster seats; we aren’t all born with an inherent sense that seat belts aren’t designed for young children.

So in my mind, the best way to ensure that children are wearing bike helmets as often as possible is to make bike helmets mandatory for children.  If expansion of the project to provide children from lower income families with free helmets is necessary, it should take place as well.  Adults could be left to decide on their own, although it’s a bad idea for a parent to demonstrate to their children that helmets are only for kids.

The strangest thing about the NDP government in Manitoba is that with bike helmets and booster seats, it is felt that an education program is the right course, while a bill has been drawn up for consideration that fines people who interfere with service animals in any way.

Offence — person interfering with service animal
2(1)        No person shall touch, feed, impede or interfere with a service animal, without lawful excuse or authority.
Offence — person allowing animal to interfere with service animal
2(2)        No person who owns an animal or has possession or control of an animal shall allow that animal to touch, impede or interfere with a service animal, without lawful excuse or authority.
Penalty
3           A person who contravenes section 2 is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction
(a) for a first offence, to a fine of not more than $5,000; and
(b) for a second or subsequent offence, to a fine of not more than $10,000.

http://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/39-3/pdf/b238.pdf

This is different than laws such as that in the state of Wisconsin:

Act 353, Casey’s Law, creates new crimes related to the harassment of service dogs and requires a person convicted of harassing a service dog to pay restitution for any pecuniary loss, as defined in the act, suffered as a result of the crime. The act defines a “service dog” as a dog that is trained for the purpose of assisting a person with a sensory, mental, or physical disability or accommodating such a disability (Section 951.01 (5), Wisconsin Statutes).
The new law allows any person to provide notice to another person that his or her behavior is interfering with the use of a service dog and to request that the behavior stop.  The notice may be given in any manner. After receiving that notice and request, a person may not recklessly or intentionally interfere with the use of the service dog by obstructing or intimidating the dog or otherwise jeopardizing the safety of the dog or its user. In addition, the act prohibits recklessly or intentionally allowing one’s dog to interfere with the use of a service dog. Recklessly interfering is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of $1,000 or imprisonment for 90 days or both. Intentionally interfering is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for 9 months or both. If a person recklessly injures a service dog or recklessly allows his or her dog to injure a service dog, he or she is also guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
Under the act, a person who intentionally injures a service dog or intentionally allows his or her dog to injure a service dog is guilty of a Class I felony, which is punishable by a fine of $10,000 or a sentence of imprisonment and extended supervision for 3.5 years or both. Recklessly causing the death of a service dog is also a Class I felony.

http://www.legis.state.wi.us/LRB/pubs/Lb/06Lb8.pdf

The difference here is not just the wording but also the spirit of the Manitoba bill vs. the Wisconsin law.  The Manitoba bill means that if my daughter runs over and pets a service dog she’s guilty of the same offense as a person who kicks a police dog.  If my daughter pets a service dog and the handler of that service dog asks that she stop, and I allow my daughter to continue, that in my mind constitutes willful interference.  But that’s not how the Manitoba bill reads.

In theory, the legislative process is supposed to allow for improvements in the text of bills such as this before they can be passed into law and given royal assent.  We’ll have to wait and see if this law is improved upon before the Premier decides to pass it.

Meanwhile, Liberal bills for mandatory booster seats and mandatory bike helmets were not even considered by the NDP government.  There was no discussion of improving the bills, or of compromise… that’s not how Mr. Doer runs his province.

I think the best way to demonstrate the odd approach of the NDP is to quote a comment writer on the Free Press website:

Posted by:ErikW
June 10, 2009 at 7:04 AM
“Healthy Living Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said during Tuesday’s debate the province wants to opt for an education campaign to encourage all cyclists to wear a helmet. The province also hands out free helmets to many low-income children.”

And yet the NDP has no problem introducing a bill to make a first time offender pay up to $5,000 for interfering with a service animal?

Let me get this straight: an education campaign aimed at getting kids to wear helmets would work, but an education campaign aimed at informing people about the dangers of interfering with a service animal would not work? I admit I don’t have the statistics, but I suspect there are fewer injuries incurred when a service animals is interfered with than there are from children being hurt while riding bicycles.

It would seem that injured children need a better lobby group within the NDP.

from Winnipeg Free Press

I’m not opposed to the passage of an appropriate and properly-written bill for the protection of service animals, and if proper amendments were made such a bill could be a good thing.  But it is ridiculous that for service animals legislation was chosen without education even being considered, while for child safety education alone is considered the only reasonable solution by the NDP.

What’s next?  Perhaps the NDP should tell MP Joy Smith that she ought to change her federal human trafficking bill: rather than a five year minimum sentence, people who buy and sell children should just be forced to attend a weekend seminar, complete with instructional videos and a framed certificate of completion.  That should stem the tide.

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Once again, I find myself offended by the non-answers spouted by the Premier in the Legislature.  Once again, I wonder how a government that is so secretive and heavy-handed could be given three successive majorities.  But rather than complain about what Doer said this time that I found so disconcerting, I’m focusing my attention on a loftier issue.

Representative democracy is something special; it was devised at a time when direct democracy seemed impractical, and nowadays it still reigns despite the fact that direct democracy is theoretically possible with our modern appliances.  And this continued dominance of representative democracy is supposed to be a good thing.

Albert Camus spoke about democracy being maintained by people who know that they don’t know everything.  Jon Stewart said that he expected government to be better than him when he’s at his worst.  Representative democracy, represented by two houses federally and only one provincially, is supposed to be a way of letting cooler heads prevail in the everyday business of regulating our society.  It’s supposed to be a way to filter out the bad decisions made when emotions run high and we can’t seem to see past our own instant gratification.

In Manitoba, our government is run by one person.  His name is Gary Doer.  He also has his own party, which is called the New Democratic Party.  In this party, people get ahead when they’re friends and faithful servants of Gary Doer, while others are allowed to come to meetings, but are gently reminded that they shouldn’t expect to have any influence over anything.  Gary Doer has 35 MLAs who follow his instructions, which include not only how they vote, but also whether or not they can answer questions posed to them in the Legislature.

Greg Selinger is the Minister of Finance.  Because of an ongoing scandal, he is apparently no longer allowed to speak in the Legislative Assembly.  He is nominally responsible for the budget, which means that when Manitobans discover that the NDP budget isn’t balanced, isn’t properly servicing debt, and is risking the long-term viability of government finances, he will be held responsible.  Of course, he’s not REALLY responsible, since there only is one person running our government.

Dave Chomiak is the Minister of Justice, Attorney General, and Government House Leader.  He is also the human shield for Gary Doer.  When an unpopular decision needs to be made, or an unpopular statement needs to be delivered, it’s Mr. Chomiak who is given the task.  Many people are clamoring for Mr. Chomiak’s resignation.  I understand the sentiment, but I think that’s almost like blaming the waterboy if the Moose lose the series.  Remember, there only is one person running our government.

Theresa Oswald is the Minister of Health, and from past performance is obviously not in charge of Public Relations for Gary Doer’s party.  She has been charged with some big mistakes, and has handled the public outcry over those mistakes very poorly.  She has even been accused of orchestrating a cover-up of the details surrounding the death of Brian Sinclair.  A cover-up may have taken place, but that doesn’t mean that such a ploy would have come from the office of Ms. Oswald.  Keep in mind, there only is one person running our government.

When Bill Blaikie, a politician who is known all over Canada, decided to run in the Elmwood By-Election, it was decided that his election signs would have Gary Doer’s photo on them.  That makes sense; until such time as Mr. Doer retires, Mr. Blaikie is not going to be making any decisions for the people of Elmwood.  That is why he didn’t stay in the Gallery for the end of the debate on the Disraeli Freeway.  The one person who runs our government decided that he didn’t want to do anything with Disraeli, and Mr. Blaikie is following orders.

Don’t forget: in Manitoba, our government is run by one person.  His name is Gary Doer.

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Once again, I find myself offended by the non-answers spouted by the Premier in the Legislature. Once again, I wonder how a government that is so secretive and heavy-handed could be given three successive majorities. But rather than complain about what Doer said this time that I found so disconcerting, I’m focusing my attention on a loftier issue.

Representative democracy is something special; it was devised at a time when direct democracy seemed impractical, and nowadays it still reigns despite the fact that direct democracy is theoretically possible with our modern appliances. And this continued dominance of representative democracy is supposed to be a good thing.

Albert Camus spoke about democracy being maintained by people who know that they don’t know everything. Jon Stewart said that he expected government to be better than him when he’s at his worst. Representative democracy, represented by two houses federally and only one provincially, is supposed to be a way of letting cooler heads prevail in the everyday business of regulating our society. It’s supposed to be a way to filter out the bad decisions made when emotions run high and we can’t seem to see past our own instant gratification.

In Manitoba, our government is run by one person. His name is Gary Doer. He also has his own party, which is called the New Democratic Party. In this party, people get ahead when they’re friends and faithful servants of Gary Doer, while others are allowed to come to meetings, but are gently reminded that they shouldn’t expect to have any influence over anything. Gary Doer has 35 MLAs who follow his instructions, which include not only how they vote, but also whether or not they can answer questions posed to them in the Legislature.

Greg Selinger is the Minister of Finance. He is nominally responsible for the budget, which means that when Manitobans discover that the NDP budget isn’t balanced, isn’t properly servicing debt, and is risking the long-term viability of government finances, he will be held responsible. Of course, he’s not REALLY responsible, since there only is one person running our government.

Dave Chomiak is the Minister of Justice, Attorney General, and Government House Leader. He is also the human shield for Gary Doer. When an unpopular decision needs to be made, or an unpopular statement needs to be delivered, it’s Mr. Chomiak who is given the task. Many people are clamoring for Mr. Chomiak’s resignation. I understand the sentiment, but I think that’s almost like blaming the waterboy when the football team loses the championship game. Remember, there only is one person running our government.

Theresa Oswald is the Minister of Health, and from past performance is obviously not in charge of Public Relations for Gary Doer’s party. She has been charged with some big mistakes, and has handled the public outcry over those mistakes very poorly. She has even been accused of orchestrating a cover-up of the details surrounding the death of Brian Sinclair. A cover-up may have taken place, but that doesn’t mean that such a ploy would come from the office of Ms. Oswald. Keep in mind, there only is one person running our government.

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Mayor Sam Katz is speaking out against what some might call an NDP conspiracy theory.  Apparently he believes that some members of the NDP government, particularly Minister of Finance Greg Selinger, are trying to prepare the way for an NDP takeover of city council.

From what I can tell (or rather, imagine without any evidence), their diabolical plan seems to be as follows:

  1. Reduce funding for the City of Winnipeg budgets while throwing money into everything else under the sun, including high profile projects in Winnipeg that will forever be seen as Gary Doer’s legacy.  This will show that the NDP government is generous, while the mayor is stingy and ineffective.  Part of this step is to make sure that any contentious issues are placed squarely at the foot of the mayor, as opposed to the province, where true authority on many issues lies.
  2. Outlaw corporate and union contributions, knowing full well that unions have other tactics for donating to campaigns through the labour of members or the election-time issue campaigns they run in support of the NDP.  This is supposed to attack at Sammy’s support, by not only forcing all business owners to donate in the names of their friends and relatives, but also by restricting the amount of money he can personally donate to his campaign.  This also moves the issue of unfair campaigns into the municipal arena, while creating a smoke screen for the NDP’s provincial election funding scandal.
  3. Move Dan Vandal into position to be the next mayor, bringing their formidable machine into play in the next civic election.  This machine will be strengthened by turning the opinion of all NDP supporters firmly against the mayor (see step #1).  The NDP machine will also support NDP candidates against Katz’s most loyal councillors.
  4. Once Dan Vandal becomes the next mayor and surrounds himself with a slate of NDP councillors, the Tory and Liberal councillors will be demoralized and will eventually accept their new permanent home in opposition in this socialist paradise known as Manitoba.
  5. Repeat as necessary in Brandon, Steinbach, Winkler, and Morden.

I suspect that this has long been a concern of the mayor and his allies.  It’s no secret that there are two slates in city council.  A few years ago, I would have called it the mayor’s slate and everyone else.  I think I was mistaken.  It seems to be the NDP slate and everyone else, including the mayor.

I’ve certainly had my share of disagreements on urban matters with Mayor Katz, Councillors Steeves and Swandel, and many other elected officials.  It’s natural that people have different opinions on issues.  I’ve even said things about the mayor that I’ve come to regret (well, one thing), and I was wrong to even entertain for a second the idea that the mayor is involved in some vast right-wing conspiracy.  There is no vast right-wing conspiracy, because there’s no need for one.  People who have views to the right of the political centre are pretty upfront and honest about what they are trying to achieve: a business friendly climate, low taxes, crime prevention using a deterrent and enforcement approach, etc.  There aren’t too many surprises there.

Now the mayor seems to be convinced that a vast left-wing conspiracy exists in the NDP.  Since we all know that Premier Doer is as much a Tory as he is a Dipper, he’s apparently not involved.  Perhaps the alleged puppeteers of this conspiracy are the same Machiavellians planning the new post-Doer NDP.

I like conspiracies; I think it’s really fun to hypothesize and postulate about what this or that shadowy group is planning and why.  But I look at this vast left-wing conspiracy with quite a bit of skepticism.

Sure, it would fit in with my beliefs that the NDP elite are about power at all costs, rather than any ideology.  It would match my notion that Mr. Doer’s lieutenants are actively jostling for position, scrambling to be at the top of the pile when the Premier retires.  It would answer my question of why the province is working so hard to make the city look bad.

But conspiracies aren’t easy.  You need strong leaders, and committed devotees who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the cause.  The NDP only has one strong leader, and he doesn’t seem to be in charge of this effort.  And I doubt that the people at the top levels of the NDP pyramid are willing to sacrifice their positions for anything.

Here’s what I think is really going on: the Premier is spending his political capital while he can, and the rest of the NDP caucus is covering their own behinds on an individual basis.  Selinger did just that when he asked for a CYA letter for the campaign finance irregularities.  Health Minister Theresa Oswald does that every time she declares something akin to “I believe that every member of this House, every parent in the room, knows that waiting one day is too long when your child is in pain…” while avoiding any changes that could upset the NDP establishment.  And Mr. Blaikie is becoming quite astute with the tactic as he spends his time attacking Tories and making fun of Liberals, rather than putting forward the concerns of his constituents that are being ignored by the provincial government.

So where do I stand on the municipal campaign reform bill?  I do think that an equal playing field in civic politics would be nice, but I’m not sure that this legislation will make it so.  The bill may increase the strength of party politics at city hall, as candidates may start to need party support to handle tasks that perhaps could have been handled by a candidate’s deep pockets.  I don’t think Mayor Katz will have trouble adjusting his fundraising, as much of it officially came from individuals anyway.  So I am not sure if this bill provides tangible benefits in the quest for better municipal accountability.  I would have to be shown the merits before I would personally agree with this bill.  Without knowing the merits, all I can see is a political distraction and even more polarization at city hall.

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More on this issue: Jim Cotton Take III, The Black Rod, My Left Nut, A City Trapped by Its Past, Tom Brodbeck, Never Eat Yellow Snow, Jon Gerrard, PolicyFrog

From PC Manitoba Leader Hugh McFadyen: “We’ve had a much stronger response on this issue than just about any other one in my three years as leader. This one takes the cake in terms of the number of people contacting us. We were getting hundreds of emails even before we launched the petition.”  (Winnipeg Free Press – May 11th, 2009)

Now I don’t doubt that Mr. McFadyen’s office is getting the highest number of feedback from voters on this issue.  That doesn’t make me feel any better.

People are dying in our hospital system and neither the bloated bureaucracy nor the NDP government are working on anything that will help to solve this crisis.  We have children who are losing their lives as a result of serious problems in northern communities involving social services and infrastructure, with nothing by way of an action plan from the Premier.  And we have an addiction to Federal Transfer payments at a time when our benefactor in Ottawa is running into record deficits, yet there is no ambition from the NDP to reduce the need for transfers or even to pay down our provincial debt.

So what does it take to have people phoning their politicians or signing online petitions or joining various Facebook groups?  Why, photo radar, of course.

I don’t believe it’s a political issue with any legs, and I’d like to see it resolved as soon as possible so that we can deal with some of the things that should be big issues but apparently just aren’t.  So I’ve come up with the same solution that I’m sure most people have already figured out for themselves, but which seems to escape both the Tories and the NDP.

I received a ticket myself on Lagimodière; there were not only no workers, but no equipment or barricades on the road, and I don’t even recall seeing a reduced speed limit sign.  That is unjust, and that’s why I decided to fight the ticket.  However, I have relatives who work on the highways, so I don’t like this idea of “no ticket when there are no workers” blanket for speeding in construction zones.

How do you know when there is a worker present?  If you are driving along five kilometres of construction, there are going to be large stretches where there are no workers, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any workers at all.

With every issue of fairness, there are varying shades of “fair”.  I did not feel it was fair for me to pay a ticket because there was no clear indication that it was a construction zone, which is why I didn’t automatically slow down as I would do in an actual construction zone.  It felt to me that the photo radar ticket violated the spirit of the law, as I knew that it was penalizing people who would have slowed down had they been in an actual construction zone.  But there are also people out there who would have sped through no matter what the signage, and there are also a number of people who would have sped through even with workers present.

The problem with saying that there needs to be workers present is that it becomes the responsibility of the driver to determine when there are workers present.  In addition, if two lanes are reduced to one, workers or no workers there should still be a reduction in speed.  Having a series of barricades along a road, along with other hazards inherent to a work site, means that speed should be reduced.  The problem with Lagimodière Blvd was that both lanes were open, there were no workers, the barricades were completely off of the lanes, and no equipment was visible at the site.  A construction zone speeding ticket is a violation of the spirit of the law, so in that case an override by the government is appropriate.

What we need is an amended law that makes it clear what a construction zone is and forbids speeding within that construction zone.  In my opinion (common sense as opposed to actually digging out the laws), a construction zone is any of the following:

  1. A stretch of road is a construction zone where there are workers present; or
  2. A stretch of road is a construction zone for the entire length of time that obstructions related to construction (such as barriers or pylons) are in place on the roadway, even if no workers are present; or
  3. A stretch of road is a construction zone for the entire length of time that the road surface or lane structure are compromised or temporarily altered by the ongoing construction process, whether or not there are workers or barricades present.

(There may also be a need to separate construction zones into two different grades, where any zone with workers present will have a lower speed limit and higher fines for speeding, but I’m not sure that would be an improvement.)

When a stretch of road meets one or more of these criteria, it is then appropriate to have prominent signage displayed (preferably with flashing lights) to denote that it is a construction zone and that speed much be reduced.  If a stretch of road had workers who have left for the day and no obstructions or compromised road surfaces or laneways, the signage should be removed until the workers return to the site.

Why is that important?  Because it’s a contract between construction crews and motorists, and if the motorist keeps seeing “reduced speed” construction zones that don’t have workers, obstructions, etc., there is an increased chance that the motorist will defy the contract and speed through.  By taking the time to mark construction zones fairly, any excuse for speeding through a construction zone is removed.

If a ticket was issued when an area marked as a “construction zone” did not meet the three criteria when the alleged offense took place, the ticket should be made invalid.  However, there should not be a blanket ban on tickets for speeding when “no workers are present”, because that’s the kind of ban that will cost lives.  And even though the fines are the issue that is making people angry enough to speak up, it’s the lives of construction workers and motorists that are more important in the end.

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It’s true that Manitoba has received much criticism lately for its poor performance on environmental issues.  Manitobans use more cars per capita, Manitobans recycle less, Manitobans are still increasing their greenhouse gas emissions while other jurisdictions are making reductions.

Where does the fault lie?  Obviously, all of us (myself included) have work to do.  I still forget to bring my canvas bags to the grocery store far too often, and I haven’t even managed to set up my backyard compost system in over a year.  But my shortcomings are no different than most Manitobans, and there are plenty of people in places that are leading in the environmental movement who mess up from time to time.

The difference between Manitoba and places that are succeeding is that we have a government that likes to pretend we’re succeeding, while everyone outside of Manitoba can clearly see that we’re not.  The NDP government spends too much time trying to sell us the idea that they care about the environment, when their actions show that their concern is half-hearted at best.

I read a comment posted somewhere in response to our failing grade in the Corporate Knights Green Provincial Report 2009 where the poster was surprised because Manitoba and Quebec are known as “environmental leaders”.  This seemed to indicate to the poster that the Corporate Knights were mistaken; it made me wonder who started this “Manitoba as an environmental leader” rumour in the first place.

Quebec can be called an environmental leader in some respects, as they’ve managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for four years straight.  But Manitoba is nowhere near an environmental leader, and never has been, especially as our per-capita greenhouse gas emissions climb towards being double that of Quebec.  Manitoba, the province with the most green potential, is ranked near the bottom for environmental effort.  And that’s not just the opinion of the Corporate Knights.  Read the Winnipeg Free Press from April 5th, 2009 for another point of view.

Here are some examples to show why the NDP government is all spin when it comes to the environment:

1. Phosphorus ban: instead of following the Liberal lead on a full ban of phosphorus in cleaning products, the NDP chose to create a bill that slowly reduces some phosphorus, but certainly nowhere near enough.  While our waterways are dying due in large part to algae blooms fed by phosphorus, the NDP government chooses to do nothing of substance, as usual.

2. Plastic bag ban: the NDP still continues to ignore the growing movement to move away from plastic grocery bags.  When Dr. Gerrard presented his bill to ban plastic bags on Tuesday, April 21st, the NDP response was that they wanted to wait to see what industry can come up with to solve the waste problem once and for all.  Their logic: better to wait for a wider solution to magically appear than to start with the logical first step.  Of course, they also wouldn’t want to allow a Liberal bill to become law, which is why you’ll see a far less effective NDP bill to ban plastic bags (maybe just on Tuesdays and Thursdays?) once they think people have forgotten about Dr. Gerrard’s initiative.

3. The Waverley West geothermal debacle: while the Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mines brags that some of his coworkers (making $83,000 per annum plus) have been installing geothermal in their homes, the plan to make geothermal an important component of the NDP’s big land deal in Southwest Winnipeg has evaporated.  The geothermal installation was never going to outweigh the wholesale destruction of farmers fields and animal habitat to create more sprawl, and now it’s clear that there will be no environmental benefit to the 10,000 new homes.

4. The Bipole transmission line down the West side of Lake Winnipeg: rather than even consider the well-thought-out plan to place the transmission line under Lake Winnipeg, the NDP government have opted for a longer route which will not only cause habitat loss, but will also reduce the amount of power to export (since power is lost along every kilometre of transmission line).

5.  A lack of initiative for Manitoba Hydro: rather than being a leader in the production and transmission of Green energy, Manitoba Hydro is sitting by as other jurisdictions innovate.  One interesting concept is the use of carbon nanofibres in transmission lines for a drastic reduction in power loss during transport; this technology is very close to being economically feasible, and any jurisdiction willing to make an effort to apply it would have a strong head start.  There are many other ideas for innovation that are more mainstream, such as alternative transport, that Hydro could use as a showcase of forward-thinking.  Instead, we’re left with a new office tower with subsidized parking as the next big thing from Manitoba Hydro.

6. No progress on Zero Landfill Growth: in addition to their unwillingness to choose canvas bags over plastic, the NDP government is making no effort to slow and eventually reverse the growth of landfills in our province.  Efficient recycling systems are the future, and it’s very telling that the Tory and Liberal councillors of the City of Winnipeg are paying more attention to waste reduction than the provincial NDP.

It’s important to feel good about the little things we do each day to reduce our impact on the environment.  I tell myself that every time the Portage Express bus pulls away just as I’m running up to the door.  But this ridiculous fantasy that we don’t need to improve our environmental record is not just embarrassing, it’s bad for our economy.

Now is the time to position ourselves for the new energy economy that is coming.  Now is the time to build more wind farms, rather than just one.  Now is the time to look into new technologies to improve the way we build hydro dams and to eliminate mercury and other heavy-metals poisoning in newly-flooded areas.  Now is the time to take some of the $2 billion dollars in federal transfer payments and invest it in industries that we know can make us the next energy leader in Canada.

Manitoba has been down on itself since the development of the Panama Canal and the internal combustion engine.  Instead of pigging out on another tub of status quo ice cream from the NDP, let’s take ownership of our future and make something big happen.

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