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Posts Tagged ‘premier doer’

Manitoba’s top provincial court judge Ray Wyant recommends a system (used in most other provinces) where retired judges are hired on a temporary basis to assists with court backlogs.  This is in addition to recommending (as in years past) for more judges added to the bench.  More info can be found from the Winnipeg Free Press.

We all know that backlogs in the justice system are a big problem in Manitoba, and we all know that Premier Doer’s favourite response to everything is that they always listen to the experts.  Apparently the NDP government has been working on a solution; as they’ve had a decade now to come up with a solution, I would expect that we’ll be seeing a press release any day now.

Of course, they didn’t listen to Chief Judge Wyant in his report for 2006-2007, or for his report for 2004-2006, or 2003-2004, or 2002-2003.  He pressed for the same relief judge system in every report.  But this time I’m sure things will be different.

If the government truly listens to experts, they had better come up with a plan soon.  Or is there perhaps an “expert” in governance who recommends that solving problems should never be done in anything shorter than fifty-year timeframes?  That seems to be the NDP way of solving problems.  Sure it takes more time, but at least it costs more money, too.

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Here’s an interesting column from Kevin Engstrom: All talk, no substance

All talk, no substance

Doer’s sudden interest in Disraeli closure is a cynical attempt to woo voters
By KEVIN ENGSTROM

Attention, Elmwood residents: the premier is trying to fool you.

Last weekend at the NDP convention in Brandon, Gary Doer talked about northeast Winnipeg’s looming 16-month traffic nightmare that is the Disraeli Bridge closure.

He spoke as if it is an important issue personally to him, that he has a genuine desire to work with the city to come up with ideas to keep the bridge partially open to motorists during construction.

Of course, the fact Elmwood residents think it’s an important issue at a time when Doer’s best bearded buddy Bill Blaikie (try saying that five times quickly) is attempting to win a byelection there is pure coincidence.

Uh huh.

If you believe that, and Doer sure hopes you do, then you might also think the world is flat and the breasts of all SUNshine Girls are real.

We weren’t in Brandon last weekend, so we can’t say with certainty if the premier had his fingers crossed while saying all of this. However, for those who have been paying attention, Doer’s commitment to finding a solution to the coming chaos on the road appears only slightly more sincere than O.J. Simpson’s pledge to find the real killers.

Fact is, the premier has known about the Disraeli project for nearly two years. If he cared at all about the daily road rage coming Elmwood’s way, it stands to reason he would have done something about it by now.

After all, it’s not like he has an aversion to wading into city issues when he thinks it’s important (see overpass, Kenaston and Community Club, Southdale for examples).

But sources say the premier only spoke to Mayor Sam Katz about the bridge a few weeks ago, with no follow-up meeting scheduled (Blaikie, meanwhile has never met with the mayor on the issue).

If Doer really wanted to solve the problem, he’d throw some provincial money at it. That would allow the city to build two separate bridge spans, with one staying open to traffic for the duration of construction. Instead, Doer has already ruled out giving any new money to the city to allow that to happen.

To sum up, then, the premier wants to see something happen but waited almost two years to tell anyone about it and is unwilling to part with any money to ensure anyone listens. Gee, Gary, way to show the people of Elmwood you think this is important.

We strongly suspect the only reason the premier said anything at all about the Disraeli is to help Blaikie. The ex-MP’s efforts to get elected were obviously hindered by the NDP government’s lack of a position on the riding’s top issue, so Doer came up with one.

The fact the position his government has taken is devoid of any substance whatsoever is something he figures most Elmwood voters won’t realize until well after the election is over and they’re stuck in traffic.

Such a cynical move from the leader of this province is disappointing. Even more disappointing is the sinking suspicion we have it will probably work.

Like the voters in Elmwood, Mr. Engstrom recognizes that the Premier’s Disraeli “announcement” is simple more empty words from the NDP.  Of course, as someone who has been speaking to the people of Elmwood for some time now, I can tell that the NDP’s distraction is not going to work.

Until the NDP government is willing to put in its fair share for the Disraeli/Louise projects, it will be clear to the voters that the NDP still haven’t learned that Elmwood won’t be taken for granted any longer.

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I’ve never really understood the phrase above, but I’m guessing that it fits here.

It has become clear over the past few months that the Disraeli bridge rehabilitation is a big issue for the 100,000 residents of Northeast Winnipeg.  It’s also clear that the NDP government has no plan to provide traffic relief for its citizens.

While the City of Winnipeg is attempting to have half of the Disraeli bridges (one lane each way) open during construction, some people I’ve spoken to who are involved with the project have mentioned that this plan is not as easy as we’d hope.

Most people know that there will be some periods of full closure, in part because there are some construction tasks (such as pouring concrete) that require that there be no traffic using any part of the single-span bridge.  What is not clear yet is how long these periods of full closure will last.  What is clear is that there needs to be a plan for reducing traffic gridlock when the Disraeli is completely shut down.

That’s where the Louise Bridge comes in: the plan I’ve been putting forward, with the support of Councillor Jeff Browaty, is for the Louise Bridge to be twinned immediately.  This requires funding from the province, but there’s federal infrastructure cash available, too.

The plan:

  1. Throw up a new two-lane span beside the existing Louise
  2. Perform Disraeli rehab
  3. Replace original two-lane Louise bridge with a second two-lane span.

But there’s an issue here: the city would like to realign both the Louise Bridge and Higgins Avenue, connecting Point Douglas to Nairn on the east side of Watt/Archibald.  This project involves significant property acquisition, brownfield mitigation (maybe not full clean-up yet), and some serious planning to get it right.  It will also take an estimated $100 million and more than one season to complete.

So the best plan for immediate traffic relief for the Northeast is not the plan the city wants long-term.  But there is a way to get the city everything it needs (but maybe doesn’t yet realize it wants):

Construct a temporary second span for the Louise Bridge.

As long as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans approves, we can add three temporary piers alongside the current bridge and assemble a prefabricated temporary bridge that is wide enough for two lanes of traffic.  Once the Disraeli is finished, the city can begin work on its ambitious Point Douglas realignment project.  After completion, the temporary bridge and its piers can be removed, and the original Louise can become a heritage active transportation bridge.

Incredibly preliminary cost estimates place the construction of a temporary Louise span between two and four million dollars.

So what stands in the way of this idea?  The Doer government needs to show its support for the people of Northeast Winnipeg by committing to funding the temporary bridge, and the city of Winnipeg needs to make a final decision on whether or not the Point Douglas realignment plan should go forward.

No matter what the city decides, it’s essential that the provincial government guarantee that there will always be a minimum of six bridge lanes open at all times between Main Street and Henderson, whether on the Redwood, the Disraeli, or the Louise.  We have eight bridge lanes open now, with almost 90,000 daily trips across them, and four bridge lanes (two at Redwood, two at Louise) are not enough.

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There is an opinion piece in the Free Press from Robert Galston of Rise and Sprawl about Waverley West: The failure of Waverley West, and a post from David Watson called Garth Steek in the News.

Update: Progressive Winnipeg has a post on this topic as well: “Hoodwinked” or “Steeked”?

While I’ve never believed that all suburban expansion is avoidable in our current social climate, it’s clear to me that Waverley West is not a new urbanist development, or an example of “smart growth”.  And as more and more of the NDP government’s promises (geothermal, inner city revenues, etc) fall apart, it’s starting to look like Mr. Doer and his team never had any intention of creating anything more than a big land deal that’s good for the provincial government and bad for the city.

Meanwhile, Garth Steek continues on his campaign to sell Waverley West to the media and the public with a comment in the Free Press:

Your article ‘Hood-winked? by Bartley Kives and Mary Agnes Welch (Feb. 15) warrants response. The headline infers that there has been misrepresentation surrounding the Waverley West subdivision. This is clearly not the case.

Although initial discussion of Waverley West commenced six years ago, the first houses did not begin construction until one year ago after tens of millions of dollars had been spent completing the necessary infrastructure.

Your photo at the top of the page is misleading, suggesting the subdivision is a single home. Why did you not photograph Millbank or Bridgeland? They are fully developed and showcase many exceptional homes.

Clearly, the public appreciates Waverley West as more building permits were taken in this subdivision than any other area in Winnipeg between November 2008 and February 2009.

Although geothermal installation is not easily realized in Waverley West, there is a very viable alternative, namely electric heat, which leaves no carbon footprint and is far less expensive. This hardly constitutes a broken promise.

(This comment about electric heat leaving no carbon footprint is misleading.  We are all led to believe that Manitoba Hydro has 100% renewable energy, but a coal plant and some natural gas plants show that not all of our electricity comes from a renewable source.  Now if the province were sticking up some solar panels, I might be a little more impressed.)

Your article notes “Homes are listed for $313,000 to $503,000 with huge lots.” This is not correct. In fact, the standard lots in Waverley West are considerably smaller than traditional neighbourhoods to ensure heightened density. The amenity lots on the lake are indeed larger and the prices of these homes are reflective of the larger lot sizes.

Flyovers were not incorporated because of their enormous cost but their absence in no way precludes homeowners from walking in what is a well-planned neighbourhood.

(It’s true that homeowners can still choose to run across the Kenaston Expressway.  See? And yes, I know that “expressway” is a bit of an exaggeration.  Hyperbole sells.)

Traffic calming measures such as roundabouts coupled with sidewalks, extensive walking trails, natural park areas and inland waterways make Waverley West an exceptional place to live. Architects Smith Carter were responsible for these items.

It is ironic that your writers did not take the time to contact any of the builders or homeowners who have invested millions of dollars in this subdivision and who believe strongly in it.

Tenants for a new town centre have yet to arrive because new businesses require a certain occupancy threshold. It is unrealistic to expect businesses at this early stage of development.

(As Rob at Rise and Sprawl pointed out, much business will come to the “town centre” from places like La Salle and Oak Bluff, so it’s best that they get the Kenaston Expressway finished first.  Build it and they will come.)

Waverley West is not a “car-bound subdivision” any more than other areas of the city. Winnipeg realizes many months of cold weather and regardless of how well-planned a subdivision will be, car transportation will be essential.

(Any subdivision that is sliced open by a Neighbourhood Anihilation Road (NAR) like Kenaston is car-bound.  If I lived in Millbank or Bridgeland and wanted a loaf of bread, how would I purchase it?  See above for tips on crossing Kenaston.)

With reference to expenses, the City of Winnipeg acknowledges that servicing a new subdivision such as Waverley West is less than half of what they are for inner-city areas. This includes emergency services, garbage pickup and snow removal.

(First of all, I’d like to see a reference to the City of Winnipeg’s acknowledgement of this “fact”.  And apparently the new definition of services is that servicing is only based on operating costs, as opposed to the huge capital costs required to create the new infrastructure.)

It is well-known by the city, province and private sector that this development will more than pay for itself, as substantiated by two independent studies.

(If we use Mr. Steek’s narrow view of balance sheets, we can still see that the projections that Waverley West will hopefully see a modest “profit” don’t include all development and servicing expenses, and makes unsubstantiated assumptions that the city will not have to make any alterations or additions to its plan over the next 80 years.  Because as we all know, nothing ever comes up over eight decades.)

With 6,500 new residents coming to this province annually, the demand for new housing is obvious, particularly in the southwest quadrant that had virtually no building lots left.

Critics of Waverley West advocated that everyone should “move downtown,” even though the city agreed there were at most 200 infill lots, many of them incapable of accommodating a new home. The MHRC lands (Bridgwater Forest) and Ladco lands (South Pointe) are essential for the future growth and prosperity of the City of Winnipeg.

(While I’m not expecting everyone to “move downtown”, I do find it odd that Mr. Steek is only aware of one type of “home”, which is, of course, the single family house.)

It is easy to suggest the public has been ‘Hood-winked one year into a new subdivision, while ignoring the public’s support and the commitment of the building and development community.

Homeowners will come to Waverley West because of its location and the housing choices offered.

(Edit: Homeowners will come to Waverley West because it’s one of the only options available due to many sprawl incentives for developers and little incentive for higher density and/or inner-city development.)

The early success of the subdivision underscores the strength of our economy and citizens commitment to Winnipeg.

I hope that all potential homeowners reading this article will attend the Spring Parade of Homes March 7 to 22 and make the decision about Waverley West based on firsthand experience.

I don’t think anyone is hoping for the failure of Waverley West à la Rush Limbaugh.  We just want our provincial government to make decisions based on the interests of its citizens, and we don’t like the nagging feeling that Waverley West could be an elaborate shell game where the suburb of the future (if that’s not an oxymoron) is swapped out with the same old subdivisions.  We were promised something more, and I’m worried that we’re not getting it.

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Related:

Progressive Winnipeg: “Sorry” isn’t good enough

PolicyFrog: Rising Star Becomes Falling Star

Dan Lett (Winnipeg Free Press): Government, WRHA show lack of accountability

Winnipeg Sun: Oswald should order release of review: Tory

My Left Nut: WRHA: Brown envelopes and manslaughter by gross neglect

TGCTS (Marty Gold): WRHA execs attempt at spin control backfires

First of all, I’d like to apologize for an earlier post where I gave the impression that the Premier, the Minister of Health and members of the WRHA executive had misled the public through inaccurate statements.  In truth, it seems they have been misleading the public through omission.

The WRHA, the Minister of Health, and now the Premier have adopted a new variant of the famous trickle-down theory; they have the information, and almost like magic some of it eventually trickles down to the lowly citizens and taxpayers.

At first, Brian Sinclair’s death was a mystery: how was it possible?  The WRHA and the government had a few droppings for us last autumn:

September 23rd, 2008:

“For reasons we can’t explain right now, he was never presented at the triage desk where we have triage nurses that assess someone’s clinical situation,” said Dr. Brock Wright, the head of the WRHA.

(source: CTV News)

“We know that the individual in question was not triaged at the Health Sciences Centre but rather was in a waiting room.”

(Premier Doer quoted in Manitoba Legislature Hansard)

September 24th, 2008:

Health Minister Theresa Oswald noted that the addition of reassessment nurses to emergency wards did not address the problem of people who don’t present themselves to the triage desk in an emergency room, as appears to have happenedin Sinclair’s case.

(source: CBC News)

Apparently, in September of 2008, before the video had been viewed, the story was that Mr. Sinclair “was never presented” at the triage desk.  This “CYA-speak” seems to indicate that Mr. Sinclair did not approach the desk.  It’s understandable that the WRHA believed this at the time based on interviews with staff.

Here’s the tickle-down that came after the internal investigation had been completed:

November 19th, 2008:

Sinclair was not assessed by a triage nurse and was not registered as a patient seeking care, so reassessment nurses didn’t know he was there for help, officials with the health authority said at the time.

(source: CBC News)

The assumption that most of the public had at this point was that the phrase “not assessed by a triage nurse” meant that Mr. Sinclair spent 34 hours at Health Sciences without interacting with a single person.  Of course, that’s not what happened.  And by this time, the WRHA executive and the Minister of Health knew that this was not what happened.  So they apparently changed their story.  It wasn’t that Mr. Sinclair hadn’t approached the desk, it was that he wasn’t seen by a triage nurse.

He was seen by someone else, a triage aide.

February 11th, 2009:

“The triage aide has no recollection of that encounter and the triage clipboard notes are not preserved,” he said,     adding, “I think the worst possible thing that could happen is for bits of information to come out… It’s very important we get this right.”

(source: Winnipeg Free Press)

So the truth was discovered sometime before November 19th, 2008 (reports have stated that the minister knew in October) and Dr. Brock Wright, Dr. Brian Postl, and Minister of Health Theresa Oswald changed their stories from “he was never presented at the triage desk” to “not assessed by a triage NURSE”.  This clever wordplay can also cover the reports of vomiting:

February 7th, 2009:

Balachandra said hospital security staff tried “many times” to get the attention of triage and “other staff” because Sinclair needed help. His investigation reviewed hospital security tapes and involved interviews with security staff.
[…]
“The security guards tried to talk to the hospital staff,” Balachandra said Friday. “But to no avail.”

(source: Winnipeg Free Press)

And the Premier’s response?

February 11th, 2009:

Doer spoke on the issue for the first time since those revelations [of the extent of Mr. Sinclair’s contact with HSC staff] were uncovered yesterday. He said he will not bow to McFadyen’s call to fire Oswald.

“That’s nothing new,” he said of demanding a minister’s head. “Resignations have been called for before.”

The Winnipeg Sun has made repeated interview requests for Doer since Sunday, with his chief spokesman declining each time, noting Doer already answered questions on the topic last fall. The premier only spoke with the Sun yesterday after a reporter waited for him outside a local radio outlet in which he was hosting a call-in show.

Doer refused to say when he became aware of the details of Sinclair’s last hours that have emerged publicly only over the past week. He also declined to say whether he’s seen a security tape that recorded those hours.

“You will be more aware of everything when it’s presented as evidence (at an upcoming inquest),” Doer said. “What happened, how that happened, I’ll let the judge decide that.

“I’m perfectly prepared to be accountable,” he said. “The big picture is that I fully acknowledge to the public that Brian Sinclair should not have died at the Health Sciences Centre.

“This was a preventable death and we’re very sorry it happened.”

(source: Winnipeg Sun)

I am pleased that Premier Doer is taking responsibility for this situation.  I’m not sure that we’re saying actual leadership, per se, as the Premier had to be ambushed in order to make a statement, but it’s better than nothing.

But the great NDP trickle-down experiment continues… the Premier will not say when he was informed that the WRHA’s initial statements were inaccurate.  This little mystery forces the public as a whole (and the opposition, and the bloggers, and the opposition-bloggers like me) to speculate.  Either:

a) the Minister of Health found out in October 2008 and did not tell the Premier (which is unacceptable and means that the minister should resign)

b) the Minister of Health informed the Premier within an acceptable timeframe (and before the WRHA investigation was completed in November 2008), and the Premier was a knowing participant in the WRHA and Ms. Oswald’s plan to omit important facts from the public despite their original statements being inaccurate.

Considering that the Premier is following the same course in his own omissions, I think the second possibility is more likely.  That is why I’m not as quick to blame the Minister of Health for the trickle-down.  I blame Ms. Oswald for the worst PR in recent Manitoba history:

February 5th, 2009:

Theresa Oswald says she was too busy on Wednesday to immediately discuss the bombshell revelation that surveillance tapes showed Brian Sinclair talking to someone at a triage desk, dismissing claims by the opposition Tories she was ducking the media.

“I just had meetings booked from dawn until dusk,” Oswald said yesterday afternoon. “Plus, it was important to review all the facts.”

(source: Winnipeg Sun)

February 10th, 2009:

Ms. Oswald anticipates the inquest will reveal, once and for all, what went wrong during the 34 hours Mr. Sinclair sat in the waiting room.

She also suggested that the inquest will find that one of the ER’s mistakes was kindness.

(source: Globe and Mail)

Bad PR aside, this information trickle-down is a strategy from Manitoba’s NDP government, led by Premier Doer.  The people of Manitoba are supposed to be content with occasional droppings of information whenever the government chooses.

When the inquest has concluded at some time in the future, it’s doubtful that this selective release of information will be mentioned.  It’s not really a part of what happened to Mr. Sinclair; it’s just a sign that unless we see big changes at the WRHA, this will all happen again.  And again.  And again.

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Dr. Jon Gerrard has posted an entry on his blog explaining why he feels that it is important for both Dr. Postl and Dr. Wright to resign:

Why I have called for the resignations of Dr. Brian Postl and Dr. Brock Wright

In addition, we now have word from the Minister of Health that she has known since October that Brian Sinclair had asked for help at the triage desk:

Minister sat on truth about ER death

Where is our Premier?  Does he have nothing to say on this embarrassment?  There is only one leader in the legislature who is actively pursuing this matter and making his opinions known day to day, and that’s Dr. Jon Gerrard.

Unfortunately, neither Hugh McFadyen or Tory Health Critic Myrna Driedger have made their responses available to the public.

And of course, as with all other complete failures by the NDP government of Manitoba, the Premier is staying as far away from the issue as possible.

Now that’s leadership.

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Dr. Gerrard, leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party, has called for the resignations of WRHA CEO Dr. Brian Postl and chief medical officer Dr. Brock Wright.   Links: Winnipeg Free Press | Winnipeg Sun

Unlike politicians in other jurisdications who may be more quick to call for heads to roll, Dr. Gerrard does not like to make statements like this, especially as he knows and truly respects both men.  Contrary to what some may think, these events aren’t a “good thing” for any of the political parties.  This is an incredibly upsetting situation for all of us.

There have been many concerns of late with the conduct of the WRHA executive, and while I think the argument could be made that the Health Minister has given the appearance of being either unable or unwilling to correct the WRHA issues, I do believe that primary responsibility rests with the WRHA executive itself.

We need to send a message in this province that we are not willing to accept mediocrity when it comes to life-essential services.  What would we be saying if we allow the WRHA leadership to continue on its course when it has made so many errors?

As far as the Doer government’s charges of “politicizing the issue”, I have this to say: this issue becomes politicized when the government refuses to admit that it has reason to apologize.  The Minister of Health and the Premier of Manitoba do share some blame for what has happened.   The death of Brian Sinclair was a failure in policy and a personal error by front-line staff, and that deserves an apology from the Premier along with recognition that the recommendations made after the 2003 death of Dorothy Madden were not properly implemented.  The botched investigation by the WRHA is a step even beyond a tragedy caused by misguided practices; it makes the Minister of Health and the Premier responsible for the inaccurate statements they made, and leaves the WRHA with a serious credibility problem.

Rather than making this issue a divide between the NDP party and the rest of Manitoba, I’d like to see us all work together.  Let’s look at the good ideas being brought forward by the other parties and other provinces, and evaluate them openly.  Let’s have public hearings about our health care crisis, so that people can come forward and share their experiences, both good and bad (because there is some good, and we can build on that).

This isn’t a “throw the bums out” issue against the NDP; it’s a “fix the problem now” issue.  So let’s do just that.

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I read an interesting post at Endless Spin Cycle: Anatomy of a Manitoba “Scandal”

I think the big problem with the WRHA and the NDP government’s Health Care in general is that it’s been a long string of failures with few successes (most “successes” being the result of more money on equipment or health infrastructure without solving the real problems).

Continued hallway medicine, deaths at Concordia and HSC, medical contract payola, an ever-expanding bureaucracy, a Minister of Health who doesn’t seem to have a grasp of how to give even an appearance of concern…

Are any of these things enough to bring down the Doer government?  They haven’t been so far, despite continued press releases from the PC Party.

But the Manitoba Liberal Party is taking a different approach.  We have put forward legislation that would assure accountability in health care, and we’ll continue to pressure the Doer government to support it.  We are advocating for individuals who need health care and who are being marginalized by their government (and oftentimes ignored by their own local NDP MLA).  And we are working to come up with more improvements on our health care platform (which is already far ahead of the NDP and PC Party) that will continue to identify common sense solutions to our worsening health care crisis.

The time for the NDP to be able to throw money at health care without actually looking to solve the core issues is definitely coming to an end.  It’s time for the Doer government to start looking at the real problems, and all they need to do is start listening to the Manitoba Liberal Party and the concerns of Manitobans.

The Manitoba Liberal Party will continue to push for a truly accountable health care system, and I am very happy to be a part of the team.

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The latest idea from Hydro is to gut three historic buildings to expand a substation in the Exchange District:

From Mr. Christian

From Mr. Christian

Related posts:

West End Dumplings

Rise and Sprawl

Policy Frog

The affected properties are the Wilson building (288 McDermot), the Glengarry building (290 McDermot) and the Daylight building (296 McDermot).  Again we have 20th century thinking from our public utility.

First we have a Manitoba Hydro that bungles all attempts at wind farms, and whose geothermal efforts are marginal at best.  Then we have a Manitoba Hydro that will build transmission lines along the West side of Lake Winnipeg (thanks to Premier Doer), losing energy in the extra length and not even considering an underwater transmission line.  Then we have a Manitoba Hydro that subsidizes employee parking at its new downtown office tower while handing out its “we love the environment” calendars to everyone.  And now we have a Manitoba Hydro that wants to tear down heritage buildings (maybe leaving a façade) to expand a substation.  From what I can tell, these actions have made Manitoba Hydro one of the worst corporate citizens in our province.

Does anyone remember the Manitoba Hydro “Beware the Underground” billboard that they had up at their Point Douglas site?  It was designed like a movie poster to warn of all of the terrifying dangers that lurk beneath the earth’s surface.  Apparently this fear extends to all area of Hydro’s planning.

Put a transmission line under water?  That’s scary!

An underground substation?  Absolutely terrifying!

TEPCO 500kV underground substation - Tokyo, Japan

TEPCO 500kV underground substation - Tokyo, Japan

[from http://www.cigre-jnc.org/sc_a3b3_2005/]

Underground substation located under park

Underground substation located under park

[from http://flickr.com/photos/59265382@N00/932628960]

Obviously it’s not fair to blame this all on the executives at Hydro; they’re not in charge of fostering an integrated approach to redevelopment and to social and environmental restoration in our province.  That’s someone else’s job.  Our Premier has been criticized before for showing little to no leadership.  Manitoba Hydro is one of the most visible examples of his failings as our Premier.

It’s time for some new ideas in our province; obviously our provincial government is borrowing too many from the 1960s.

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There are a large number of people who believe that Manitoba is weathering the “economic storm” better than other provinces because of Gary Doer.  I’m sure you can guess that I don’t agree with that idea.  While Federal transfer payments ($2.063 billion for 08/09) have certainly paid for government projects that are employing thousands of Manitobans, our current economic situation is lacklustre compared to what it could be.

Manitoba’s stability is based on having a diversified economy that includes a mix of agriculture, resources, manufacturing and services.  While a general economic downturn affects Manitoba, is doesn’t affect our province as quickly or as severely as other provinces because we don’t have an economy tied heavily to one sector.  This diversity has always been Manitoba’s strength, but it’s a strength that has been underused.

There are several important steps that need to be taken to strengthen our economy:

  1. Increase funding for Research and Development: with R&D spending that is among the lowest in Canada, our province’s high tech industries are not being properly nurtured.
  2. Phase out the Payroll Tax: not only is this a tax on growth, it also results in lower wages for Manitobans compared to other provinces.
  3. Invest more in Infrastructure: After forty years of underfunding, Manitoba’s infrastructure (including roads, bridges, water and waste) has been in crisis for years.  The talk nowadays is for improvements in infrastructure around CentrePort, but this plan fails to account for other serious shortfalls in infrastructure renewal.
  4. Reduce Personal Income Taxes: Personal income taxes have a bigger impact on regional growth differences than corporate income taxes.
  5. Organize a Small and Medium-Sized Business Fund: Sound businesses that create jobs and enhance our economic diversity should be given access to start-up, expansion, and research grants.
  6. Create a Culture of Energy Innovation at Manitoba Hydro: there is not enough work being done to use other renewables such as wind, geothermal, and biofuel from waste products.  Energy R&D in Alberta and British Columbia are preparing those provinces to lead energy sectors in the reconomy, while Manitoba’s alternative energy programs are faltering.

Manitoba should not be a have-not province.  British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan are all have provinces.  Out of all four Western provinces, Manitoba has the best energy prospects and economic diversification.  We also have a cultural dynamic that welcomes immigrants, and we have a hard-working and young population ready to continue our economic development.  With all of these assets, there is no excuse for Manitoba not moving towards becoming a have province.

We need a change in our legislature to move the good ideas forward.  We need more independent voices to offer opinions that aren’t part of the tired NDP and Tory playbooks.

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