Friday 29 February 2008

Wanted: Gordon Sinclair's fingers

Sinclair has written another column about "the fight to save Upper Fort Garry", where the "generals" for the "good guys" are valiantly trying to save "the place where Manitoba was conceived". Yes, that's right .. "conceived". Just as I had speculated on a NewWinnipeg thread, Louis Riel did in fact give birth to Manitoba through immaculate conception in the shadow of the north gate of Upper Fort Garry. No doubt the bouncing baby province was wrapped in a Hudson Bay blanket while suckling on Louis' nipple. I wonder why the history books don't explain it that way? If Crystal developers agree to place a nativity scene under the gate will the Friends back off? Likely not ... only cheesy replica buildings can really do justice to the holy site.

No surprise, Sinclair is calling on the governments to show "leadership" by dumping another $9 million of tax payer's money into this project to kill private investment in downtown Winnipeg. No thanks, Gordon. We've had too much of that kind of leadership already.

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Increase the speed limit!

It sounds like we are getting one step closer to increasing the speed limit on the TransCanada Highway. This is goodness. There is absolutely no reason why we should be restricted to crawling along on a 4-lane divided highway at the same speed limits used by K-cars with drum brakes back in the early 80's.

Now the old grannys and paranoid mini-van mothers will whine that the higher speed limits will increase the risk of serious accidents.

First off, that's not necessarily true (example: "Despite the prevailing high speeds, the accident, injury and death rates on the Autobahn are remarkably low"). In fact, lower speed limits can result in higher speed differentials which can lead to more accidents. (I found this out while researching my defence for a speeding ticket).

Secondly, if you buy into that argument, driving at 10 km/h could reduce accidents too. You ought to set speed limits at the highest speed with reasonable accident rates. On the TCH, I submit that would be at least 110 km/h.

Sunday 24 February 2008

Upper Fort Garry round-up

I thought it might be fun to do a little poll of the Winnipeg blog community to check out the opinions on the Upper Fort Garry issue. Most of the contributors on my usual circuit have been critical of the misinformation and game-playing from some of the Friends of Fort Garry supporters including The Rise and Sprawl, Policy Frog (incl. this & this), and Hacks Wonks. Waverly West hasn't commented much on the issue, but seemed to be somewhat in favour of the Friends' plan in a January post, and I'm not quite sure where R.U. Sirius stands.

But those are just some of the usual suspects. I decided to fire up Google Blog search to see what else was out there, and came across Kevin Hill with his BNA blog who had this to say:

When the dispute first came up I was somewhat for the Friends’ plan. It would link The Forks walkway to downtown and would be another touristy thing to do downtown. But, as with so many things in this city, the plan was ad hoc; on the fly; dependent on handouts and government funding ad infinitum. ‘Give us the money now we will work out all those pesky details later’ is a regular mantra in this city. Only when someone decides to do something do the usual suspects look up from their navels to complain about development. Apparently they were quite content to see the old gate just sit there for years with some crap painting on one side and a decrepit curling club on the other. ... Why do these people always come up with ideas when someone wants to actually do something downtown?

There is Jon Malek with his Site O Canada blog, which is purdy-near dedicated to Upper Fort Garry, and is firmly in support of the Friends. But then again, the guy is a 19 year-old D&D-playing student, so give him a few years as a tax-payer and he may have different views. Anyhoo, check him out.

But my favourite is Graham with his Progressive Winnipeg web site, and this post. Excerpt:
I'm fucking tired of this. I, a young person in Winnipeg, want nothing more than to see this city progress. Preventing the construction of something that would truly benefit Winnipeg is NOT progress! Sprawling the city out in suburb after suburb, is NOT progress. When will this city grow where it counts? Heaven forbid a developer wants to put an apartment on some parking lot downtown, which someone will no doubt find that it's history dates back to 1897 or something stupid like that, and that we can't bulldoze the parking lot, we need a plan, an interpretive centre on the rich history of the parking lot, a WORLD CLASS ATTRACTION!

I'm just fuckin tired of it.

Heh. I think I'll keep an eye on this kid. I'll update with more as I come across them.

Saturday 23 February 2008

Merged IRL, Champ Car -- still no match for F1

Way back in October when this blog was still just a wee little babe with a single-digit hit count (mostly me, checking to see if it was working), I did a comparo of Formula 1 racing with Champ Car. My scorecard at the end showed F1 eating Champ Car's breakfast.

I may have to recalculate the results, with the news today of a merger between Champ Car and IRL. This merger, no doubt, is great news for open-wheel racing in the U.S. . No more canabilization of a limited market, and dilution of racing talent. However, this merger is more a case of IRL swallowing Cart. Cart has basically folded up shop and moved all of it's teams and drivers over to IRL. That means most of the racing will be oval-track, which I find to be boring. All of those fast Latin-American drivers in Cart will be driving in circles now, instead of road courses.

I'll stick with Formula 1..

Wednesday 20 February 2008

More on Uppper Fort Garry .. um .. Gate

Vandal decides to pipe-up ... from the Freep:

City councillor Dan Vandal figures a plan to turn the site of Upper Fort Garry into a heritage site shouldn't hinge on whether a non-profit group trying to preserve the site of Winnipeg's birthplace makes its fundraising deadline.

Vandal introduced a motion this morning urging his counterparts on city council to reject an earlier committee decision to sell the land that Upper Fort Garry sits on to developers.

Vandal said he believed the city should open discussion about the future of the Upper Fort Garry site to the public.

Ok first, to whoever wrote this: Is starting an article with three consecutive 1-sentence paragraphs beginning with the subject's name proper journalistic writing technique? Just asking ... I'm not a journalist myself.

Regarding the actual topic of the article .. what does Vandal think he's doing? "It's not too late" he says. Not too late for what, to break a contract that was signed in good faith? To piss off a developer? Hey Vandal, it's not too late to protect your computer against the Y2K bug. Sheesh.

More from his website:
“I was always uncomfortable with building a condominium near these historically important lands. I was also uncomfortable with the lack of transparency in approving this deal. Now that we have conclusive evidence the fort’s walls are further west than expected, we should simply negotiate another piece of land for the developer and concentrate on preserving the integrity of Upper Fort Garry,”

What a bunch of crap. I remember hearing more about this condo proposal than any other since Excelsior. And wasn't the development adjusted to accommodate the revised footprint of the old fort? How do you "simply negotiate another piece of land"? He's been playing too much Monopoly.

So you think the public should have more input on important matters? I would like some input on giving $7m to a developer for a water park. I would like some input on building whole new neighbourhoods in the south end of the city, even though our population growth is minimal and we can't properly fund the infrastructure to support it. There plenty of things I would like to have input on, but the UFG ship is leaving port. What have you been doing all this time, Vandal?


Update: The Rise and Sprawl makes a good point, that Vandal didn't object when the Tache condos went up next to historic structures in St.Boniface, including the Basilica. Seems like a little bit of hypocritical band-wagon jumping to me. (Thanks for the link, by the way).

Oh yeah .. and Gordy thinks that Vandal's last minute interference is "fun".

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Why I hate Safeway

I go to the grocery store the other day. It happened to be Safeway, because I was in a hurry and that was closest. I go to get a cart, but I don't have a quarter and there was a line-up at customer service so I couldn't "borrow" a quarter so I had to use a basket. I ended up walking around with a 40-lb basket in one hand and two cases of pop under the other arm.

Anyhow ... I needed to buy some parsley. No bulk parsley anywhere. Had to buy 5 cents worth of "Organic" parsley in a plastic container that weighs more than the actual product, for $2.50. Jesus. It would be cheaper for me to eat at 529 Wellington everyday than to make a meal out of "Organic" food.

So I got my parsley ... I head over to the meat department to buy 2 lbs of ground beef. I can't buy 2 bloody pounds of ground beef!! Here are my choices for ground beef: 560 grams or 1.14 kg. What the fuck?? Every recipe on the planet calls for an even pound of ground beef. ONE pound. Not 1 1/3. Not 2 1/2. Of course the beef is also packed in a giant shrink-wrapped styrofoam container to maximize the environmental destruction coefficient of the product.

I hauled my 40 lbs of tomato sauce and beef and vegetables and noodles and cheese, etc.. and my two cases of pop over to the check-out, so I could get my Safeway club-card "savings" (ie. what you would pay normally at Sobeys). I think the check-out lady sensed that I was in a bad mood because she didn't ask me if I found everything I needed. She asked the guy after me, but didn't dare to ask me. ("You want to know what I need? TWO FUCKING POUNDS OF GROUND BEEF!") Heh. Lucky her. Do I need help out to the car? No, that's alright. I lugged this shit around until now. I can carry it a little further, thanks.

I don't care if they have wireless internet. Safeway sucks.

I promise my next post will be about something that matters. Just had to get that off my chest. Thanks.

Saturday 16 February 2008

Winnipeg Department of Spending Money

Why aren't I surprised:

"When it comes to long-range planning ... Winnipeg has no one working on it at all."

This from former city planner Jacqueline East in her final report, as per today's Freep. (link) She confirmed what many of us suspected: that city-planning is a "crisis-driven process" with very little forward thinking actually going on.

Of course Mayor Sammy denies everything, but East puts forward as evidence of our low priority on planning the low number of planning staff -- 19 -- as compared to similarly sized Hamilton with 57 or Edmonton with 58. Councilor Swandel responds with this gem:

He said the planning department's $40-million budget last year was just shy of the $41.5 million Edmonton devoted to its planning department. Winnipeg committed $3.8 million to land-use planning, Swandel added. Ottawa, with an overall budget twice as large as Winnipeg's, committed $3.87 million to its "community and planning design."

"When you compare apples to apples in those other cities, we're getting the job done," Swandel said.

Uh, Mr. Swandel ... I shouldn't have to point this out, but the job isn't to spend money. The job is to intelligently plan the development of the city. Look around, man. Look at the ever-growing number of traffic lights on Bishop Grandin and Route 90, linking our new schooless sprawling suburbs to the traffic chaos around Polo Park. We're not getting the job done.

And by the way, how do we manage to spend $40m with 19 planners, when Edmonton's budget for 3 times the number of planners is only 4% more? Can we maybe take some of that money and build a freakin' overpass or two so I can get to the airport in under 45 minutes?

Weather warning

Watch out, folks. According to Environment Canada there will be daggers falling from the sky today:

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Good blog rolls make good neighbours

I have been out here in the blogosphere for, what, close to six months now? Maybe it's time for me to become a good blog neighbour and add some links.

The place of honour at the top of my list goes to Policy Frog. To my knowledge, Frogger was the first person to add me to his blog roll. That, along with the links that he sometimes threw my way, basically put me on the map, at least in terms of Winnipeg blogs. Though, given my hit count, "on the map" might not be the correct phrase, but you know what I'm saying.

Other sites I like, in no particular order, are (envelope please ...)

Hacks & Wonks ... I don't know about you, but if I was sick with the flu I'd be doing more blogging, not less. But get well, sir.

The Rise and Sprawl ... you all know about the Rise and Sprawl.

The insightful and quirky R. U. Sirius has apparently be hanging around with the Hack.

Waverley West and Beyond ... so much more than sprawling suburbs.

OMMAG, with his significant presence in the right half of the Canadian blogosphere.

Comments Closed has impeccable taste in reporters

Prairie Topiary ... adding some progressive balance to the blog roll

The prolific Pissing In The Tent ... the white on black is a little hard on the eyes, but minor quibble.

The obligatory Black Rod link

Endless Spin Cycle ... I won't add links to actual newspapers in my blog roll, but since Curtis is on his own here I guess it's ok.

Unapologetic Ex-Winnipegger ... so have you got the ball rolling on that new football stadium yet??

Conceit and Sociopathy ... anybody who can get through an entire month of blogging and surfing with an old Amiga deserves a tip of the hat.

OK ... That's it for now ... will tweak the list as time goes on, and add a non-Winnipeg-based list that promises to be at least a little bit different than the list that everybody else reading this has :-)

Sunday 10 February 2008


I just got back from the airport to see off a relative who is deploying this week on her second tour in Afghanistan. Although she volunteered to go, I can't say that she is looking forward to it. Nobody wants to be over there. War is a terrible thing, but sometimes it is necessary, and going to war is not something you can do in a half-assed sort of way. If a nation decides to go to war, it needs to commit to the objective and follow-though. Yes, our NATO allies should be contributing more (I'm talking to you, Germany and France), but their lack of support doesn't mean we should abandon the field and the leave the mission to failure.

I find it odd, and a little bit insulting really, that the people who are most vocally opposed to the mission seem to be people who generally have no personal stake in the mission. Progress is being made in Afghanistan despite what you might read in the press sometimes, and I personally don't want the efforts of our forces to potentially be in vain, by backing out of a mission when we are still needed. We may prefer to think of ourselves as a nation of peace keepers, but we have a proud history of excelling in a combat role when called upon. Now is one of those times.

Then there are those who don't have a clear position at all. Stephane Dion has been insisting that the combat role must end in February of 2009. On CTV's Question Period today he insisted that we must rotate out and let "some other countries" take over the combat role. Who those other countries might be, he doesn't say. He wants to stay to help with reconstruction, but he doesn't seem to understand that reconstruction can't happen without the security provided by the combat operation. But at the same time, he seems very hesitant to fight an election on this issue, giving the impression that he may in the end capitulate. This uncertainty and waffling is nothing new though, as Darcy demonstrates quite well over at the Broom. It will be interesting to see what he does when it comes time for a vote, and if Ignatieff follows along should Dion decide to take a stand on this issue.

By the way, I encourage you to check out The Torch -- probably the best website for a look at Afghanistan from a Canadian perspective.

Friday 8 February 2008

The Land of Giant Banners

Oh good. I was just thinking we need more banners around here:

The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ is decorating one of the city's most famous avenues.

The BIZ will raise 55 new bright red banners today to celebrate Portage Avenue. ( * )

Thursday 7 February 2008

Sharia law in the West

This seems like a slippery slope:

Sharia law in UK is 'unavoidable'

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK "seems unavoidable".

Dr Rowan Williams told Radio 4's World at One that the UK has to "face up to the fact" that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system. Dr Williams argues that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion. ... He says Muslims should not have to choose between "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty".

We have had this debate before in Canada, and it is almost certain to come up many more times, especially if countries like the UK move to accept parts of Sharia law. I know I risk sounding intolerant here, but our nationhood is largely defined by our laws and our values as a society.
People of other cultures are certainly welcome here, but part of the package that includes the benefits of living in Canada is the acceptance of our laws and values. If those laws and values are completely incompatible with your culture, then perhaps Canada is not the right country for you, because part of what makes Canada the great country that it is, are our laws and values, and the resulting freedoms that we all enjoy.

Sorry for getting all preachy-like.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Upper Fort Gary: apartments will not destroy gate

With people like Gordon Sinclare saying things like "save the fort", a person might be forgiven for thinking that the condo project proposed by Crystal Developers (no, not the software guys) for 100 Main St. would plow under the historical structure and plop high-rise directly on top of it. That is not the case. I just want to take a moment to clarify that point. The gate is going nowhere.

The Crystal development would preserve the gate, include a garden, an interpretive center and a farmers market, and would look something like this:

The Friends of Upper Fort Garry proposal would include a "symbolic representation of the fort and the buildings that were once enclosed within its walls", installations of art and other creative works, an interpretive center, and looks something like this:

While you're thinking about this, remember that the Crystal proposal will generate tax dollars and encourage more people to live downtown, while the Friends proposal will consume tax dollars -- something that Gary Doer seems anxious to get started.

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Harper's billion dollar present gets fast tracked

Back here I surmised that Harper may have miscalculated with his bundling of the billion dollar industry aid package into the next budget. Harper obviously values my opinion, because he changed his mind and put it to a vote today, passing without any debate.

"I'm about to say something which I rarely say: I congratulate Prime Minister Harper," Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday. (cbc)

If I'm counting properly, that's twice this year that the parties came together to make something happen. I'm getting all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it! It's so nice to see the leaders getting along and .. uh .. well almost getting along:
Although the bill passed without debate, MPs launched into a heated discussion about its merits soon after the vote ended. As House Speaker Peter Milliken repeatedly called for order, opposition parties argued the bill offered too little.
Oh well. A step in the right direction at least. What's up next? Afghanistan? Oh shit...

Monday 4 February 2008

Fire the Good Doctor

There has been some talk in the press recently about the Liberal Party of Manitoba and their leadership situation. Apparently some people in the party are "beginning to quietly muse" about replacing Jon Gerrard as leader.(*) Excuse me while I give the Liberals a virtual slap upside the head ... Fire the Doctor already!!! It does not matter if he is a nice guy, or a smart cookie, or able to prescribe Cialis. I think he's a nice guy too, but he's not getting the job done. Period.

What some of these people don't realize is that smart doesn't win elections. Charisma does, and the good doctor has none of it. Stuart Murray (a.k.a. Mr. Invisible) also had a chronic charisma deficiency and was rightly booted from the helm of the PC party.

Now, I know that you're thinking. You're thinking "but how do you explain Stephen Harper's success? That man has the charisma of a frying pan, and not one of those nice Jamie Oliver ones either." Well, yes, but Harper had good timing -- he established himself and pulled his party together when the sponsorship scandal and general sickness of the Federal Liberals was ripe. However, his lack of charisma and the fact that women think he's creepy seriously limits his potential upside in an election.

Anyhow, as I was trying to say, unless Dr. Gerrard can prescribe himself a personality-enhancing steroid, I'm afraid the party is going nowhere under his leadership. That is the unfortunate reality. I believe that people will vote on the issues if they big are clearly defined, but Gerrard was unable to differentiate the Liberals from the NDP in this way. The most commonly heard phrase last election was "they're all the same", and when that happens, the guy with the perma-grin will win every time.

h/t PF

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