Sunday 28 February 2010

Own the podium?

About mid way through the Olympic games, I was afraid for the Vancouver Olympic games. I was afraid that it would parallel the opening ceremonies: splashes of brilliance here and there, but plagued with rain, technical glitches and below-par performances; and ending with a painful anti-climactic finish involving a grimacing hockey player. It started on day one, and continued throughout the first week: speed skaters not living up to expectations, sliders and skiers crashing and burning, and zambonies breaking down and spilling hot water all over the speed skating oval. Zambonies, fer Christsakes. Good grief.

Thankfully the Olympics are two weeks long, and, aside from Rod Black's worsening commentary (Game On! You've been served!!. Uh, Rod .. this is figure skating), week two was much better than week one. The zambonies worked, the speedskaters found their groove, and the medals began rolling in. A terrific last week, punctuated by a glorious win for hockey gold!

There was been much criticism and debate over the "Own the Podium" program: It didn't work, the money could be better spent elsewhere, the name is un-Canadian, yadda yadda yadda ... Look, those who expected Canada to get more medals than the U.S. were nuts. You're not going to do that ... they have 10 times the population and 10 times the money, and on top of that they have had a freakishly fortunate run in Vancouver. But sometimes you set the bar extra high to push yourself, and I think the results have been great. We have won more medals than ever before, more gold medals than any other nation in the winter Olympics -- ever, and twice as many as we won in Turin.

Should we continue the program? Absolutely. It has only been in place for five years, and has produced results. Corporate support might diminish, given that the next winter Olympics are on the other side of the planet, and the hype and exposure will be much smaller. But the governments should stay on board: the Olympics are a time when the country comes together, and national pride explodes. Having a successful Olympic showing as a country does more to crush separatist spirits in Quebec than any sponsorship program or fudged tendering processes for government contracts ever will. From a raw $ cost/benefit perspective it probably works out too in the long run. Kids get inspired to skate, snowboard and get active, leading to a healthier generation and lower medical costs. I have no proof, of course, but I don't doubt that it's true.

Though we had a good showing this time around, we have to keep pushing. Those damned Korean speed skaters aren't going to slow down, and worse: the Chinese are coming! Just like with their genetically modified "16 year old" divers and gymnasts in the summer games, the Chinese are going to breed a whole new batch of ice dancers and speed skaters. They're ruthless: the trainer goes straight to the delivery room, pushes the doctor aside, snatches the baby from the womb of the host, err .. mother, and heads straight for the lab where they spend millions of dollars turning it into a phenomenal androgynous athletic freak-star. The 2006 batch should be just about ready for Sochi in 2014, so we have to ready!!


also: Check out James' step-through of the closing ceremonies.

Chile earthquake coverage

A quick note: a friend of mine in Santiago is saying that much of the news coverage on CNN and elsewhere is over-dramatizing the effects of the earth quake. In particular, they often show damage and destruction from the hardest hit areas like Concepcion while talking about Santiago.

There was significant damage in Santiago, including loss of phone service and some damage that shut down the airport for a while, but the vast majority of people are fine, and have running water, electricity, etc...

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Recalibrating and Snow Forts

You're perfect just the way you are (Macleans)

Apparently the Fed gov't has almost finished recalibrating, and surprisingly, their new finely tuned calibration is remarkably similar to their old broken calibration:

Two months after the Conservatives prorogued Parliament to “consult” with Canadians, government officials have revealed the broad outlines of Ottawa’s plans for the March 4 budget. In short, it’s more of the same—it includes no new spending or tax measures, and no cuts to pensions, health care or education transfers to the provinces. Despite signs the worst of the economic crisis has passed, the federal government will push ahead with $19 billion worth of stimulus spending announced last year.
When they consulted with Canadians, Canadians resoundingly told the government "don't change a thing, you sexy beast. We love you just the way you are!" (the poll numbers were just a statistical anomaly)

We've all been there. You know, like when your car is making funny noises and feels sluggish, so you cancel the road trip to the in-laws because you are sure the car is unsafe, then a couple of weeks later the garage phones and says "Hey, you know what? We couldn't find anything wrong with the car. You can come pick it up. No charge." It happens to me all the time. But you know what they say: better safe than sorry!

Upper Snow Fort Garry (Free Press)

Breaking news! A kid in Winnipeg built a snow fort. The snow fort even had a name: Camp Inukshuk. Wait! There's more: the snow fort got destroyed by a plow because it was built next to the street!

Sorry, I'll give you a moment to pick youself off the floor and recollect your thoughts.

There ... are you OK? Good. I didn't mean to blindside you with that bombshell. I'll be more careful next time.

Oh Gordon, what are we going to do with you? I blame it on the Free Press editors for forcing poor Gordon to write a column when he had nothing of public interest to write about. Poor Gordon had to strain every nueron in his grey matter to somehow twist this into a matter of relevance. Oh, how cruel the snow plow driver was! With a jagged sneer or his face and flames dancing in his possessed eyes he callously destroyed the dreams of a young community, by, um, keeping the roads clear. Much like how the evil Crystal Developers were hell bent on constructing an apartment building on an empty parking lot, and developing an adjacent park and interpretive centre to complement the Upper Fort Garry gate. Thank God there was a group a millionaire superheros to swoop in and prevent this near-fatal revitalization of downtown!

Where are the friends of Camp Inukshuk when you need them?

I think I may die of sarcasm one day.

Saturday 20 February 2010

Cody Bousquet, Louis Riel, and more graffiti

On Page A13 of the Saturday Free Press, there was a little article called "Minimum sentences prevail":

Canada's top court refused to lower the sentence below the legislated minimum for Lyle Nasogaluak, an Alberta oil rig worker who suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung from an RCMP beating when he was arrested for impaired driving and leading police on a high-speed chase.
As it should be. A wrong by one person doesn't cancel out a crime by another. Unfortunately the Supreme Court didn't say anything about dropping charges and essentially buying off a dangerous offending punk like Cody Bousquet because the police officers wrongly, but understandably, roughed him up a little bit. Those officers should be reprimanded I suppose, but no way should the crown have given an inch in prosecuting the little shit.


Q: Is Louis Riel a hero or a villain?

A: He's both.

Riel is different things to different people, and through the clouded lens of time he can be viewed as either. I argued on the first Louis Riel day, partly tongue-in-cheek, that it doesn't really matter. Most heroes from the past were flawed, but we forget about the bad things and remember the good things because it gives us a figure to rally around. At that point they become icons ... almost fictitious. Riel the person was a murderer, possibly insane, and certainly divisive. But Riel the hero and icon is something else entirely.

RELATED: Dust My Broom one and two. That second one is a particularly good read.


I just noticed that the Free Press also picked up on the "authorized graffiti area" puzzle that I wrote about here and here. I must say that the Uniter did a much better job of covering it.

I suspect that commenter B-bonn is a reader of this blog.

Congratulations Jon Montgomery!

Anybody Want A Peanut? would like to congratulate Jon on his Olympic gold medal.

You can proudly display that gold medal on your shelf next to the frozen turkey!

What? You don't have the turkey any more? Oh well .. that's ok ... I'm sure the medal will look just fine on it's own (or with all your world cup medals).

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Wages Moderately Frozen

I may owe Greg Selinger an apology. I joked earlier about his "moderate" approach to dealing with a budget deficit, including restricting union raises to only three times the rate of inflation. However, it appears as though the government has taken a more aggressive line in proposing a two year wage freeze for public sector unionized employees. Yes.... even the nurses.

This will be quite a shock to the nurses, who two years ago negotiated a contract that gave them a 10% increase over two years plus guaranteed them the forth highest wages in Canada.

It will be interesting to see this play out. Will Selinger have the fortitude to stand his ground against fierce opposition from his loyal union voter base, or will he cave in and cut a generous deal with the unions to keep them happy and guarantee their support in the next election? If they stand their ground, how will the opposition react? That could put McFadyen in a very awkward position of either acknowledging the fiscal responsibility of the government, or maybe further abandoning their conservative ideology by standing up for the unions against a reckless wage freeze, in a futile attempt to capture new support. I can't see that happening, actually, but I am curious to see what they will do.

I think there is method to the madness though. I suspect that in the negotiations with the union leaders behind closed doors will go something like this: "Look, this is just a two year freeze. You sign this and help us get another majority government in 2011, and you will not regret it. I predict 2012 will be a very good year for you." wink wink.

It's interesting at how the government is going about this: with minister Wowchuck taking the message directly to the media, as though it were a trial balloon of some sort. If it doesn't float, Selinger will throw Rosanne under the bus and claim it was just an unfortunate side effect of her hormone replacement therapy -- that he never intended to have a wage freeze.

However, if Selinger and Wowchuck can actually convince the unions to buy into this, with a potential reward two years down the road, that will really put the other parties in a bit of a pickle when it comes to differentiating themselves and grabbing those middle voters who don't really pay close attention to anything, but have vague notions about fiscal responsibility.

Friday 12 February 2010

Festival du Voyageur, Olympics, Graffiti update

Happy Friday everybody!

The Festival du Voyageur kicks off tonight on Provencher Bvd. I hope to check out the Festival at some point this week. If you see somebody walking around with a dead fox on his head, drinking Caribou, that might be me! Come over and say "hi". If it's not me, then hopefully it is somebody equally friendly.

However, I will not be at the Festival opening ceremony tonight, because I will be watching the Olympic ceremonies on TV. I always enjoy the Olympics, but this year I have the added interest of being acquainted with one of our medal hopefuls. Jon Montgomery has won at Whistler before, so don't be surprised if he does well next week.

Here is a photo of Jon with his sled:

Here is a photo of Jon with a frozen turkey:

(don't ask...)

Something else worth checking out: The Waking Eyes are playing at the Forks tomorrow with Sierra Noble between 1pm and 5pm in a Olympic celebration of some kind. (I will not be wearing the dead fox if I go to that event.)

*** Graffiti update ***

You may recall my previous post on City of Winnipeg designated graffiti zones. Well ... turns out they are not official after all. Check out the story by Kristy Rydz in the Uniter.

“This is not an initiative that we are encouraging at all. It sounds like someone is just trying to spur proliferation of graffiti,” said supervisor of public service operations Bob Okabe.
That's too bad, because according to a separate Uniter story, the support for more graffiti is near-unanimous,

When we need to talk about graffiti, we need to distinguish between "artistic graffiti" and tagging. Tagging is never good. I, however, am a fan of creative artistic graffiti, but there is a place for that: like rail cars, bridge underpasses, and walls surrounding construction sites (not that we have any of those in Winnipeg). I do not condone any kind of graffiti on private business, or houses, or my car.

Anyhow .. I raise my glass of caribou and wish you a great weekend! Hope to see you around.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Manitoba Hydro: the golden beaver - updated

Trappers suing for $64M. Say Hydro, province took away livelihood

Will $64 million help? I know it would help me. It would help me to buy a new gullwing AMG Mercedes SLS, for example. But, the question is: will it help the trappers in Chemawawin? First, the history:

In 1968, Hydro builds a damn, and floods 500,000 acres of land -- "one of the best wildlife areas in North America" according to the lawyer that the band hired. Prior to building the damn, Hydro, attempting to do the right thing one would suppose, negotiates with the affected community and moves them to a new location, giving them roads, schools, running water and electricity for the first time. While you might think that this would lead to an improved standard of living, alcohol abuse took hold of the community "as it became clear the new site, built on bedrock, was no good for traditional trapping, hunting and agricultural practices." There is cause-and-effect implied in that statement that I am not convinced is true. Many other communities got plagued with alcohol abuse, without any drastic change in their trap lines to blame it on. But in any case, many years later in 1990 Hydro paid $13.7 mil to Chemawawin to compensate for the "outstanding effects of the damn."

End of story? Hell no ... Another 18 years later, a group of trappers from the community are going after Hydro for $64 million in lost income. This is for "as many as" 118 trappers or descedants, suffering a 50% drop in their standard of living (I guess running water and electricity don't count). That's over half a million dollars for each of the 118 people.

Sanity check time: $64 million works out to over $1.5 million per year since the damn opened. If this represents a 50% decrease in their revenues from trapping, then that implies that the total value of their trapping, had that revenue not been lost, would have been over $3 million per year -- more than the value of all wild fur produced in the province each year by over 7000 trappers, according to the Manitoba Trappers Association.

Now, I'm not saying the trappers in Chemawawin are not 428.5 times better at trapping than everybody else, or that their former land wasn't that much better. I just find it hard to believe, is all. The cynic in me is thinking that this is one last money grab before the trappers in question get too dead or forgetful to recall the glory days of catching 500 muskrats a week.


I wrote in the comments of a recent post by David Watson that, while in general racial tensions have largely decreased in Canada, they seem to be growing larger with respect to the First Nations. There is increasing frustration among many Native leaders and groups that they are not being properly compesated for past wrongs, and continue to be denied the resources that they deserve; and there is increasing frustration among non-Natives that the more the government gives, they more the First Nations demand. There is a sentiment that it is high time they take responsibility for their own state of affairs -- a sentiment that grows each time an unreasonable demand like this is made. As the demands get bigger, the divide grows larger.

*** update: in related news ***

oh geeze, this isn't gonna help with the whole racial tension thing ...

Last week the band council on the Kahnawake reserve, southwest of Montreal, delivered letters to 26 people identified as non-natives living with their Mohawk spouses or partners. The recipients were told they had 10 days to leave.
Ottawa, as all Canadian governments tend to do, is avoiding this like the plague:
"It is important for people to realize that whether I like the decisions or not, these are decisions made by First Nations people on their own land," Mr. Strahl told reporters in Ottawa.
Mr. Delaronde said all the eviction letters were delivered last week. He could not say whether anyone has heeded the notice yet. The band council plans to publish the names of anyone who has not left by next week, he said.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Afghanistan Film Festival

Anybody Want A Peanut? wishes to make you aware of the first annual Afghanistan Film Festival & Mini Market. Three films will be shown, Afghan treats & tea will be sold, and all proceeds go towards good causes. Some details:

Date: Monday, March 8, 2010
Time: 4:00pm - 9:30pm
Location: Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall @ University of Winnipeg
Cost: $12.00: Regular Admission; $ 7.00: Student Admission (with I.D.)

The Manitoba Chapter of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan in partnership with Global College are proud to present this film festival to mark International Women's Day 2010 and to educate Canadians on the struggle for justice and human rights in Afghanistan. Our goal is to honour the women and children of Afghanistan and raise funds to support our various projects that enable better educational opportunities for women & children in Afghanistan. Women in Afghanistan continue to face grave poverty, gender inequlity, discriminatory laws and negative social stigma. Domestic abuse, rape, forced prostitution and trafficking remains a sad reality for many Afghan women. We are committed to improving the conditions of human rights, ending women's oppressions and improving the lives of Afghan women so that they can lead lives of dignity, safety, and opportunity.

All proceeds from this event will go towards our various initiatives such as funding the Omid-e-Mirmum Orphanage and the Omid Girl's Scholarship fund.

(1) McNally Robinson, Grant Park Shopping Centre
(2) University of Winnipeg Info Booth
(3) University of Manitoba Answers Booth
(4) Red River College
(5) Any of the following contacts:

on Facebook: First Annual Afghanistan Film Festival & Mini Market

note: this blog is not affiliated with this festival or any of the related organizations.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Moderation is the key to doing nothing

Thank God we have a responsible Premier here in Manitoba. Faced with a looming $592m deficit, our trusty Premier is committed to taking bold action though rigourous moderation:

"We're looking for moderation from everybody given the times," Selinger said. "Moderation is going to be a watchword going forward on things like collective bargaining. "We'll be looking to negotiate moderate collective agreements that recognize the limitations that we have fiscally." -fp-
Hey, I think I know what the word of the day is!

Gone (or at least postponed) are the days when we will sign collective agreements that guarantee our civil servants are the fourth highest paid in the land, in spite of our low cost of living. Say "hello" to the new moderate Manitoba, where collective agreements will be signed that restrict our government workers to a woeful increase of only 3 times the rate of inflation. Hey, it isn't pretty, but everybody has to feel the pinch!

But why stop there! The fiscal policy team at AWAP has formulated other moderate policies that we believe Greg Selinger should consider:

1. Wait for federal transfer payments to increase. C'mon Ottawa! Every other year the NDP has over spent you've been there to bail us out with windfall increases to equalization or other transfers. Don't let us down this time! We can only run a deficit for one year!

2. Smile and look happy.

3. Do nothing and hope the problem goes away.

For those of you radical right-wingers who believe we should attempt to spend within our means, freeze civil service wages, or trim the fat in our bloated bureaucracy: Shame on you! What are you trying to do? Ruin our economy? You should know that government spending is the engine that drives the Manitoba economy, and if we take our foot off the gas pedal we'll grind to a halt. Cutting spending is the last thing we should do!

Plus, if there's anything that Selinger has learned from Gary Doer, it's to not do anything that makes you look mean. Things like laying off a worker, or cutting down a tree on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. Selinger has to be especially diligent because he is not as adept at grinning as Gary Doer was. Oh that grin ... How it could always make us feel good. How I miss that grin ...

(sorry for the crappy graphic. I had time limitations and only MS Paint at my disposal)

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