Thursday 30 September 2010

Friday blog notes w/ bonus video.

Winnipeg based right-wing blogger Marginalized Action Dinosaur was booted from his web site earlier this month after a dude name Asad Raza complained to his service provider. What did Raza complain about? Mr. Dinosaur Gary Hollingshead published a post about a website of Raza's that was apparently derogatory to Canadians. I say "apparently" because Raza has pulled it from the interweb so nobody can see it anymore. So embarrassed is Raza about the stuff he posted that he has threatened to sue anybody who even talks about it. The web site included his top 8 reasons not to immigrate to Canada, which you can read here.

Some people are so sensitive.

Anyhow, Hollingshead is back up and running here.


As I am sure all of you know by now, Brian Scott has finished his book of wickedawesome Winnipeg Photos. Only 86 days 'til Christmas! .... something to think about...


Also on the subject of Winnipeg photos, Kyra found an interesting concept for a blog: 365 Epic Winnipeg Skies.

What happens after day 365? Buildings? Fences? Parkings lots? I guess we'll have to wait and see.


On a personal blog note, I seem to have been terribly wrong about Jack Layton's strategy on the gun vote. Wackie Jackie has actually plummeted in the polls. I thought he played the middle ground quite well, but I guess I don't think like most Canadians.

Also on a personal blog note, I just passed my 3rd anniversary on the bloggoshpere. Even three years ago I was ranting about Bipole III. I don't even know what to say about that.


That's all for now. Hey, it's Friday. I feel a cosmic hootenany coming on!

Tuesday 28 September 2010

An interview with Livio Ciaralli, candidate for council

This is not the first time that Livio Ciaralli has run for council in Charleswood/Tuxedo. He ran four years ago as well against Bill Clement. This time the race is wide open, with seven fresh faces and no incumbent. I found Livio door-knocking out in the drizzle the other night, and asked him some questions over coffee:

Peanut: There are seven people running in Charleswood. How do you break away from the pack? How do you differentiate yourself from all of those other candidates?

Livio: I think I have differentiated myself: by buying my own bus pass, by taking transit, by biking to work, I'm sending a message that I'm going to be like everyday normal people. My councillor's allowance: I won't spend anything on myself. The full funding will be going back into the community. That's a line in the sand I've drawn, and if people pay attention to it, they can ask the candidates "what are you going to do for me?"

The other issue that's going to differentiate me is that I won't be talking about little problems like crime and roads, because there is one bigger issue at hand and that is taxes and funding, so hopefully people will understand that. That makes me completely different than any other candidate so far, including the mayor, Sam, and Judy. I'd almost say that my platform is a mayoral platform.

P: Alright ... but there are issues within your ward ...

L: When you're living in Charleswood, it's almost like living in cottage country. You know we have crime, but, I mean my son got hit in head with a beer bottle. That's the kind of crime we're talking about: petty theft, teenagers doing what teenagers do. Sure you'll have the odd really bad thing that happens, like a murder happened over here, but that can happen anywhere. But in Charleswood there's really no major issues ... except on Wilkes we're starting to have some issues with traffic. So there's pockets with issues, but when you look at it reflected throughout the ward of Charleswood Tuxedo -- there really isn't that much of a problem compared with other wards.

P: I know that you don't want to raise taxes. I read on John Dobbin's blog that you would like to find efficiencies. A lot of people say that when they're running for office, but when they get in they either can't find them or if they find them they can't capture them. Do you have a plan B? What happens if you can't get those efficiencies?

L: I think I can get the efficiencies because I'm a contractor. I've done a lot of work with the city over the last 15 years so I see how they mis-handle contracts. They know my price but to make things easier they pay the general contractor's price. There's no cost control there. On one contract they marked up my price 100%. That's huge.

The other way we can find efficiencies is through materials management. They have to change the way they do business. They have to be aggressive. Right now they just put it on the web site, and three bids and they're done. But the biggest thing they have to do is convince the civil servants to get them to the point where if they save money on a budget -- let's say they save $20,000 on a project, the city gets $10,000 back and the other $10,000 can be a bonus. So hopefully that gives them incentive that if emp A is working and emp B is not, then employee A will say "Hey excuse me, we're talking about our bonus here".

P: To get things done, you're going to need support of other councilors. Are you a persuasive guy? Are you going to rough them up a little bit?

L: I am a bit rough around the edges, but I hope the ideas I have will appeal to them. The main platform issue should appeal to all of them, right? To go and get proper funding from the province, or to have a constitution for Winnipeg going forward. That should appeal to all of them. Now, maybe council is a day to day thing that gets mired down in specifics, but I want council to elevate itself because we need to plan for the next 100 years. We can't be managing all these little items and having all our energy sucked up because of it.

So you put your plan forward and you start working the tables and you see where their heads' at, and you start trying to get your vote. But council is dominated by a conservative mentality now, and I want EPC gone because it's no good for council and maybe with it gone council has more power because they all get the same information at the same time.

P: What's Judy's position on EPC?

L: Oh .. she choked on the question. Judy wants EPC. She wants the same power Sam has. She wants control of EPC.

P: That's why you'll never get rid of it. If the mayor wants it ..

L: Well, if the mayor wants it, sure he's got control of EPC right off the hop, but I'm hoping that with a change of politics at city hall, people start realizing that either it's gotta change to like it was with Susan Thompson where it was a rotating basis through council ... it's gotta be a point where somebody can't control it with set votes.

P: What do you think of Wyatt's idea to put a plebiscite on the ballot ...

L: Sorry. It's just more bullshit. You know, it's been talked about before. It skirts the issue. Eventually we have to stop paying taxes. No matter how many times they want to empty your pocket ... it's the only thing they can do. It's lazy. You want more money? Go get it from the province. That's where the real fight is. If you're too scared to do that, don't come asking to raise taxes of any kind of level. Cause you know, they'll raise it 1%. Five years, 10 years down the line, hey there another 1%. Sorry .. I just don't buy it.

P: Shifting gears a little bit here -- at this stage of the game, what's our best option for rapid transit: BRT, LRT, or flying reindeer pulling sleighs?

L: Hmm Mmm .. I like reindeer.

P: Word has it that's what Sam is planing for when he get's re-elected. LRT is gone and the reaindeer are in. It will be more expensive, but he thinks it will increase ridership.

L: Well, aside from the fact that's it's the wrong thing to be building -- either LRT or BRT -- and in the wrong spot, and we really don't need it as much as people think we do ...

P: We started it.

L: Right, we started it. Do we have the money to complete it to the U of M?

P: I believe we have the money to complete BRT.

L: Then complete it. Complete it. Because Sam is not really going for an LRT. He just wants to transfer the BRT money which is about 100 mil into infrastructure, then he wants to dip into the federal government. People have to understand how Sam operates. What he's doing to you with BRT/LRT, he's going to do to the federal government once he get's his LRT money. He's going dance around it until he picks up that money and puts it back into BRT. It's a shell game, but that's the only way he knows how to operate. So ... we will get BRT, but Sam's game is to get 100 million bucks more. Like he did it with Glen Murray's stuff: when BRT first came on. He took that money and put it into community centres, right? And yet we still have a BRT going. You understand that shell game he's playing? He got a ball park paid for himself. Sam is probably the greatest socialist there is when it comes to taking taxpayers' money.

I kind of support it that way. I would support him if he looked at major platform and elevated himself to that level and said, "you know what? This is something I'm going to fight for. You guys can squabble about crime and all this, but I'm going to elevate it to this level." and I think he would be the greatest mayor in Winnipeg. I think he can do it.

So did I answer your question? Finish the BRT already, but if he's going to get more money back ... I'm just saying that no matter what he does we're getting a BRT.

P: Oh yeah?

L: Yeah. There's no way that Sam thinks that BRT, changing to LRT, is rapid transit. And if he thinks it is then he's an idiot.

P: Out of all four mayoral candidates, who do you like the best?

L: You know what? If Sam came out and made a statement about Crocus and said I'm going to try to pay some of this back ... even though it's just symbolic, I think he would be the best man. I think that was a crooked deal made by crooked people behind closed doors. And, if he kind of looks at changing the way he is I'd probably go with Sam.

Judy: she blew it with me on EPC right off the hop, and she blew it with the tax increase. We all we need money; that's just not where we want to go get it. I can't support her. I can work with her, but I can't support her.

So right now I'll give one shot with Sam and we'll see. Because, I don't know ... I don't know ... if he doesn't give me my answer I'll just spoil my ballot.

The other two guys, I've looked at their stuff and, their stuff is .. well ... if my apserations are this high and their's are this low, I can't even look at them.

P: Here's the most important question: do you think Leah Hextall is sexy?

L: I don't even know who she is.

P: She's a sports anchor on CTV. If I mention her in the blog it will get more hits and you'll get more exposure. Especially if I also mention "bikini" or "lingerie".

L: If you asked me about Mary-Agnes Welch...

P: Mary-Agnes Welch? What do you think of her?

L: I like red heads.

P: I have quote here: something about eradicating poverty and homelessness in ten years. How do you do that?

L: Well, the funding formula. The province gets $3.7 Billion each year in federal transfer payments. I think the city should get a provincial transfer payment. Since we have over half the population in this city, I'm not going to ask for half, I'm going to start with $600m or $700m. With that money, our operating expenses, the taxes that we pay everyday, will go towards operating the city. With the transfer payment we can use that to fund our infrastructure, and then these projects that you want to roll out over the next ten years, we can pay for them.

Now I understand that at a provincial level they're going to have to find efficiencies, but we can't go ahead with a city our size on our own. Sam just said we have a $4.7 Billion infrastructure deficit. How deep are your pockets? How deep are taxpayer pockets to pay for that? We have to stop making bad decisions.

P: Do you think we can get anywhere with the NDP, or do you think the conservatives might do a better job of helping out the city?

L: Council has one year to plan. There's an election in one year. If council can agree that unicity is finished, that the City of Winnipeg act, although it was very good -- it had ambition -- lacked funding to reach those goals ...

( -- diversion into a conversation about types of coffee after waitress stops by -- )

Oh .. again .. if we make that statement, we have one year to tell the three political parties: which ever one of you agree to this, we'll give you Winnipeg. If you don't agree to it, we'll do whatever we can to let people know that you don't want Winnipeg to be independent and responsible for it's own role. You want to control us forever.

So, it's got to end at some point. It's a discussion that one day will have to happen unless you guys want to pay taxes for the next ten years. You're going to be paying them, there's no doubt about it. Let's assume that Russ gets his 1% sales tax, so on everything you buy there's an extra 1% ...

P: and the province and the federal government will match it

L: Ya, OK, they'll match. So let's assume they'll match it. That's not bad. I've got no problem, instead of this funding formula, with taking 1% of all PST paid in Winnipeg as funding as long as there's no strings attached, and the check has to be in the mail - Jan 2 - or else how are you going to pay for the 55 new cops?

So all our problems boil down to money. The question is where do we get the money? Tax, or getting our fair share of what we already pay? When you think about it, if the province can get $3.7 billion from the feds ... their budget is $10 billion ... if they can get 3.7 how the hell do you support a $10 billion province on the 6.3 that you collect? It's insane.

Community funding is the same story, where if you set up a fund for communities and the financial departments invests it for them, the return is split between 15 communities, and then it goes to the community where grassroots can spend doing what they need to do. But without funding you can't put in a program like that.

P: Last question: what's your favorite Italian Restaurant?

L: I like Bella Roma. (The location of our interview.)

Interview notes: accuracy of the interview is not guaranteed, but should be pretty close. All typos are mine. Next time I do one of these I am asking 'yes' or 'no' questions only. Thanks to Livio for his time, and for picking up the tab at Bella Roma.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Active Transportation: Wack-A-Pole

I am pleased to see that the Multi-use path along Archibald St., part of Winnipeg's new active transportation network, is coming along nicely. Especially the obstacle course portion. That's the part near Elizabeth Rd. where you get to dodge people waiting for the bus as the path turns into a bus stop platform, and then you get to swerve around posts sticking out of the path.

The best part is where the path narrows to only 2.4 m, 1/3 of which is rendered useless by red light camera posts.

It wouldn't be hard to clip a handlebar against that post, especially at night.

An acquaintance of this blog's phoned active transportation coordinator Kevin Nixon and asked him about this. Kevin had no idea that this was the case. He knew that the path got quite narrow at this spot because, apparently, the St.Boniface Golf Course refused to part with any of it's land, but he had no idea that it was impaled by red light camera posts.

One might think that this is potentially dangerous. That perhaps somebody working on the project might stop and say "wait a second ... is this right? Maybe we should check into this." Or one might suppose that Kevin Nixon himself might tour the various projects just to make sure that everything makes sense in actuality and not just on paper.

It would be easy enough to fix: they could divert some money from the "traffic calming" measures on Grosvenor that nobody wants (even cyclists) and use that cash to relocate the traffic signal posts to the back edge of the path where they would be less in the way. As for the red light camera, the thing takes less than one photograph a day. It's probably a money-loser. Why is it even there?

Anyhow, Kevin said that he would look into it. We'll see about that. I hope he doesn't, because I'm a bit of a trill-seeker, and swerving around posts on a narrow pathway adds that extra element of danger that I crave when I cycle to work.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Gun registry winners and losers

big winner: Jack Layton. Four words that I never thought I'd have to string together, but there it is...

I think Jack handled the whole gun registry debate better than anyone. While Harper was whipping his MPs to vote to kill the registry, as you would expect from a iron-fisted leader hailing from gun-toting red-neck country; and while Iggy was whipping his boys and girls to vote against killing the registry, as you would expect from a bunch of out-of-touch money-wasting urban lefty elitists; Jack was playing it cool. While he clearly stated his own preference -- as any leader should on an important issue -- he allowed his MPs to vote as they saw fit while proposing an alternative of some kind, thereby positioning himself as the moderate in this whole affair. Tired old Wacky Jacky is all of a sudden the captain of common sense and compromise.

Canadians are desperate for more of that: cooler heads, compromise solutions, and acknowledgment that different constituencies have different values. I personally would like to see more open votes in the House. The rhetoric will get toned down because you are less likely to fear monger and hurl insults when some of your own colleagues are voting the other way. Ultimately I think it would lead to a more productive parliament.

winner: Tory MP Candice Hoeppner
Who is Candice Hoeppner? A few weeks ago I would have guessed a third liner on Canada's women's hockey team. Now I know differently. Even though her bill failed, she has still put herself on the main stage and has performed reasonably well.

big loser: Harper. Lost the vote, again. The registry's never going away Steevo. Get used to it.

loser: Ignatieff. Even though you won the vote, you still alienated a bloc of voters, and you were out-classed by Layton. Jack Layton. Deal with that.

losers: anybody who changed their vote. Spineless wusses.

loser: Niki Ashton, for not saying how you were going to vote. You went from being open-minded and thoughtful to indecisive and annoying. Were you waiting for bribes? I ditto Policy Frog's tweet.


Where do I stand? The Anybody Want A Peanut public policy and cocktail mixing department (I had to consolidate due to cut-backs) has not provided me with a report yet, so I don't know what to think. The bastards are probably too busy drinking mojitos. I look at it from a cost/benefit perspective. A registry per se is not a bad idea, but is it worth all the money we're pumping into it? I can't answer that question.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Waywayseecappo to Winnipeg

Just for fun, here's a time-lapse video that somebody posted of the drive from Waywayseecappo to Winnipeg, with a little Madonna to keep you company.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Watt kind of a deal is this?

Are you shocked and concerned that Manitoba Hydro is selling electricity to the U.S. for barely 1/3 the price that we pay here in Manitoba?

most of Manitoba Hydro's export sales last year were made on the spot market and sold for an average of 2.37 cents per kilowatt hour, down dramatically from 2008-09 and a fraction of what Manitoba homeowners pay. -fp-
You shouldn't be too concerned because spot market prices change, and we could be selling it for much more next year. Look at this as a blip. What you should be concerned about are the long term deals that Hydro is negotiating, and don't be surprised if the "locked in" prices are shockingly low. The hints are already on the Hydro web site:
  • The extension of our existing contract with Xcel Energy was signed for 'close to' $3b for 375-500 mW of power for 10 years. This works out to about $0.068 / kWh. No additional generating power required.
  • The new contract signed with Wisconsin Public Service is also for up to 500 mW of power, but it is for 15 years, will require new hydroelectric facilities and the bipole III line, but is only anticipated to be worth 'over $2b'. This works out to something more in the range of $0.03 / kWh
Although the details need to be worked out, what it looks like is we're selling 5 more years of power for almost $1b less than what we're currently selling to Xcel.

I don't know how much the Keeyask dam will cost, but Wuskwatim will cost $1.3b (if all goes well I assume) and it only produces 200 mW. I need to do some ball-parking here, but since Keeyask is a much larger dam (695 mW) I will guesstimate that it will cost as least twice as much ... say $2.6b. bipole III will cost $2.2b. How are we going to get our money back on this $6.1b investment? By selling our power for 3 cents?

If we sell our power to Wisconsin and to Minnesota Power (15 years, up to 250 mW) at that rate, the present value of that revenue using a modest 5% discount rate is only $2.08b. Using a 3% discount rate we'll break even after 100 years. With a 3.5% discount rate we never get our money back.

Of course it's much more complicated than that, but all I'm doing here is what we in the biz call a "sanity check", and to me the numbers aren't adding up. At the very least we can get a sense of the risk that the whistle-blower chick was talking about.


I took issue with M.A. Welch's statement in the paper that the east side bipole III route is "less green". I've suggested on this blog before that incremental line losses from the west side could have displaced coal power in the U.S. thereby eliminating 500 million pounds of CO2 pollution each year, or potentially much more.

I emailed Mary Agnes, who sent me a thoughtful response conceding that perhaps she could have worded it differently, but pointing out that all the environmental groups support the west side. My response (in part):
I'm not sure that every environmental group agrees the west side is greener. The ones that I've seen take a position on it -- Boreal Forest Network, CPAWS, etc. -- have a mandate to protect the forest. They may not be ambivalent towards pollution and global warming, but to them cutting down trees will trump the waste of 50 MW of power, even if the waste of power is more significant in the larger view.
I have difficulty accepting that any objective environmentalist could advocate the waste of that much power, and I maintain that picking the west side route has nothing to do with saving the environment. If you want to know what it's really about read my last post on this subject.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Winnipeg Mayoral debate #1

My little live blog thingy below (in reverse order). Thanks to the Free Press for the video feed. If any of my comments conflict with Bart's comments, go with Bart. He was probably paying attention.

1:34 pm:
closing remarks (that was short..)

Judy: "you believe in Winnipeg." Why yes I do. How did you know?
- "no more squeeling and squaking".
Sam: "talk is cheap" Implies that Judy cannot deliver.
-"You need somebody who will stand tall." Ooooo .... cheap shot! I like it. :-)

1:25 pm
Q: are you willing to raise taxes for proper infrastructure?

Judy: bashing tax freeze. "A freeze is not sustainable". Also need more $$ from other levels of government. She will do this by building relationships. (invite Vic Toews over for dinner?)
Sam: all cities are in the same boat. Throwing all kinds of numbers around. Doesn't answer the original question.

1:18 pm
Winnipeg is the sunniest and windiest city in Canada, therefore we should be harnessing that energy. That will create jobs. (Judy)

Prepare for windmills in the exchange district.

1:16 pm
Judy's french has improved somehow. Asked about improving French services. "we must facilitate this unique characteristic of our city"

1:10 pm
Sam: we're rolling out the red carpet for Businesses. Judy counters by pointing out that Sam failed to eliminate the small business tax. She then says she can't commit to freezing it (ie. she may increase it?)

Judy: rapid transit is an embarrassment. Off topic perhaps, but true.

1:06 pm
Judy: "no more quick fixes for crime". 2 seconds later: "yes, do need more police"

Wait, we're the home of Snow White? I knew about Winnie the Pooh, but Snow White? Do you mean John White from the Free Press?

1:03 pm
Judy must have killer toned arms with all those hand gestures that she does. Hold a can of beans in each hand and you've got yourself a good upper body workout there.

"every single stat shows we're going in the wrong direction" ... well.. maybe not every stat. Really?

1:00 pm
note to Judy: do not speak Fench. Ever. Again. Thanks.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Gansters in training

In the world that some people live in, everything is so simple. Kids are joining gangs ... back lanes need to be fixed ... why not train the kids to fix the back lanes? Badda-bing badda-boom, two problems solved at once! At least that's how it goes in the latest plan of Judy What's Her-Name. (cbc fp)

My first thought was: if you think your backlane is a crumbling piece of crap now, just wait until it is rebuilt by a 16 year old "at-risk" car thief. It sounds like what is being proposed is that we turn our experienced city workers into baby-sitters for kids who would rather be selling drugs or busting car windows, and entrusting our infrastructure to gang-bangers with grade 7 educations.

Certainly programs should be available to help train and integrate troubled youth and young adults into the workforce, but they have to want to change. It is also not clear that there is a shortage of similar programs out there, and Tom Brodbeck questions whether this is even in the domain of City Hall.

As for the cost:

She suggested Ottawa and Manitoba may help out through job-training programs for Aboriginal youths at risk of becoming involved in gangs.
So is Judy saying that all gang members are Aboriginal, or just that only aboriginals will be eligible for these designated union jobs? Sorry white chick and black dude. Go do a drive by shooting or something, you're the wrong colour for this program.

I think this is one of those things that looks good from 10,000 feet, but as soon as you take a closer look it all falls apart. Maybe I'm just being overly negative and pessimistic. I don't know.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Sam's re-election kick-off: knee jerk reaction

My initial reactions to Sam's kick-off, as portrayed in the Free Press:

First: Sam has a black sport coat? I've seen him wear mustard yellow, avocado green, The Joker purple ... but black? The stiff competition from Judy is really forcing him to up his game here.

Second: hiring more police officers is great and all, but unless you can explain how you're paying for them I remain skeptical. You're giving us the good news without the bad. "There are many avenues" for raising revenue. Ok, like ... ? When you're already selling sponsorship of city parkades, you're pretty much at the bottom of the barrel of revenue raising ideas.

Sam made the decision recently to push for a big fancy toy called a police helicopter. A tool with questionable benefits to justify the $3.5 m purchase cost and $1.3 m annual operating costs. That decision came at the expense of hiring more officers, as I see it. If he wants his chopper and 58 more cops and more dispatchers, there is no bloody way he will be able to keep his freeze on property taxes. I don't know how much more he can grovel out of other levels of government, given their own respective fiscal situations. So, Sam: when are you going to announce that you're raising taxes?

Third: He's creating a new anti-gang unit? We already have a gang unit. I know this because the Winnipeg Police web site makes reference to a "Winnipeg Police Gang Unit". So what exactly are you doing here? I would rather see more cops assigned to walk the streets and give more police presence to key areas of town, rather than containing them in a dedicated unit that may not be free to respond to general neighbourhood crime.

*edit: they have a video posted now. 20 of the 58 will be allocated to street service.

Thursday 2 September 2010

Funny story about The Bay

Sometimes when you tear a place apart to renovate, things that you thought you had lost turn up unexpectedly. Well ... The Bay store in downtown Winnipeg is undergoing much needed renovations, and in the process they discovered a box containing a wedding gift. For my wedding. Three years ago.

All this time we thought this other couple stiffed us on our wedding gift, and all this time they thought we were ungrateful ass-hats for not sending a thank you card. Three years of nasty looks, broken windows, slashed tires and torched sheds -- all completely unnecessary. Just this week I was going to strangle their dog and mail it back to them in a box, before getting the call from The Bay asking us to come pick up our gift. Oops.

Now our next meeting with this couple is going to be really awkward. Oh hey, um ... sorry about the terrorist threats that I sent to the CIA from your address two weeks before your trip to Florida. Ya ... probably shouldn't have done that. So ah ... water under the bridge, eh? Heh.


I am very much looking forward to the completed renos but I hope they make-over their stock in the process. They can spiffy up the place all they want, but if they don't sell pants that fit me I still won't shop there. Seriously, I can't be the only person who's waist isn't bigger than their inseam.

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