Thursday 30 June 2011

Bipole and Beers debate, with bonus doodle of John Baird

My haphazard notes, impressions, and thoughts in no particular order from the debate Monday night:

Dr. Jon Gerrard (Liberal)
Hugh McFadyen (PC)
James Beddome (Green)
Stan Struthers (NDP)

Colin Craig (Cdn Taxpayer Federation)

I missed the openings for Jon and Hugh because my garage door came off the rails and jammed, trapping my truck in my garage. (Yeah, that’s right James: I drive a truck. It’s a small one though and I carpool to work.)

Stan’s opening: we can’t shy away from making the “tough decisions” (an ironic choice of words I thought); if we go down the east side “there will be no sale at the end of the line”, implying that the U.S. will not buy power from us if we do so – a theme that came up several times; and talk of lawsuits etc. for an east-side route. He also said something else interesting: that the west side route would allow exporting power to Saskatchewan, while mocking the idea of building a line all the way over from the east side route. More on that later.

James was as well prepared for the debate as anyone. His position was that Bipole III need not be built at all, and that we should focus on conservation of energy and increasing renewable energy sources instead of exporting to the U.S. with uncertain profit margins, pointing out that the costs of producing hydro power have escalated over the years. (My thought as he was saying this was that from a ‘green’ perspective, exporting hydro power is beneficial because it largely displaces fossil fuel power and reduces green house gas emissions.)

Jon, while acknowledging the inferiority of the west side route, advocated for the under-lake route rather than the east route. At one point, during a discussion about reliability, the conversation turned to east side vs. under lake, which Stan Struthers must have loved. Jon is very soft-spoken and there was a camera blocking my view of him, so for me it was almost like he wasn’t even there.

Hugh generally got the largest applauses of the evening, and argued very cogently on most points. He ran over time on several occasions, and Colin Craig, perhaps showing a little bias, was reluctant to crack the whip and cut him off. There was one time where Hugh voluntarily stopped talking because of shouting from the crowd when Colin refused to prevent him from finishing his somewhat lengthy thought.

Colin was also involved in the funniest moment of the evening, when Professor John Ryan took the microphone to question Hugh’s numbers. His run up to the question was rather long, and Colin took the mic away, only to give it back after protests from the audience, but then there was an amusing little wrestling match over the microphone itself. Colin had a couple pretty good jokes through the evening too, but otherwise left the talking to the politicians. Overall the debate had a good tempo, and Colin deserves credit for that.

Stan Struthers had the unfortunate task of representing the NDP in front of a mostly unsupportive audience, but loyally carried the party’s position. He drew jeers for two things:
1) his claim that the U.S. would not buy power from us if the east side route was chosen, even after former Hydro President and CEO Len Bateman got up and told him he was full of shit (but in slightly different words). Stan was very cagey at first. He said that the U.S. politicians “were very clear” that they would not buy power “if we kept doing things the same way.” Oh, is that very clear? Sounds pretty damn vague to me. He would NOT say “if we build bipole III down the east side”. At least not the first several times it came up, but eventually he did make a more direct connection with the east side which drew boos from the audience who knew better,
2) his mention of privatization. It did not come up as a question, but Stan made sure to weave it in to some of his responses. One time it drew jeers so loud that you couldn’t even hear him talk. “Stop wasting our time” people would yell, during Stan’s futile attempt to convince people that Hugh is actually Gary Filmon, only more evil.

I had some conversations with the candidates after the meeting. Highlights:

Jon Gerrard: I questioned Jon about confusing an already confusing topic by adding the third underwater alternative, suggesting that if he sided with Hugh leading up to the election it would give voters two clear choices and would maximize the chance that the west side route would not be built. Jon would not be swayed however, and insisted that the underwater route needs to be on the table right now. I think I insulted him a little bit when I said it wouldn’t get built because the Liberals would never win power, but he rightfully pointed out that they could hold the balance of power and have influence that way.

James Beddome: I had a good time talking with James, who it turns out is not a stranger to this blog. He and I agree on certain things, like the concept of inverted Hydro rates and allowing small private generators of electricity to feed power back into the grid. At one point when I was talking to James, Hugh came over to complement James on his intellectual consistency and his thoughtful arguments. I also found out that his nick name is Jimmy Bop, although I thought Elle (Federal NDP candidate) said “Jiffy Pop”, so I will forevermore refer to James as Jiffy Pop.

Hugh McFadyen: I had a good chat with Hugh too, about converters and the west side route. When I suggested the underwater route would allow us to avoid the most problematic areas of the east side, Hugh said no, not really, because the underwater route may still go through Poplar River traditional territory, and they are the First Nation most opposed Bipole III.

On the converter issue, I argued that he should include converters in his cost estimates for the East side to give his numbers more credibility, and also to undermine the NDP’s only argument related to reliability. When Stan Struthers was questioned on reliability all he had was the fact that they are building new converts to add redundancy to the Dorsey station – something the PCs would likely do too, but cannot claim because they are not including the costs in their estimate. Hugh tells me that for technical reasons the converters for an east side route would be cheaper than the west side converters, but reliable estimates are not available yet.

Finally, Stan Struthers: I questioned Stan on one thing – his claim about being able to export power to Saskatchewan more easily from the West side. I pointed out that both lines terminate south of the city, so is he claiming that we can just splint into the line half way down and divert power off to Saskatchewan?

Stan: the engineers have assured us that we can send power to Saskatchewan.
Me: but you will need converters
Stan: we’re building converters
Me: but those converters are located south of Winnipeg, the same place as the East side converters would be.
Stan: but the west side route goes closer to Saskatchewan.
Me: so you’re saying you would build extra converters somewhere up near Dauphin to export power?
Stan: we’ve already factored in converters
Me: Yes, but those converters are south of Winnipeg. Either way, you’re running a line from Winnipeg to Saskatchewan
Stan: no we would run it from up near Dauphin
[repeat above conversation 4x]
Me: Okay, but you would need additional converters for that, which would cost billions more dollars
Stan: Well, we would sell them billions of dollars in power.

Wow, that was … more difficult than it should have been.

One last note: the power sales to the U.S. are in U.S. currency. Should the bottom fall out of the $US, Hydro would be in big trouble. The scuttlebutt Monday night after the debate was that the infamous NY whistleblower was fired in part because she suggested the possibility of Hydro going bankrupt as a result of a drop in the American dollar.


Now, as your reward for making it through all of that, I give to you the latest in my long tradition of offensive comic panels. This is a doodle I did on my coffee break on Monday when I found out that John Baird was visiting the rebels in Libya:

Wednesday 29 June 2011

UPDATED: The new Longboat development on Portage

There is not much I can say about the project that One Man Committee hasn't already said, but it should be noted that this isn't quite a done deal just yet. I'm sure it will be, but certain details need to be worked out over the coming weeks. Those details could include the delisting of the former A&B Sound building from the heritage building list. The Mitchell Copp building is also a class II heritage building, and I'm not clear on what is required in order to demo that but maintain the facade. Whatever it is I don't anticipate it being a problem. I am sure that if Chipman wants a building delisted our politicians will trample over each other running to the office of whoever is in charge of delisting.

click to enlarge:

The Free Press has a little bit of advance info on the Longboat develpment, to be announced tomorrow. Most of what I have heard agrees with the Free Press article: there were be a base of about 4-5 stories for retail and office space, and the hotel will be built on top of that. Most of the buildings on the block will be demolished inclding A&B Sound, but the facade of the Mitchell Copp building will be retained.

The design is a Stantec design. Stantec has been involved in many projects, but some urbanists may remember them most for the maligned WRHA building on Main St. The Longboat development should receive a much better response. There will be street-level retail, and the upper floors will be office/commercial, and the hotel will be a mid-rise tower on top of that. Office tenants could include Stantec itself, which is rumoured to be moving it's head office to downtown from its current location on Waverley.

It's a pretty exciting development. The relocation of the Stantec head office -- if it does happen -- is particularly positive in light of the recent story of Western Financial Group abandoning the core because of safety concerns.

Some people may be alarmed about more buildings being torn down, but this is the type of development that downtown needs -- more retail off the side walk, more people working and staying downtown -- and it would not happen if we insisted on holding on to the current buildings. The Mitchell Copp building is completely useless and uninhabitable, and the A&B Sound building is an awkward space that would be difficult to repurpose and integrate into a new development, although I happen to think it would make a great space for a casino.

We at the Peanut are looking forward to the announcement.

Sunday 26 June 2011

UPDATED: Bipole, Beers, and (sigh...) more math

UPDATE: I talked to Hugh McFadyen about converters. He conceded that they are planning to build new converters for the east side route, but that for technical reasons they would not be as expensive as the west side converters ... they just don't know how much less expensive. I'm not about to make a wild guess, so I'm leaving my number alone, but consider it a starting point. It could be much higher. Given that the west side converters could cost upwards of $2.6b, even a small % difference in price would make a big difference to my number.

Also, under the other things to consider category: I heard suggestions last night that Hydro is using an estimate of $1000/acre as the price for acquiring farmland for their right of way, which might not be bad if you're buying a whole section, but if you're only buying a strip of land through the middle of a field, not many farmers are likely to bite. Hydro said it will not expropriate land, so expect the cost of negotiated settlements to increase greatly.

Every time I do a post on Bipole III I think it's going to be my last, but invariably they keep pulling me back in. They = every politician who is confusing the fuck out of the population.

There is of course a ridiculous discrepancy between the competing estimates of what the additional cost will be of building our new HVDC power line down the longer west side route versus the more direct east side route. The PCs say it will be $11,748 per family. The NDP says it will be $13.68 per household. As you might imagine, virtually every assumption in these calculations is different: the route costs, inclusion of line losses, amortization of costs, population figures, etc.. I was tossing around the idea of bridging one number to the next, in much the same way as that old video (which I can't seem to find anywhere) showed Courtney Love transforming from a hot starlet into a disgusting junkie. However, that would have been much too much work, so instead I'll calculate my own numbers from scratch.

I am doing this because I have not really seen any good analysis of this data out there in the Media. The Press has been reporting the numbers and doing some peripheral commentary on them, but the reader must still be left thinking "so who am I supposed to believe? What is the REAL number?"

The best analysis I have seen so far comes from up-and-coming blogger Westerner with his Land of Ice and Grain blog. Westerner has been doing some good work with his blog, and I encourage you to read his post on Bipole III because it has good critique of some of the methods used by the two parties, and lots of links to lots of data sources.

So here we go. I am going to try to keep this as simple as possible:


Original: $1133 million
Addendum: $1477
New March 2011: $1451
New leaked estimate: $1516*

I will forego the leaked estimate in favour of the new official estimate:

West side: $1451 million

Cost of the east side line:
The PCs say $600 million, plus $188m for licensing costs. I could not find this amount in my scan of the source that they listed, so I'm not sure I trust this number, but I suspect that it is an original estimate -- not an updated one suitable for a comparison.

This Free Press article says that Hydro pegged the additional cost at $571m. At the time, the official estimate for the West side was still the original estimate of $1134m, which puts the East side cost at 1134-571=563 ..even less than the PC estimate. I suspect, however, that they were basing it on updated costs, perhaps the 2009 CPJ addendum costs which place the West side transmission at $1477m, which means the East side would be $906m. It is hypocritical for Brennan and the NDP to use updated costs for the East side route, but original costs for the west side route. I will go with newest March 2011 numbers because I used those numbers for the west side as well. $1451-571=880. This puts the cost per km almost on par with the west side route.

East side: $880 million

Incremental cost: $571 million


This one is pretty simple: the number being used by the PCs based on a leaked Hydro report is $300m. I haven't heard anyone dispute this number (which means it's probably higher) so I'll use it.

In Brennan's $13 estimate, by the way, he treats line losses as follows: "I did not include what Mr. McFadyen was talking about, increases losses that occur, I excluded that." Way to go, Bob. "What Mr. McFadyen was talking about" in reference to the waste of enough electricity to power every household in Brandon. Aren't you due for retirement or a heart attack or something?

Incremental cost: $300 million


Here is where the biggest confusion lays. Bob Brennan, in a waffling sort of way, is on record as saying that new converters are needed for both routes. The NDP doesn't waffle on this at all. They say converters are required for both sides, period. End of story. The PCs, on the other hand, do not include converters in their estimate. Who is right?

Mr. Brennan: When we originally looked at the proposal to build the line down the east side, it was at that point being tied in to the existing conversion equipment, and at that point, it was–the converter stations, without considering new generation being added to the system or the reliability associated with something happening to the existing converter stations, it was not included at that point.

When we went to the west side, there was a need to have conversion equipment which, in our opinion, took away reliability issues that we had at that time and at the same time provided for new generation to be able to come down the line at that point in time. So conversion equipment should be considered on both sides in our view.

At first, I thought Brennan was full of shit. The routing study only mentioned converters for the East side as an afterthought, to mitigate the unlikely catastrophic loss of the Dorsey station. The secret leaked report that the PCs cite for some of their numbers also says that the converters are not required for the east side, but then it also says the following (section 5.1):
Converters would be required on the east route to facilitate additional northern generation to be sent south but would not be required to, at present, solve the reliability concern for HVdc line outages.
So there you go. It seems implausible that the routing study would not take into consideration added capacity, but I am now inclined to believe that converters are indeed required for the east side, even though the original design point was to tie it into the existing Dorsey converters. Perhaps the construction of new converters could be delayed for the east side, thereby saving money, but let's assume not:

Incremental cost: $0


This is lower than what the Canadian Taxpayer Federation is reporting, but my research assistants here at Anybody Want A Peanut assure me that it is a fair and conservative figure.

Now, since everybody insists on doing this as some sort of per capita cost, I might as well too. The PCs use a family of four (total pop/4). Brennan uses some household number from the future. I personally like Westerner's idea of using rate payers. I think it is the most logical way to do it. There are about 510,000 rate payers, so the average cost per rate payer is:

$1,708 per ratepayer

There's your number. I give you permission to use this free of charge. You don't even have to give me credit.

This is still far from the end of the Bipole III story. The costs are sure to continue increasing, the process of buying farmers out of their land is only beginning, and there are numerous adjustments one could take to account for the time value of money, among other things.

There are also the very major issues that the West route is far less reliable, in that it is much more susceptible to natural disasters, unable to carry the load should the interlake HVDC lines get blown down again, whereas this is not a problem with the east route; and building down the west side would require a new Bipole IV line to be build 25 years sooner according to this report. All of this is potentially very costly and favours the east route.


There is a "Beers and Bipole" doohicky Monday evening, June 27, hosted by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and featuring Hugh "I'm not Filmon" McFadyen, Jon "the good doctor, but gosh I wish he had more charisma" Gerrard, James "who?" Beddome, and Minister Stan "my boss is too busy for this shit, but I have no idea why Wowchuk can't make it" Struthers. That ought to be interesting, if you find this kind of thing interesting. If you made it this far in post I can assume that perhaps you do, so go and grab yourself a beer, and listen to the politicians continue to confuse the fuck out of everybody. Beer: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems (except probably Bipole).

(credit goes to Homer Simpson for that last line.)

* Leaked estimate was $4.1m total cost. Converter costs went up 132%, which puts them at $2584m, which leaves $1516m for transmission costs.

Friday 24 June 2011

Peter Falk and the HBC mug

Acting legend Peter Falk passed away yesterday. Though best known for his Emmy-winning role Columbo, Falk was also the narrator of this blog's namesake movie: The Princess Bride.

Here's a neat little factoid about that: as Falk's character is reading the story to his grandson, played by Fred Savage, he drinks coffee from an Hudson's Bay Co. coffee mug:

Completely useless trivia, yes, but this blog is nothing if not completely useless, so there you go.

Rest in peace, Mr. Falk.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Corydon-Osborne open house

"If it's broken, fix it, but don't change it."

That was a quote from a kid, like 14 years old or something, on CTV news last night. Smart kid. Winnipeg's Property Planning and Development department should listen to him.

PPD held an open house for their plan to tamper with the success of the Corydon/Osborne area. Er, I mean, "enable a 20 year vision". Needing a coffee after work, I decided to drop by because I've been to these open houses before and I know they have coffee. In fact, not only did they
have coffee, but juice boxes, fruit bars, and cookies!
I am no longer a resident of this hip urban area. I am now a back-yard hamburger-flipping suburb dweller. I am still a frequent visitor to my old hood, however, and thus am somewhat concerned about what well-intentioned bureaucrats might do to it.

In case you missed the open house, which is likely given that it was not well advertised in advance and poorly attended, I shall give you a quick run-down.

Part of it focused on development around the new rapid transit hub. You know -- the one that runs from downtown all the way to one-third of the way to somewhere that people might want to go. I personally have a hard time seeing a vibrant mixed use area evolving around the transit
station, with it being framed by major thoroughfares and railway tracks and all, but best of luck
to them. I get the impression from talking to the PPD guys that some of the land owners, like the Masonic Temple, are waiting for the opportunity to make some big coin selling their land.

Corydon, however, seems to be the major focus. There was a lot of discussion about Corydon. In the initial design workshop, the small group of Chosen Ones were given worksheets on which to doodle their impressions of the current state of the Corydon strip, like this:

or like this, my favourite:
Chicken Delight looks so happy to have made the list of important features! It makes me smile. :-)

The panel also commented on various options for the area. The stars, I suppose, indicate the most favorable options:

My general impression, not just from the charts but moreso from listening to the PPD reps, was that there is a great desire to increase open space -- green space, plazas or piazzas, "pocket parks" and so on. They REALLY want to do something here, whether it be force business owners to build open space adjacent to the sidewalk, or to construct little patio areas at intersections or whatever.

Cross-referencing that with The View from Seven's "how not to kill Corydon" checklist:

No formal open space: “There are no parks, plazas, or other places of repose in the [entertainment zone]. Other than parking lots, the only outdoor open space is private and is associated with bars…”

I think they may be on the wrong track here.

One interesting idea that came out in conversation with the reps was to close off street parking on one side of Corydon so that the whole lane could be turned into a big patio. Interesting as in "isn't it interesting that businesses are losing customers because there is no where to park" or "isn't it interesting that residential streets 5 blocks over are packed with cars now?" or "isn't it interesting how there are so many skateboarders here now".

The one rep kept saying that they are still in the very early stages of the plan. Marty Gold, who was hanging out at open house, seems to disagree with that but I'll let him tell you more about it. (Call me crazy, but I think I noticed a wee little bit of electricity in the air when Jenny Gerbasi walked by Marty.) They do seemed to have learned something from the not-so-great active transportation project last year. Last year, they basically presented completed plans and said: "Here you go. This is what we are doing, and now we are pretending to consult with you. See our plan. Admire our plan. Now go away. Oh, but don't forget to sign the sheet!". This time, the information was all pretty vague. It's like a game where you have to guess what they have up their sleeve. Perhaps they really do want your input, but they're not going to get much of it based on the attendance last night. Perhaps that's the idea: have a poorly attended open house just so that they can say they tried to consult with the community.

If you have something to say about the plans, contact Valdene Buckley and let her know what you think.

My advice to the planners: have clear building guidelines to address major concerns like parking in front instead of behind, and encourage organic growth, but be very careful about screwing up something that already works quite well. Kinda like the kid said.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

City financing: thoughts from the peanut gallery

I am going to tread on other peoples' turf here. There are other pundits who are more knowledgeable about City financing than myself, like this guy and this guy. However I am still compelled to chime in because I don't believe this pony has been flogged quite enough. We have been hearing and reading about "new deals" and calls for a share of the PST and whatnot for years, but the whining from the Mayor for more money continues, and is sure to continue as long as the City of Winnipeg is dependent upon the province for funding.

Incidentally, I was just watching feeding time on the falcon cam, and it struck me that it very much resembles the relationship between Sam Katz and the Provincial government.

Yes, we could cut a new deal for a share of the PST or some other revenue stream from the province, but wouldn't it be better if the City wasn't dependant on the province at all? When any organization is responsible for funding itself it tends to be more responsible with its money. This is true with people and this is true with governments. You need look no further than our provincial government and it's free spending ways as evidence of that.

How would you like it if the City could fund itself AND decrease property taxes? While the City of Winnipeg is squawking and begging for Mother Broadway to tear off hunks of it's revenue and stuff it down it's gullet (okay, maybe the falcon metaphor isn't great), the City is collecting close to half a billion dollars a year for the Province. Education is a provincial responsibility, but it is funded in part through property taxes collected by the cities and municipalities. I do not know why it is the way it is, but I suspect it's just one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time and nobody has ever bothered to change it.

This blog post is certainly not the first time that somebody has suggested taking education off the property tax roll, but each time it seems to be shrugged off as some unobtainable pie-in-the-sky idea. The political landscape in these parts, both at the provincial and civic level, has been devoid of bold ideas for far too long. Perhaps it is time to take this concept a little more seriously.

Transfers to the City from the Province in 2009 totaled $187m (both operating and capital). As mentioned, the City collected $474m in school taxes for the Province. If the Province funded education in its entirety and dropped the transfers, the City would have room to increase property taxes to fund itself and still able to reduce the overall property tax bill. In fact, they could increase their revenues by $250m while still reducing the tax bill. No more complaining about not getting enough money from the province to fix roads!

The PC party needs more votes in Winnipeg if they want to form the next government. This issue could be a winner for them. Vote for us: we will reduce your property taxes! Of course, that leaves the Provincial government with a $287m hole to fill, but giving up a point of the PST would be almost as painful. Stop me if I'm out out to lunch here, but if we need to increase funding to Winnipeg this is the best way to do it, plus it simplifies the education funding situation:

We elect trustees for each school division who have the task of setting a budget. While the Province imposes various requirements on them and does not give them the autonomy to close underutilized schools, they also cannot raise the mill rate or else the Provincial government will punish them by withholding their "tax incentive grant". They are between a rock and a hard place. That would no longer be a problem if everything was funded centrally.

If $287m is too big of a pill for the Province to swallow, they could always reduce but not eliminate the education property tax. Have a smaller fixed mill rate for education but still eliminate transfers from the Province to the City. Provincial funding will no longer be driven by what provides the best photo op. No more whining to the province for money and no more sharing the spotlight with a grinning Premier when the ribbon is cut.

Do you want another helicopter? Fund it yourself. Too many pot holes? Fix them yourself. Is the traffic snarled all the time at the new IKEA? Increase taxes by a quarter point and build a bloody overpass like you should have right from the start. You have control over your own revenues. You get the credit. All you have to do is justify it to the tax payers -- as it should be.

School taxes collected by the City:
2008 $465m
2009 $474m

Transfers to the City from the Province:
Operating Capital Total
2008 $135m $53m $188m
2009 $123m $64m $187m

Thursday 16 June 2011

Schram Hockey

Back in high school we had a phys ed teacher named Schram. He had a first name, but nobody used it. Anyhow, one of almost every student's favourite activities during phys ed class was a sport we dubbed "Schram ball". The rules are as follows:

1. there is a net in opposite corners of the gym
2. put the ball in the other team's net

Those are the rules. You can kick the ball, throw the ball, carry the ball. You can body check, grab, tackle. Whatever you want. I suppose eye gouging was frowned upon, but there was no explicit rule against it.

I tell you this, because last night's game 7 Stanley Cup final was not unlike Schram Ball. It was not the same sport that the Canucks excelled at during the regular season. It was a slightly different sport. One where slashing, holding and interference were legal. Now, I am generally a fan of physical hockey and "letting them play", but you don't need dirty hockey to have an exciting game. The 2011 Winter Olympic final is a good example of that.

Set the tone early by chucking people who hold or interfere into the bin, and then pull back a bit and refrain from calling any marginal stuff. That gets you good hockey. You know, I'm not sure that Aaron Rome's hit that earned him a 4 game suspension would have even earned him a minor penalty last night.

And this is certainly no excuse for the rioting after the game. That unfortunate debacle could ruin the chances of us watching the Jets on the big screen at 201 Portage if they ever make a playoff run. However, when you get so far only to have the rules changed on you, it would be very aggravating. Especially when the new rules hurt your best players and favour the other team.

It was certainly a deliberate decision - one that the refs discussed prior to the game. Perhaps they even received direction from league VP of Hockey Operations Mike Murphy on how to call the game. The same Mike Murphy who suspended Rome for 4 games based not on precedent, but on a gut feeling. The same Mike Murphy who overturned a Canuck goal in the first round last year upon video review, then later admitted it was the wrong call -- according to this wiki article.

Whoever made the decision, it's something for the league's owners and new director of officiating to think about before next year's playoffs. (note: I am a little bit bitter because I was cheering for the Canucks, so you can take that into account. )

related local post: S&M

Thursday 9 June 2011

An award for what now??

An award for the best parking lot strikes me as being the kind of thing that you would only find in Winnipeg.

The first "gold standard" award for parking lots will be awarded to FNP Parking, operators of the Portage Place underground parkade. - fp -
Seriously? A parking lot? Congratulations! You've done an outstanding job at being a flat empty space with lines!

Okay, so we'll give out an award for parking lots, but is this really the best parking lot that Winnipeg has to offer? I mean, it's not bad... I park there for work because of convenience, and it's often where I park for Moose games or concerts. They repaint the lines periodically and indoor parking with skywalk access to the arena for $5 is pretty good. But the best? Allow me to take you through my parking lot experience today:

Go through the door with the gold star for parking excellence:

See that the elevator is still busted after more than a week:

Go into the stairwell to take the stairs, passing the used condoms:

Watch out for the exposed electrical!

Wasn't that a great experience? At least the ticket paying machine is working now. So ... congratulations to FNP! Keep up the good work!

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Return of the Jets / Portage & Main party

As a Winnipeg blogger I am obligated by an obscure bi-law to write a post about the return of the NHL to our fair city. Okay, I'll do it, but it will be mostly pictures.

The long awaited moment -- even longer awaited than IKEA -- has finally come! The press conference this morning confirmed it. Chipman was professional and passionate in his announcement. Bettman looked like he was telling his patient that he had inoperable brain cancer. Premier Selinger's speech went something like this:

It's such a pleasure to be here for this announcement. It wasn't long ago that we retired Mark Keane's jersey. Mark was such an outstanding player and he sold me a great mattress. No wait, that was David Keane. Haha. Yooooouuuu'll find us! I love that guy! Except he drives too fast. No wait, that was Steve McQueen. Great actor. Loved it when he sang happy birthday to the President. No wait, that was Norma Jean. Norma Jean is not my lover.She's just a girl that says I am the one. Haha. Where was I? Oh right, welcome back to the NFL!
Oh well, we all make mistakes. The important thing is: we're getting the Jets back!

You hear three things as you approach Portage and Main from the south: wind howling through the buildings, beer cans clanking along the road, and the din of a crowd. The closer you get, the more the crowd noise takes over, until you find yourself in the midst of a mob. Here are a few photos and a video of a conga line that eventually encircled almost the entire intersection.

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