Monday 26 September 2011


I don't blame you. Choosing between the parties in this provincial election is like choosing between a light grey Chevy Malibu and a dark grey Chevy Malibu. If only a bright red Dodge Challenger SRT8 was available...

So far in this election, the boldest idea has come from the Green Party: free bus fare. The second boldest idea has come from the Liberals: relax Sunday shopping laws. Both the Greens and the Liberals are holding back on the excessive spending promises, meanwhile the NDP and PC parties are dropping money bags from helicopters. Unfortunately, neither the Liberals or Greens have a chance in this election. John Gerrard may get re-elected as the Liberal's only seat, meanwhile Green Party leader James Beddome is an underdog in Wolseley and no other Green candidate even has a shot.

The realistic discussion pertains to the NDP and the PCs, but when you look at the two main parties from a high level they look pretty much the same:

NDP: more cops on the street
PC: more cops on the street

NDP: more doctors and nurses
PC: more doctors and nurses

NDP: won't balance the budget
PC: won't balance the budget

NDP: minor tax credits with no significant tax reform
PC: minor tax credits with no significant tax reform

NDP: spend lots of money
PC: spend lots of money

Rather than campaigning on ideas, the NDP is campaigning on things the PCs might do, and the PCs are campaigning on things the NDP failed to do. The only difference is the NDP has a track record, and the PCs do not. Whether you think that track record is good or bad may be your deciding factor in voting, but if you're looking for something to tip the balance, this should be it:


I haven't blogged about Bipole III 2,587,398 times because I think it's just that interesting. I've written about it because it's an irreversible and extremely costly decision, and also because I have a very low tolerance for idiotic behaviour. The NDP government has routinely addressed problems by throwing money at them rather than making any sort of difficult decision, and this is the most extreme example of that, except in this case there is more at stake than just money.

Let's just cover the main aspects:

COST: The west route will cost about $1 billion more. That's "billion" with a "B". This is if we build additional capacity with Keeyask and Conawapa. If we scrap our export plans because they turn out to be too high-risk or may result in losses for Manitoba Hydro, then the East side route will not require converters, saving us an additional $2 billion, for a total of $3 billion savings.

FOREST: The argument is that the last piece of "pristine" boreal forest east of Lake Winnipeg need to be protected. A) the forest east of Lake Winnipeg is not pristine. There are mines and communities and roads and other things. B) Even if it were "pristine", there are thousands of square KMs of pristine forest elsewhere, from Labrador to the Northwest Territories, in the vast Boreal forest. C) Even if it were the last piece of pristine forest in Canada, the government has already promised to damage it even more than a HVDC line would by zigzagging a new road right through it. D) There are scarce aspen parklands to the west of the lakes. I don't know to what extent the preferred route impacts them, but I know it was a concern in the routing study. E) The west side route plows through as much forest as the east side route. In terms of the quantity of lumber produced, it's a saw-off. (haha, get it? "saw off". Anyways ...)

LINE LOSSES: The amount of electricity burned off in transmission depends on the how close to capacity the lines are running, but whatever the amount, it will be much greater for the west side lines. The cost in lost exports will be in the tens of millions of dollars each year. These lost exports have another cost too: pollution. The wasted 'clean' hydro energy will not displace 'dirty' fossil fuel energy in the US, resulting in thousands of tonnes of additional green-house gas pollution each year. How green is that?

CARIBOU: Yes, there is a threatened caribou herd on the east side of the lake. Based on the 2005 Caribou survey, there are also four or so caribou herds that might be impacted by the west-side line, at least three of which are threatened. Furthermore, these herds have less territory to maneuver than the east-side herd, who's territory extends right into Northern Ontario.

UNESCO: A) A UNESCO official is on record as saying that the east side route will not preclude UNESCO designation. B) the government hasn't even applied for UNESCO designation. C) the east side line would only graze one corner of the proposed UNESCO site, and D) In what way is a UNESCO designation worth $1 billion anyhow?

LAND USE: Aside from forest, there is agricultural land to consider, and to this point, the west side route involves huge compromises. Land owners will need to be compensated; route adjustments will probably be required to avoid owners who refuse to be bought out (since Hydro will not expropriate), further increasing the cost; aerial spraying will be difficult or impossible to do safely along the route, impacting farm productivity; etc ...

EXPORTS: The argument that an east side line will somehow risk exports to the US is laughable. Environmental groups can't stop the US from buying every drop of oil sands petroleum that we can give them. On what grounds could they prevent the US from buying clean power? There are parties who are associated with power producers in the US who want the exports blocked because Hydro is a competitor, but they don't give a shit what side of the lake the route goes down. Honestly. It's preposterous. In fact, this Hydro report suggests that export sales could be compromised by the west side route, because it can't supply reliable power.

RELIABILITY: The west side route would be much less reliable because A) it is in an area of the province that is more prone to tornados and other weather-related disasters, and B) it's a longer route and therefore has more potential to be damaged.

ENERGY SECURITY: Should the Interlake lines go down, the west route would NOT be able to support our energy commitments, whereas the east-side route could carry the load.

TECHNICAL: Lastly, there are other technical aspects of the Bipole line that I can't begin to explain because I don't understand them, but what I understand is this: Hydro engineers prefer the east route. In fact, the east route is not just preferable ... it is the only route that makes sense from a technical perspective. In addition, the west route could require us to build another bipole line 25 years sooner. (source)

In the televised debate, Greg Selinger berated Hugh McFadyen for his "reckless" plan to move the bipole line to the east side. Only Greg would call accepting the advice of engineers, reducing pollution, protecting our energy security and saving $1 billion reckless. The venom and conviction with which Greg lied about the east side route was almost shocking. This isn't a matter of opinion. This isn't a case where each side has equivalent pros and cons that have to be weighed. This is a case where the east side route is superior in every tangible respect, and the costs of going the other way are enormous and long-lasting.

So if there is one issue in this election that should turn your vote, make it this one.

here are a couple of other related blogs
ice & grain with a good post

Saturday 24 September 2011

Brain Dump for Saturday, September 24

Thoughts ..

1) Geese
The Winnipeg Free Press article on goose overpopulation touched on several ways to deal with the problem, none of which are as good as my idea: There are millions of these 15-lb pea-brained menaces assaulting our city and country side ... and there are millions of people starving in Africa. It's time for a mass slaughter of geese so that they can be ground up and shipped to the Horn of Africa where they would provide desperately needed protein to little children with distended bellies and their skeletal mothers.

2) Rex Murphy
I completely disagree with Rex Murphy this time. He proposes that the NDP change their party voting structure to give Quebec greater say in the upcoming leadership race, saying that not doing so "is not a winning formula for the long run." Perhaps his bloated vocabulary has started invading grey matter normally reserved for logic, but the exact opposite is true: Changing a fundamental party rule to favour Quebec, where there is very little grass-roots support (as evidenced by the mere 1600 memberships province-wide), is "self defeating politics". The Quebec anomaly is no more than a flash in the pan, and if they tilt their rules to favour that province they will piss off their base everywhere else.

3) Garbage
What the heck am I supposed to do with my big plastic garbage can when I get my big plastic garbage cart? This is a serious question.

4) Coloured Rods
Another Rod has joined us in the local bloggosphere. Rouge Rod started posting a little over a month ago and has kept up a torrent pace since then. Rouge joins the original Black Rod, The Blue Rod, and The Purple Rod who hasn't posted much lately. The Orange Rod has closed up shop, and there was also a Red Rod that didn't make a very good go of it. You can understand my hesitation to accept new Rods, given some of the fly-by-night rodders in the past, but Rouge seems to be making a genuine effort, so good luck Rouge!

5)Vladimir Putin
Barack Obama needs a little Vladimir Putin in him. No .. that's not what I meant. Oh God, you guys are so immature.

6) Dinner tonight
Do you leave the cover off the roaster when you're cooking a Canada Goose? What do you think: rosemary, cracked pepper and thyme?

Tuesday 20 September 2011

The NEW Winnipeg Jets!

What can I say? Amazing first game here in Winnipeg. Just a few of photos from the game:

Hitting the ice:

Last 20 seconds of the first Jets WIN in 15 years!:

Monday 19 September 2011

The leaders go downtown. (Most of them).

Two blocks down from where two people got shot half a day earlier, the Provincial leadership candidates got together for a debate on downtown issues. Most of then anyhow. Greg Selinger sent one of his ministers, just as he did with the Bipole debate earlier.

Moderated by Dan Lett and Richard Cloutier, the panelists were the familiar Hugh McFadyen and Dr. Jon Gerrard. Gord Mackintosh sat in for Selinger. The Green Party's James Beddome was not invited to participate as a full member, but in an odd arrangement was allowed a few minutes to speak part way through the session. More on that later.

That's the set up. Here is my haphazard recount of what happened:

The first subject was rapid transit:
Jon spoke reasonably about how transit development should be planned before new neighbourhoods like Waverley West are built -- not after. The Liberals are the only party that has a firm policy on rapid transit as far as I know, and Jon talked about it frequently, seeing it as one of his strengths.
Gord surprised me by saying "the money is on the table" for 1/3 of whatever type of rapid transit the city chooses: LRT or BRT. This is in contrast to the government's previous stance of sticking to plan 'A': the original BRT agreement. Nothing like an election to shake loose the purse strings.
Hugh was pressed to pick his preference on BRT or LRT. He personally prefers LRT but would work with the city on either. He spoke of the breakdown in relationship between the city and province as the reason for the lack of progress.

Gord: more cops and cadets on the street.
Hugh: more cops and cadets.
Jon: NDP failure. More cops and cadets.

Question from the audience: more cops won't matter as long as judges are letting people back on the street (to thunderous applause from the audience):
Gord: Blames Ottawa's lax criminal laws for the high crime rate. Points out the NDP anti-gang program.
Hugh: Ottawa's laws apply to all provinces. Does not explain why we are the worst. There are provincial policies that can be changed as well.
Jon: We also need more recreational opportunities for kids.

Question from the audience: poverty & homelessness are the root cause of crime. What will you do about that?
Jon: talked about rapid transit!! The questioner rightly stopped him and said "Rapid transit will not fix poverty." Bad answer by Dr. Jon.
Hugh: The government's anti-private investment regime has stalled private development of housing, and the government itself has not built enough public housing.
Gord: The NDP just announced today a plan to turn 7 acres of parking lots in to 2100 housing units.

All three parties would maintain rent controls.

More on housing: Jon wants to force high-rise buildings to have a % of affordable housing. Ya, that's going to encourage developers to build.

Question from the audience: organized crime has infiltrated the government.
A discussion of whistleblower legislation ensued..

On the issue of affordability:
Gord promises increases to the minimum wage every year.
Hugh briefly mentioned the high tax rate for low income earners, after using up all his time repeating stuff he talked about earlier. Should have hammered on the high tax rates right off the bat, as the government's record here is shameful.
Jon: I have no notes. Was probably talking to somebody.

Closing speeches:
Jon: Rapid transit (of course); something about an anti-poverty reduction plan; and will increase the personal tax exemption!
Hugh: Supports TIFF development; land transfer tax exemptions for first time home buyers; increase private investment. Also gave Green party leader Beddome a nod, and promised to wear a better suit to the televised debate on Friday.
Gord: The usual stuff plus a quote from Jian Ghomeshi! Well, with Jian Ghomeshi in their corner how can they lose?


So about 2/3 of the way through the event, they interrupted the show and invited James Beddome up on the stage to talk. No questions or prompts or anything. Just "here is the mike. You can use it for 2 minutes." Dan and Richard made sure to mention that it was "agreed upon", although how this agreement was arrived at I don't know. By a show of hands all three party leaders said they would have welcomed the Green's participation, and Beddome himself certainly would have preferred to be at the table. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Anyhow, Jimmy Bop made the most of his 2 or 3 minutes on the podium with an energetic pitch about small business, free transit, and the pending platform release on Wednesday (Memorial Park at 11:00.) He is a very good speaker and could surprise a few people during the televised debates on Friday.

I was speaking with James on and off during the debate and I asked him if we really need more cops on the street. His thought was that more cops are not necessarily the answer. Perhaps deploying cops more consistently in a given area might help them to get to know the people and gain their trust. More of a community-based approach to policing.


There were a few other things discussed through the night, but I got tired of scribbling in the old Moleskine. It was also good to bump into Kevin McDougald again.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Manitoba election checkpoint

Well, the election campaign has been underway for a couple of weeks or something by now, and the election day is only, um, a couple weeks or something away, so now is a good time to review how each of the parties are doing:

What does the coach always tell you? Stick to the game plan. The NDP has stuck to the same formula that they've been using for a decade: vilify the opposition and don't do anything drastic. Their motto could be No Vision, Slow Change, and Little Progress, but it's proven to be a winning formula in this passive little province. They are also milking the fortunate return of the Winnipeg Jets for all it's worth.

The PCs have let the NDP dictate the play. They could have put forth a real conservative agenda and shrugged off the nonsensical NDP attacks, but instead have chosen to try to beat the NDP at their own game with numerous spending promises, no balanced budget for 7 years, and no significant tax relief. They have the advantage on the Bipole III issue, but otherwise have not done much to distinguish themselves from the NDP. Maybe their new attack ad will work for

See Brian's blog for more on the missed opportunities by the Conservatives.

Of the three main parties, the Liberals seem to be running the best campaign so far, but I have to admit that I've only been watching them out of the corner of my eye because I don't really think they'll be much of a factor. They need to put out concrete ideas like repealing the Sunday shopping laws, in order to get people to take notice. I like what they bring to the debate, but unfortunately the soft-spoken Mr.Gerrard will have a real tough time.

The Green Party probably has the boldest ideas of the election, including free transit. In Manitoba however, the Greens are still a fringe party and thus have been excluded from most of the mini-debates so far, although Bart was nice enough to include James Beddome in his pop culture quiz. Perhaps the election of Liz May to the House of Commons will give the Green party enough legitimacy here in Manitoba to allow Beddome a run at office in Wolseley, but not if he continues to get excluded from debates.

Bottom line: if things continue as they are, the NDP will win.

Friday 16 September 2011

Update on Longboat development

The big downtown development announcement this summer was an impressive new 20-story hotel/office/retail building across from the MTS Centre at Portage & Donald. (OMC / Me) In the comments of my post on that, fellow blogger Bryan Scott wondered about the future of the Alabama Building and the tenants within. Well, now we know ...

I picked up some information today as I was ordering my clubhouse sandwich at the Wagon Wheel restaurant. The owners of the Wagon Wheel were informed yesterday that their building on Hargrave would be torn down. The Alabama Building containing Bryan's favorite Ethiopean restaurant on Ellice and Hargrave will disappear as well, to make way for a parkade.

But fear not my hungry friends. Arrangements are being made to revive at least the Wagon Wheel. I don't know about the other tenants, but I am sure they have all been made offers of some kind as well. The new location is up in the air at the moment. It could be in a storefront on Donald in the primary building, or in a retail location on the main floor of the parkade. In anycase, the lady at the Wagon Wheel seemed pretty confident that the diner would continue on, which is good news for anybody who likes clubhouse sandwiches. Perhaps they can add a few more booths and a washroom.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Waterfront hotel experiencing development hostility

What a glorious day it was yesterday. I stood outside as the sweet warm breeze ruffled my hair, and airplane vapor trails hung in the blue sky like scattered chopsticks. Yet here I was thinking about Gordon Sinclair. Damn you, Sinclair.

You see, I happened across Sinc's latest editorial atrocity while reading the Saturday Free Press this morning. But to give you a little background: a few years ago Gordon Sinclair was a key player in the effort to stop a residential development (something that everybody agrees is critical to the vitality of downtown Winnipeg) at the corner of Assiniboine and Fort St. in order to build an interpretive centre for Upper Fort Garry. He led the deceptive PR campaign with repeated "save the fort" columns in the Free Press, giving people the impression that a critical piece of our history would be destroyed, when in fact the only thing that would be destroyed was a deteriorating surface-level parking lot. Ultimately this PR campaign and a little backroom arm-twisting was successful in pushing out the developer in favour of a park that has yet to begin construction and has already ballooned in cost to $22 million, over twice the original estimate.

So it was with this as a mental backdrop that I read Sinclair's piece today, where he explains that an empty parking lot on Waterfront Drive is actually an irreplacable part of our history because somebody "contends" that Selkirk settlers once planted wheat there, and it was also a gathering place for people during the great strike. He goes on to accuse recent residential development (no, not that again) of "putting the boots to" this historic area, and finishes his ridiculous column in typically sappy fashion:
Now, apparently, a former premier of our province, and our mayor and city council are going to finish the job.
Play the pipes loudly, today boys.
And bang the drums slowly.
Fortunately, the "Friends of History" that are the would-be heros of Gordon's column do not have the clout of the Friends of Upper Fort Garry, so their campaign is much less likely to be successful. However, I happen to know somebody closely involved with the development, and it is not a sure thing at this point. In my conversation with him we didn't get into details about what the sticking points were, but it is conceivable that a coordinated opposition to the project could derail it.

There are great journalists and there are not so good journalists. Not everybody is gifted enough to be one of those great journalists, but at a minimum they should strive to at least be truthful and not do damage to the city in which they live.


I had a couple of replies on Twitter that suggested that our water front area should be preserved on principle, not because of some trumped up historical concern. I understand that viewpoint. I admire other cities that had the foresight to preserve their river front as green space. So why would I advocate a riverfront development in the middle of a relatively unbroken stretch of undeveloped shoreline greenspace? Well, first of all, I'm not advocating for the Sunstone development, but against idiotic newspaper columns. However I would also make the following points:
  1. If this area deserved to be reclaimed as green space, the city should have acted long ago. The time to decide that an area should be a park is not at the 11th hour after a RFPs have been solicited, proposals submitted, and designs approved by a city hall committee. The Upper Fort Garry debacle was damaging, not just because a critical development had been stopped, but because it was stopped at the last minute after the developer had gone through all the hoops, had a contractual agreement to build and made additional compromises to appease opponents. Continual behaviour like this will drive developers away.
  2. There is already a building on-site: the old brick Harbourmaster Building. We can either tear it down, leave it sitting vacant and deteriorating, or re-purpose it as part of a new development. Which option do you think is best?
  3. The Sunstone development will link the greenspace on either side: "The plan also calls for pedestrian walkways to link up with existing riverfront pathways" -fp-
  4. The development of the east Exchange is tenuous. Additional development is required to reach that critical mass that will turn it into a thriving community. A hotel and restaurant will help.
I can't think of a snazzy way to wrap up this blog post, so I'll leave you with a video of Wild Rumpus' Rock the Joint featuring Beardyman:

Tuesday 6 September 2011

New Winnipeg Jets jerseys

Hey there. Here is a quickie post to let you know that I'm still alive. Due to a recent career change the posting has been a little sparse lately, but I can't let something as important as the Jets uniforms to go uncommented.

Much like the logo, the jerseys are not bad but not quite right either. The colours are sharp in jersey format and the logo has found it's home right in the middle of the chest like a bullseye. I think where the uniforms go wrong is with the arms, and in particular the stripes on the sleeves.

The horizontal strips are low down on the sleeves and give the appearance of the uniform being bottom heavy because they create visual width below the mid-point of the uniform, while there is nothing up top to balance that. This is more pronounced on the white uniform, but the dark one also has that width down low.

If you are a pear-shaped Jets fan, this is bad news for you. Fortunately, other than the Dustin Byfuglien, none of the Jets are currently pear-shaped. Furthermore, the jerseys should appear more balanced when the players are all geared up with the shoulder pads. If I buy one -- and I probably will -- it will probably be blue.

For my analysis of the logo, click here.
For my original jersey concept, click here.

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