Saturday, February 13, 2016

Andrenaline Unlimited Takes Over River City Sports Location

The retrenching of River City Sports to its original location and liquidation of stock from other stores is a reminder how fickle retail can be. The expansion to the IKEA site on Sterling Lyon last only 18 months.  The Seasons Of Tuxedo retail development slowed on the north side once the Cabela's was up. Last year the Seasons rental apartments as well as Montana's restaurant opened. However, the promise of a Lowe's never came and further expansion of other stores stalled.

River City Sports was a bit early into the development as not enough traffic was coming to the retail beside IKEA. Hard to know what the future is for a once dominant sports store but we can happily report a different sports store has taken up the challenge and opened just before Christmas in the old location.

The new store is another Winnipeg sporting good group with locations in Edmonton and Saskatoon as well as in St. Vital Mall under the FXR Riders. The specialty retailer sells snowmobile clothing and helmets as well as other items in what is described as power sport. The new location at Seasons of Tuxedo called Adrenaline Unlimited will feature FXR brand as well as KTM which is a supplier of for offroad bikes.

It seems likely that Adrenaline Unlimited has a specialty in sport that is not as easily duplicated by other big sports stores. In other words, it is likely to be a destination store in the way IKEA and Cabela's are in their fields.

The Outlets of Seasons continues construction across the street and new condos and apartments in the area ensure that there will be a larger population in the area to sustain additional businesses in proximity. The entire Sterling Lyon and Kenaston area is very close to the synergy that shopping districts like Polo Park and St. Vital have.

It is possible that Adrenaline Unlimited is just the right specialty retailer to make that location work.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Filipino Store Seafood City Coming to Winnipeg

Seafood City, a San Diego-based Filipino food store has announced they will be opening in Mississauga this year. It will be their first location in Canada. The 1989 established company has 23 locations presently with 20 in California thus far and feature seafood, meat and specialty goods aimed at the Filipino market. The locations often have travel and immigration services inside as well.

Winnipeg ranks as the third largest Filipino community in Canada and analysts indicated that Seafood City is very likely to announce expansion in the west soon. Vancouver and Winnipeg were top of the lists.

In many Seafood City are Jollibee restaurants. Jollibee has already indicated a desire to come to Winnipeg but have had difficulty finding ideal locations. It is very likely in the food store comes, the restaurant chain comes as well. Jollibee is more popular than McDonald's back in Asia. There is also a possibility that Seafood City will feature red Ribbon bakery and Maxim's, a breakfast place.

Stay tuned for more of this.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lowe's to Buy Rona in Friendly Deal

The Kenaston Lowe's Cancelled?
There was an announcement today that the number 2 home improvement company in the U.S. Lowe's is making a friendly purchase of Rona in Canada for $3.2 billion. This is a familiar story as this courtship has been attempted before sometimes with the government of Quebec stepping in and saying no.

Rona is different than Lowe's in that it has large corporate stores as well as very small dealer stores. It would appear that an offer was made that has satisfied both the corporation and government of Quebec. The cash offer is double the company and it appears that the Rona brand or style will be disappearing in the immediate future.

 Last year Lowe's announced they were building a store at Linden Ridge Shopping Centre. It is difficult to say how far along that process construction has began or whether that job will now be cancelled.

Manitoba, unlike every province in the west, has no Lowe's yet. It would seem odd if the one store planned might be built just down the street from their latest acquisition. Lowe's has 42 stores in Canada and it is certain that there will be more but details of how the combined Quebec-based corporation operates remains uncertain. It could be that Manitoba may not see for the Lowe's format for some time to come.

The low Canadian dollar makes it possible for other U.S. retailers to expand into Canada and build their networks. However, it always makes it difficult for them sent profits back. Still, if the goal is to be around for the long haul, the investment can pay off very nicely with an operation that produces returns for decades to come. Rona looks to be that type of investment for Lowe's.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sobey's Extra to Open January 29

It took an incredibly long time to replace the Safeway that closed in 2014 in Fort Richmond Plaza. Speculation was rampant and people looked on despair as the ramshackle and outdated shopping center rotted with no plans being put forward.

This comes to an end January 29 when Sobey's Extra opens up. At 58,000 square feet, it will be bigger than a lot of grocery stores out there. It will be much more than what was available previously on the site. That is to be expected with not only Fort Garry but St. Norbert and nearby Bridgwater seeing more people move in.

The Extra in the Sobey's is more staff dedicated to customer service such as in-store chef. There are also specialists called ambassadors who will on hand in various food sections. Cooking classes, sushi bar and noodle bar will mark the location as different from other stores.

The store opens 9 AM Friday and offers $10 gift cards to the first 500 people in the door. There will be also a selection of exotic foods to taste.

The store will employ 100 people which in today's market is welcome news. The refreshing of this particular shopping enclave is likely to attract other merchants after being empty or under-utilized so long. 2016 will be a fairly good year for new grocery stores to open after a number of years of closures.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Walmart Supercenter Southdale Opens January 28


The year 2015 delivered a crushing blow to Target which came to Canada, spent billions and utterly failed. Some of those details of computer problems, logistics, empty shelves and overpaying for property are only coming to light now.

Winnipeg has fared better than some cities who had their Targets closed in that two out of the four properties will re-open with strong retailers. The Grant Park store will become a Canadian Tire in several months. The Southdale store has already been converted over to a Walmart Supercenter which will open next week January 28.

It is obvious that Walmart believes that the southeast quadrant of the city is undeserved and that their nearby location at St. Vital Centre will hold its own just fine. The takeover also blocks competitors save as Save On Foods or Real Canadian Superstore from getting a foothold in the area.

On Thursday, Walmart opened a supercenter in Winkler as part of their plan to move to 400 stores across Canada.

The Polo Park location of Target, bought by Polo Park, remains without a new tenant. Kildonan Place is also awaiting a new tenant.

The opening of a new Walmart is sure to keep up some competition in the area of Southdale especially in food.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Bay Downtown Winnipeg Closes 4th Floor

Hudson Bay Company has announced that the 4th floor of the downtown Winnipeg location will close very soon as the department store retrench to the first two floors. It is interesting to note that there aren't any men's washrooms on the first floors so they have to keep that 4th floor open just for that purpose.

For many years now. the fate of the The Bay has been talked about and hopes were that the University of Winnipeg would ride to the rescue as it seems to have in other times. This remains a possibility but the sheer size of a building that has much space as the Richardson Building is daunting.

The closure of Zellers also meant the closing of the grocery store in the basement. By and large, aside from two floors, the Bay is empty. A lucrative parkade attached to the building is not owned by HBC which might have made development and a way to fund it possible. The lot has always been more practical than lovable in look but at 650 spaces, it is very lucrative.

Often it seems everyone wants to own parking lots rather than buildings as they generate consistent money with little effort.

The Hudson Bay Company has been on a bit of a roll lately even in tough times. It has bought several other department stores including Sak's from the United States and made a profit doing so. However, tough times might be ahead if the economy is any indication. Sak's outlet division has already announced they will be in the Seasons of Tuxedo development rather than in the downtown. Still, there may be an opportunity for Canadian retailers with a prolonged fall in the Canadian dollar.

Any redevelopment into retail, offices, classrooms or the like in the downtown space will be more expensive than other construction. There is also the fact that said development can't happen in a vacuum. There is no unicorn out there that is going to say they want the entire space and have all the capital that they need to get the job done.

HBC sits a fairly choice spot though. Across the street is the headquarters of Investor's Group, Liquor and Lotteries headquarters will soon be in the Medical Arts Building. Manitoba Hydro headquarters is just down the street. The Winnipeg Art Gallery, RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre, MTS Centre, hotels and the University of Winnipeg are all nearby.  In short, there are a lot of attractions not to mention growing residential components coming.

Everyone talks about doing something about the HBC but there is no evidence that a working group is actually discussing the issue. Obviously, The Bay owners need to be asked what they would like for the building and determining what is possible.

Here are 25 things that could go into the The Bay downtown (not ranked in particular order):

1. A HBC data center. The St. Louis IT offices of HBC took up 80.000 square feet. They have a data center in Toronto as well. Why not in a building they own in a central time zone?

2. A grocery store. The basement could still be perfect for this.

3. Home Outfitters. This is a HBC owned division that could be in the building.

4. Saks Fifth Avenue. It is a HBC owned division.

5. Off 5th. HBC owned discount store of Saks.

6. Lord and Taylor. HBC owned department store.

7. The Room. Luxury section of HBC in Toronto and Vancouver could have a version in Winnipeg.

8. Back office functions of HBC and other divisions of the company. Winnipeg once was the head office, why not back office functions in accounting, etc?

9. A fitness center. Despite the Y being nearby, fitness centers can occupy generally 25,000 square feet and attract a good amount of people. Eaton Center has two inside.

10. A health food store. Going to have a fitness center, why not a store right across from it?

11. Tim Horton's. Why not? Shouldn't there be one on every corner? Yes, I know there is one just outside.

12. A Pharmacy. Doesn't compete with other HBC lines. Could be in basement with a grocery.

13. A bank or credit union offices.

14. University of Winnipeg class or offices. Yes, it has been talked about before. Could still be a good idea.

15. A CBC Broadcast Center. The old CBC offices could be sold to the University of Winnipeg and a full floor or so HBC could be the radio. TV, broadcast center. Enough parking for all employees. Only question is shipping doors for large broadcast vehicles. Could tap into infrastructure money.

16. Provincial offices. Truth be told is that the province leases space all time.

17. City offices: A more difficult idea if city campus plan is still in effect. But they did move police to south Portage.

18. A regional health authority. Seems like they build new buildings every year.

19. A medical or dental clinic. Could be a downtown quick service clinic or walk-in clinic.

20. A Chinese food buffet. I've joked about this in the past but why not?

21. A restaurant and grill sport bar. The Jets and moose are just around the corner. Should be a no brainer.

22. A daycare. How many head offices, government offices and residents nearby? large daycare would be filled immediately.

23. Escape rooms. They are all over town. Why not part of a floor dedicated to entertainment?

24. A cabaret. Music, dancing, night club.

25. Water park. Always like to throw this one in there.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Leaf Airlines Announces Discount Flights

New Leaf Airlines has announced their new flight schedules and prices starting on February 12. Winnipeg is the headquarters and main hub for the airlines and travel will be between seven cities. For Winnipeggers the travel will be between Abbotsford, Kelowna and Hamilton. Introductory rates are as low as $99 for Winnipeggers with all fees and taxes included.

The website says: “Your fare gets you the two essentials: a seat and a seatbelt. The rest is up to you.”

Ultra low cost means you pay extra for printing a boarding pass, carry-on luggage or drinks.

The company will fly two 156 seat Boeing 737-400 aircrafy leased from Kelowna's Flair Airlines. As more employees and destinations to places in Canada, United States, Mexico and the Carribbean increase, the goal is to expand to 15 aircraft.

The burst of excitement after the announcement caused the system to crash but it back up and running.

WestJet which started in 1996 with three aircraft and low rates says they will vigourously defend their market.

The market is tough for Canadian airline start-ups.  CanJet failed last year in Halifax. Jetsgo stopped right in the middle of March break stranding passengers in 2005. Canada 3000 failed after September 11 in 2001.

Greyhound Airlines was the last discount passenger start-up in Winnipeg in 1996 but failed a year later in 1997.

New Leaf airlines looks to be located on property at the Richardson International Airport.  They appear to have a plan and they are sticking to it. They also appear to have the people to really make a go of it.

Canada's problems with air travel is that the country has a lot of east-west geography which means higher costs to run the aircraft. It will be a real test to build traffic between some cities. However, if the idea of ultra low cost takes off, the airline could be well positioned for this niche in the market.

It is hard not to peg ultimate success for this airline not for flights within Canada but to holiday destinations such as Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Mexico, Cuba.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Stella's Cafe and Patio Coming to Pembina Highway

Stella's on Pembina by radio station
Stella's Cafe and Patio is coming to 1463 Pembina Highway right next to the TSN 1290 radio offices. The popular chain of Winnipeg eateries takes over a recently constructed and updated building with a fair sized parking lot in the back.

The company website lists January as the opening date but it will likely be spring when they open their latest attraction: a rooftop patio. Since 1999, Stella's has grown in leaps and bounds and now the very busy stretch on a main route south to the university will have a large restaurant with a patio to enjoy the incredible view north to the cityscape.

Stella's has been instrumental in revitalizing areas wherever they move whether it Osborne, Sherbrook or Portage Avenue. They are likely to be a welcome addition to the area.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Who is Winnipeg's Best Tweeter?

As the year comes to a close, who is Winnipeg's best tweeter? And yes, I did say who as in a person.

As far as Canadians, Justin Bieber is generally listed and Justin Trudeau made it to the top. However, a city councillor in Toronto named Norm Kelly who gets twitter wars with hip singers like Drake was considered Canada's top tweeter.

The top Twitter account in Winnipeg is Captain Andrew Ladd. But he is the top tweeter? The next account is Kevin Michaluk, a digital wunderkind who runs a business reviewing the latest gadgets. Is he top tweeter? Following that are a fitness business people, journalists, athletes and some others who I have to determine what they do.

As far as myself, I follow a number of journalists, politicians, new sites and individuals. Since I don't own a cell phone, my access to Twitter is usually only see highlights and scrolling through a bit. I don't get to see Twitter wars as they happen. I often miss live tweeting of events.

Do I have a favourite Winnipeg tweeter? Hmm, I don't know. I don't know. I like a little mix of news, humour and sarcasm and some links to further detailed stories. However, I don't know that there is one person that is my go to.

So who do others think is Winnipeg's best or top tweeter?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

2015 Fall Radio Ratings



In the spring radio book, CBC Radio 1 did what would have been thought impossible only a few years ago: It surpassed CJOB in the ratings. The fall radio book has confirmed and emphasized the gains CBC has made in the Winnipeg market. The parenthesis is the 2014 fall figures.
  1. CBC Radio One –15.3 (12.8)
  2. 680 CJOB — 10.9 (13.6)
  3. 92 CITI FM — 9.4 (6.6)
  4. 103.1 Virgin Radio — 9.0 (8.3)
  5. QX 104 — 7.4 (9.8)
  6. 99.9 BOB FM — 6.0 (5.8)
  7. KiSS 102.3 — 4.9 (5.0 as 102.3 Clear FM)
  8. Energy 106 — 4.5 (5.3)
  9. CBC Radio 2 — 4.0 (3.4)
  10. FAB 94.3 — 3.9 (5.0)
  11. TSN 1290 — 3.5 (3.2)
  12. 97.5 BIG FM — 3.1 (2.6 as Power 97)
  13. 99.1 Fresh Radio — 2.5 (2.2 as 99.1 Fresh FM)
  14. Jewel 100.5 — 2.2 (1.8 as Jewel 101)
  15. Radio-Canada — 0.2 (0.2)
CJOB still maintains a number 1 hold on the 6 AM to 10 AM slot and that is where the music stations offer the most competition as well. However, CBC Radio 1 is strong in so many other places that it climbs into the number 1 spot for daily listeners.

There have been many programming and brand changes in the Winnipeg radio market. Charles Adler has left for SiriusXM Radio on Satellite. And four of the 15 radio stations including one dominant Power 97 have changed call letters, staff and music formats.

The CBC is not without problems. It has excellent national programming that helps it stay original but just this past weekend the Globe and Mail pointed out to problems of the show Q. Once again the issue is hosting and how rigid the program is to reading off question cards. The interview will Adele is given as an example of missed opportunities in the form of an intuitive follow-up questions.

Setting aside quibbles about CBC radio programming, it has been successful where CBC TV has not: winning the ratings.

So is all lost for CJOB? The answer is no. There are some possibilities available to increase their ratings without a lot of pain. The first thing is to move to FM. Or at the very least run dual signals like CBC. One of the reasons CBC has gained in the local ratings is that people continue to favour FM. Another thing the station can do is to find a broadcast partner like 92 CITI FM and CBC Radio 1 have for television. The Wheeler show broadcasts on both 92 CITI FM and City TV and the ratings are solid.

It hasn't helped CJOB that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers didn't even make the play-offs. It is a sure bet that had the team made a run for the Grey Cup, the ratings may have looked very different. As it is, the fall book reflects continued strength of the TSN 1290 and the continued love affair with the Winnipeg Jets return. It is not hard to imagine that a CJOB with Winnipeg Jets on it would not have lost the number 1 position.

Still, not the first time CJOB has lost the Jets. They can survive but the question remains whether Corus Entertainment wants to give their local station the resources to pursue a more solid ratings outlook.

As for all of the music radio stations? It would seem to be that radio DJs will be the main attraction if music can be sourced from so many other places. In short, the people doing original material on the station matter.

I have migrated to satellite radio for all but TSN to CBC to CJOB. A lot of people don't listen to anything they haven't downloaded or haven't connected to via streaming. Will that audience come back? Maybe only for live sports broadcasts.

It is a tough market but original material still has a market. For a long time many radio stations chased the same music or talk formats with the same people and thought they had a captive market. They don't. Local and original could be what changes where the radio stations stand in the next years.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Saks Off Fifth Discount Store Coming to Outlets Collection of Winnipeg

It was long suspected but today it was announced the Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th discount store would be one of the major tenants in Outlets Collection of Winnipeg. Today it was confirmed by
IvanhoƩ Cambridge that the store will anchor the development in 2017 across from Seasons of Tuxedo.

Work is in earnest on the factory outlet mall already with Porsche and Audi indicating they will be building two new dealerships on the site.

The 32,191 square foot store will have some size to it and today announcement is likely to draw other top retailers to firm up their plans and sign leases in the mall. The 117 acre site is expected to cost $200 million when complete.

Expect more announcements soon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Future Pot Shops of Manitoba

1957 Liquor Commission Winnipeg. Fill in a form, we get your liquor, does your mom know you drink, son?
The Liquor Marts of today are far removed from the Liquor Commissions or LCs of Manitoba's past. A selection was behind a counter, a customer wrote their order and put lots of personal information there for tracking and a government worker went into the back and fetched it for you. Cash only, please. Put in a plain paper bag and don't dare have it anywhere but your trunk, sir.

The good old days.

We just had changes to archaic liquor laws in Manitoba but neither the NDP or Progressive Conservatives like to go to far for labour or religious reasons. Manitoba might eventually be the only place in North America with government stores.

Now, don't get me wrong... the Liquor Marts of today are far better than the sullen shops of the past. The liquor laws as well. However, as we have been told, Manitoba liquor is the most expensive in the nation. Our government has boasted how proud they are of it.

The government is so proud of their achievement that they have merged liquor and lotteries. Both businesses need to be government owned according to the government. Best they be together.

Now, Premier Greg Selinger has indicated that marijuana should also be sold by the government in Manitoba. Talk about the triple crown here.

Now, I am not a consumer of pot but I think it is very rich that the government is stepping in here to make sure they can max out on the profits by banning everyone else from selling it. Talk about overstepping.

The early pot shops in Colorado were heavy on security and light on aesthetics. That is changing. The latest store to open in the Denver area saw design reporters attending to comment on the award-winning architects.

An election is coming up and one has to ask: If the federal government moves to laws similar to Colorado on crime and pot, do we really need the province to step in and crush everyone else? Go further with this argument and perhaps we can ask: Do we need to own government liquor stores and casinos? Is there a better way? Is regulation not enough?

Look at what Colorado opened up this week.

Ajoya...get your pot and a Apple computer
Regulate where a pot store goes. Regulate security. But do we need to know it if it legally can be sold?

Winnipeg could see some brilliantly designed stores. The money will pour in. Keep the province safe, healthy and prosperous but stop being mother.

Fill to this line or go to jail

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Popeyes Louisiana Chicken & Biscuits Coming to Winnipeg


It has been on some Manitoban's list for a while of restaurants they would like to see come to Winnipeg and now it has been confirmed: A spokesmen says Popeyes Louisiana Chicken and Biscuits are in discussions for locations within the city in 2015/2017. The company has been in Canada since 1984 when they opened a location in Toronto and next to KFC has one of the most extensive network of locations around the world. However, they have never been to Winnipeg.

Popeye's was founded in Louisiana in 1972 and today is noted for a spicier Cajun fare compared to other chicken restaurants.

There has been a pull back of chicken restaurants from the Winnipeg market in recent years. Both KFC and Winnipeg-based Chicken Delight have all retrenched a bit in the Winnipeg market.

The restaurant industry is a tough market even for well known franchises. Still, we have see Five Guys, Fat Burger and Famous Dave's all set up and continue here. Woody's Southern Barbecue failed though.

Location will likely be a big factor for the success of Popeyes. The construction of Seasons of Tuxedo continues and there are over a dozen pad spaces for restaurants so it is extremely likely we will see something in the Kenaston area.

Winnipeg continues to be attractive to retailers and restaurants looking to set up in the city although the failure of Target, falling oil prices and lower dollar has made many cautious. Still, Popeyes has been in the market for some time in Canada and they seem to believe that the time is ripe.Expect to hear announcements soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

InPost Parcel Pick-Up Coming to Winnipeg


As many people in Winnipeg gear up for Christmas, the prospect of coming home and finding that you missed a parcel delivery becomes a regular occurrence. In some cases apartment and condo managers are now refusing to allow delivery onto the property of parcels because so many are coming in.  Many Super Mailboxes are not big enough to receive many parcels and as some people have found out, a parcel left on your doorstep can be stolen!

As many people soon find out, you have to tramp down to a place to pick up the parcel and may have to do this repeatedly.  Not all these places are 24 hours. In fact, most aren't. On occasions, some packages end up being sent back to the sender as they are not picked up in time.

It now appears that a new business to deal with the onslaught of parcel deliveries is starting to take hold. In Toronto, InPost has been setting up multiple 24 hour automated parcel pick-up places conveniently located near where people live, work, shop and go for recreation.  Pick-up is as easy as stopping at Superstore and getting your package in under a minute. Or at your local gas station.

InPost has said they are coming to Winnipeg in the next year. It is hard not to think that landlords across Canada are going to love this. It will give some a chance to earn rent from the boxes, for others it will mean no more clutter of packages piling up at their buildings and for parcel delivery services, it will be a quick way to deliver a lot of packages while making their deadlines.

Expect to see the InPost boxes in Winnipeg in the new year.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Manitoba Museum Expansion

The Canadian Human Rights Museum has been getting all the glory, the budget and the capital investment from private donors and government but the Manitoba Museum has announced a $160 million plan as Manitoba's 150 birthday looms.

The first stage of the building is an expansion of Alloway Hall to just under 10,000 feet to bring in larger touring museum programs like the recently completed Real Pirates! The closure of the 20,000 square foot MTS Exhibition Hall showed Winnipeg just how many shows out there we could get with the right sized space. The space needed for a museum tour might be smaller though. Still can't help thinking it would have been better to go with an extra 10,000 square feet.

Five years ago, I practically begged for a new science museum for our 150 birthday. I looked longingly at the parking lot north of the museum and suggested a connecting tunnel. Now, it appears the major aspect of the museum expansion will be a $100 million science gallery on that very parking lot.

The $100 million pricetag is about right. The Science Museum of Minnesota was built in 1999 for $99 million. It is a gorgeous building but it was built with flaws and now requires $26 million of water damage repairs. Manitoba can't afford to have those type of mistakes. The exhibits the Minnesota Museum has are outstanding and one can imagine how successful such a gallery would in Winnipeg.

Science Gallery part of Museum Expansion

The $5.3 million Alloway Hall expansion will just be the first part of what we actually see of the museum work. So much else is in the planning stage and the sources of funding still not announced. The province announced $10 million for the the $16 million initial phase.

Close up of future Science Gallery
The timetable and other funds beyond 2020 are yet to be determined. Hopefully, it won't have to wait till Manitoba's 200th birthday.

The Manitoba Museum's yearly budget is just a fraction of what the Human Rights Museum. Ballpark is $4 million versus $20 million. Still, the provincial museum punches above its weight class. It is time for a big capital project to ensure the museum continues to do what it does best which is entertain, inform, preserve and educate.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Porsche Coming to Seasons Tuxedo

Porsche joins Audi at Seasons Mall Tuxedo
The Seasons development in Tuxedo which will feature the factory outlet mall Outlets of Seasons already announced the mall will include an Audi dealership. According to their literature, the other dealership to join Audi will be the Porsche Centre of Winnipeg.

The construction is well under way with the Outlets of Seasons mall with a forecast opening of Spring of 2017. Expect a flurry of other announcements of store and restaurant openings over the next several months. It quite literally is a race to land the best retailers in Canada and the world at this point or lose them to other Winnipeg locations.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Election 2015

I voted on Sunday in the advance poll.

It was a pretty glorious fall day to start off and I wanted to get it done so on election night, I could watch and not have to be running around too much.

I have voted in every election where since I turned 18 save for when I was living in Japan. I haven't regretted voting ever even though I've supported losing candidates more than winning candidates on the whole.

My involvement in elections varies. Once I was a candidate, many times I have been in the trenches, other years just a donor or putting up a sign, many years a political party member, some years not. Always a voter though.

This year and for the last few years I have been a member of the Liberal party and donate a bit each month. I didn't get involved in nominations or campaigning much this year. Work schedule can always be a bit of an issue. I usually donate a chunk of money at the end of the year when I know what I can afford to give.

Election 2015 has been a very long election campaign. That was by design. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives called it earlier than they had to and their reasoning probably felt sound. They had the most money to spend and it was a good way to shut down third party ads from organizations as they would be forbidden from being shown during the election. The only bad thing was no government advertising either. On the balance it seemed a small price to pay.

Despite the fact that the NDP were in the lead at the start of the campaign in August, the Conservatives must have felt their chances were excellent. The addition of seats in the House of Commons in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. were in areas that Tories felt paved the way to majority.

Negative ads month after month had worked at pushing Justin Trudeau down to third place in the polls after an extended honeymoon after he became leader. At some point Stephen Harper must have figured the time was never going to be better. And so we plunged into this very long campaign during the hot months of summer.

Most political organizers will tell you that as a soon as an election is called, it is difficult to gauge day to day issues that rise above carefully scripted days. Limiting the amount of questions and media exposure is a tactic to control the message. Even though the Tories knew that the court hearing on Mike Duffy would be on with an early election call, they figured they could manage it. The PM would only answer 5 questions a day.


It made Tories very angry that all five questions for days and days were about Mike Duffy!

Conservatives at rallies began heckling the media for asking questions based on the latest from the Duffy trial. Not a good situation and one that lent itself to stories about Tory anger

I, like a lot of Canadians, watched the Duffy case with interest. It is hard not to be disgusted or disappointed in the failures of the Senate. Any thoughts I had when I was younger about reforming it are now grounded in the reality that it requires constitutional change. Both Mulcair and Harper have proposed policies this election on the Senate which won't stand a Supreme Court challenge. At some point, if either the NDP or Tories got elected, they will have to appoint senators. The law says so.

But that debate is for another day.

Despite the trial, Conservative poll numbers didn't take a beating. However, the Liberal ones rose up at the expense of the NDP. For the longest times this campaign, the polling numbers in aggregate have been stuck at 30%. No one close to a majority and for once the Tories not making big noise about a coalition. Why? It is because there appears to be enough people out there that want Harper gone who may wish the other parties to agree to govern. Unlike last time, it could happen.

In a 338 seat Parliament, a majority comes at 170 seats. No party seems close to that number. Talk of a minority government became inevitable.

The debate in English and French came early and not without controversy. Still, it didn't seem to move the polls until the issue of the niqab came up. But I don't think anyone really saw how things would turn out. Stephen Harper and his party saw an area that could create a wedge. Banning face covering for citizenship and possibly civil service looked to have majority support across Canada. Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May and Tom Mulcair were on the side of the courts and said the issue seemed moot since only a very few had asked for such a thing. Gilles Duceppe with his finger on the pulse of Quebec went all in and supported the ban.

So what was the result? NDP support began to dip. The niqab might not be the only reason for the slide. In truth, there will some soul searching among the NDP as their campaign plan was mostly sound. However, the party has had trouble expanding their support and had all parties chipping away at their strongest base in Quebec. The main beneficiary has been Trudeau.

In the last week before the election, NDP and Conservative support appears to be waning. Is it Trudeaumanina? That seems a bit of reach. Support in polls has been incremental, notching up only a bit at a time. Is it a media swoon? That might be giving the media a bit too much credit given that it isn't only about the leaders.

Perhaps I don't listen to or watch the right media. Private radio has been traditionally conservative and appears to remain so. CBC takes it on the chin a lot but their popular political news and panel shows on TV and radio have members of all parties debating every day.

How about newspapers? Every major newspaper in Canada endorsed the Conservatives last election except one. The Toronto Star endorsed the NDP.

Of course, I'm sure some will have a different view of all this and say for sure that Trudeau has been the recipient of a love-in. There are probably quite a few NDP and Conservatives who might say so.

I have never been a fan of Stephen Harper. I believed his politics were narrow and mimicked the worst aspects of the Liberals he so wished to defeat. I often hear even from some Conservatives nowadays that they still are Conservative but not always comfortable with the leader. I think this has been the case of Liberals and NDP from time to time as well. It happens.

The longer a leader is in place in Canada, the more power the Prime Minister's Office has to act in the stead of cabinet and caucus. In recent years, we have seen orders given out to MPs and Senators from the PMO that thwart how the Parliamentary system operates. The contrast to Britain and Australia has become more pronounced over the decades as MPs and Senators in Canada become like potted plants standing behind their leaders.

The threat a MP faces is to be kicked out of caucus or not have their nomination papers signed by the leader. The threats to Senators are also being kicked out of caucus or other sanctions. We have seen during the election campaign how candidates are tossed under the bus at the first sign of trouble. This isn't limited to one party. It happens to all of them.

In the case of Stephen Harper, he has taken control to new levels and tried to stifle independent offices of Parliament such as Elections Canada, Parliamentary Budget Officer and civil servants in general. The one thing he has not been able to control is the Supreme Court which has sent a great deal of legislation down to defeat. This despite the fact that Harper has appointed 8 of the 9 Justices!

This election won't change this awful power dynamic of the PMO. However, a new PM could certainly change the contemptuous nature of the leadership. Parliament in and of itself is important and should operate not at the behest of an unelected chief of staff appointee. While we need a good prime minister, he has to share the heavy lifting and quite honestly, Harper has had fewer of those not more.

Many have said this election is about the economy and I don't disagree it is a driving factor. But it isn't a one man show as it seems to be now. We will need 338 members of Parliament who are prepared to work hard, research the issues, listen to the public, form plans and initiate legislation on health, defence, immigration, finance, aboriginal affairs, foreign affairs and trade.

There are three things when considering voting: 1: Local candidate 2. Political party and policies and 3. Leader.

It should always be remembered that a voter elects a member of Parliament. I look at my local candidates always. It would be very hard for me to vote for my candidate if they were totally wrong for the riding.

Next, political party and policies are important. If the candidate I like wants to separate my province from Canada, I obviously have to move along. In other words, I look at the platform and determine if the party as a whole is compatible with my world view. I know not everything will be perfect but it has to be more or less something I can support.

Lastly, the leader is final thing to consider. We are simply too leader-centic. A captain on a hockey team doesn't win games by themselves. They do set the tone, do a lot of heavy lifting and keep the team going. This is what I look for. I am not looking for a genius in every category. I do want a leader who find the people to be the skilled and dedicated person in their area of expertise. I believe weak leadership is not being able to delegate.

So there you have it. I looked the last fours years of record. I looked at candidates, policies and leaders. I rejected my Tory candidate Steven Fletcher despite the fact that he is a better MP now than when he started. Getting demoted from cabinet has actually allowed to be freer on speaking on issues his party doesn't want to deal with such as "right to die" legislation. Still, he has been more polarizing and divisive figure rather than a visionary one.

I have already looked at the Conservative policy platform and leadership and find both wanting. I can't say that I am too impressed with their economic record. A lot of the credit goes to the previous Liberal government who left the cupboards full. Never have I been too comfortable with the tax credits aimed at different groups. Taxes should be easier not more complicated. It's a mess. In other policy areas, I find myself often disagreeing with their strategy.

I have left the NDP till the end. My local candidate for the NDP was tossed at the last moment. I found his removal to have been hasty to say the least. They have replaced him with the previous candidate who has been barely visible. Can't say it was an impressive more from Tom Mulcair and the NDP. They crippled their campaign in this riding.

I like Elizabeth May from the Greens and Parliament is better with her in it the Green local candidate won't be able to take down Steven Fletcher.  Also, I can honestly say that the platform of the Greens still leaves me doubtful on their ability to run the country.

Foe me that leaves the Liberals. I have a solid Liberal candidate with Doug Eyolfson, an ER doctor in the city. He is a longtime resident and his resume looks strong. I like the Liberal platform this election and I like Justin Trudeau as leader. There are a few policy areas I disagree with but I am satisfied about intentions of the vision of the candidate, the leader and the party.

Endorsements don't mean a thing and it is okay to be very private about political votes. But too quiet sometimes means afraid, complacent or ignorant. In short, some should speak when others won't. I am more unhappy with people not voting than by who they are voting for. A disengaged public can be led to ruin and they will not even have had a say in the matter because they excused themselves from doing so. I will be voting for Dough Eyolfson in Winnipeg Charleswood for the Liberals and win or lose, I will be happy with that decision.

Be happy with your decision as well. But do decide to vote.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Gio's to Become La Roca Super Macho Taqueria

In 1968, a Hertz Rent-A-Car location was built at 155 Smith Street in downtown Winnipeg. The business lasted until around 1981 when it was renovated and became an East Side Mario's. After that came a Garbonzo's, Shangri-La and The Storm restarant. In 2002, local gay club Giovanni's Room was looking for a new home and fifth re-location and it became Gio's.

Gio's operated for 31 years and in their final location at Smith Street attracted other clubs nearby. In 2013 Gio's closed, a victim of its own success with other restaurants and clubs offering welcome throughout the downtown. The club has sat empty ever since. It appears to be that is no more.

La Roca Super Macho Taqueria has announced they will be opening sometime in March of 2016. They have begun hiring staff using a contact at Whiskey-Dix as the place to send resumes. This would suggest that Whiskey-Dix owner Wade Salchert may be involved in this venture.

The homecoming of the Manitoba Moose and expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre along with additional developments likely means restaurants in the area could see a boost to their numbers.

More to report on this as information comes in.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Palomino Club a Dead Horse

The message is a short one: The Palomino Club will close and not re-open downtown. Owner Cary Paul looked at the old 4Play spot and didn't feel it. No move will happen.

After 27 years the Palomino Club is a dead horse

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Palomino Club To Move Downtown?

The Green Tinted Building...Future Palomino Club?
In 1988 the Palomino Club was opened on Portage Avenue and after 27 years, it has never looked back. Until now. The old location will make way for condos at Portage and Minto and the owner is looking for a downtown location near the MTS Centre. The spot that owner Carey Paul has his eye on is the empty space where 4Play Sports Bar was.

It is the end of an era for the Palomino Club not to mention for restaurants and bars at that location over many decades.

At Portage and Minto there have been many places. Here's a list that is likely not complete:

Palomino Club
Blue Jeans
Gabby's
Thomas Buttons
The Avenue
Koko's
Pierre's, the original restaurant in 1954

Not sure of the order or years for the last ones.

One wonder when the 60 condos are built on the site whether the faint sound of ghostly music will waft through the air.

The location that Palomino is mulling also has had many years as various incarnation of nightclubs. In 1984, it was converted into a very fancy place called Dayton's. It took the name from the 1955 building it occupied of the same name that had housed a department store. The basement of the building was home of Holiday restaurant from 1955 to 1967 and then it was the Prime Rib Steakhouse from 1967 to 1973.

The Dayton's department store lasted till 1983 before finally closing. The recession had hit Winnipeg hard with massive business closure during the 1980s. North Portage was a patchwork of some viable businesses and pinball shops and an adult theatre. Still, four Vancouver businessmen thought enough of the Dayton's building to covert it into a nightclub in 1984. Some $750,000 was spent and a dress code and cover charge was put in place. Friday and Saturdays were very busy but the sound of crickets was heard other days of the week. By 1986, a refurbishment and change of name to Times took place and the atmosphere was less fancy.

The new California format worked well on weekends but the continued migration of business, residents as well as nightclubs to the suburbs continued unabated. A murder on the premises in 1999 reinforced the idea that there was danger around. The business continued to run primarily as a weekend club.

The arrival of the MTS Centre in 2004 inspired some confidence to the area and new investors jumped and a new club format was introduced called Blush Ultraclub. Nearly $2 million was spent and the security was very tight to inspire some confidence which had nearly evaporated in the area. Despite a good effort though, the club was not able to breakaway from just being successful on weekends. The Manitoba Moose were not the Winnipeg Jets. many young families attending games had no use for a nightclub before or after games.

By the end of 2009, Ultraclub closed down. It opened a year later as 4Play Sports bar just as the Jets came back to town. To be sure many bars and restaurants found their business boomed with the team's arrival. 4Play found it difficult to expand beyond evenings, It didn't help that the NHL had a lockout as well. A shortened season was enough the put a crimp is most downtown businesses.

As of 2013, the old Dayton's space has sat empty waiting for a concept. The Palomino has a proven customer base and has busy nights other than just weekends. There are now residents downtown where there were none just a few years ago. And the Jets and the Moose now share the MTS building and next year RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre doubles in size.

The dream of creating a bustling entertainment district just got a little stronger this week.