Sunday, October 26, 2008

Election Aftermath

As I predicted, the Tories won the election. Equally predictable was that Dion announced a week after the election that he would be stepping down.

Harper now has a slightly bigger minority. It must be a bitter pill for him to swallow. He kept saying that he expected a minority but it is doubtful that he believed it. A number of times he made a plea for a minority but to little avail.

Timing is everything in an election and Harper believed calling the election when he did was better than waiting for the economy to be a leading issue. In short, Harper thought calling the election before the fixed date was a good way to bury the Liberals.

It didn't quite work out that way. The smooth Harper campaign of 2006 turned to a gaffe filled affair in 2008. And the narrow focus the Conservatives placed on the Liberals left them vulnerable in Quebec. They badly fell to a resurgent BQ who cast themselves as best suited to represent Quebec's interests in Ottawa. Dion's performance probably helped them capture two BQ seats.

In the end, nothing much has changed and the Liberals now face the prospect of a new leader in the next six months. We'll see if Harper looks to take advantage of this fact as Dion will stand as interim leader till at least May of 2009.

It seems doubtful that an election will wait till the next fixed election.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Roblin Boulevard Part 3 Charleswood Motor Hotel

Pictures of the present and future location of the Red River Co-Op Gas on the site of the Charleswood Hotel

I have been writing about Roblin Boulevard as it runs through Charleswood in a series of posts.

A week or so ago it was reported that the Charleswood Hotel would be demolished for a Red Rive Co-op Gas bar and carwash. The gasbar would replace a small Co-op kisok father down the street.

The old "downtown" of Charleswood had one major landmark. It was the Charleswood Hotel and anyone who lived in the neighborhood knew about the bar that resided inside it: The Charlie.

I have no idea how many people stayed in the hotel. Not many is my guess. The vendor was a little run down and the laundry/commercial in front and over top it of it had sat empty for many years. The banquet rooms might have done some business but the major cash cow for the hotel had to the the bar simply known as the Charlie.

The Charlie was probably the first place some local Charleswood people bought their first drink. The name Charlie's was ubiquitous with the Charleswood Hotel and most people who lived in the south part of the city in River Heights, Tuxedo and Charleswood had heard of. With the closure of the bar, the nearest hotel pub is out at the perimeter highway in Westdale, across the river on Portage Avenue or far to the east along Pembina Highway or Osborne Village.

The two acre site that the Charles Hotel occupied was too good for some other businesses to pass up. It was a deeper lot than other commercial property on Roblin. It is easy to see to why Red River Co-Op which is expanding in the city was interested. Charleswood Hotel owner Jason Gauthier was unlikely to do better for offers.

In media interviews, Gauthier indicated that he would look for a new hotel to buy. For him it is smart business decision. For the neighborhood, it is the loss of the local watering hole and gathering spot.

Truly for Charleswood, it is the end of an era. With all due respect to Red River Co-op, the addition of a gas station to the neighborhood does nothing to add to the colour of the neighborhood.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Portage and Main/Winnipeg Square Part 2

Picture 1 Formally, the Bank of Montreal Tower (333 Main Street) opposite Winnipeg Square (also owned by Crown Realty), it is now one of two buildings used by MTS for headquarters downtown. Picture taken by Cam B.

Picture 2 191 Pioneer is seen in the second picture in this photo by Little Hobbit Feet. It is the second building used by MTS. In this picture it is on the extreme right beside the tower in the center.

As mentioned in part 1, Winnipeg Square is part of the renovations taking place in what many Winnipeg's still refer to as the Trizec building.

It is the largest underground shopping mall in Winnipeg, according to its present owner Crown Realty Partners. Crown acquired the mall and Commodity Exchange Tower in 2007.

Also included in the Crown purchase was 333 Main Street and 191 Pioneer Street. 333 Main Street was the former Bank of Montreal tower attached the Bank of Montreal building facing Portage and Main. It was built in 1981. It is now used by MTS for their headquarters after leaving their Polo Park location.

191 Pioneer is building immediately beside 333 Main Street although located on a different street. It is also occupied by MTS.

On to Winnipeg Square...

Back in August it was reported that Winnipeg Square was undergoing $3 million renovation. Like a lot of businesses, high efficiency lighting was installed. It has been a good strategy with today's high energy bills. The lobby of the Commodity Exchange Tower was also getting a makeover and a renaming. Since the exchange has no trading floor now and the name of the WCE is now ICE, it made only sense to change the building's name as well. The building will now be known as 360 Main Street.

Flooring, walls and other aspects of the mall have been upgraded and the project in October of 2008 is nearing completion.

As far as a mall goes, Winnipeg Square is all business. It isn't a fashion mall. It is 49 shops geared to servicing the many businesses that call Portage and Main home. The mall has the offices of Purolator Courier and UPS. It also where several cell phone companies have locations including: MTS and Rogers.

For office supplies there is Cartridge World for copiers and there is a Grand and Toy office supply store.

Some of the bigger stores in the mall are Shoppers Drug Mart and Hallmark Cards.

There are some professional offices for dental and chiropractic care and the mall as well as a credit union and insurance office.

The mall has primarily been know for the food court. It isn't a great food court by any stretch but beggers can't be choosers. A McDonald's and Starbucks have positioned themselves closer to Portage Avenue than the food court which backs onto Graham Avenue.

The food court has the usual A&W and Koya Japan that you find as most malls as well as the typical pasta and sub places.

There is a finer dining establishment Chamberlyn's that is tucked into the mall corner at Fort and Graham. They've had a yummy Caesar salad on the days I could not face the food court.

A mall touch up is certainly due but it won't change the fact that Winnipeg Square is a service mall to the the towers at Portage and Main. It will never be a destination for any other type of shopper. Still, it is a successful formula since the mall has nearly 95% occupancy.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thanksgiving Musings

As the election heads into its last days, it appears that the Winnipeg Free Press is headed to a strike. The union has set up a website.

I voted along with my wife in the advance polls.

I no longer think the Tories will win a massive majority. That bird flew the moment Harper let Duceppe and the Bloc find an angle to attack them with. This came through cuts to the arts (which the Tories had to reverse with tail between their legs) and through the crime bill (which they can't change without an uprising in the their base support).

The Liberals struggled all campaign and only because Dion did better in the debates than expected, there was a bump in support. That bump was helped along by the uncertainty brought on by the stock market crash.

Since then the Liberals and Tories have seen the gap rise and fall but it doesn't look like a blow out is imminent.The Tories should win. The Liberals ought to finish second but horrifyingly, the Bloc might come in second.

Back to the Free Press: it sucks that on one of the most important news days that the main newspaper in the city might not be publishing.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Taman Inquiry Aftermath

The Taman Inquiry listed its final recommendations. The government went one further and asked the RCMP to take over the troubled East St. Paul Police Service.

When Commissioner Roger Salhany said the force bungled the investigation, it was the final straw for the government. The NDP's Dave Chomiak as Justice minister saw fit to torpedo the whole department.

While some in both the Winnipeg and East St. Paul Police have a lot to answer for, the turnover of the East St. Paul Police to the RCMP is probably wrongheaded. Certainly East St. Paul needs reform but the RCMP is likely not to be as responsive for future needs and it is probably going to be more expensive in the end.

The Commissioner's report had many other things to say. The Taman family feels vindicated but it is still a sad that it took this long to bring some action.

The one problem with the government's response is that it might not solve anything and in fact, might make it worse.

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