Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Water Utility

Winnipeg Free Press picture of the council meeting to decide the fate of Winnipeg's water utility

So it has been decided. Winnipeg will have a P3 partnership for the water utility. Officially, Council voted 10-6 Wednesday to create municipal corporate entity that will manage water and sewer services. This entity will also oversee garbage and recycling.

The council meeting lasted 12 hours and covered several things including the transfer of land at Parker (which I will discuss in another post).

I can honestly say I have no idea if this new utility will be better than what we have now.

Will it cost less? Will it be more accountable? Will it be more efficient?

Who can say? At most this is an experiment.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

CKX Part 3

CKX finally feels the love. After Shaw left them on the altar, an investment group has stepped forward.

It is hard to believe previous bidder Shaw was ever serious about buying the station. They seemed to have bid only in an attempt to embarrass CTV.

Bluepoint investment is the new buyer lined up for CKX. They outlined their strategy to the Globe and Mail.

On CJOB, Bluepoint said that they will continue with their affiliation with the CBC but pick programs they like rather than taking the whole thing.

Local news and programs will be funded by the new federal program for small market stations.

It remains to be seen if Bluepoint will be successful with this formula. It does seem the big media players have orphaned some of the smaller players and more focused ownership may be better.

I suspect local TV can be profitable but it can't pursue foreign programming that is overly expensive and gives narrow returns. I expect local news and programs might be a good way to get the ad dollars in western Manitoba. A suitable relationship with CBC and some affordable daytime and primetime programming might be the ticket for CKX.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Doer now, Doer tomorrow, Doer forever

The latest Probe Research poll is out and the news is that Gary Doer and the NDP will be in office... forever.

Doer is a populist. He probably helps win five or six seats just based on that popularity.

As long as the economy doesn't completely tanks in Manitoba and as long as he refuses to hold inquiries into his government, Doer can probably win majority after majority.

I don't think there is any evidence of voter fatigue with Doer.

The question is: Will Doer look to step down after the next election? If he does, the NDP has no one who comes close to him in charisma. Blaikie is popular among his own party and in his riding but I think he would be the first to admit, he won't be voted for based on being a superstar like Doer is.

Doer's good looks for a number of voters has probably turned the tide in a number of elections.

If some people think is not important, think about how many people would rally to Chomiak provincially. Being rumpled and looking like you've missed sleep might not affect you in your local riding but it certainly will affect your provincial appeal.

There are some who think Oswald might have appeal and she certainly might. There are others too who might be a fresh face but there is no superstar in the way Doer is now.

At the moment, it looks like Doer now and Doer tomorrow.

I think the problem for the province is that the NDP is highly risk adverse after a number of years in office. They wait for others to introduce private member's legislation before adopting the idea. It is a slow moving process.

Meanwhile, issues like the lack of rental housing and social housing fester. The ribbon cutting on some social housing this summer still doesn't address a terrible rental market for available living space. Rent control is too tight and no one wants to build in sufficient numbers.

It is much like the university freeze. Doer kept it until the universities started to teeter under the rising costs that were not being met.

Housing is just another one of those neglected issues.

In any event, this is the way Doer does things. He has been lucky that the economy hasn't stuck it to the province like it has in other regions. It still may affect him in the fall but he has a long way to ever be in danger because of it.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Miss Lonelyhearts

Since 1980, Maureen Scurfield has written Miss Lonelyhearts for the Winnipeg Sun.

On April 15, Maclean's wrote about she has written for the paper all these years and how her attempt to syndicate were unsuccessful. She has been, however, a mainstay of the Sun since it started. Now the paper has lost yet another local reporter.

The Winnipeg Free Press made the announcement by saying that Miss Lonelyhearts would be taking over for Rhona Raskin.

It is somewhat of a coup for the Free Press. There are some people who read her column in the Sun whenever they had a copy of the paper. I don't know if it is enough to make people switch to the Free Press but she is local in a way that Free Press advice columns have not been before.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport Part 3

The Winnipeg Airport Authority has begun announcements of some of the businesses that will operate in the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

There are some interesting retailers that will locate in the mall.

The most interesting announcement is that McNally Robinson and Toad Hall Toys are opening stores. I'm not sure what than means for the Virgin Books and Records store in the old terminal but it seems that they would be in conflict with McNally.

The Free Press listed the 13 retailers and restaurants:

Local operators:

Salisbury House of Canada, best known for its Sals nips (hamburgers), hot dogs, french fries and pastries.

Gondola Pizza, known for its pizzas, pasta dishes, ribs, chicken wings and salads.

Stella's Cafe & Bakery, which specializes in home-made breads, cinnamon buns, soups, sandwiches, salads and desserts.

McNally Robinson Booksellers, a full-service bookstore known for carrying a broad selection of titles from local authors.

Toad Hall Toys, an "old-world" toy shop whose products include exquisite dolls, miniature puppets, musical toys, science kits, and arts and crafts supplies.

Stella's or Gondola's Pizza will be favourites for locals and expats coming to the city.

I have never been a favourite of Sal's. I find they are expensive and the food pedestrian. The only thing I found appealing about them was their late hours. I admit I haven't dropped by recently so maybe I shouldn't judge so harshly.

There are some national and international operations as well.

National and international operators:

Starbucks Coffee, an international specialty coffee/restaurant chain.

Tim Hortons Inc., Canada's largest specialty coffee/restaurant chain.

T.G.I. Friday's, a U.S.-based, family-restaurant chain.

Rice Tales, a contemporary Asian, quick-serve, restaurant chain offering a variety of Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Filipino dishes.

Upper Crust Bakery, a U.K.-based chain best known for its freshly baked French baguettes. Also carries an extensive selection of gourmet salads and fresh pastries.

PGA Tour Shops, a U.S.-based retailer offering both men's and women's golf and leisure apparel and accessories.

Rosetta Stone, one of the world's leading language companies that sells specialty CDs and other computer-based language-learning products.

CNBC News, which offers in-store broadcasts of CNBC business news programs and carries a broad range of traditional newsstand products, including books, magazines and convenience items.

Rice Tails and Upper Crust Bakeries sound very interesting. I have heard of Rosetta Stone through their ads. I'd have to see what the store offers to make a full assessment.

TGI Fridays is huge in the States. I think they only offer a few locations in Canada. It will be curious to see what the size of some of these restaurants are.

There are more stores to announce yet. Let's hope they have a few more local companies.

My big issue is that 70% of what has been announced is in post security. That means for people waiting for friends and family to depart or arrive will not have access to many of the businesses in the airport.

Why is this a problem? Well, for airports like Winnipeg, I don't how long people wait to depart once they have cleared security but shopping and dining takes time. For hubs airports where the wait might be long, such things are fairly important. However, I am curious as to how much time people will spending in the security area prior to or immediately after their flights have landed. I guess this will be the main determining factor in how these place succeed.

Still, some interesting business announcement for the airport.

Some questions remain: What happens to the old terminal?

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