Friday, August 28, 2009

Doer Gone

In a slow news summer there is now some news that seems to have caught many by surprise.

I recently wrote here that Doer's popularity was never higher and he could easily win re-election based on his performance. I questioned if the the NDP would ever find someone that matched him in appeal.

For some time now, I have been speculating in one of the larger political forums in the country about Doer's future. Doer appeared a little worn out this spring after the latest session than he had been in a long while. The Tories were more effective in opposition albeit the polls still show the NDP ahead.

This fall looked to have more challenges for any governing party. It was with this in mind that I started thinking if Doer might not be receiving some job offers. There has been the occasional talk of a few things such as a university job, candidate for a political party federally (either Liberal or NDP), an international position and even a few business or non-governmental positions.

I have written numerous times about the good relationship Doer seemed to have with Harper. While, I thought it was unlikely that a Senate job was in the offing, I wondered if Michael Wilson was staying longer in Washington. Given a new U.S. ambassador appointed by Obama and Wilson's very long public service, it made sense to consider that a replacement might be needed in Washington.

Doer is a perfect fit for the job. He has the relationships in the U.S. through years of work with people in Washington and various states. He is on a first name basis with quite a few governors.

He has left the NDP in a strong position save for the fact that much of the strength comes from his leadership and personality. My guess is that over the course of the days before the caucus meeting, many NDPers will be contemplating a leadership run for themselves. Others will be looking at retiring from politics themselves.

Change is coming. For the first time in a long while, politics in Manitoba will be broken wide open.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Polo Park Part 6 Fifty Years Old

The old Eaton's building (now The Bay) on the north end of Polo Park in the 1970s

Exhibit area of Polo Park in the 1970s

Fountain at Polo Park 1970s

Exhibit area of Polo Park in the 1970s

Interior shot of Polo Park in the 1970s

Interior shot of Polo Parl in the 1970s

Interior of Polo Park in the 1970s

Another angle of the sculpture looking out on to Portage Avenue

Sculpture at the east entrance

The Polo Park Cinema

Sculpture outside the north entrance.

The old yellow and black Polo Park sign. Photo and all others from the U of M archives.

Polo Park celebrates its 50th birthday this year. I have written extensively on the mall as it is the oldest and largest shopping centre in the city. In 1963, it became the first covered mall in Manitoba and possibly the second in Canada since the first was in B.C. in 1962.

The former racetrack was converted to its present retail format in 1959. At that time Simpsons Sears department store began construction and was completed in May. The rest of the open air mall was completed in August of the same year.

The design of the mall was Simpsons Sears at the south end and two retail strip malls facing one another running north from the department store. There were 40 stores in the first incarnation of the mall, only seven of which remain with the mall in 2009.

Those stores are:

Simpsons Sears
Broadway Florists
Fashionette Hair Stylists
Mario's Beauty Salon
Tip Top Tailors

The Polo Park Bowling Centre was also an original tenant.

The present owner of the mall Cadillac Fairview is celebrating the anniversary of the mall's opening on August 20 by honouring longtime employees and the original stores.

Today the mall, after five renovations and three expansions, is home to over 200 stores, a 500 seat food court and 6000 parking spaces. The last major expansion in 2008 saw Sport Chek move from its basement location to a large store fronting the south entrance. This made way for McNally Robinson to take over the location. The old food court on the second floor was expanded atop Sport Chek below.

As I have detailed here before, the mall still lacks a theme and is poorly organized. The food court is off to one side of the mall and lacks the great hall feeling that St. Vital Centre has. Women's fashion has no discernible groupings.

Still, after 50 years, Polo Park has survived and prospered. It will be interesting to see if it will be here 50 years from now.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Winnipeg South

One of the federal ridings to watch for the next election will be Winnipeg South. Rod Bruinooge won it handily in 2008 over John Loewen. The election in 2006 was a squeaker with Bruinooge taking it from Reg Alcock.

Talk about the future of Winnipeg South have come to the fore following Dan Lett's column in the Free Press about Terry Duguid vying for the Liberal nomination.

Duguid was a city councillor from 1989 to 1995. He has vied unsuccessfully for the mayor's chair, the legislature and the Commons. I'm sure there will be a lot made of these past attempts. Bruinooge took two turns to win. Doer took four to become premier.

Still, it is going to be a challenge for Duguid to appear fresh and innovative for people in the riding. He will have to get up to speed on the quickly changing Winnipeg South. New homes go up all the time and new people take up residence all the time.

Anyone who says they know who their constituents are or what they believe in is probably wrong. Some believe that the suburb is more conservative and that might be true but there is no evidence that is overly conservative.

Bruinooge has staked out an even greater position on social conservative issues, especially abortion. It could hurt him with some women voters.

Duguid doesn't have Dion around weighing down his campaign. He came very close in 2006 with Martin to taking a federal seat. If Ignatieff continues at his present strength, it isn't a stretch to say that Winnipeg South will be in play. A strong performance by Duguid coupled with a better national leader and policies will help the Liberal vote in the riding.

At the moment, the factor of incumbency favours Bruinooge. He will have to be careful in regards to his own personal stance on issues being out of tune with the riding. One factor he won't be able to control is how popular Harper is. This could be the anchor around Bruinooge's ankles.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Parker Avenue

A Google map close-up of the Parker Avenue lands

In July, a land swap took place between Gem Equities and the city's transit department. The area has been undeveloped all these years and has acted a shortcut for many between Waverley Street and Pembina Highway. Gem promptly indicated they were going build townhouses on the site.

As one can see from the picture, there is a combination of woods and scrub land in the selected area. It has never been designated as park land for the city although many people use it for walking trails.

There was some controversy a few years ago when the Winnipeg Humane Society located to Hurst alongside the 22 acres around Parker. Now, some workers there are complaining about further development. It is hard to hear people advocate for closing the door once they themselves are in place.

The Not in my Backyard (NIMBY) protests are sounding all over the city for almost any type of change.

The lands around Parker Avenue could have easily gone industrial rather than residential. That probably would have drawn even more criticism. The plain truth is that the area was never designated as park land and there has never been plan to make it a park.

The city has recently completed the Sterling Lyon Parkway from Route 90/Kenaston to Waverley Street. It makes sense to connect Waverley to Pembina Highway via an extension of that road.

Some have complained the lands should remain as is, a forest or scrub land but this doesn't help the neighbourhood if traffic continues to rise along Parker as the city grows. To simply make it local access only bottlenecks traffic even for those who wish to preserve their little sanctuary.

I don't know the full environmental impact in the Parker Avenue woods. A study should be done to see what it will entail. I do know that we if protect every space within the city that we will continue to sprawl, we won't have transportation corridors for rapid transit or traffic and it will cost everyone in the city.

Ideally, an extension of Sterling Lyon would have bikepaths, sidewalks and greenery. It would connect Pembina and Waverley and put off the need immediately for an underpass for Waverley. It would allow for easy and controlled access north and south of the road.

If Gem does decide to build townhouses, it should be done with the same principle of sidewalks, bikepaths and greenery.

The NIMBY principle of rejecting any type of change in a neighbourhood is becoming exasperating.

I think that the project should be watched closely but it could be a very good thing for the city as a whole.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CBC Changes

The CBC announced the changes to their schedule for the fall. Once again they are tinkering with their presentation of the news. In some cases, they have been successful doing this as when they moved The National news broadcast to 10 pm back in 1982. It was part somewhat of a golden age for the CBC which saw the broadcast teamed with The Journal and regularly win its timeslot.

CBC's daily local news broadcast 24Hours started in 1970. Priot to that, Winnipeg's local news came once a week on a program called Eye-to-Eye. Garth Dawley was the original newsreader.

The local CBC news occupied its present 6 to 7 pm slot in 1977. It proved to be a very successful model for the local CBC and for decades, 24 Hours won its timeslot over local rivals.

From 1985 to 1990, 24Hours LateNight ran on the CBC. It was a more robust platform than the local late night news round up that had existed in the years before. Alas, it was abandoned due to continued changes when 24Hours Talkback expanded the supper news to 90 minutes from 1990-1992.

Local latenight news returned from 1994 to 2000 but it never has the same robustness of the 1980s.

In 2000, cutbacks at the CBC resulted in a national news program taking the 6 pm slot in Winnipeg. The program was renamed Canada Now and hosted by Ian Hanomansing. Local news was relegated to 6:30 pm. The change proved to be deadly for ratings and the national news experiment ended in 2007.

Since 2007, the CBC has returned to a one hour news format called CBC News: Winnipeg at Six. now hosted by former CTV News corespondents Janet Stewart and John Sauder. It has slowly restored ratings for the one time champion of local news but CTV News (CKY News) has been number 1 for many years now. In the last ratings period in spring in 2009, CBC local news vaulted back into second place.

From the Free Press:

CBC-TV was the biggest winner in this spring's version of the local-news ratings race, according to figures released this week by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement.

CTV maintained its dominant position among local newscasts, despite a dip in ratings, while CBC leapfrogged Global to take over second spot among Winnipeg's supper-hour news programs.

CTV News drew an average audience of 126,700 during the spring BBM ratings period, compared to 165,800 in the same period last year. CBC News at Six increased its viewership dramatically, attracting an audience of 43,600 compared to 31,200 last spring.

It would be terrible if the CBC experiment that failed in the 1990s hurt the CBC's present climb back to better ratings. In part it looks like the news is being bookended with products picked up last year and this year.

The new schedule starting August 31 looks like this:

4:00 PM to 5:00 PM Ghost Whisperer
5:00 PM to 6:30 PM CBC News
6:30 PM to 7:00 PM Coronation Street
7:00 PM to 7:30 PM Wheel of Fortune
7:30 PM to 8:00 PM Jeopardy

There has been some criticism from some anonymous CBC sources.

The gist of the argument is that it is very hard to produce a 60 minute broadcast and doing 90 minutes is going to extremely difficult. It is also argued that the move to an earlier hour is to get bigger ratings for its British and American imports.

Time Program National Toronto Calgary

4:00 p.m. Fashion File 22,000 3,000 No rating

4:30 p.m. Rick Mercer 34,000 No rating No rating

5:00 p.m. The Simpsons 169,000 13,000 9,000

5:30 p.m. Wheel of Fortune 370,000 18,000 3,000

6:00 p.m. Local News 294,000 44,000 6,000

7:00 p.m. Coronation Street 557,000 173,000 11,000

7:30 p.m. Jeopardy! 683,000 161,000 9,000

It remains to be seen whether this move will hurt the CBC even more or whether this will turn local ratings around.

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