Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I am a Liberal

Why am I a Liberal?

Well, I've always been a centrist at heart.

I am someone who has always found the value of both right and left sides of the spectrum. On some matters, mostly on the fiscal side, I have found the prudent course is conservatism. On matters of most social side of things, I have found liberalism to be the best course of action.

Even before thinking about the party system, I identify with the ability to build a private life where you live and work largely free of interference. This doesn't mean the absence of government but a government committed to the idea that you should get out of the way where and when the citizenry can do it themselves. As a Liberal, I believe government is there to keep the peace, provide order and good government.

The Constitutional principles of peace, order and good government appeal to me in a greater way than life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And the reason for that is that is that is if you have the first, the second is more likely to happen.

I believe in business as well as a labour. It isn't an either/or situation. I don't hold to the view that the balance should be tilted in favour of one side over the other as a matter of course.

I believe in justice and rehabilitation. I wants laws that help people settle disputes, protect the vulnerable and incarcerate those that would violate our lives through harm. However, it serves no one's interests if there is no way back from falling afoul of the law. I am an advocate for prevention. This comes from police, public and private social assistance and health initiatives. Imagine if crime could be cut if we just reduced fetal alcohol exposure.

I believe in public health. I believe in private health. This is not two tier. It is the reality of life. For the most part, we maintain our own healthy lifestyles. We do this by being active, having rewarding relationships, eating well, finding meaningful work and resting. We have health plans through work or that we buy independently for pharmacy, ambulance, alternative health needs, dental and vision care. We rely on public health for general medicine and specialized care.

As a Liberal, I think the balance is needed between the private and public to address the real needs of the people. Every person should have access to healthcare and I believe in general, the public system provides that to more people than any other system. However, private healthcare can co-exist and must exist to provide for additional care.

I believe in the supremacy of Parliament. I think the value of the system lies in giving MPs the ability to work in a transparent and effective manner in terms of the direction of the country. I support a professional civil service. I want a strong and independent court system as well as independent public officers in regulatory or oversight positions.

I support the military and believe it should get the resources it needs and the direction it needs. Clarity of mission, rules of engagement and a lasting commitment once service is complete are essential to the peace and security of the country.

I believe in freedom of religion. The state needs to let people worship with respect. Religious adherents need to let the state operate separate from the faith. The danger of faith and state being indistinguishable is that it assumes that everyone shares a single mindthink and the interests of religion and the state are the same. Many times they aren't.

I believe in the multi-party system of parliamentary governance. Although, I have identified with and run as a Liberal, I see the merit of the other parties and often agree with them on a variety of issues.

Why am I a Liberal?

The reason quite simply is that I am a Liberal because I haven't found a way of thinking elsewhere or generally a party that suited me as well.

If my country divided into left and right, I'd still stand in the center. I find that if you have only the two choices, the pull can be away from the center either way. I've said before that if my options were limited to the two choices, I'd support neither. In short, I might not vote. Or if all else failed, would stand up myself to represent that other choice.

Why I am a Liberal?

It is because that is who I am.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

H & M To Open Around Polo Park

They teased about it in 2009 and put up classified ads seeking employees but ultimately H&M backed away from moving into Polo Park.

Last Thursday, they tweeted that they were coming and Polo Park was mentioned again. However, there is no room at Polo Park for a store that size unless they locate into the old McNally Robinson site. The site that H&M rejected in Polo Park is now occupied by Forever 21.

This would seem to indicate that H&M is probably locating in one of the power center malls in and around Polo Park.

The arrival of H&M would be another check off a list of stores Winnipeggers have wanted for some time.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

IKEA Sign Up - Opening Soon

It went up sometime early Thursday morning. It says IKEA construction starting 2011, opening fall of 2012.

I will take a picture of it soon.

If you want to see where it is:

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blue Bomber Licence Plate

The Bombers get a plate. Can I get one for my Winnipeg Jets as well?

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The End of the Liberal Party?

Three political polls have shown the NDP running first in Quebec as Bloc voters head for the exit over Duceppe indicating at further constitutional troubles.

The objective of the Conservatives under Harper according to Tom Flanagan has always been to end the Liberal party in Canada. It seems likely that this has been the desire of Layton as well.

A two party system: us versus them.

It is hard to see what the dynamic might be of a Layton surge in Quebec. It may simply result in a split of votes in the province and more victories for Harper. More perturbing for Layton is if some Liberals won more seats as a result of the split.

One thing seems clear is that some wrenching change could be about to happen.

If we do appear to be heading to a two party system, what might it look like? Well, we could look to Manitoba from 1981 to 1986 where we had some of the nastiest "us versus them" politics in the province's history. There was no Liberals at all elected in 1981.

If a centrist option ceased to exist and all that was left was a "us versus them", I would simply stop voting as I would feel I had no real choice. I suspect we might see a lot of people do that.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

James Turner Metro Reporter

I hadn't seen it mentioned anywhere but James Turner is a reporter for the Metro News.

The intelligence quotient of the paper increased with that addition.

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Office Depot Closes Winnipeg Stores

There were only none Office Depot stores in Canada. Now they are all closing including the two in Winnipeg.

There is one on Ness Avenue in the Madison Square parking lot and one on Pembina Highway.

It would appear that Staples will have the big box market to itself in Winnipeg.

The Free Press says that Office Depot had a presence since 1992 in Canada. However, the Office Depot location has been a office store since 1987. I can't recall it being anything else other than an Office Depot.

It is interesting to note that Office Depot has not outlasted Sportsman Marine which refused to be bought out and was bullied for years by security to give up their spot in the Office Depot parking lot.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Polo Park 11

The incoming American stores are displacing older Canadian stores across Canada. Tabi International, a womenswear clothing chain with 76 stores across Canada is shuttering its doors. There are three stores in Manitoba. One of the stores is in Brandon and the other two are in Winnipeg at Polo Park and St. Vital Shopping Centre.

The Polo Park location is located across from Lululemon.

There have been quite a few changes at Polo Park in recent months. The changes are likely to continue and a few older Canadian brands such as the three decade old Tabi International will either have to adapt and change or close to allow the incoming Victoria Secret and Abercrombie and Fitch move in.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Did Conservatives Break Law?

Auditor General Sheila Fraser

A January 13 draft of the Auditor-General's report looks to shake things up in the Leadership debates over the next two days.

In the report, Sheila Fraser looks at the spending on the G8 summit in Toronto and finds some of the spending didn't meet the sniff test and may in fact broken the law.

One thing is clear and that is Industry Minister Tony Clement's riding received $50 million in federal spending. Quite a lot of it was far away from summit activities.

The Tories are saying the report was an early draft and other drafts are less damning. However, even the Conservatives have not seen the final report and by law, they won't see it until Parliament is back in session.

Michael Ignatieff has blasted the Tories over the spending and has said they lied to Parliament and they could have broken the law. Jack Layton's NDP and the BQ have said they believe the Auditor's report should be released and Tories are agreeing with this.

It is possible that they all know that the Auditor's hands are tied on releasing the report.

One thing the Auditor felt compelled to respond to was a claim by the Tories that she approved of their spending. This proved not to be the case at all. They lifted a quote she made about the Liberals from years before. Yeesh. Stockwell Day ended up apologizing for that comment but it took a letter from Fraser to get them to retract.

The debate on Tuesday will be interesting. The Canadian Press reporter who broke the story on the Auditor's report said the Opposition has to be wary of blowing up the significance of the the story. She might be right but the spending during the G8 meeting is fair game as it seems hard to justify. It may be important to get Harper on the record what he will do if the Auditor believes the law has been broken.

Timing is everything in an election. In 2006, the RCMP announcement that they were investigating Ralph Goodale's office was a bombshell. As we later found out, the Finance Minister was not involved in any wrongdoing but it was a huge factor in the the polls in the days after.

The Tories might not be guilty of anything other than huge spending. However, the huge spending at the G8 is an issue all by itself.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Waterfront Hotel

Waterfront Drive Hotel

Public Access to Hotel on Waterfront?

Boat Access on Waterfront?

A Good Fit for Waterfront Drive?

The first wave of construction on Waterfront Drive took place in 2005 shortly after the road was built. In 2011, some of the condo projects are full up and the second phases are beginning this year.

The old Alexander Docks are defied this development boom until now. A previous project fell by the wayside due to funding.

What is the difference this time with a new project for the site? Well, I guess the difference is a track record close by for getting a condo done across the street. Sunstone Resort Communities has set up a boutique hotel division to build an $11 million hotel and restaurant on the docks.

The city seems game about this project and is offering a 50 year lease for the docks.

The next step will be to get all the zoning cleared and additional information about to maintain public access to the area. The Habourmaster's building will be turned into a 100 seat restaurant and the gravel parking lot will become a three story hotel under the plan. Parking will be limited which is fine if a parkade goes up nearby, preferably in an empty lot.

It is interesting to note that no public money has been discussed thus far for the site.

It will be important as even more projects go up in the area that public access and walkways are paramount. Surface parking needs to be limited in favour of underground parking for condos and offices. Parkades should be set up for city and provincial attractions such as the museum and MTC

I realize some people are strongly anti-car but it is unrealistic to think people in Manitoba can realistically can give them up entirely. It is better to keep increasing density to the point that people feel they don't need a car to nip off to the store, restaurant or whatever. Waterfront Drive has not quite got to that point yet. The population is going up and it will be interesting to see if some stores, restaurants and services start to follow.

The start time for this hotel is supposed to winter. Let's hope they move faster than the five years it took to get the Canad Inns Hotel and the Health Sciences Centre campus.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Falling NDP Numbers Nationally

Jack Layton probably should have revised how her put things when he said to people in Saskatchewan that if they wanted to beat Stephen Harper that they should go with the political party that came in second place in most of the constituencies in the last election.

People in other provinces might be taking that advice to heart in terms of not splitting the vote. The rolling poll done by Nanos shows the NDP vote has slipped as the campaign has gone on. This Saturday's numbers show the NDP down 5 points and that there has been slippage for seven days straight.

Jack Layton remains personally popular but many of the ideas that they have presented have been presented before. In some cases, the party's main plank for the day has not resonated. I offer the credit card policy as being a good example. It hasn't created upward momentum for party fortunes.

Michael Ignatieff has run a very solid campaign thus far. The Tory ads that had helped define the Liberal leader are being chipped away as people see more of the man.

Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are running a very careful campaign. They are very close to a majority but it isn't their numbers that have dipped badly, it is the NDP ones.

Layton has brushed off the reports on the numbers saying some show the party faring better but one thing is clear: The Tories are nearing or over 40% and the Liberals nearing or over 30%. The NDP is running at 13 to 17%. For those who truly fear the Tories winning a majority, especially in Ontario, that isn't good.

The dismissal of a coalition government and the Tories close to a majority are sobering for the fourth party in the House.

The debate could help Layton but it could also accelerate a move to the Liberals if Ignatieff looks to challenge Harper in a meaningful way.

This could be the last election for any number of the political leaders. If Layton falls short this election, it is hard to see that he would stay on for the next election. It is all or nothing at this point.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Downtown Condo Surge Part 1

110 James Avenue Qualico Condo Project. Building to rebuilt is center

The first of a number of new condos begins shortly at 110 James Avenue by Qualico. The developer has indicated that they are committed to building just under 300 condo units in the Exchange District.

133 Market Avenue waiting in the wings to be developed next. Building to rebuilt is on the right

A lot of the building booms is attributed to the $20 million in grants being waved at developer. It has triggered 670 condos and 130 apartments to go into development. I have no idea of what the private to public ratio of spending is but it would appear that Qualico alone is prepared to spend $40 to $50 million to put units in the area.

The objective of bringing more people to the downtown area, increasing the density, adding groundfloor retail and seeing the tax base rise might all be achieved with this tax program. The continuation of it for the near term seems a sound policy.

The major consideration now will be to ensure accessibility to the entertainment and cultural sites exclusive to the area. If a strong residential component is to work in the area, it can't be choked off by events at the Concert Hall, Pantages, The Warehouse and MTC all on the same nights making life miserable for all.

Some accommodation has to be made for everyone and that will have to include a parking plan which the city woefully lacks. Cars endlessly circling the block looking for an elusive parking spot and the city trying to discourage this by making one way streets, no turn signs and the like will infuriate visitors and residents alike.

We have to ensure that someone who visits from Brandon, Manitoba to see the museum that their tax dollars paid for is dumbfounded about how to access the place. Smugly telling them to park 10 blocks away and take a city bus doesn't cut it. A local parkade does seem to be the order of the day.

As Winnipeg's condo alley develops, it will be a balance issue about keeping the area vital without having drunken brawls from nightclubs spill out into the streets creating disturbances. With that in mind, it is probably good to ensure zoning issues deal with problems before they happen.

Some exciting things look to be occurring in the Exchange area. After just a hiccup of development in the 1980s, it looks like residential building is happening in earnest.

One wonders that in say 2020, we look back at this time and find ourselves saying "wow" about how much of Winnipeg's commercial warehouse district became a residential and mixed used district and how that look was preserved for posterity.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Metro and Sunday Xtra

It has been a couple of days of Metro papers in Winnipeg and a couple of days after the debut of the Winnipeg Free Press Sunday Xtra paper. I have read the papers cover to cover.

The Metro is a paper published in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax and is available free daily in distinctive green boxes. In Winnipeg those boxes are often found around bus stops or other high traffic areas.

Most of the stories in the Metro are bite sized and can be read in about a minute or two. The paper is meant as a quick coffee shop read or a bus ride to your destination. It is very light on news, entertainment and sport.

Despite this, the paper does cover local stories albeit in short form. For example, the closing of Gisele's beauty school is buried in the business section of the Free Press whereas the story in the Metro is more front and center and features one of the displaced students. I have no problem of two different media groups covering the story differently.

Tuesday's Metro made a huge error in one of its interviews of a former premier. Edward Schreyer was being interviewed and the reporter wrote that his name was Shrayer. Yikes. I have no idea how the mistake was made but perhaps it is because the staff is so new to the city or to the profession or whatever. Schreyer probably has suits older than the reporter which doesn't help.

The Metro relies on a lot of newswire services and from the rest of its media empire to fill its pages. This isn't all a bad thing but it is noticeable and sometimes the lack of original takes on a subject can make people look elsewhere for that information.

Lack of local original content is not limited to the Metro. The Free Press Sunday Xtra is filled to the rafters with wire service stories. This isn't entirely a bad thing but local and original content for a weekly paper would be extremely welcome. They had two blogger stories which I think is excellent and would like to see more of that for sure. I would also like to see more original and local columnists.

This is an improvement over the On7 tabloid format that the Free Press tried. That paper proved to be too light on news updates from Saturday and too fluffy elsewhere to make the average reader want to pay more and seek out their boxes in the city.

I am still waiting a few weeks to fully decide on the Sunday Xtra. As far as the Metro goes, I think the Winnipeg Sun needs to look over its shoulder. If it comes down to a free paper versus The Sun, there might be a problem. Over the years The Sun has shed workers, local coverage and some important original coverage. This could be a problem as ultimately, it is doubtful whether people will pay just for the Sun girl.

Overall, I think the print media got more interesting this week.

Now, if we could only get new boxes across the city for all the college newspapers.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Winnipeg South Centre - The Problems of Joyce Bateman

The Conservatives have coveted Winnipeg South Centre for a long time. It is therefore surprising that they manage to screw up in the process of finding a candidate for the area time and time again.

It seems that in the lead up to this present election that the Tories had set up a nomination process, had a fair election and chosen a candidate to run in Raymond Hall. By all appearances, the candidate had set up offices and advertising and was ready to go.

Not so fast though. Many local Conservatives sniped from the sidelines. Obviously not happy with the choice that resulted from an election, some members grumbled and complained and in the end undermined their candidate to the point that he resigned with the election writ only days away.

Many local Tories were rubbing their hands with glee thinking it was too late for a regular nomination and election process for the riding. Several names were tossed out as possible direct appointees of Harper for the candidacy. When an election did in fact happen, Winnipeg South Centre Conservatives jostled unseemly to be appointed.

Now, I'll be the first to say that parties can choose any process they want to select their candidates. However, I think it is important to remind political parties that local members of the party might feel anger in regards to interference from the central office in their ability to select their own person. We have seen that across many political parties over the years.

In the end, the Conservatives have chosen Winnipeg No. 1 School Trustee Joyce Bateman as their appointed candidate to face against Liberal MP Anita Neville.

Until very recently, Bateman was a Liberal party member and strongly associated with the federal and provincial party. She says she was disaffected by Liberal financial spending ideas. It is certainly her right to quit a party, join another and run under that banner. However, the reasons for decision and when she made that decision to part from the Liberals remains a little unclear. Also unclear is when she joined the federal Conservative party. Was it more than 21 days ago? If it wasn't, she wouldn't have even been eligible to vote in a nomination fight let alone run according to what I know of the Tory rules.

Indeed, it is all very puzzling why Bateman was chosen. Are local Tory members and supporters happy about it? Will local Liberal members and supporters be happy with about what happened?

Is this all about strategy? The way the Tories think they can win by selecting someone long associated with the Liberal party?

I don't believe that Bateman will be able to run without answering some key questions about why she is a federal Tory candidate. I can't be the only one confused by her candidacy. However, it is possible that the Tories will keep her well away from the media or unscripted moments just as they did for their candidate in Winnipeg North's byelecton. Whether this works is anyone's idea although it certainly didn't work a few months ago in the city.

I suppose as voters it will be for Winnipeg South Centre to decide whether the federal Tories have done right by the riding by choosing Joyce Bateman.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Harper Talks About Pulling Out

(CP) Concepcion, Newfoundland - In a surprising unscripted moment, Stephen Harper talked about pulling out. While addressing the students at Sister Freda Groper School in Concepcion in Newfoundland, Harper answered a question in regards to pulling out. He told seven year old Max Rider that he sometimes thought about the hardship his wife and children went through and had contemplated pulling out.

In Ontario, Michael Ignatieff responded by saying that he had never pulled out of anything in his life. During a lunchbreak at Organic Smoothies in London, Ontario, Ignatieff said that from the time he was a youth, he was determined to stick in. "At Upper Canada College, I never wanted to let down the boys. Once in, I was never out."

Jack Layton, swinging through his own riding in Toronto, said that it has been a hard number of months. "It is difficult to maintain it," he said in a conciliatory tone. "It isn't a question of pulling out but of sustaining it." Staff suggested that health issues have affected his flagging campaign.

On the west coast, Elizabeth May was in Barren Valley, B.C. and took a harsher line on the subject. She said that "it isn't a question of pulling out but never having the opportunity to push in."

Not to be left out, Gilles Duceppe suggested the only thing he wanted to pull out of was Canada. However, he said he would not campaign on the issue and would instead do as he has done in the past which is try for partial withdrawal.

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