Monday, October 31, 2011

Store and Restaurant Wish List Part 2

Lowe's Home Improvement Stores

Back in July of last year, I wrote what I heard from some people was their wish list for restaurants and retailers for the city of Winnipeg.

There was as follows:


Outback (already in Alberta and in Ontario although many closed in that province in 2009)
Hard Rock Cafe (in some Canadian provinces)
Chili's (already in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta)
Rainforest Cafe (already in Ontario)
Ruby Tuesday (already in Ontario)
Sweet Tomatoes


Juicy Couture
Crate and Barrel
J Crew
Brooks Brothers

We continue to be the one gap where Lowe's has no location.

However, all is not lost. In the last couple of years we have seen locations open up for Forever 21, Apple, Sephora, Hollister, Aeropostale.

For restaurants, Famous Dave's and Woody's Barbecue are on tap. And TGI Fridays just opened at the airport with Swiss Chalet a week before.

I should point out that no other post I have written has ever come close to matching Swiss Chalet for traffic.

I think we can add a few other retailers to the list we'd like to see:

Abercrombie and Fitch
Victoria Secret
Wet Seal
Charlotte Russe

and the one that seems so close to making an announcement:


To be fair, some of these stores don't operate any locations in Canada but it seems the big question has to be as what is taking Lowe's, Victoria Secret and H&M from coming?

Winnipeg is one of the hotter retail markets for non Canada's retailers to look at.

Part of the problem is no room in any of the big malls. Polo Park is full up. Ditto St. Vital Centre. Some older Canadian retailers have toppled like bowling pins the last few years as interlopers come in.

My guess is if Polo Park had a third floor, they'd fill that sucker in no time flat. However, how likely is that when they would have to build an addition to their parking deck. As for St. Vital, would any approval come with that traffic nightmare that is there now? Even a second deck of parking will not fix bad access off of other streets.

So, Victoria Secret and others wait with their faces pressed up against the glass to see if Polo Park will throw other tenants such as Broadway Florists under the bus to make space for them.

To be sure though, more stores are coming.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Central Canada Comic Con and the Conventions

Me as Rorschach and my friend Wonder Woman

Halloween weekend and Central Canada Comic Con all on the same weekend. It certainly makes for a costume friendly weekend.

Sad to see the downtown explode in shootings and stabbings once again because there was quite a lot going that was peaceful and fun. It is quite ridiculous when you think about how someone's checklist for Halloween goes like this: Booze, drugs, gun, knife. Check! ready for my night out!

If this is left unchecked, it won't long before some people make a decision about going to a Winnipeg Jets game, convention center show, Concert Hall outing or The Forks based on fearing that they will be killed in their cars.

It will be useless telling people that perception is not the reality.

The reality is that we will surpass our murder rate this year. The reality is that shots are being fired and stabbings are occurring. Everything and I do mean everything should be done to prevent protect the population from this unsettling trend.

Anyway, I won't try to spin this story about how good things are. Suffice to say, I want to go downtown to Jets games, conventions and plays. I am demanding that things be better. And yes I am looking at you Mr. Mayor and you Mr. Premier.

Anyways, back to the convention that I attended...

For those interested in knowing, there were many people from very young to very old at the Winnipeg Convention Centre enjoying Central Canada Comic Con. Since 2006, it has taken off and thousands are in attendance. I suspect it will only get bigger.

There were some stars from TV and film present for autographs and question and answer not the least of which was William Shatner.

Met Kevin Sorbo who seems to be a genuinely good guy.

There were so many excellent costumes and activities that it was enough to keep most people engaged for hours. Wonderful show and you know it will only get better.


It is the type of show the Convention Centre has been doing so well over the years. Home show, car show, boat show. Literally thousands of people who generally don't go downtown for a host of reasons go to the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

I am not an expert on the economic activity generated by a Convention Centre. It is probably lots and although the costs are high to build them, I think they are worth it so long as they have the tools to generate some cash for their operations. Parkades can make money after the initial huge start up costs.

It is curious to note that developers are keen on buying parkades. There is high interest in Portage Place's parkade to spur a tower. This isn't a bad idea but CentreVenture should hold off till they get a commitment for both towers to be built on west and east side before selling. They should not think of this as losing a revenue generator in the parkade but getting seed money for further projects.

This weekend's convention had two decks of parking lot filled. It had every food service counter filled to capacity and probably more could have done business.

I think more revenue has to come from services provided from the Convention Center. It should have more restaurants, concessions and the like.

The plan for expansion that I have talked about here includes a hotel. This is a good thing and should be thought about in terms of how it can create further revenue and support for the convention center.

The Convention Center has been isolated too long from the rest of the downtown or Broadway by a selfish province that thought nothing about having huge surface parking lots spread out all around and no plan for doing better. Those parking lots were owned by the province and any thought of developing them till this year was rejected.

Here's hoping that enough vision is in place to try and make what works in the city work better and stop working at cross purposes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Swiss Chalet Now Open in Winnipeg

Swiss Chalet opened Wednesday, October 28 at 11 am according to reports.

It has been chaos around there as people who have been waiting for some time for it, head there.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Horizon Insurance

Almost unnoticed in September was the purchase of Manitoba's largest independent insurance broker Horizon Insurance by Hub International of Chicago.

Horizon has operated in Manitoba for 100 years founded by Louis Leipsic. Today it is has 18 locations and 180 staff. It also owns the locations of Ryan Gateway Insurance. Not a small company by any stretch.

The acquisition by Hub is supposed to help the company in terms of products and expansion. Hub has an interesting background. It was founded in Canada and moved to the States. It has been on a tear with insurance companies being snapped up left and right across North America.

By all accounts, Hub buys an insurance broker and leaves them intact with their head office forming a super regional office. However, B.C.'s biggest independent brokers with nearly 600 employees seems to have lost their own website in favour of Hub's. hardly the local presence you might want to have for such a large company.

The best business for a place is one where there is a strong local head office and independence to charity, sponsorships and have your local execs out in the community.

I hope that is the case with Horizon.

I have seen too many times when a local company is purchased and then they chop or eliminate any head office staff or have thing run by a small supervisory staff who have no authority to do much of anything including things like the United Way.

Horizon still has a website and identifies who runs the company and who they are. Barton in B.C. doesn't list anyone as far as I can tell. Not good.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Modest Proposal - Movie Theatres

Cinema City: Before and After

In what is surely a preemptive move from prospective construction of a multi screen movie theatre on the IKEA site, Cineplex Odeon at McGillivray Boulevard and Kenaston Boulevard.

From the beginning, it has been reported that part of the IKEA site was going to movie theatres, possibly from the Empire chain or the expanding AMC chain. This obvious didn't sit well with dominant player Cineplex.

The response from Winnigeggers has been somewhat mixed since a decent second run movie theatre is now going to have first run movies and posh prices.

So now the Cineplex Odeon McGillivary & VIP Cinemas is born.

What will it consist of? It will be eight traditional auditoriums and three VIP screening rooms. Presumably, if Justin Bieber is back in town, he will be able to entertain his girlfriend Selena Gomez at this theatre rather than at Silver City Polo Park.

The Cineplex announcement is part and parcel of $6.5 million of renovation being done to most of the properties the company owns in the city. New concessions, paint, seats and entertainment are all part of what we'll be seeing in the various facilities.

Now...a modest proposal:

Since we are losing a discount movie theatre in the south end of the city, is not time to consider the Empire Theatre location at the Grant Park Mall. It is the only location of the Empire chain in Winnipeg.

If indeed, it is Empire intending on building on the IKEA site, would it not make some sense to possibly convert the Grant Park site to a discount theatre?

I know I'm not the owner or anything but yeesh, we do like our discount theatres in the city and Grant Park might do well by it.


Just picked up the Uniter at McNally Robinson. Saw the story on OMC there. Good job!

I'd love it if the Uniter, Manitoban and Projector were available in boxes around the city. Just sayin'

Despite the fact that so much is online, I love the feel of the paper in my hands.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Polo Park North

Shovels were turned on the old Winnipeg Arena site finally. It is sometimes amazing how long projects take and how much they can change from the original plans.

At first, it looked like the site was going to be the location of an Asian food grocery. Then CJOB moved into the old CKY site. Now, groundbreaking is taking place on what will be a $36 million development.

Downtown's loss is Polo Park's gain as Western Financial combines four offices all on one floor of a mixed use building seen at the top of this page.

I think the big surprise for the 210,000 foot structure is that it includes an underground parking lot for 200 cars. Kind of a shocker in open surface parking crazy Winnipeg. We saw another underground parking lot on Sterling Lyon for the the new medical center which was a bit of a surprise too.

It used to be for a while that underground parking was a primary consideration for a development. Might be making a bit of a comeback.

The three floors of the new complex are supposed to retail on the first, Western Financial on the second and other offices on the third. It seems inevitable that Western Financial is eying the third floor to add to their present 370 employees. This is a good thing and one of the few good things about losing this company from the downtown.

I suspect that the new development will be successful but unimaginative. If lucky, we might get some retail on the first floor that Winnipegger would like to see.

The issues of traffic will continue to be a problem. Empress was never meant to handle the traffic it does.

The stadium redevelopment is likely to bring all things to a head although it is unlikely that a developer will front the money like IKEA has.

Much of the announcement is seen as being a loss for the downtown and within that whole prism of downtown is not safe, etc. To be sure, there is much to be done for the downtown but it won't be just office buildings that do it. Nor will it be just retail. The area needs people.

It would have been great if Western Financial was downtown. However, what will be more important is if more people are brought downtown to live and that they feel safe and secure when they do so.

We have a ways to go to achieve that.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Hub Campus Bar to Open at University of Manitoba

The new bar at UMSU

The never ending construction at the University of Manitoba must make for some less than enjoyable student life.

How long does it take to get student services like a pub or restaurant going at UMSU?

It would seem the answer is months.

The Hub will be the new campus bar replacing the old Wise Guys on Campus bar and the UMSU pub before that.

It is Back to the Future for UMSU; a return to pub fare and entertainment. Some of the themed nights will be: “Classic Country” and “Revamped Rez”.

Art from students will be featured as well.

Given that the new Blue Bomber and Bisons stadium next door, you would figure some sports themes. Lots of Jets games could also attract a crowd. No idea if flat screens is on the agenda. If not, UMSU...please consider a sports bar on campus.

One thing the university bar should try to avoid is losing money. The Soma food services idea at the University of Winnipeg has been a moneypit. Tens of thousands has gone down the rabbit hole there.

Campus life should be hard work but also fun. The universities in this town seem to specialize in the exodus: How we get out of here as fast as we can?

Wouldn't it be nice if thousands of students at a variety of things that enhanced their academic and social experience at the university level?'s hoping The Hub is the first of a few things to give the U of M some swagger.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

River Heights Firehall

There probably hasn't been a time in recent Winnipeg history where so many firehalls were being constructed all at the same time. Three are planned for and being constructed. Not much imagination for individual design. They come from the same design as the Sage Creek station.

I wrote already about the decrepit Charleswood station. The River Heights one is getting up there in age as well as a two vehicle unit on Grosvenor Avenue surrounded by a bus loop. I have no idea of how the building is faring other than it has been there for many decades and aside from addition for hanging equipment to dry many, many years ago, it seems to have been left as is.

The new place is on Taylor Avenue as the picture above indicates. Location-wise, it is less than center in River Heights than it was. I am no expert in response times but coverage from St. James could be more of a problem with Route 90 being even more congested.

Everything along Kenaston remains up in the air so long as Kapyong Barracks and the St. James Bridge are not dealt with.

The big question long term will be productivity and effectiveness of a large city fire department. While there is large support for fire service, some halls are less busy than others. Careful consideration will have to be made about how to ensure safe coverage of the city while not having full-time pay for part-time work.

The move to make fire fighters into paramedics is good. However, fire fighters can't transfer patients to hospitals. We have seen in the last year fire crews tied up with paramedic calls while waiting for an ambulance. Not very effective service.

It remains to be seen whether we will have that rational discussion of how many people is just right. It is entirely possible that those who try to talk about it will be shouted down or threatened electorally.

In the meantime, equipment and firehalls need to be updated. There is no doubt many are crumbling.

The city will have to consider how it spends money though and know that any rise in overall staffing in the city has it costs and that might be letting infrastructure like firehalls crumble.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reg Alcock

Read Alcock Dead at 63

Back in 1988, I ran for the provincial Liberal party in the Logan constituency. At the same time, another gentleman by the name of Reg Alcock ran under the same banner at the behest of Sharon Carstairs and won. I remember when seeing him that he appeared to be a giant.

He turned to federal politics in 1993. Upon Lloyd Axworthy's departure from Winnipeg-Fort Garry in 1988 for the new riding of Winnipeg South Centre, a rare opportunity existed where some of Axworthy's strong constituency support straddled two ridings.

The Liberals had narrowly lost the riding of Winnipeg South Center in 1988 and the longtime Liberal roots of a large portion of the riding and the continued activism of former Axworthy constituents helped Alcock take the riding from Progressive Conservative Dorothy Dobbie in 1993.

Alcock was a government backbencher for 10 years until Paul Martin appointed him to cabinet.

When I worked in the legislature, Alcock was known for big size and gruff nature. He was without doubt the most technologically savvy politician in Canada for many years. He was also at the forefront of policy development.

Like Lloyd Axworthy, there are few major projects in Manitoba today that he did not have a hand in getting started or seeing reach completion.

His defeat in 2006 in the Winnipeg South riding was probably the first time he seriously misjudged things. The quickly changing riding in terms of growth probably needed far more face time than he gave it. He had been a fixer for so long that he was called upon to shore up support elsewhere in the province.

At the time of his death, Alcock was where a lot of Liberals are after being defeated: teaching at a university. He, like Axworthy, did good work post politics.

Alcock leaves a wife and family behind.

He also leaves a city and province that are a little better than when he found them.

edit: Clarifying Axworthy's departure. October 15, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Woody's Bar-B-Q Coming To Winnipeg

Woody's Bar-B-Q

The Free Press reported that Woody's Bar-B-Q will be opening at the busy corner of Pembina Highway and Grant Avenue.

It will be a new building constructed on the corner near the hotel. Part of it will house the ever expanding Papa John's. Hello continued Pizza War. The other part will be the Florida-based Woody's.

Woody's Bar-B-Q only recently announced it was coming to Canada and has barely started franchises in British Columbia. Southern barbecue with a decor that looks like a Mississippi barbecue shack will be the order of the day. Unlike the U.S. locations where few have liquor licenses, all Canadian locations will sell liquor. There is more emphasis on take-out. In other words, these restaurants are smaller and will cost less to franchise than their U.S. counterparts.

It remains to be seen whether Famous Dave's and Woody's Bar-B-Q will do well in this market. I expect that they will.

At the moment, it is KFC and Chicken Delight on the retreat. In years past it was Bonanza, Ponderosa, Country Kitchen, Mr. Steak and Chi Chi's that died in the competitive market here and across North America.

Now, how about a Rainforest Cafe and a Hard Rock Cafe across from MTS Centre?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Welcome Back Winnipeg Jets

Go Jets go!

TSN Radio

Sports Radio 1290 has re-branded itself TSN Radio 1290.

It is quite the change from from CFRW days to home of the Winnipeg Jets.

TSN and Bell Media have put out a lot of money grab radio and TV rights for the Jets and increase local programming dramatically.

Bravo to them and bravo to all local media who have upped their game to cover the Winnipeg Jets.

I complained loudly about the lack of local content at first but this a job well done so far.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Manitoba Election 7 Aftermath - Classless

Greg Selinger with unprecedented fourth majority victory.

I was wrong.

First things first. It was a classless act of Greg Selinger to go on with a speech before Hugh McFadyen went on. It is obvious the NDP were sick of waiting for a concession speech and decided in a classless manner to go on ahead anyway.

Seems they did not have the backroom guys call and ask what might be going on. Had they done so, they would have heard that McFadyen was contemplating what to say about his stepping down from the leadership.

Classless, graceless and stupid is all I can say.

I predicted a majority NDP government. I didn't see the PCs making gains in Winnipeg except for St. Norbert. The NDP squeaked that one.

I focused on rural Manitoba for the PCs to make any gains. It was an overall terrible outcome for party. Ridings they needed to pick up, they didn't. Even with an incumbent out such as in Swan River, the PCs failed. There was an increase in the popular vote for the PCs but translated into nothing.

So what went wrong? A poor platform that elicited no excitement. Where was the promise of full-time Kindergarten? With that promise alone, the NDP would be on their heels and the Manitoba Teacher's Society would be expressing support. Where was the bold promise of lowering the PST down 1%? Where was the promise of taking over RCMP policing in Manitoba and creating a Manitoba Provincial Police?

Big brass ones. Those are game changers. Put the other side on the defensive.

The NDP used the power of their office to advertise and then they used their political budget to go negative. And often.

If you have some brass one that you show and someone tries to kick them. You kick back and you keep kicking.

Whoever the new Tory leader is, they will have to go on the attack and attack often. Go negative, go personal and do it often. Why? Because it works.

The NDP philosophy sometimes is summed up by classless. It can also be used to describe behaviour. We saw a lot of it in this election.

However, if we base things on outcome, the NDP way worked.

From my own perspective, I really did focus on ideas the parties presented. I was disappointed that there was not more innovation and vision. Only a highly partisan person would say that any of the three presented the best election campaign we have seen in Manitoba history.

There will be two new Opposition leaders in the next election, possibly a third if the Greens have someone new.

It will not all be peaches and cream for the new government. Continued weakness in the U.S. economy will hurt all of Canada. The deficit will not be easy to end. Healthcare costs will continue to rise. And violent crime will continue to scar parts of the province.

Some NDP were suggesting they might win even more seats in the next election. I remember when Frank McKenna won all 57 seats in New Brunswick. Eventually, you wear out your welcome. Or is possible we see NDP governments over and over again like Alberta.

I guess we see in the future.

Manitobans Get Hosed at the Polls

Monday, October 3, 2011

Manitoba Election 6 Predictions

In the last election the NDP won a majority government with 36 seats won to the Progressive Conservatives 19 seats. The Liberals came away with 2.

In the terms of change, it was a 1 seat addition for the NDP and a triumph for the NDP. Little did anyone know that Gary Doer would not serve his entire term. Did anyone ask?

There was only one seat gained by the NDP but it affirmed the popularity support that Gary Doer had as leader of the NDP.

The difference for the PCs to unseat the NDP seems too great at this point to make a difference in ending NDP rule.

First, the Liberal predictions.

Jon Gerrard should should hold River Heights. It has been a tough fight but people appreciate his presence in the riding and in the legislature.

Kevin Lamouruex is gone to represent federally. But his people are working hard to gain Roldan Sevillano a seat.

Tyndall Park and River Heights will be gains.

Spirited campaigns by other Liberals will have difficultly breaking through.

Liberals Hold: 2 Seats.

The Progressive Conservatives will hold all their present seats or the proximity to the old boundaries. Hugh McFadyen and the PCs will make some gains.

The NDP made a wash with in St. Norbert. They screwed up the nomination and with no incumbent there, they are vulnerable. Gain for Karen Velthuys. Shocker will be if name recognition puts Marcel Laurendeau of the the Liberals there instead.

I think the NDP are vulnerable in a few places in western Manitoba. Brandon East will go PC. I think with Rosann Wowchuck in place, Swan River will go PC. I think Interlake will go PC.

In a shocker, re-distribution may deliver La Verendrye and the new Dawson Trail to the PCs.

Progressive Conservative Gain: 6 seat

That puts them at 25 in the Legislature.

The NDP drop to 30 in the Legislature.

NDP Lose: 6 seats

House split 30 NDP, 25 PCs and 2 Liberals.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Air Canada and Downtown Winnipeg

Like OMC, I was driving to work on Kenaston when I heard the CBC Radio One national news report on.

It was rather than disconcerting. I wrote last October about the Radisson Hotel renovations last year and how things needed to be cleaned up around there.

This was the text of Air Canada's message:

Ladies and Gentlemen, In response to several reports indicating questionable safety in the area surrounding the Radisson Hotel in downtown Winnipeg a Security Assessment was conducted, in conjunction with the Winnipeg Police Service, by Air Canada Corporate Security. Recent environmental issues have forced approximately 1,000 displaced people from rural Manitoba to numerous hotels in the downtown area. Instances of public intoxication, resulting in several downtown locations being susceptible to crimes of violence and opportunity, have been observed by local Police. Based on concern generated by Crew Reports, Corporate Security, and keeping in mind our obligation, to the extent possible, for ensuring the safety of layover locations, a decision has been made to relocate. Alternative downtown layover options were investigated, and while The Inn at the Forks is considered secure, as a boutique hotel they were not able to accommodate our crews. We considered locations available outside the downtown core and while our preference was the Clarion at Polo Park they, as well, were not interested in accommodating our crews. For now, we have arranged through API, to have Crews layover at the Sandman Hotel and Suites. Information on the Sandman Hotel and Suites is found at We will certainly revisit the downtown area once the present situation improves. Authorities anticipate displaced people to be an issue for another 12 months. Best Regards,

Captain Jeff Dennis Manager, Flying Operations

I have a few of the people who have been displaced by flooding as clients. None are too happy about their situation. In some cases, kids are still not back in school. Two governments are responsible for their welfare: the province and the feds. One government is responsible for the outcome of so may displaced people: Winnipeg.

It isn't just First Nations people but that probably comprises the bulk although who can say?

Winnipeg has a drug and alcohol problem. It isn't just solved by throwing Hell's Angels in jail. That goes after the supply. It doesn't do anything about the demand. And that demand is there. Legally or illegally, there are people seeking out substances.

We can go a long way to talk about addiction, prohibition and how legal and illegal all blend together. We need that debate. We should have that debate. One thing is clear though after that debate is that addiction is best worked on as a medical problem and that has been clearly supported by the recent unanimous Supreme Court decision. The Harper Tories sought to shut down a medical response in favour a criminal approach. The court pretty must indicated that pushing addicts underground who seek to minimize the harm they are in or end their addiction must have have protection under the law and province trumps federal government on that matter.

However, back to the Air Canada issue, it is obvious that that the company took a look at the situation. Much like how Western Financial decamped to Polo Park out of fear of downtown, Air Canada is going down the same route. The loss of Western Financial's 350 employees and 72,000 square feet of office is a particularly bitter pill to swallow.

The war of words on CBC's and the Free Press website over Air Canada's decision is ferocious.

One blogger was blunt how bad it is.

So, here is what I've seen in my time living downtown. I am going to focus on the negative first, and then go into the positives, because there are lots of good things about the area.

Most recently, there has been a man hanging around outside my apartment every afternoon, and he bothers everyone that walks by for money. He's called me a bitch for telling him a) no and b) to get off the private property. Really, I'm a bitch because I don't want to give you money and because I don't appreciate you trespassing? Eat a dick.

My apartment has a convenience store attached to it. There's this wonderful Korean family that runs it and they are all super sweet. There's an ATM there I sometimes use. One day I came downstairs to use it and there was a sign on it saying it was broken. As I went to walk away, the owner of the store told me the machine actually worked, he just put the sign up because he was sick of the drug dealers coming in off the street to use it to conduct their business.

Some other fun things about downtown. Hmmmm... well, I live down the street from a Manitoba Housing complex that is full of equal parts welfare bums and unmedicated crazy people, all of whom seem to wander over to the City Place food court to loiter all day. There's one particular crazy man that will try to sell you anything he can steal. One time he tried to sell me a computer monitor for five bucks. A steal of deal, literally. Mostly, these people order a McDonald's coffee and then hang around the mall all day, smelling up the place, bumming smokes and change and in some extreme cases, publicly masturbating.

Last week a friend saw a man just hanging out, bleeding from the head, chilling at the fountain on the main floor. He also told me there were unsupervised little kids throwing pudding cups off the second floor.

It goes on. I recommend reading it.

One writer states:

I've seen Air Canada flight crews take some excessive harrassment from drunks as the crews tried to check in at the Radisson on more than one occasion. And I don't blame them for this move a second, however thoughtless a couple of their comments in their discussion of the issue might have been.

I do blame the people who persist in claiming that the solution is silence or propaganda. We need to stop talking about or excusing these problem, and to start demanding that certain indifferent public officials in both levels of local government earn their pay and fix the problem instead.

Other cities have cleaned up their downtowns and dramatically reduced petty, nuisance and violent crimes in public areas. We can, too, but only if someone gets off their ass.

People are going to feel defensive about the city and they should. The mayor Sam Katz ask lashed out about the decision. Don't know if he is Winnipeg today though. Did he call it in from Phoenix? And Greg Selinger will say that he has done his part. if that is true, what is up with Air Canada and Western Financial? Has the helicopter caught any aggressive drunks and panhandlers? Has there been some dramatic enforcement of provincial liquor laws or at the liquor stores?

We have had city and provincial continuity in leadership and downtown still has the same burning questions. It can't be brushed aside and no one solution will solve the problem. It has to be a full court press day after day after day.

There are some bright spots downtown. The Forks is not considered part of downtown. Imagine that. The greatest strength of The Forks is that people don't consider it to be part of downtown. Broadway and the Exchange District have their strengths too.

However, there are too many wide swaths of vacant land that are only used for parking, too many neglected Manitoba Housing buildings, too many rogue bars, too many people with substance abuse issues or mental illnesses and just too few people living in the area to say: This is my home, it is unacceptable that this is happening!

I think it is safe to say that city and provincial officials need to dig deep and figure out how to solve the problem rather than bluster about how wrong people are to have negative feelings.

Suffice to some people in the suburbs might always have negative feelings about the downtown even if there were no issues related to crime or poverty. Can't say that some who live in the downtown don't have feelings about those in the suburbs as well.

We can't help those feelings if they are related to lifestyle. We can help it if it is related to safety.

Building the downtown is going to have to be step by step so that a community is formed. It has to have a living component that thinks about how to make that area liveable, safe and attractive.

So what to do about the problem of the Radisson Hotel and perhaps the Air Canada building?

Well, first is to boost visible police and security presence. Drug deals can't be happening in the park outside of Air Canada. Panhandlers can't be loitering and aggressive at every bus stop and business entrance.

Larger issue of addiction and poverty will no doubt play a part but safety, security and personal responsibility will have to taken care of.

In the 1980s, the Exchange District around Albert and Arthur Streets was under siege from prostitution. It took a concerted effort and it was driven away. Sad thing though is it never ends, it just moves places.

Still, had the prostitution stayed, it is hard to say whether Red River College and others would have moved into the area.

The point is that if Portage Avenue suddenly became the safe and attractive place that people aspire to, elements of crime and poverty could move elsewhere if the underlying problems remain.

But first things first: address the immediate safety needs around the MTS Centre and hotels. Keep at them until the area takes on a vibrancy like we see at The Forks and perceptions will change because the circumstances have changed.

Next post up will be about something encouraging. The transformation around the University of Winnipeg.