Thursday, November 28, 2013

New University of Winnipeg Housing

New 14 storey apartment behind Buhler Building
The expansion of the University of Winnipeg campus continues at a torrid pace courtesy of its benefactors in government and private donors. The athletic fieldhouse is still under construction with an opening in 2014 scheduled. However, hot the heels of that project is the announcement of the an apartment complex to be constructed south of the Buhler Centre on Portage Avenue.

Parking lot behind Buhler Centre site for apartments
The province of Manitoba is the funder for this $27 million project. At 14 storeys, it will be the tallest building in the University of Winnipeg campus. The 112,000 square foot space will house 102 apartments ranging from 1 through 3 bedrooms. The whole set up on the facility will be for students, many with families, to find accommodation that will match their income. 46 units will be low income, 32 will be rent geared to income, 56 will be market rates with 16 of those being premium units.

This will be somewhat of an experiment as social workers have been taking the government to task for warehousing lower income people in buildings that get run down due to the fact that it feels like it isn't doing any favours for those in need. What social workers have proposed is that a few units of every apartment development be designated for lower incomes or geared to income.

There are some that believe that lower income anywhere will be bad. But is this really true? Osborne Village is a mixed income area. You have posh Wellington Crescent condos and lower income rental units in a high density area and what do they call it: Canada's best neighbourhood.

The loss of a surface parking lot for student housing is a very good thing and it will be interesting to see how the experiment pans out.  The province says the project is self financing and the University of Winnipeg says they will partner with a co-op to run the place and it won't affect the institution's budget. It is possible this is the model of how to leverage money to get work done that will pay for itself. It remains to be seen.

Still, there needs to be something different than Manitoba Housing done. The province could simply put up a $27 million apartment for strictly lower income and not have the same impact as this project will have.

There will quite a number of people watching the project with a critical eye but it could be something that changes how we approach housing for people in the future.

Monday, November 25, 2013

If the Liberals Win Brandon-Souris today...

Today there are two elections to fill vacancies left by Conservative MPs who have retired from public office to do other things. Merv Tweed of Brandon Souris left to become president of Omnitrax Canada and Vic Toews left to return to a law practice. Two other by-elections in Toronto and Montreal for departing Liberals take place as well.

I am not going to make hay of people leaving office before their terms are over. We have seen it periodically done by politicians over the years. The provincial NDP have criticized past Conservative leaders resigning from office while ignoring how their own leader Gary Doer left half way through his term.

Suffice to say that elected officials leave office due to health, family and work related reasons just like any other job.

By-elections by tradition are generally more about what is happening locally than getting into sweeping national issues. Most fly under the radar which suits the government in power fine. It is they who set the timing of the vote inside of a year.

Prime Minister Harper called the by-elections when it appeared it would do the least damage to him or his government. In short, he wanted any Senate scandal wrapped up and to come off a Conservative convention with good momentum. Best case scenario would be Tories retain their seats with good margins, steal a seat possibly from Liberals and watch Opposition attack each other. In the aftermath, point out the failures of the other political leaders in not doing better.

The worst case scenario is if the Liberals win their seats and gain one and get better numbers across the board.

For the NDP, any win today would be a victory. That would be the best case scenario. The worst case is if their vote share went down.

The situation in Ottawa has been brutal in the last months. The Harper government's handling of The Senate has not been their finest hour. They might try to deflect and say it isn't important but when the RCMP starts poking around and talking fraud and possible arrests, the situation looks to unwind quickly.

Stephen Harper certainly looks to own the results of Brandon-Souris entirely. He has campaigned there directly through a letter to constituents and has test driven the main argument against the Liberals. To whit, he believes Brandon will make marijuana an issue in not voting Liberal.

If Manitoba voters want to send a message to Ottawa today, they ought to vote for the Liberal in Brandon-Souris as well as Provencher. It would send a loud and clear message to Stephen Harper that he has to do better than he has been doing.

If the polls are to be believed, the Liberals do have a chance of taking Brandon. And wouldn't that be something if they did.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Justin Trudeau Marijuana Punjabi TV Ad - From Conservatives

Rob Ford

The only mention I have in this blog about Toronto's mayor Rob Ford goes back to where he was taken into court regarding conflict of interest. A lower court found him guilty and a higher court dismissed the charges.

My note on him in these pages was in reference to Sam Katz's conflict charges. I indicated it was possible to avoid this if there was a more definitive separation between city business and personal business. In the case of Winnipeg's mayor, he reneged on the promise to put his business in a blind trust because he indicated there was no law stating that he had to. This has resulted in a few runs ins where questions have been raised about decisions that may conflict for the mayor and city business.

In the case of Rob Ford, the issue of his personal business and city business has not generally been about business operations but on personal behaviour. A lot of it has been dismissed by his supporters as a latte sipping liberal elite sniping at a mayor who represents real people. The mayor and his brother have accused some of the media of being on a personal vendetta against him and stalking him even in his own home.

For many conservatives, it was easy to believe that the bad behaviour was more on the side of the media and liberal elites. This has been part of a carefully created narrative of the urban and suburban wars where never the twain shall meet.

There is some truth in the schism. The previous mayor of Toronto David Miller used to make some suburbanites weep over his spending plans. The receptiveness to Rob Ford was paved by the previous administration's actions.

Since his election, Rob Ford has been seen as a hero on the right by those who thought the city was being mismanaged financially. He was booed on the left by his boorish behaviour and for his disdain for things like the Pride Parade in the city.

There were incidents of reckless activities such as reading and driving and hints of possible over drinking. Once again to his supporters it seemed like personal attacks from the left who had nothing but vitriol for the mayor.

And then came the picture and rumour of a video showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine. The floodgates then opened about how the Ford family and drugs were no stranger from other media sources aside from the Toronto Star.

The Ford brothers came out swinging and despite and international effort to produce the video, none was produced. Staff in the mayor's office quit, others were fired, statements made that the mayor should get help were issued. Still, the city of Toronto and Rob Ford lumbered along.

A  massive police sweep some time ago after claims of a video were first made added fuel to the fire of speculation that there might be something to the story after all.

And then came the Toronto police chief's news briefing that they found a video and had several more as part of a drug sting operation that showed the mayor both smoking and possibly receiving drugs. The pubic still waits to see the mountain of evidence.

The furor resulting from the police news conference and caused world-wide media attention. Rob Ford finally broke down and admitted he smoked crack probably in a "drunken stupor."

You can't really go anywhere now without someone commenting or making a joke about Rob Ford the last months. I've made a few myself to people I meet and on social media.

I don't live in Toronto so am not affected directly from any of what happens there. It seems a bit of a reach that it has much negative impact beyond making it difficult to govern Toronto. However, perhaps it is unwise to say there is no fall out at all. The widespread cynicism towards public official is pretty awful.

There is no denying that every day seems to be marked with new stories about the mayor and how his city council tries to deal with him. He won't step down. The power to remove him appears very limited. All the council has done is stripped him of resources. But it doesn't seem to stop him.

The Harper Conservatives are trying to link this to Justin Trudeau admitting he smoked pot. However, they have been loath to even mention Rob Ford who is seen as an ally of the federal Conservatives. Only one cabinet minister has stepped out and said he believes Rob Ford should resign.

The by-elections this coming Monday have included attacks authorized and signed by Stephen Harper about Justin Trudeau's use of pot. The pictures and video of Harper and Ford and the Conservatives largely being silent on the issue of admitted cocaine use are now in sharp contrast. There is a very real danger that despite a hugely negative campaign by the Conservative and now the NDP, the Liberals could capture three out of four seats in the vote. This would include the long held Conservative seat in Brandon.

It is hard to know how much longer this drama will continue. It may only end in next year's city election in Toronto. But then again...maybe not. What is Ford gets elected again?

And if he does, would that mean the federal Conservatives warm up to him again...all the while claiming how bad it is that Justin Trudeau smoked pot?

Vangelis - Year of Living Dangerously L'Enfant

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Goldeyes Broadcast Moves from TSN Radio to 100.7

It really hasn't sunk in yet but the sports broadcast that began on TSN Radio before it became a sports radio network has been dropped from the 1290 AM dial.

Why? I have no idea. It could have come from the Goldeyes or TSN. In the end, it probably does matter.

The broadcast itself won't really change. Paul Edmonds remains at that the helm for this 20th season as the radio broadcast switches from AM to FM. Compared to hockey and football, baseball play by play guys are Iron Men when it comes to broadcasting. Edmonds will call 100 games plus pre and post game shows with an additional four extra baseball episodes tossed in. That's a lot of hours.

In some respect it is too bad that baseball left TSN Radio. Edmonds sometimes was brought in for other sports duties and he was able to guest on a number of the local sports talk shows on the network. In truth, no other broadcaster has the knowledge or the love of the sport that he does.

I first thought that TSN had to let baseball go because of schedule conflicts with some of their other properties. Alas, TSN has picked up 100+ Toronto Bluejays broadcasts. It would seem timeslots were not the issue.

It is very possible that the Goldeyes simply wanted a FM station to broadcast from. Hard to say.

There is probably confusion about what FM station 100.7 is. There is a distinct lack of a call sign in the announcement. The owner of the station Evanov went to the CRTC to change formats. The company already had a successful launch of Energy 106, a hit radio station. They also own 810 CKJS, the successful ethic radio broadcaster.

In the end, we now have three radio station covering the three main sports in Winnipeg. CJOB has football. TSN has hockey and now 100.7 has baseball. I'd say that is good for competition.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Central Canada Comic Con 2013

Me and co-worker at Comic Con
Another Central Canada Comic Con (C4) in Winnipeg has gone by and once again it has surpassed the previous years.

Next years will be 20 years since the start of the trade show and fan exposition. Things could not have been more humble. In 1994, the convention was held in a smaller hotel ballroom and was shared with antiques and toys through Manitoba's Collector's Expo. Six years later, comics pushed to the fore and the convention was named Manitoba Toy and Comic Expo. Add another six years in 2006, the name became Manitoba Comic Con.

The addition of celebrities from TV, film and beyond came just a year later in 2007. It exploded attendance and there was no choice but to seek a larger venue.

In 2008, the Winnipeg Convention Centre became home to Comic Con and its present incarnation as Central Canada Comic Con. It is a non-profit organization and now hosts four events a year with the marquee event being C4.
Me and co-worker and friend at Comic Con
In 2012, attendance at Comic Con rose to a whopping 34,000. There are only two other comic and fan expos in Canada that pull in more people in Toronto and Calgary. It is uncertain what attendance for 2013 is but line-ups were even greater than years before. The three day event in November has become a huge media event.

Costumes have grown each year as well as make-up and the addition of wrestling and wrestling stars in recent years as brought more and more people downtown for the three day event. Cars like Back to the Future's DeLorean and Scooby-Doo's Mystery Machine were displayed in the loading dock along with the wrestling ring. This was a brilliant and unothodox way to get more space on the floor and I can't believe the fire marshal didn't say: whoa!

As attendance moves past 35,000, the limitations of the RBC Winnipg Convention Centre begin to show itself plainly. Even with C4 moving to three floors next year, the space will be too small. 

The RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre is expanding and doubling its size. There are now several trade shows and conventions that challenge the present configuration with their attendance.

Here is something interesting to note: In addition to Comic Con, there was a football game with 30,000 plus people and a hockey game with 15,000 people going the same time! In the afternoon, it seemed that all of the city had gotten into their cars to go out and take part in events. 

And what an amazing day it was. Sunny, warm and the downtown was filled with Jets uniforms and Jedi Warriors. Some wag said that all the losers were attending hockey, football and comic convention on Saturday. Well, that mouthy dude had his shirt pulled over his head, was taped to the uprights and was hit with phasers on fabulous for his troubles.

Winnipeg, you did yourself proud Saturday. Just one quibble: who set the time for all three events for Saturday afternoon! Yeek!