Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Joyce Bateman in Israel

 “It’s the re-election! This is the million-dollar shot!” – Conservative MP Mark Adler

Joyce Bateman was among the over 200 people who went to Israel on the Harper government visit these past days. Nine Conservative MPs and six cabinet ministers were on the junket. There were also 21 rabbis and evangelical ministers.

No Canadian delegation has ever been so big as this one in history.

No Canadian delegation has ever picked up the tab for non-government officials prior to this. There were 29 people who had a full ride paid trip to Israel. And how much was that? Well, the Sun Media group said the government required media to pay $8000 per person.

Some might criticize past Liberal and Progressive Conservative government for Team Canada trips to countries. However, Mulroney, Chretien and Martin also included premiers, academics from the universities and a host of business leaders who were not necessarily party members or contributors to the party in time and money.

Stephen Harper's visit to Israel had a more partisan slant to it, more Conservatives, supporters and donors than anything Canadians have seen to date.

The objective according to many is to secure the 10 seats in Canada where there is a significant Jewish vote.

The riding boundaries change quite a bit almost everywhere but the Conservative hope is that they can capture more of the Jewish vote in Canada by having the most pro-Israel policy.

The Jewish population in Canada is around 350,000 people, about 1% of the population. There are several communities in Canada where Jewish votes are more concentrated.

The riding of Winnipeg South Centre is one such riding and Joyce Bateman won it in a close race with Liberal Anita Neville.

Prior to the 2011, Bateman had been a longtime Liberal but said she joined the Tories because she thought the party fiscal policy was "reckless."

It is wrong to think the Jewish vote as monolithic but even Neville said that some people in the Winnipeg riding changed their vote based on a more pro-Israel stand by the Tories.

It is safe to say that the Harper Conservatives now have the most pro-Israel government in Canadian history. However, while the trip was front page news in Canada, it was inside the cover in Israel.

To be honest, Canada really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things to Israel. As with all things, it is the United States that matters most. That is now, in the future, forever.

What might have helped Israel would have been Canada on the Security Council of the United Nations. But Canada was rejected in part because of the Harper's government pro-Israel policy.

Some Tories will say that doesn't matter, that a principled stand full of conviction is what is more important. Maybe. The word being used lately is that Canada no longer has "nuance."

A principled stand can and should have nuance. And by that the thinking is that Canada has to take the broad view lest it be taken for granted, ignored or simply lumped in as not really having a unique view on things.

This lack of nuance may help the Conservatives with one group and hurt them with another.

The population of Canadian Muslims has reached 1 million and now comprises 3.2% of the population. It is possible that Harper's policy in Israel might run into resistance with some of the ethnic and religious Muslims in Canada.

Tory "incrementalism" targets ethnic communities with things they favour strongly. The problem is that at some point, there will be a conflict that can't be easily smoothed over.

At the moment, Stephen Harper is "all in" when it comes to Israel policy and they are likely to play that up to the max with a very large ad campaign. In the past, they have accused a Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, a Jew, of being anti-Semitic. It is possible we will see this type of nastiness again with suggestions that anyone other than a Conservative is anti-Jewish and anti-Israel.

It is remarkable that it has come to this when you think of how Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien were able to show support for the Northern Ireland peace process from 1985 on without electioneering. And make no mistake, Canada became deeply involved there with Canadian General John de Chastelain overseeing decommissioning of the instruments of war throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

In Winnipeg, it is expected that Joyce Bateman will campaign hard and strong mention will be made of her pro-Israel stand. The Liberals have several high profile people even now testing the waters for the Winnipeg South Centre nomination.

If there is a difference this coming election is that the Liberals seem to be emerging from a deep funk from years in office. The unpopular leaders, inability to fundraise and the stand pat attitude that marked elections across Canada during the recession are in the past. The Liberals are clawing out from oblivion.

An election is some time a way but the campaigning is already beginning. One wonders if Joyce Bateman going to Israel and being pro-Israel will be enough to win when the election does happen.

Justin Trudeau as Liberal leader is already creating concern among Tories who just barely won last election. The question is how much they ramp things up. Best guess: It is going to be a full throated election campaign.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Autopac's Worst Intersections 2013/2014

Autopac has listed some of the worst intersections again. Don't think anyone is surprised when they see notorious ones around them.

I got honked at this week at one of them. The other driver making the right turn north onto Kenaston believed I cut him off. The truth is that he was turning into the wrong lane.

There are two turning lanes right on that particular intersection. However, there are three lanes heading north. The curb lane though is for turning into IKEA. The lane disappears shortly after the store.

Painted lines indicate that cars are to move to the through lanes. However, as always happens on Kenaston as it winds around at that intersection, lines disappear.

The driver behind me was having a hissy fit. He was obviously unfamiliar with the corner as all other cars were moving accordingly to the two far lanes.

I first detailed the problems with this turning system when it was built. It depends too heavily on lines on the road that disappear with even the lightest snow. The turning lane on north Kenaston is used as a speeding lane to dodge traffic at the lights and zip in front of everyone. In heavy traffic though, it results in a pile up because the lane simply disappears.

I have seen the IKEA traffic lights taken out a few times already.

It didn't have to be this way. The late councillor Bill Clement was told of the what the traffic problems would be and people asked about service roads around the mall. They were derisively dismissed as anti-development. And now we have two deadly corners that have had tens of millions spent on them, some after that fact of development, and we still people hurt and dying.

In former Bill Clement's ward: Moray and Portage, Kenaston and McGillivary and Kenaston and Sterling Lyon are responsible for maiming and killing Winnipeg citizens.

Blaming the drivers for this is too easy and too pat an answer. My almost collision occurred at a speed of under 15 kms. I defy drivers who have never used that road to be able to figure out their lanes for even ideal road conditions.

This is planning plain and simple. And it is happening all over the city.

Bill Clement's ward is now Paula Havixbeck's problem. At the very least she should be asking for better signage.

How many people have to die before someone acts?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Is Grace ER safe?

In 2008, Grace Hospital was transferred in ownership from the Salvation Army to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. In 2011, Greg Selinger announced that the troubled hospital would have a $22 million overhaul to the Emergency Room. Construction was to start in 2013 and finish in 2014.

Obviously, nothing is happening. The Free Press reports today that construction won't even begin till 2016, five years after the announcement by the NDP government. The completed ER will be in 2018, four years past the original completion date.

Grace is the hospital that serves the western part of the city on Portage Avenue. The catchment ares includes St. James, Charleswood, Tuxedo and Headingley. It is a large area. The area is growing. And no new ER till 2018?

It is a wonder if Greg Selinger will even be in political office then. This is no idle statement. It will be long time after the next election. Win or lose, he might step down by the time the ribbon ever gets cut on the new ER. In 2018, he will be 67.

At age 67, you might have concerns about healthcare. At least one of the two of people who died after being discharged from Grace Hospital was in their 60s.

Now, to be fair Grace Hospital is not the only hospital to discharges someone in their 60s only to see them die shortly after. Seven Oaks Hospital also has that deadly distinction from 2012.

It is obvious that discharge policies are flawed since the same poor outcomes are repeated. The assurances in 2012 that things would be different rang hollow in 2013 and now in 2014, you got to wonder if the government even wants to know what the problem is.

The first instinct of the Health Minister Erin Selby was that Manitoba had a taxi problem rather than a hospital problem.

The reports of morale and staffing problems at Grace are not new ones. The Grace very nearly lost credentials as an ER facility not too long ago. It has also been subject to scrutiny for deaths in the ER.

Once again, they are not the only hospital to have deaths in the ER. The Health Sciences Centre and Victoria Hospital are also in that category.

But let's get back to Grace. If Grace was in dire need in 2011 and the only major hospital in Winnipeg not to receive an ER upgrade, what will be situation be from now to 2018?

To put it more clearly...if you were Greg Selinger and you had an emergency health problem, would you not beg the ambulance to keep driving you to St. Boniface Hospital?

Is Grace Hospital ER safe? 

I don't think that is a provocative statement. I am sure there are excellent nurses and doctors there. However, are there enough? Is it overcrowded? Are they overworked? Is the equipment outdated?

And on it goes.

Grace is the closest hospital to me. I wonder though if it would be my first ER choice. I don't think so. And I'm not sure many other people including those in the government would or should feel comfortable at the highest level that it would be a safe choice.

To this end, the NDP government has failed. They have not made Grace Hospital a priority for emergency care and people are dying. And blaming tax drivers for the mess didn't fool anyone.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

MTS Centre to Expand Upper Deck Concourse

Narrow concourse at MTS Centre
As anyone can tell you, the upper bowl concourse at the MTS Centre is a little scary.

Well, the good news is that the True North are going to expand the concourse by 4000 square feet and add more washrooms, concessions and amenities.

Down here for a hotdog...I think
The job will cost around $20 to $30 million and take maybe six years.

The need for more washrooms is undeniable. The True North is considering efficient options for the men.

New washrooms might be modeled after this efficient system
Apparently, what men miss most is the chance to talk about the game with their neighbour so we might be seeing some bold changes.

Club seat washrooms
Of course they will never match the lower bowl and club seating men's washrooms.

I think women will appreciate the changes in upper concourse washrooms.

Upper concourse women's washroom
The club seating and lower bowl washrooms are still the gold standard.

Club seating women's washrooms
I think making improvements to the concourse are very much needed.

There will be an improvement on the lounge area.

Old lounge area Upper Concourse
Look to improved signage as well.

Old signs in Upper Concourse confused people
Sadly, nothing to be done about the steep stairs.

Only two more of these to get to your seats!
Congrats to the True North for realizing the 6000 of us in the Upper Bowl should be looked after as well!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Australian Loves Winnipeg

From the weekend paper of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Winnipeg’s glory days are far from over, writes a smitten Max Anderson.

Winnipeg is an extraordinary city – an epic riddle that’s fresh and intriguing, a surprise package that will leave you delighted at having made the discovery.
The Forks district, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet, is an edgy hub of arty installations, markets and gentle riverside walks. A pre-1900 railway building has been transformed into a happy cavern of steel gantries, iron lacework and spiral stairs, filled with buzzy stalls of colour and charm. (Here’s where I discovered saskatoons and chokecherries – native berries that taste as spritzy as they sound.)
I love my days in Winnipeg, especially the people – from the staff who serve breakfast at 6am in the Fairmont Hotel, to the people hanging out in the cool bars of the Exchange District. They’re all amazed anyone would be interested in their city and gamely share jokes made at their expense.
En route to the airport I see Winnipeg’s real welcome sign, and it reads: ‘‘Heart of the Continent’’. Winnipeg has a great heart – and that’s all the excuse I need.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Jets Fire Coach

Coaches are hired to be fired.

Or at least that is what the old saying is.

Kevin Cheveldayoff said: "It's a great game and it's a lousy business."

Claude Noel and Perry Pearn found out what happens when an entire team gives up. It is what we saw during two games. The fans made their displeasure known.

I liked Coach Noel. He seemed like a coach that was good for teaching a young team and let's face it, Jets are second youngest team in the league. He was funny and over two seasons seemed close to being able to push the team to the next level which, fairly or unfairly, was to get to the play-offs.

The Jets talent level is still limited by what we received from Atlanta in terms of players. We decided on who managed and coached them. We also drafted, picked up on waivers and had the ability to trade for talent each year. In terms of drafts, we have done quite well. Our first years of drafts have picked up two players (Schiefele and Trouba) who are performing quite strongly on the team now. We have picked up a few players on waivers who filled large holes in our line ups due to injury or due to just needing (Clitsome, Ellerby, Tangradi). In the off season, we have picked up at least one player (Frolik) who has been more than we hoped for.

We have had a few players who have been disappointments (Jokinen and Setoguchi) that they did not do more for us. We let one get away (Santorelli).

Overall, the coaching has not been terrible given the transition to a new city in the first season and a short season last year. This year we changed divisions and it got a whole lot tougher. In the East, we might have been much more powerful this year. In the west, every game is a challenge.

We have had some injuries and some illness in the last while but what has been the most galling is turn overs, slow starts and not moving on the ice. The most recent slump has shown how confidence has been lost and how the players were as low as players could go.

In the end, management had to do something dramatic as there was nothing left in the toolbox. Two coaches lost their jobs because twenty plus players couldn't.

The new coach I know nothing about. His job for the rest of the year is secure. Some of the players now have pressures to perform or theirs are not. Management has now indicated that maybe only two players are untouchable on the team in terms of trading. I don't think the message could not be any clearer. Some on the team could be shopped around and as bad as things are for the Jets, many players don't want to be traded with the tag of: He wasn't working out.

What can we expect now? It is hard to say. It is an odd year for the Jets again with change of division, break for Olympics and now firing of a coach. One of the teams we have to beat to have any choice of getting into play-offs will be Phoenix Coyotes.

The first test of the team with the new coach: Beat the Coyotes like the mangy dog they are.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Charleswood United Church Housing Development

I have mentioned it a number of times how Charleswood's forests and brush reach like fingers into the neighbourhood. Geraldine Street off Laxdal has been extended into the wooded area which was knocked down this fall in preparation for housing. In that area alone, there will be 23 to 24 houses to infill the land that had been kind of a dumping ground for years. To be sure there was trees and deer on this land but it was also filled with sofas and tires.

The character of the neighbourhood is not helped with woods filled with dumped waste and that might pose a fire hazard due to tinder dry conditions. I am all for preserving forest especially the Assiniboine Forest but there are areas throughout Charleswood where field and brush sits at the end of streets or along fingers down streets. It can't really be called forest nor park. Arguments for preserving these little strips strain credulity except that people have land near their homes they don't want to have anything on.

The Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) phenomenon is common enough. It should not be totally dismissed but at the same time it should not be victorious in every push back in city planning. If Osborne Village had encountered NIMBY at its start, it would still be a military barracks instead of Canada's best neighbourhood.

Along Roblin Boulevard at the curve just before Dieppe Road is Charleswood United Church. The church was in the neighbourhood long before most of the houses and commercial development when it was built in 1957. As such, the church acquired a chunk of land and has held it all these years. Some of it has sustained building efforts in 1984 and 1996 not to mention a gravel lot that extends behind the church into the brush.

Charleswood United Church and woods behind it
The church has pondered what to do with the land for some time. The financial needs of the church are there and the land behind the church represents about 2.1 acres.

As more and more people retire in Charleswood, the ability to stay in the neighbourhood diminishes. This is in part due to fewer multi-unit dwellings. The density gets lighter and lighter further into the neighbourhood. Some say this is the character of Charleswood and be that as it may, it also means if you can't drive, you are increasingly isolated. In short, the old get shuffled out of the place they loved.

Charleswood United Church has made this argument in asking for permission to build a 64 unit seniors residence behind the church. The three floor facility will feature units starting at 1150 square feet. The first floor will also have a 5400 square foot Mason Lodge. There will be 200 parking stalls as well as handicapped parking.

Plans include significant landscaping.

A buffer around homes is fair sized.

Despite the effort, the project has a large amount of opposition.

Most of the opposition seems centered on the building not being in character or the neighbourhood or preservation of the woods behind the church.

It would seem the church has done a strong job of being responsible and the there is a strong demand for such a life lease seniors residence in the neighbourhood that is close to commercial areas and bus routes.

This project should proceed over opposition. In all likelihood, some of the people opposing now could possibly use such housing in the future.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Predictions for 2014 in Winnipeg Part 2

In politics, we have one main election happening this year barring any snap elections of the provincial and federal levels.

The civic elections happens in October of 2014. A number of people have indicated interest. Many of those people will pull out when the realities of resigning from their positions on council to run for mayor look decidedly poor.

Having said that, I predict:

* Dogfights for two open city council seats in St. James and St. Boniface with a possibility of at least two more in places like Tuxedo and River Heights.

* Mayor Katz will announce at the very last minute that he won't be running in the upcoming election and will cite family and business as the reason plus achieving all his goals. 2014 will be a repeat of the previous years of questions regarding financial management.

* The stepping down of the mayor will cause the next mayoral vote to be one of the largest slate of candidates in Winnipeg history. The next mayor of Winnipeg will be Jeff Browaty who will land the endorsement of other councillors who chose not to run. Browaty will count on Conservative voters but will reach out to Liberals to undercut and divide center and left of center voters.

* On the provincial side of things, the provincial NDP will mount an advertising campaign using government moment for every department in an attempt to turnaround poor polling numbers. Toward the end of the year, Greg Selinger will announce that after 25 years of politics, he is stepping down and that a leadership campaign will replace him ahead of a provincial election in 2015. Sometime after the provincial election, Selinger will return to the University of Manitoba as professor.

* Christine Melnick will announce she is not running for the provincial NDP in the next election. She will be joined by a few more from her party as well. 

* In 2014, Vic Toews will become President of the University of Winnipeg.

* On the federal level, James Bezan will announce he is not running for the federal Conservative after 10 years in office for Selkirk-Interlake. He will be joined by Joy Smith who will also have served 10 years as MP for the Tories for Kildonan-St.Paul. Steven Fletcher will be challenged for the nomination in Charleswood-St.James-Assiniboia.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Predictions for 2014 in Winnipeg Part 1

First: Let's do sports.

* My prediction in 2014 is that Winnipeg will land a Western League Hockey franchise with a start up in 2015. It will be owned by Jet's owner True North and will not be called the Winnipeg Warriors because the old Winnipeg team moved to Moosejaw in 1984 and retained the name. Expect a push for Victorias but it may not be as easily marketable.

* The Winnipeg Jets will just edge into the play-offs after a very good January through March where they move past Minnesota, Colorado and Dallas who suffer from a slump and injuries. They will be knocked out of first round in six games but more confidently retain coaches into 2015 season.

* The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will win the 2014 Grey Cup. Don't ask how. It just happens because...well because this is the CFL and that is how this league works, dawg.

* The Winnipeg Goldeyes will make the play-offs only to suffer at the hands of old rivals. However, it will be another fine summer in the sun.

* The The University of Manitoba Bisons Football team will also win in the upcoming year.

* Manitoba's athletes will do us proud in Olympics and provincial, national, world events.