Monday, September 29, 2014

XS Cargo Closing

XS Cargo Winnipeg
XS Cargo Winnipeg along with the rest of the 50 stores in Canada will be shutting down after failing to re-structure this past week. This comes on the heels of the shut down of another warehouse store Big Lots which shut down 78 stores last years including the Winnipeg store.

The XS store was in the parking lot of The Brick near Polo Park.

XS was known for colourful ads inserts and low cost goods, some of if re-conditioned product. The company blamed competition with Target and Walmart for their demise.

Other stores circling the drain the last months are Bowring, Bombay and Sears.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Race for Mayor of Winnipeg 2014

It is usually after the long weekend when people start to pay a little more attention to what is happening besides what they will do on the weekend cottage visit or how many Fringe plays they will attend.

Our past mayor usually didn't even announce he was running until after Labour Day.

We still have a little while for the nominations to close. Across the province, lots of incumbents remain unchallenged. In some cases not enough people are running for the positions that are available. Sad, really.

It is a difficult decision to run. Mayor and Councillor are full-time jobs. The present mayor had his business as well as a home in another country and this was a source of consternation for many including our media. No matter how high energy a person is, running a city is an all encompassing thing. Also, the matter of conflict of interest is a growing concern. The wearing of two or more hats is no easy matter. Even the perception that you are acting on behalf of someone else is enough to destroy the credibility of the process and everyone within that process.

As of last count, we have 7 people running for mayor. One dropped out, three were ruled ineligible due to problems regarding getting the 250 signatures needed to run.

I have joked around over the amount of people running for mayor and even made some teasing remarks. However, let me state quite clearly that I am happy for a competitive race. The last mayor's race had four people including an incumbent mayor. I was undecided almost till the end and voted for my candidate despite doubts. In the end, I want better governance and despite witty rejoinders and some sarcasm, I respect anyone who runs.

In the last election I voted for Judy Wasylycia-Leis (JWL). Despite misgivings that her campaign had gone off the rails a bit and increasingly relied on her NDP friends, I voted for her over Sam Katz. I deeply worried that she would not be her own woman and felt that Greg Selinger would have undue influence over her.

The NDP has tried for many years to win City Hall all the while telling us there are no party politics. Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats have been in city office for years but it is only the NDP that seems to have an agenda of controlling the city through the provincial party.

At this point in the 2014 city election, I am once again undecided about who I will vote for mayor.

There are 7 final candidates barring any other changes. It is a lot to go through. Some people have dismissed some of the people listed already. To be sure some people in past campaigns seem to have entered in part for publicity.

At the moment, I can only assess what I can see, read, hear or otherwise find in regards to the ten mayor candidates. Some candidates have complained the media has not been covering them. I'm sure others think the media covers them unfairly.

It is not the job of the media to promote and go into depth on any particular candidate. Heck, they can endorse someone right now if they like and only cover that person till the election. The biggest threat to the media is if they are not regarded as credible so generally they will cover news stories and then add a healthy dollop of opinion. candidates should not get hung up on media coverage and try other forms of getting their message out there.

I consume a fair amount of print, radio and TV news and you soon realize that there is a variety of ways to approach news and even more varied opinion. I also read blogs, social media and often the personal or professional sites of the politicians. City Circus had one of the more extensive interviews with Judy Wasylcia-Leis.

The point is that candidates should use whatever means they can to get known, put forth a a platform and debate it whenever possible. Don't expect a free ride, understand that you might find the questions challenging, repetitive and even hostile. If you don't like dealing with the media, keep them at a distance like Stephen Harper does. It hasn't harmed him in getting his message across.

There have been a few polls out. Some say the race has already been won. Be that as it may, I am still undecided.

Let's work our way backwards from the least known candidates at this point. Some have called them fringe to whit they have bristled. Calgary elected a fringe mayor who became a beloved mayor. You could do worse. For sake of argument, I will just say least known which I think even the candidates would agree with at this point.

7. Michel Fillion

He doesn't have a website. I do follow the Twitter account. I have seen a few newspaper stories and he has promised to change perceptions of downtown and offered some ideas on what to do to provide better security. He has not been invited to a number of forums by some organizers. This is their right. If he wishes to crack that group, he will probably have to set up a website, organize his own media events, use all social media and forums he can.

What I do know of him is that he comes from a political family and that he is an entertainment booking agent. What I don't know is why he is running for mayor. I say this because many of his ideas focus on downtown. I would have thought council might have been a good start. With around 40 days to election, we'll see if some of his ideas will help elevate his status.

6. David Sanders

He has had a varied career in law,  journalism and government and rose to attention for his constant monitoring of city governance. He asked the uncomfortable questions that those representing the voters needed to ask. As an outsider, he faces an uphill climb. Sometimes it is easier to be a critic than to formulate your own ideas. That's okay. The world needs critics too. However, in a city election the voters are also looking for ideas and even a vision of how to run their community.

The job of running for mayor is one that requires organization which can be difficult. He might have made a more formidable candidate for councillor. It is possible over the course of the election that more notice will be taken of Sanders and his considerable resume. This will take ideas and challenging candidates who come to forums with empty rhetoric or outright lack of knowledge on a subject. It will be interesting to see in the days ahead,

5. Robert-Falcon Ouellette

Here is a candidate with another impressive resume and a little charisma. He probably challenges JWL on the left for the progressive vote. Some Liberals, Greens and NDP are looking at him now. I don't know that prominent NDP are going to endorse as they would likely be clubbed by the provincial party. However, nothing is stopping general members from climbing aboard.

JWL is well in the lead but RFO could eat into that support if she cannot tap into some of the vote that is looking for something a little more exciting. As it stand, RFO has been introducing some policy ideas that contrast with JWL. It will be interesting in the end to see which of the candidates has the more fleshed out campaign.

As a First Nations man, RFO is mounting a campaign that inspires even if he doesn't close the gap to striking range of the perceived front runners. One wonders if some in the city will let the issue of race dictate their vote. You would hope that like Calgary, we would look only at the person.

4. Paula Havixbeck

As a first term councillor, she was on the Executive Policy Committee but soon fell into disagreement on a host of issues with Sam Katz. This got her booted off. I didn't vote for her because I thought she would be brought into the inner circle of the mayor and things would never change. I can say I was wrong in thinking that. At first it appeared to be that way but she could no longer go along with the old way of business.

I can't say how I feel about her as councillor. I had one issue that I dealt with myself for the most part. After one term, I can't really assess how she has done since she was shunted aside by Katz. Her currency went up being a critic of the mayor but was it sufficient to make a run for mayor herself? We are still seeing policies unveiled but might be a case of too many people at center right running for office and she doesn't have as many endorsements of establishment backing.

It is difficult to break into the lead without something exciting to propel you there and the people to do it.

3. Gord Steeves

Steeves keeps bouncing back. He quit city politics, changed long time party affiliation and ran as Progressive Conservative and was smacked for it with defeat. Out of office and back into law, he indicated his interest early in the mayor's race and possibly crossed the line into violating the law on when you can announce. Had another set back when a prominent organizer and supporter ditched him. Ran into huge controversy when his wife said things that stung of racism.

And yet Steeves keep ticking. This is in part due to the fact that the front runner is on the left and is running a campaign light on actually mentioning too much. The controversies may have knocked Steeves down again but they also bolster people and supporters. It is likely a few people think his wife was bang on.

Steeves has been in politics a long time. He had a huge mandate from his ward when he was a councillor and would likely still be there if he didn't have wanderlust. It would appear that Steeves is trying for aggressive and is confronting JWL at every turn. It is a risky proposition as it can look like bullying but it has turned attention to the contrast between the candidates. Given the setbacks, Steeves has remained part of the discussion for the top 3 but he might have to wait for someone else to falter to benefit.

The people who look to Steeves are the ones who will hate rapid transit, are sick of tip toeing over which demographic scares them and makes them angry, are not fans of downtown, want roads fixed but also want their taxes low. The aggrieved suburbanites.

2. Brian Bowman

Another lawyer in the mix. This one a privacy lawyer with long time ties to the Chamber of Commerce. In short order he has picked up some top business endorsements. However, the bulk of the Progressive Conservative party and Liberal party are split among candidates. The Liberals have people in almost every camp. The NDP key supporters are by and by with JWL.

Bowman has largely tried to straddle the center right with a positive campaign. Like a lot of candidates, there is talking of finding efficiencies in the system. He remains a supporter and expander of BRT in contrast to Steeves. In fact, he has several policies that contrast him with Steeves including downtown. What he still lacks is policies that contrast him with JWL. The transparency policy could be that but he would have to show how allies of JWL such as the unions and trustees on school board don't record votes and hide facts such as raising salaries for unionized workers. Even if was a good idea, hiding it wasn't.

Depending on which poll you read, Bowman is second or third. It appears that Steeves and Bowman could do with a consolidation of the anti-JWL vote. However, neither seems likely at this stage to drop out. At this point, the movement in support is unpredictable. Stumbles can happen and momentum can build. Front runners can slip. Bowman could be well positioned to move up.

1. Judy Wasylcia-Leis

She has been the front runner since the beginning and campaigns like one. She tries not to be controversial, she makes no big vision or policy statement. In the one area of rapid transit, she says to finish it but struggled to indicate how to pay for it.

It is hard to fault her campaign. She is collecting the endorsements she needs, the union support and NDP/Liberal support she needs and just has to be the thing the is really the elephant in the room: Sam Katz.

Could Sam Katz have won again. Sure. However, it seemed obvious that some in the business community were looking for something different.

JWL still has difficulties in outlining her ideas. She can get flustered or angry. Being the only woman in the race had advantages though. She can appeal to a part of the population who want a left of center female mayor in power. Ideology and feminist movement politics are in the background. Union activity in the foreground.

I voted for JWL last election mainly because I believed that Sam Katz was increasingly running into problems related to city management. I worried that all the police and fire union endorsements could result in a lack of due diligence on budgets. It would seem much of that has borne out.

Nothing seems to have dislodge JWL from grabbing the ring of power in this upcoming election. And yet I have troubled thoughts that she might not be her own woman and that the provincial NDP and Greg Selinger will be pressuring her to kowtow. The provincial party has bulled city candidates before with Harvey Smith. I don't see them changing their tune that NDP people should do as they are told.


Despite my misgivings on the election, campaigns and some of the candidates, I am still undecided. There is still some time before the vote so I continue to watch with interest.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Winnipeg Jets on TV Tonight TSN 3

TSN 3 is the host of the Winnipeg Jets regional games this year and this means that people who used to pay $10 a month for the right to see the games will see them as part of their overall cable package. This should result in far more people in Winnipeg and beyond watching the Jets this year.

Exhibition games will also appear on the network starting with tonight's against the Minnesota Wild at 7 PM. This will be of special interest to people who have no desire to see fall season premieres that are as thick as thieves this evening.

Expect to see a lot of the young guys trying hard to crack the line-up in pre-season.

One thing everyone agrees with is that the Winnipeg Jets have drafted well since the move. Many of the players picked are some of the most exciting to see on the team.

Go Jets go!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Autumnbee's Pizza Coming to Grant Park

It will be sad for some but Pizza Place has been closed at Grant Park Shopping Mall after being located there since 1969. The Pizza Place chain was the first pizza restaurant to open in the city as Crestview in 1960. Shortly after that, Pizza Hut and Gondola came as well.

The 88 seat Pizza Place became an institution, a place to get a set down meal at Grant Park for the neigbourhood and before a movie. They had the most memorable jingle in the history of restaurants.

"It's ready with spaghetti and they season it just right, so let's go to Pizza Place, they're ready every night."

Decades of serving Winnipeg and now the last Pizza Place with its leaning tower of Pisa logo is gone.

In the place of Pizza Place and opening very soon will be Autumnbee's Pizza. It look to be an Italian restaurant. It is good that a casual dining restaurant will remain inside the mall.

Even now, renovations continue to take place as new skylights, tiling, paint and the like are replaced. Several stores have upgraded, a few others are newly opened. The Landmark Theaters is under renovations as well.

Perhaps when things are completed in the fall, it will be possible to get a slice at Autumnbee's and then attend a show at Landmark.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Seasons Apartments Tuxedo Coming Soon

Seasons Apartments near IKEA/Cabela's
It has kind of flown under the radar but is now taking shape on the IKEA and will open in spring of 2015. It is immediately beside Cabela's on a spot that that was designated for future development. Surprisingly, it has gotten built faster than the long awaited Lowe's Home Improvement that presented their plans for the area many, many months ago.

The spot beside Cabela's is Seasons Apartments
 More of the activity near IKEA has shifted across Sterling Lyon where the factory outlet mall is being laid even as we speak. Condos and apartments are also being prepared adjacent to the new shopping area.

What is interesting about Seasons is that it is a large 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartment rental complex that is pet friendly. Unlike many apartments, it also has in suite washer and dryers and dishwashers. Prices are not listed for the apartments yet but given the shortage of newer rental units, it could prove popular.

The big question is: Will people want to be in space of one of Winnipeg's newest and largest shopping districts?

If the increased building around Superstore on Bison Drive is an indication, the answer appears to be yes. It seems most developers have cottoned on to fact that if you want to fill your very large site, putting housing in might be the ticket.

There seems to be few larger developments now that don't have some sort of housing component.

I am still awaiting the day that Polo Park or St. Vital Centre announce they are building additional floors for housing.

The arrange of housing for Seasons appears to be three buildings laid out in a horseshoe. All look to be four floors with outdoor parking.

There is additional retail likely to be added to south of Sterling Lyon near IKEA but it will be interesting to see if so much housing will attract a grocer to supply all the residents.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Yankee Candle Coming to Winnipeg

It is reported this week that the massive U.S. retailer Yankee Candle is seeking out sites in Winnipeg malls for new stores. This is part of their Canadian strategy of opening 50 Canadian stores coast to coast within five years.

Yankee Candle, seller of scented candles operates in all 50 states in the United States.

It is unlikely that Park will see this store in 2014 given the huge expansion of stores they are adding this fall including H&M which had a huge opening this week.

Look to see the stores possibly after this Christmas season and sometime in 2015 year to open.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tommy Gun's Coming to Polo Park

Coming on the heels of opening at Kenaston Common early this year, Tommy Gun's Original Barbershop will opening in Polo Park very soon.

Several local barbershops have taken up the challenge of being more geared to men and now a chain is taking it to the malls and strip malls. Polo park used to have a more traditional barbershop near Sears prior to the expansion in the 1980s but it gave way to more modern salon styles.

Tommy Gun's put the man back in the picture. It has IPads, bubble hockey and flat screens filled with sports to watch even as you get your cut and shave.

In some ways this is Back to the Future for Polo Park to get the  old time barbershop back. It looks good on them.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cora's Coming to Polo Park

Polo North is now fully leased with the announcement that Cora's will be joining the site very soon,

The former CKY building and Winnipeg Arena re-development already includes Marshalls, Marks, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Atmosphere and Destination Maternity.

Cora's Restaurant's original location on Waverley Street remains popular but their location on Provencher closed August 17 when their lease ended.

Given the popularity of the Polo Park area for shopping, the addition of another good breakfast restaurant nearby will be appreciated.

As nearby Target awaits completion, the question remains whether additional restaurants will be built as well.

Winnipeg was one of the first Cora's outside their base in Quebec and now there are 130 locations all across Canada.