Sunday, October 25, 2015

Manitoba Museum Expansion

The Canadian Human Rights Museum has been getting all the glory, the budget and the capital investment from private donors and government but the Manitoba Museum has announced a $160 million plan as Manitoba's 150 birthday looms.

The first stage of the building is an expansion of Alloway Hall to just under 10,000 feet to bring in larger touring museum programs like the recently completed Real Pirates! The closure of the 20,000 square foot MTS Exhibition Hall showed Winnipeg just how many shows out there we could get with the right sized space. The space needed for a museum tour might be smaller though. Still can't help thinking it would have been better to go with an extra 10,000 square feet.

Five years ago, I practically begged for a new science museum for our 150 birthday. I looked longingly at the parking lot north of the museum and suggested a connecting tunnel. Now, it appears the major aspect of the museum expansion will be a $100 million science gallery on that very parking lot.

The $100 million pricetag is about right. The Science Museum of Minnesota was built in 1999 for $99 million. It is a gorgeous building but it was built with flaws and now requires $26 million of water damage repairs. Manitoba can't afford to have those type of mistakes. The exhibits the Minnesota Museum has are outstanding and one can imagine how successful such a gallery would in Winnipeg.

Science Gallery part of Museum Expansion

The $5.3 million Alloway Hall expansion will just be the first part of what we actually see of the museum work. So much else is in the planning stage and the sources of funding still not announced. The province announced $10 million for the the $16 million initial phase.

Close up of future Science Gallery
The timetable and other funds beyond 2020 are yet to be determined. Hopefully, it won't have to wait till Manitoba's 200th birthday.

The Manitoba Museum's yearly budget is just a fraction of what the Human Rights Museum. Ballpark is $4 million versus $20 million. Still, the provincial museum punches above its weight class. It is time for a big capital project to ensure the museum continues to do what it does best which is entertain, inform, preserve and educate.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Porsche Coming to Seasons Tuxedo

Porsche joins Audi at Seasons Mall Tuxedo
The Seasons development in Tuxedo which will feature the factory outlet mall Outlets of Seasons already announced the mall will include an Audi dealership. According to their literature, the other dealership to join Audi will be the Porsche Centre of Winnipeg.

The construction is well under way with the Outlets of Seasons mall with a forecast opening of Spring of 2017. Expect a flurry of other announcements of store and restaurant openings over the next several months. It quite literally is a race to land the best retailers in Canada and the world at this point or lose them to other Winnipeg locations.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Election 2015

I voted on Sunday in the advance poll.

It was a pretty glorious fall day to start off and I wanted to get it done so on election night, I could watch and not have to be running around too much.

I have voted in every election where since I turned 18 save for when I was living in Japan. I haven't regretted voting ever even though I've supported losing candidates more than winning candidates on the whole.

My involvement in elections varies. Once I was a candidate, many times I have been in the trenches, other years just a donor or putting up a sign, many years a political party member, some years not. Always a voter though.

This year and for the last few years I have been a member of the Liberal party and donate a bit each month. I didn't get involved in nominations or campaigning much this year. Work schedule can always be a bit of an issue. I usually donate a chunk of money at the end of the year when I know what I can afford to give.

Election 2015 has been a very long election campaign. That was by design. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives called it earlier than they had to and their reasoning probably felt sound. They had the most money to spend and it was a good way to shut down third party ads from organizations as they would be forbidden from being shown during the election. The only bad thing was no government advertising either. On the balance it seemed a small price to pay.

Despite the fact that the NDP were in the lead at the start of the campaign in August, the Conservatives must have felt their chances were excellent. The addition of seats in the House of Commons in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. were in areas that Tories felt paved the way to majority.

Negative ads month after month had worked at pushing Justin Trudeau down to third place in the polls after an extended honeymoon after he became leader. At some point Stephen Harper must have figured the time was never going to be better. And so we plunged into this very long campaign during the hot months of summer.

Most political organizers will tell you that as a soon as an election is called, it is difficult to gauge day to day issues that rise above carefully scripted days. Limiting the amount of questions and media exposure is a tactic to control the message. Even though the Tories knew that the court hearing on Mike Duffy would be on with an early election call, they figured they could manage it. The PM would only answer 5 questions a day.

It made Tories very angry that all five questions for days and days were about Mike Duffy!

Conservatives at rallies began heckling the media for asking questions based on the latest from the Duffy trial. Not a good situation and one that lent itself to stories about Tory anger

I, like a lot of Canadians, watched the Duffy case with interest. It is hard not to be disgusted or disappointed in the failures of the Senate. Any thoughts I had when I was younger about reforming it are now grounded in the reality that it requires constitutional change. Both Mulcair and Harper have proposed policies this election on the Senate which won't stand a Supreme Court challenge. At some point, if either the NDP or Tories got elected, they will have to appoint senators. The law says so.

But that debate is for another day.

Despite the trial, Conservative poll numbers didn't take a beating. However, the Liberal ones rose up at the expense of the NDP. For the longest times this campaign, the polling numbers in aggregate have been stuck at 30%. No one close to a majority and for once the Tories not making big noise about a coalition. Why? It is because there appears to be enough people out there that want Harper gone who may wish the other parties to agree to govern. Unlike last time, it could happen.

In a 338 seat Parliament, a majority comes at 170 seats. No party seems close to that number. Talk of a minority government became inevitable.

The debate in English and French came early and not without controversy. Still, it didn't seem to move the polls until the issue of the niqab came up. But I don't think anyone really saw how things would turn out. Stephen Harper and his party saw an area that could create a wedge. Banning face covering for citizenship and possibly civil service looked to have majority support across Canada. Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May and Tom Mulcair were on the side of the courts and said the issue seemed moot since only a very few had asked for such a thing. Gilles Duceppe with his finger on the pulse of Quebec went all in and supported the ban.

So what was the result? NDP support began to dip. The niqab might not be the only reason for the slide. In truth, there will some soul searching among the NDP as their campaign plan was mostly sound. However, the party has had trouble expanding their support and had all parties chipping away at their strongest base in Quebec. The main beneficiary has been Trudeau.

In the last week before the election, NDP and Conservative support appears to be waning. Is it Trudeaumanina? That seems a bit of reach. Support in polls has been incremental, notching up only a bit at a time. Is it a media swoon? That might be giving the media a bit too much credit given that it isn't only about the leaders.

Perhaps I don't listen to or watch the right media. Private radio has been traditionally conservative and appears to remain so. CBC takes it on the chin a lot but their popular political news and panel shows on TV and radio have members of all parties debating every day.

How about newspapers? Every major newspaper in Canada endorsed the Conservatives last election except one. The Toronto Star endorsed the NDP.

Of course, I'm sure some will have a different view of all this and say for sure that Trudeau has been the recipient of a love-in. There are probably quite a few NDP and Conservatives who might say so.

I have never been a fan of Stephen Harper. I believed his politics were narrow and mimicked the worst aspects of the Liberals he so wished to defeat. I often hear even from some Conservatives nowadays that they still are Conservative but not always comfortable with the leader. I think this has been the case of Liberals and NDP from time to time as well. It happens.

The longer a leader is in place in Canada, the more power the Prime Minister's Office has to act in the stead of cabinet and caucus. In recent years, we have seen orders given out to MPs and Senators from the PMO that thwart how the Parliamentary system operates. The contrast to Britain and Australia has become more pronounced over the decades as MPs and Senators in Canada become like potted plants standing behind their leaders.

The threat a MP faces is to be kicked out of caucus or not have their nomination papers signed by the leader. The threats to Senators are also being kicked out of caucus or other sanctions. We have seen during the election campaign how candidates are tossed under the bus at the first sign of trouble. This isn't limited to one party. It happens to all of them.

In the case of Stephen Harper, he has taken control to new levels and tried to stifle independent offices of Parliament such as Elections Canada, Parliamentary Budget Officer and civil servants in general. The one thing he has not been able to control is the Supreme Court which has sent a great deal of legislation down to defeat. This despite the fact that Harper has appointed 8 of the 9 Justices!

This election won't change this awful power dynamic of the PMO. However, a new PM could certainly change the contemptuous nature of the leadership. Parliament in and of itself is important and should operate not at the behest of an unelected chief of staff appointee. While we need a good prime minister, he has to share the heavy lifting and quite honestly, Harper has had fewer of those not more.

Many have said this election is about the economy and I don't disagree it is a driving factor. But it isn't a one man show as it seems to be now. We will need 338 members of Parliament who are prepared to work hard, research the issues, listen to the public, form plans and initiate legislation on health, defence, immigration, finance, aboriginal affairs, foreign affairs and trade.

There are three things when considering voting: 1: Local candidate 2. Political party and policies and 3. Leader.

It should always be remembered that a voter elects a member of Parliament. I look at my local candidates always. It would be very hard for me to vote for my candidate if they were totally wrong for the riding.

Next, political party and policies are important. If the candidate I like wants to separate my province from Canada, I obviously have to move along. In other words, I look at the platform and determine if the party as a whole is compatible with my world view. I know not everything will be perfect but it has to be more or less something I can support.

Lastly, the leader is final thing to consider. We are simply too leader-centic. A captain on a hockey team doesn't win games by themselves. They do set the tone, do a lot of heavy lifting and keep the team going. This is what I look for. I am not looking for a genius in every category. I do want a leader who find the people to be the skilled and dedicated person in their area of expertise. I believe weak leadership is not being able to delegate.

So there you have it. I looked the last fours years of record. I looked at candidates, policies and leaders. I rejected my Tory candidate Steven Fletcher despite the fact that he is a better MP now than when he started. Getting demoted from cabinet has actually allowed to be freer on speaking on issues his party doesn't want to deal with such as "right to die" legislation. Still, he has been more polarizing and divisive figure rather than a visionary one.

I have already looked at the Conservative policy platform and leadership and find both wanting. I can't say that I am too impressed with their economic record. A lot of the credit goes to the previous Liberal government who left the cupboards full. Never have I been too comfortable with the tax credits aimed at different groups. Taxes should be easier not more complicated. It's a mess. In other policy areas, I find myself often disagreeing with their strategy.

I have left the NDP till the end. My local candidate for the NDP was tossed at the last moment. I found his removal to have been hasty to say the least. They have replaced him with the previous candidate who has been barely visible. Can't say it was an impressive more from Tom Mulcair and the NDP. They crippled their campaign in this riding.

I like Elizabeth May from the Greens and Parliament is better with her in it the Green local candidate won't be able to take down Steven Fletcher.  Also, I can honestly say that the platform of the Greens still leaves me doubtful on their ability to run the country.

Foe me that leaves the Liberals. I have a solid Liberal candidate with Doug Eyolfson, an ER doctor in the city. He is a longtime resident and his resume looks strong. I like the Liberal platform this election and I like Justin Trudeau as leader. There are a few policy areas I disagree with but I am satisfied about intentions of the vision of the candidate, the leader and the party.

Endorsements don't mean a thing and it is okay to be very private about political votes. But too quiet sometimes means afraid, complacent or ignorant. In short, some should speak when others won't. I am more unhappy with people not voting than by who they are voting for. A disengaged public can be led to ruin and they will not even have had a say in the matter because they excused themselves from doing so. I will be voting for Dough Eyolfson in Winnipeg Charleswood for the Liberals and win or lose, I will be happy with that decision.

Be happy with your decision as well. But do decide to vote.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Gio's to Become La Roca Super Macho Taqueria

In 1968, a Hertz Rent-A-Car location was built at 155 Smith Street in downtown Winnipeg. The business lasted until around 1981 when it was renovated and became an East Side Mario's. After that came a Garbonzo's, Shangri-La and The Storm restarant. In 2002, local gay club Giovanni's Room was looking for a new home and fifth re-location and it became Gio's.

Gio's operated for 31 years and in their final location at Smith Street attracted other clubs nearby. In 2013 Gio's closed, a victim of its own success with other restaurants and clubs offering welcome throughout the downtown. The club has sat empty ever since. It appears to be that is no more.

La Roca Super Macho Taqueria has announced they will be opening sometime in March of 2016. They have begun hiring staff using a contact at Whiskey-Dix as the place to send resumes. This would suggest that Whiskey-Dix owner Wade Salchert may be involved in this venture.

The homecoming of the Manitoba Moose and expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre along with additional developments likely means restaurants in the area could see a boost to their numbers.

More to report on this as information comes in.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Palomino Club a Dead Horse

The message is a short one: The Palomino Club will close and not re-open downtown. Owner Cary Paul looked at the old 4Play spot and didn't feel it. No move will happen.

After 27 years the Palomino Club is a dead horse

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Palomino Club To Move Downtown?

The Green Tinted Building...Future Palomino Club?
In 1988 the Palomino Club was opened on Portage Avenue and after 27 years, it has never looked back. Until now. The old location will make way for condos at Portage and Minto and the owner is looking for a downtown location near the MTS Centre. The spot that owner Carey Paul has his eye on is the empty space where 4Play Sports Bar was.

It is the end of an era for the Palomino Club not to mention for restaurants and bars at that location over many decades.

At Portage and Minto there have been many places. Here's a list that is likely not complete:

Palomino Club
Blue Jeans
Thomas Buttons
The Avenue
Pierre's, the original restaurant in 1954

Not sure of the order or years for the last ones.

One wonder when the 60 condos are built on the site whether the faint sound of ghostly music will waft through the air.

The location that Palomino is mulling also has had many years as various incarnation of nightclubs. In 1984, it was converted into a very fancy place called Dayton's. It took the name from the 1955 building it occupied of the same name that had housed a department store. The basement of the building was home of Holiday restaurant from 1955 to 1967 and then it was the Prime Rib Steakhouse from 1967 to 1973.

The Dayton's department store lasted till 1983 before finally closing. The recession had hit Winnipeg hard with massive business closure during the 1980s. North Portage was a patchwork of some viable businesses and pinball shops and an adult theatre. Still, four Vancouver businessmen thought enough of the Dayton's building to covert it into a nightclub in 1984. Some $750,000 was spent and a dress code and cover charge was put in place. Friday and Saturdays were very busy but the sound of crickets was heard other days of the week. By 1986, a refurbishment and change of name to Times took place and the atmosphere was less fancy.

The new California format worked well on weekends but the continued migration of business, residents as well as nightclubs to the suburbs continued unabated. A murder on the premises in 1999 reinforced the idea that there was danger around. The business continued to run primarily as a weekend club.

The arrival of the MTS Centre in 2004 inspired some confidence to the area and new investors jumped and a new club format was introduced called Blush Ultraclub. Nearly $2 million was spent and the security was very tight to inspire some confidence which had nearly evaporated in the area. Despite a good effort though, the club was not able to breakaway from just being successful on weekends. The Manitoba Moose were not the Winnipeg Jets. many young families attending games had no use for a nightclub before or after games.

By the end of 2009, Ultraclub closed down. It opened a year later as 4Play Sports bar just as the Jets came back to town. To be sure many bars and restaurants found their business boomed with the team's arrival. 4Play found it difficult to expand beyond evenings, It didn't help that the NHL had a lockout as well. A shortened season was enough the put a crimp is most downtown businesses.

As of 2013, the old Dayton's space has sat empty waiting for a concept. The Palomino has a proven customer base and has busy nights other than just weekends. There are now residents downtown where there were none just a few years ago. And the Jets and the Moose now share the MTS building and next year RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre doubles in size.

The dream of creating a bustling entertainment district just got a little stronger this week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Qdoba Mexican Grill Kenaston Now Open

Located in vacated The Source location in Walmart Parking Lot
Qdoba Mexican Grill has opened their second location along Kenaston in a former The Source location in the Walmart parking lot. Umi Sushi is right next door.

The original location for Qdoba on Ellice remains open.

In the next two years expect a flurry of restaurant openings in the area around the outlet mall now under construction on Sterling Lyon. There were also be thousands of new residents due to the apartment and condo construction going on in the area.

Monday, October 5, 2015

TSN Radio To Broadcast Manitoba Moose Games

TSN 1290 is already a powerhouse in local sports broadcasting and will continue to be so with the addition of the Winnipeg Jets' AHL affiliate , the Manitoba Moose, to their radio roster. It was announced earlier that former CBC sports broadcaster Mitch Peacock would be doing the play by play for the Manitoba Moose but no word on what radio station. Now we know.

The addition of the Manitoba Moose to TSN's radio broadcast means that almost every night of the week will feature hockey in Winnipeg. Mitch Peacock adds incredible strength to the station and it is not hard to imagine the cross guesting that will happen over all the hockey coverage.

Peacock was with CBC Winnipeg six years and is an experienced play by play broadcaster. Given the loss of the hockey at CBC and the shortened news at the station to one hour, it must have been appealing to jump to a place where sports rules 24 hours a day.

TSN Sports Radio has been locking down all the sports writing and broadcasting talent in Winnipeg. Gary Lawless from the Free Press made the jump and now Mitch Peacock had done so as well. In short, the amount of local coverage and employees TSN has in Winnipeg is large.

The first broadcast of the season starts this Friday against the Toronto Marlies. Expect to hear more about the broadcast and format in the next days

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Saje Natural Wellness Opens in St. Vital Mall

Saje Natural Wellness tores
In 2014, Saje Natural Wellness stores opened their first location in Winnipeg at CF Polo Park. The Vancouver-based company opened in 1991 and in recent years has been fast expanding. The newest location just opened this week in St. Vital Mall as of Friday.

Saje offer products covering a wide variety of ailments and/or beauty products.

In an increasingly tough retail market Canadian companies can find opportunities but they have been to be unique and they have to be aggressive and Saje has been both.

By the way, as of last month Polo Park has changed its name to CF Polo Park. The CF stands for Cadillac Fairview.  Expect to see the CF logo more often in the advertising.