Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jews in Manitoba

Asper Jewish Community Campus
The Jewish population in Manitoba is small. It accounts for a little over 1.6% of the overall demographic in the province today and was no higher than 3% in the 1930s. This would be pre-suppose that the Jews of Manitoba were in decline. However, that would ignore the vibrancy and resiliency of the community even now. Without doubt Jews have grown up in both Manitoba and particularly in Winnipeg to be an example for what other faith, ethnic groups and peoples wish to achieve for themselves and the place they live.

It is disheartening to hear that the University of Winnipeg radio stations has been sanctioned for anti-Semitic broadcasts back on November 11. The university has responded accordingly and suspensions have been instituted. Quite rightfully some students are wary if not fearful that incidents are increasing. Statistics Canada verifies that this in indeed the case. Manitoba has had fewer of these reports but it is still a worrying trend.

What accounts for the increase? It is possibly because of an overall rise in intolerance. There is an echo chamber of voicing one's view and having it reinforced and then dismissing or blocking any other world view. The insularity and isolation in much of the Internet may be linked to this movement. President Trump himself calls news critical of him "fake news" while news that cheerleads is considered real news.

Here in Canada the online conservative forum Rebel Media stepped afoul on the issue of white supremacy but also had contributors who took shots at Jews. This reached a head this year with departures of numerous conservative commentators who had grown uncomfortable with the extremism.

Racism and intolerance exists in Manitoba. We have a long way to go. But we have also come a long way. For the Jewish people, they have built a real community that is part of the overall once. The Jewish community campus brought education, fitness, history and culture under one roof and shared it with all. It is important to note that doing this posed challenges for the Jews here. They had various political stripes, intellectual pursuits, schools, synagogues and neighbourhoods. As the community nears 150 years in the province, there is strength together but room for disagreement and varied passions within.

The outright ugliness of what is happening outside of Manitoba should not penetrate what many in this province have been trying to achieve in all these years: a prosperous and tolerant society. So what is the real news? The Jews of Manitoba are your neighbbours. And good ones. They are among many other neighbours both old and new that are part of our overall community.

Don't let hatred be a defining feature of what Manitoba is. The problems that exist can be solved with determination rather than extremism. Our strengths come from the fact that we are maturing as a city and province. Attack one of us and you attack us all. The Jewish people in the province should know we have their back.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Metro Winnipeg to Close

In a whirlwind it is over for the free newspaper Metro Winnipeg. This morning it was sold by the Toronto Star along with over 20 other newspapers to Postmedia, owner of the National Post. Immediately, Postmedia announced the shutdown of the majority of those paper including Metro Winnipeg.

Most of the newspapers are in Ontario and around 250 jobs will be lost as a result of the closure. It is uncertain how many jobs are affected in Winnipeg although to be sure there will be a number of full-time jobs gone.

Metro was not a detailed newspaper but it had few local and outside the region stories that made it a quick commuter read. It also ran ads that did not appear in regular papers about local activities

It is uncertain if Metro Winnipeg ever made money and to sure it was a long reach for a Toronto Star publication  reaching into Winnipeg's market. However, since Postmedia owns the Winnipeg Sun, the addition of Metro meant the company would own two newspapers in the same market. Obviously this could not stand.

Postmedia shut down Metro to bolster The Sun. It could not be anymore plain and simple as that.

It remains to be seen if Winnipeg Sun will ultimately be saved by the move. Postmedia has been aggressive in removing staff and it is a wonder how the put the paper out. Truth is that all newspaper companies have been. One wonders in five years if there will be any print media left and if any local content will be produced.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Manitoba Clinic Building Opening Soon

Corner of Notre Dame and Sherbrook
It is hard not to be impressed with the construction of the new Manitoba Clinic at the Health Sciences Centre. For those that travel down Sherbrook or Notre Dame, it looms from a great distance but up close looks more attractive than renderings of what it would look like showed. At 10 floors. it fills up the space occupied by a Shell gas station completely. The basement and first floor house a variety of health related services while the the next three floors provide parking.

The floors from 5 to 10 will house the Manitoba Clinic doctors and specialists offices. The old yellow building built in 1955 was to be demolished for the CancerCare expansion but that appears to be on hold now. The Manitoba Clinic is one of the largest and oldest private health clinics in Canada with a variety of doctors and specialists working of that location. Latest numbers are around 75 physicians.

The Manitoba Clinic started as the MacCharles Surgical Clinic in 1936 and became the Manitoba Clinic in 1946. It moved to the present Health Sciences campus in 1955 and was hugely influential on the development of appointments at the hospital. The Manitoba Clinic along with other clinics in the city represented in many cases family dynasties in the healthcare field.

The entrance to the clinic will face back towards the hospital in part to assist in drop off and pick ups. Still, the building despite the lack of Notre Dame doors has an attractive street presence in part because of the windows and its design.

The views from those windows is a full city view looking east and an airport view looking west. It is nothing short of spectacular.

It is important to note that Manitoba Clinic is private and yet is an important part of the HSC campus which includes the University of Manitoba medical, dental, nursing and other heathcare schools connected to the various hospitals comprising the downtown space.

The old parking lot which raised its fees to cover the costs of the new building kicked off some controversy. However, unlike the other parking lots of the campus, this one is not a hospital lot and paid for by the doctors themselves.

Parking is always going to be an issue of one of the larger hospital campuses in Canada. This will always be the shortcoming of a central location. However, if transit options become more attractive, it could also make for an even busier hub in years to come.

No word on when the grand opening of the Manitoba Clinic will be but expect a big announcement soon with even more details about its history and function.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder

The first thing to know when seeing the movie Wonder starring young breakout Canadian actor Jacob Tremblay is that the source material in a children's book by R. J. Palacio of the same name. The 2012 book itself is inspired by singer Natalie Merchant's song Wonder from 1995 about a child with a congenital disease. The song by the former 10,000 Maniac's lead singer will be featured in the movie.

Keeping all this mind, it is important to know that although the movie co-stars Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, the story is about the child not the adults. They are support players in this story and there is an expectation of the audience that they will regress to when they were kids and follow along on that basis.

There have been other movies about facial disfigurement such as 1980's Elephant Man by David Lynch or 1985's Mask by Peter Bogdanovich. This is the first that covers the years of a child who despite modern medicine and multiple surgeries will still go through life wanting to cover his face so as to not have people see.

Jacob Tremblay (Room) plays Auggie who is about to enter middle school for the first time after being homeschooled by his mother Julia Roberts. At 10 years old, he has undergone quite a lot of surgery with his face being noticeable still for disfigurement. In public, he has taken to wearing a space helmet so as to cover himself and to stay in fantasy somewhat as a Star Wars loving kid.

Wonder is written and directed by Stephen Chbosky (Beauty and the Beast 2017) is a novelist himself, and he shares writing credit for the movie with Jack Thorne and Steve Conrad. An adaptation can be hard by Chbosky was chosen for his ability to capture a story so that it can be presented on screen. To that end he does the job well.

As Auggie arrives at school, he finds understanding staff in the form of teachers and principal but it is the kids that he has to find his way with. To that end, there is a bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar) and a would be friend Jack (Noah Jupe). The story of how Auggie overcomes the challenges in likely to bring a few hankies out of the audience.

There are other moments that offer some poignancy. Auggie's sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) has always had to step aside as her brother's 27 surgeries since birth have been an emotional focus of the family. However, she is about to enter high school and is heartbroken about a rift with her friend and trying to find her own way to shine. She does this by discovering a love for theatre and as a result re-claims her friendship with her friend and finds a love interest in a boy for the first time.

Julia Robert and Owen Wilson playing parents have truly supporting roles. However, they help form an understanding of the family that has survived on hard work and love. Still, the movie is not about them. Title cards separate the story into sections that are the point of view of Auggie, Via, Jack and Miranda. It is about the kids.

Wonder is at its best when exploring not just Auggie's worldview but his sister's and their friends. The message of kindness radiates through without it seeming to be insincere. This movie is a family movie and may be just the right tonic for superhero and animated movies because of the dose of reality it brings. By the way, has guest appearances by Chewbacca from Star Wars so be sure to look for them.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mr. Mike's SteakhouseCasual Coming to Winnipeg

Many keep asking what the development around Kenaston and McGillivary is as they drive by. The answer is at least two restaurants, one with a drive-thru. No word yet on the drive-thru but the stand alone restaurant is Mr. Mike's SteakhouseCasual. They are shooting for an April opening but might sneak open a bit earlier.

The Burnaby, B.C.-based chain has been expanding rapidly in western Canada and has already opened up two locations in Manitoba in Winkler and Dauphin. The location in Winnipeg will be 5,200 square feet.

The restaurant started in Vancouver in 1960 and had gone through a few changes but it aims to occupy the market that is less expensive than what The Keg owns. They also serve burgers, pastas and salads but alas, no salad bar anymore.

The Linden Ridge Shopping Centre also has Lowe's Home Improvement store opening soon. It has taken a long time to get the mall nearly fully leased. It would seem that some time in 2018, the last areas will be completed for development since the land became available in the 1990s.

Mr. Mike's fills a void in the price friendly restaurant market and should do well in Winnipeg.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Big Business Pot Stores in Manitoba

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries is a major corporation in Manitoba albeit a Crown Corporation. The government of Manitoba knows that the federal government has set a deadline for legalizing marijuana and they know they can't drag their feet forever. The Pallister Conservatives are caught in a quandary. They morally don't want to legalize but can't remain with a ban if the country won't prosecute usage. They didn't want to simply let Liquor and Lotteries take over the whole thing, another moral quandary, because it would against their business principles. Instead, we get this hybrid system where the Crown has the monopoly on distribution and instead ships out to big private stores.

The government doesn't really want to work with mom and pop businesses. The initial roll out for all this is for big corporations like Loblaw's, London Drugs, Shopper's and others to get the first crack at the licenses. Municipalities get to decide if they even want a store in their area. Presuming there are licenses left over then maybe a mom and pop store can apply. However, it is possible that one or a few companies could simply get licenses all over the province and then the government says that it is enough. Only problem is if the companies that gets the bulk of the stores aren't even based here then profits on sales are funneled out of province.

The minister in charge seems overwhelmed with his portfolio and wasn't even aware this was a problem. He was dismissive of one store wanting to be able to retail in Brandon saying it doesn't cover Manitoba. Why would a small business worry about the whole province when it wished to serve its local community?

To put this in perspective, it is like when they video rental business got started. Mom and pop stores abounded. They were in charge of sourcing their own material and setting up their own retail business. The movie industry was regulated via the censor and classification board of Manitoba but business was allowed to buy from who they wanted and sell where they wanted.

Now pot is different in that local communities can say no to a store plus zoning will keep them away from schools and only adults can enter them. However, after that, why does distribution have to be done by the Crown? Can't the province regulate distribution as well as retailing? Why own any part of it? The system in place now is like if the province was responsible for all the videos coming into the province and distributed them and they only let Blockbuster sell them. What? How is this good for small business?

 I sympathize with small business people on this one. They have been at the forefront of moving this along and now big corporation are moving in and saying only they can do this.

The NDP is not much help in this. Their solution is distribution and retail should all be government and union controlled. No business at all, please. Were they in government they'd probably nationalize and unionize production as well.

The Conservative complain even today that federal Liberals are anti-small business. Well, the feds left the pot in their corner and what do they do? They went big corporation and big government on it.

To do this right, the government should simply allow wholesalers and retailers know they will be regulated, taxed and expected to obey provincial and municipal laws on age, zoning, security and separation of a store from food, liquor and cigarette retailing. There should be no restriction on number of licenses. Let the retailers sort it out.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Encore+ Canadian YouTube Channel 2017

It really hasn't gotten the big splash it deserves but this week Encore+ has begun as a YouTube channel devoted to Canadian content. It is digitally re-mastered TV and film production covering kids, drama, comedy and documentaries produced by and for the Canadian market.

Some of these programs are still seen on cable in Canada, some on pay services such as Netflix or CraveTV. This will be the first time they are for free and in support of the people who created these programs. The channel is a creation of the Canadian Media Fund and supported by Google Canada, Bell Media, Telefilm Canada, Deluxe Canada and Broadband TV (BBTV).

This is an experiment to see if catalogue material from the vaults of Canada can find new audiences or bring back old audiences and be monetized to benefit the creators of the material.

In the next few years, it will harder to find free or less expensive material to view as Netflix, Disney and others create their own paywall media and increase the price to see it. YouTube itself is increasing how it monetizes itself and original material can make contributors rich with advertising and sponsorship.

There is a hunger out there for quality material from years past. In fact, the hunger is so great that people will seek it out even if it is of low video and sound quality just because it isn't available except on unauthorized downloads or streaming.

Free high quality material that is binge worthy and might even be family approved that actually might help pay the creators should and ought to be a no brainer.

Ultimately, people will make their choice on what is uploaded and so far there is 300 videos up covering various TV shows and movies.

Here is what is up so far.


Due South
Mr. Dressup
Da Vinci's Inquest
The Littlest Hobo
Are You Afraid of the Dark
Little Mosque on the Prairie

There is also French material as well going up such as Degrassi Junior High in French and Due South in French.

Many TV movies and films are also going up.

Safe to say this changes many things for Canadian catalogue content. There is no telling how much library material could be up for free on YouTube as a result of this. So little media splash for it as well. I suspect most people will discover the channel purely by accident.

Best Canadian entertainment story for a long time. Everyone should push for their favourite old show to be uploaded here in re-mastered format.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Joy Coffee Bar Coming to Charleswood

3311 Roblin Boulevard on the north side of the street has had a few different businesses in it from imported foods to book store. Now it is getting a coffee shop. Joy Coffee Bar is set to open soon. The business has been running as a mobile service but now will have a bricks and mortar location.

A Starbucks is just down the street as well as a few restaurants on the south side but in recent years there has been nothing on the north side of the old Charleswood downtown.

There isn't a lot of foot traffic in Charleswood in that people roam the streets shopping. Most retailers and businesses are destination businesses in that people drive to them for the purpose of patronizing them.

There has been a revival of coffee house culture in Winnipeg as bar scenes have dried up. For people who just want to meet up and enjoy the company of others without alcohol, there were restaurants but not so many coffee places.

It remains to be seen if the mobile business will continue but the coffee bar itself looks to open soon. It is probably too late to get a tiny patio up but that might be fun in the new year too.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Movie Reviews: Bad Moms Christmas

The first Bad Mom's movie in 2016 was a silly romp of outrageous humour and vulgarity. It was also a huge hit thereby opening the door for a sequel. The film has Mila Kunis, Kristin Bell, Kathryn Hahn as Amy, Kiki and Carla hosting their moms at Christmas. The moms played by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon drive the girls to distraction as they once again try to achieve the impossible of being supermoms over the holiday season.

The underlying sweetness of Bad Moms and the over the top belly laughs of antics mixed in with a little bit of wish fulfillment and romance is what drives the story. Scott Moore and Jon Lucas (The Hangover) return as co-writers and directors of the film.

Despite average reviews for the original movie and a third place finish for the opening weekend, Bad Moms built in the days after toe become a box office hit and a fan favourite. Somehow the movie struck a tone for women feeling stressed, alone and under pressure trying to fulfill roles in their busy lives. The idea of friendship and a key group of people being in it with you at the same time was a winning formula. The excesses, profanity and general silliness was beloved because it encompassed a longing in the audience for a closeness where you can drop the veil with your buddies and be yourself.

Christmas and one's own mom visiting is definitely ripe material for comedy. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathrn Hahn continue to have very good chemistry and their antics elicited raucous laughter in the theatre. The humour of Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon is more one note with Baranski having the best role of the three. Some sections of the movie fall flat such as the carrolling scene until it gets a lift from a cameo by Christina Applegate reprising her role from the last movie.

The danger some Hollywood movie do is repeat the same joke in a recurring theme. For example, the ongoing joke that Christine Baranski's character mistakes Jess (Jay Hernandez) as the help. The joke works best when there is a twist on it. For example, Kathryn Hahn's ongoing joke about waxing women's nether parts gets a twist when a male stripper Ty (Justin Hartley) comes in to the salon for a wax. This is when the movie is at its most outrageous funny and at the same time sweetest.

It is hard to compete with the winning formula of the first Bad Moms but it will probably be a welcome laugh for the audience to revisit favourite characters again in a holiday movie. Without a doubt, expect to see a third outing from the Bad Moms.