Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Chilli Chutney Brings Street East Indian Kitchen to Kenaston

Twice now Swiss Chalet, one of Canada's major chains, has come to Winnipeg to great fanfare and twice it has died. The closure on Kenaston and on Corydon was a quiet quitting. Perhaps it was the pandemic that did in Swiss Chalet this time or maybe the changing tastes of those in the city.

All of the Kelsey's closed in the city as well. It is and has been a tough business being a restaurateur. For Swiss Chalet though, it seems when the going gets tough, they pull out of Winnipeg. Could it be third time lucky some day? Who knows.

One thing is certain is that prime spaces have opened up and big chains are not all jumping in for their chance to claim those spots. And so it is with Swiss Chalet.
They have left a place with a relatively new kitchen and the former imprint of their name on the wall.

What has come to replace it is far different than just another chicken restaurant. Chilli Chutney will be the new place in front of big Walmart. They arrive in Winnipeg via Brandon where a location has existed there since 2005. The present owner has owned it since 2011. It is another example of Brandon-based restauranteurs opening locations in Winnipeg.

It also shows a move to more diverse food choices which have sometimes been slow to hit the suburbs. More often the best of the world is found in more central parts of the city. However, a lot of new immigrants are in the suburbs and so Ontario-based chains may not have as great appeal.
Restaurants like Chilli Chutney though will find success through a wide audience who are new to East Indian street food. And like Chinese food restaurants spread across North America over the last century, they become unique in many ways from the source country. Just like Italian food in Canada is much different than what you might get in Italy itself.

The corporate franchise system can be relentlessly the same. This can be a boon for places like McDonald's or Subway which try to be consistent on product taste, look and price. Travelling to any city in any country should be instantly familiar. And the abundance of these restaurants means you don't have to travel far to get that comfort food from that comfort place. In many cases, a community can say they have arrived when they get their first McDonald's. Likewise, people seem to want to have Tim's on both sides of the road and often a block away from each other.

Winnipeg has been lucky over the years to have such a wide variety of local restaurants and it has been the most frequent way for new immigrant families to start a business in Canada. Travelling to the U.S. usually gives you an idea of how spoiled we are in Manitoba by the variety of restaurant offerings. The relentlessness homogenous nature down in the U.S. means you have to look beyond suburbia most times to find neighbourhood treasures.
In this case, a unique offering has come to suburbia. The shopping around south Kenaston has had to pivot post pandemic. As a number of stores have closed or moved to other areas, a long line up national replacement stores is not in the cards. And so it goes with restaurants too. Across the road from Chilli Chutney is a Sobeys and a Costco and in the same parking lot is a large Walmart.
Traffic is not really a problem with three grocery stores, two home improvement store and a Canadian Tire in the area. But that wasn't enough for a Swiss Chalet to survive. It will be interesting to see a Manitoba-grown restaurant take on this spot and introduce a new concept. 

Sunday, May 28, 2023

May Long Weekends

The Victoria Day weekend in Canada and the Memorial Day weekend in the United have followed one another almost the entire history of our two countries. Above is Fargo from a recent visit.

There is meaning behind both day although a lot of it seems lost in the rush to get to campground or beach.

Given geography, it might have been better for each country to exchange the week. Canada’s May 24 is often three different weather events over three days from snow, rain to sun. A week later might at least drop the snow part.

As for the U.S., they seem to have a lot of severe late May weather. Still, the general feeling is that the weekends are the kick off of summer as school age kids have that last weekend before most end school in the weeks ahead.

Travel is usually required. And barbecue and family often a must. As my dad was a teacher, the Victoria Day weekend was a getaway to either Grand Forks or Fargo. We didn’t get as far as Minneapolis except when travelling in the longer summer break.

Others in Manitoba took the time to officially open the cottage if it hadn’t been open already. As mentioned the weeks leading up to the May Long could be fabulous or terrible. A cottage weekend on Victoria could be three days of cold rain playing cribbage, trivial pursuit or puzzles. High speed, cable and satellite are more recent cottage attractions. Still, not every cottage is so equipped.

In Winnipeg, those remaining in the city made a sci-fi weekend a main attraction. And it should be pointed out that not everyone travels. For university and college students, it is a busy work weekend.

However, for our family, it was a chance to be in a pool, shop at stores not yet arrived in Canada and watch more TV channels and programs than we thought possible.

For Canadians, the Memorial weekend in the States meant the kick off the Hollywood blockbuster from the mid 1970s on. This weekend, of course, is Disney with a live version of The Little Mermaid.

But it also means seeing channels with Memorial Day programming. This means movies about war, many WWII movies. The second war is as important to Canada as it is to the States and Hollywood made a few films with Canadian angles. However, we did not have the industry then that we do today. Nor do we do nearly enough Canadian stories for the big screen. Blackberry this past month in the first in a long while that we have seen.

Still, the two weekends represent family, friendship and a chance to do something we don’t do nearly enough, get together and share something in common.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

The Portage Place Proposal

The ideas presented by True North and Architecture49 for Portage Place in this series of pictures is a far better proposal than we have seen from developers thus far. The cost is estimated to be about $500 million and there will be a taxpayer component for some aspects of it. A 15 storey health tower will be built on the western pad. The foodcourt will give way to a first floor of elevator banks and possibly a walk-in clinic and primary care clinics with extended hours. The second floor will remain a main corridor in the skywalk system to connect the arena, the former Bay Building as well as Investors Group.

It is noteworthy that the Pan Am Clinic is involved. Prior to the pandemic they had made arrangements to build a facility on the old mini-golf course adjacent to to the Reh Fit Centre. A bit of a coming home for them as they started way back decades ago in the building. Alas, as soon as it was announced, a panic ensued as the underpass at Waverley which had been cancelled since 1984 Mulroney was finally approved. The Pan Am was cancelled. And thereafter, their onsite physio had to move for lack of space at the clinic. They have been over capacity ever since.

To say the Pan Am Clinic has been waiting patiently ever since is an understatement. The parking lot behind the Pan Am Pool is filled daily with those attending appointments or being told walk-ins are filled by the first hour. A 15 storey Pan Am tower for an Advanced Musculoskeletal Medicine sounds like the they type of  innovative centre that downtown used to be known for. The Boyd Building, Medical Arts Building and the Winnipeg Clinic were where people went for the specialist appointments. Most are closed or downsized from their one prominent position in the city.

Some new suburban offices have opened for doctors but the Pan Am Clinic is in need of space for diagnostic equipment, surgical suites and space for a growing demand in treatment of pain and therapeutic and surgical treatment. It is a long time coming. There appears to be a pick up and loading area for the clinic but better pictures are needed to see if it is adequate. Edmonton itself appears to be a through street although it isn't entirely clear if it is only for pedestrians or one where vehicles can use even in a limited way.
The first floor that has today's present food court appears to be all clinic space. The above floors will have 50,000 square feet of ambulatory and orthopedic surgery space. A concussion clinic is set to operate on on site and a 26,000 square foot dialysis space will be set up. The latter has been desperately needed. Altogether, this is 220,000 square feet of health space and a $300 million investment. 

The above alone would be a huge deal. It is worth pointing out that many cities across North America have hospitals in their downtown areas. Health Sciences Centre is not downtown. Nor is St. Boniface Hospital. Look at Toronto or Saskatoon to see hospital districts. They are 24 hour drivers of social, health and economic opportunity. I sometimes wonder if Health Sciences Centre blocks away from downtown would have been better closer in. As it stands now, we'll never know. For St. Boniface, it is close by but better for the core district surrounding the commercial neighbourhood of the French Quarter rather than downtown.

The Access Clinic on Main Street with its parkade was a multi-million investment in health north of City Hall. However, street friendly, it isn't. It is closed at 4:30 PM every day and closed weekends. Heroic work might be done inside but it is unlikely a single business, restaurant or residential building benefits in ways that St. Boniface Hospital benefits its district or Health Sciences does for its area (although in recent years that part of the city has gone through difficulties).

It is without doubt that a downtown Pan Am Clinic along with primary care and dialysis treatment will be utilized and see many people use the facility. And with 1000 car parking space below, parking should not be considered an issue. However, the foodcourt and some retail, services and the old theatres will make way for this development. Public input is ongoing. It is uncertain what the reaction will be to the loss of the foodcourt as it presently stands will be. Many in the community are attached to it as a place to sit and gather. Some indigenous groups had wanted the mall turned over to them as a community spot. Still, this has to be weighed against the advantage of primary care, addictions care and dialysis in one spot. All of these things are also needed by the downtown community and by indigenous people.

A pocket park along the Edmonton throughway should open up north and south access which could see and increase of people being present. While people could enter and exit via the mall, the north entrance had been the source of security concerns in recent years. With a large health facility present, thousands of people per day from all over the city will be going back and forth. Such is the reputation of the Pan Am Clinic that you if you are in pain, suffering a concussion, you don't care where it is, you care that it is.
As stated, if the only news on Portage Place was this, it would be astounding good news. However, there's more. The western portion of the mall looks to continue hosting long time resident Prairie Theatre Exchange. Manitoba Chamber Orchestra also calls the third floor home. The Expo Live! part which is owned by by True North looks to be making way for a 14,000 square foot grocery to yet be named.

There is no doubt this is good news. Despite what anyone thinks, there are quite a few residential units that have gone up in recent years on north Portage via the University of Winnipeg. There is a lot of housing behind Portage Place and Central Park. And more housing coming atop Portage Place itself and in the Southern Chiefs owned Bay building. 

Some naysayers will talk about grocery stores attracting theft. That happens whether it is in St. Vital, St. James or parts in between. Much like how the liquor stores had to add a layer of security. it could come to that for grocery, pharmacies and the like. I have seen more security guards posted at banks recently all the way out in St. James. Many grocers are going to a single entrance and some sort of gate to cross through. Many have security and police posted. This may be the new normal till we deal with drugs, cost of housing and homelessness.

Regardless, a grocery store is excellent news and the customer base is already in place with so many apartments either connected to the skywalk or walking distance. A 16 storey apartment above the grocery is exactly the type of synergy you need in a mixed development. The other parts of the west side of Portage Place is probably where we will have some discussions. A Service Canada office is in place and should remain a part of the building. What else goes inside should probably be determined by the needs of the people living and working in the area. A Shopper's Drug Mart is there now and still seems a good match. As are many of the cellphone companies operating inside. A new food court seems unlikely a few coffee shops and quick service restaurants seem very likely.
It is unclear what sort of residential units will be going up on the west pad. There was mention of student housing and there is no doubt that downtown has multiple schools that can use it including the University of Winnipeg, Red River Polytech and a host of private colleges. One thing that can be said about schools is that they are great drivers of economic activity. And many choose to be downtown because it makes sense logistically for them to do so.

The University of Winnipeg by the very early 1980s had taken over both it men and women's residences for offices. There was no capital budget, student populations were going up and the feeling was that there was enough apartments and rooms for let near the university. Or that many students lived at home and commuted.  Some of that is true. But a lot of it wasn't. There was inadequate housing for decades and the U of W was suffering for it.

It bears repeating that in 2019, Winnipeg and by extension Manitoba, was doing pretty well. The previous year play-off run by the Winnipeg Jets had brought tens of thousands downtown. Many businesses were in expansion mode, festivals downtown and theatres were running at capacity. By 2020 that all changed with the pandemic. Many small businesses were lost and closed down and others have not recovered due to the continued change in work patterns.

The addition of a medical component and a residential component to Portage Place will make the building busier, less a magnet for trouble, more open with public space and not a three block wall on one of the busiest streets in Winnipeg. The proposal thus far along with upcoming public consultations is the best we have seen. It gives a strong reason to go downtown. If someone needs medical treatment, it is better if it is an all and one place with diagnosis, treatment and doctor and specialist visits. With any luck, we will see a deal complete and work beginning soon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Office/Warehouse Conversions to Apartments/Condos

Photo above supplied by Alston Properties.

Warehouses are not the only buildings being converted to residential units in Winnipeg and around North America. Office buildings are being converted or adapted to apartments and condos right in the city. This is a good thing but its only now gaining steam, Just as it took the Exchange District many decades to see warehouses adapted, it is a slow process to get offices converted. The Ashdown Warehouse and Prairie Housing Co-Op in the 1980s were but the first although many arts studios in the area have always doubled for apartments even if not lawfully zoned that way.

It is difficult to create connectivity between living units spread out as such. They grow organically with some economic supports. They trigger further developments such as Waterfront Drive which is probably Winnipeg's most successful new downtown housing development now into it's second stage. Just prior to the pandemic, the entire downtown was starting to show the vitality that gave people real optimism about where things were going. In 2023, it has been a slow process recovering. A lot of projects have taken a few years to build and are just leasing or selling now.

Above, the former United Growers Grain HQ which once housed 450 head office worker was converted over to a residential/office mix. The 433 Main Street location is a classic example of newer offices being adapted over rather sitting with a swath of unleased space. Office space is still used for the Passport Office but everything above the offices is now apartments.  The company that did the Main Street conversion Alston is also converting over part of the offices at 175/185 Carlton. The picture up top is that building which has been part of the Lakeview Square office complex. Sometime this year 72 residential units will be built.
Lakeview by the Convention Centre was one of the first mixed use facilities in Winnipeg and one wonders why it was not replicated more often after it was built in 1974. Even today, it has two residential towers, five office buildings and Winnipeg's largest hotel all connected via skywalk to the convention centre. Two of the low-rise officers that are adjoined are being converted to residential units. They should be right at home with the two other residential towers there. No changes are likely for the restaurants that have been there there for decades such as the Ichi-Ban.

But as you can see from the pictures above, we have a lot of surface parking lots, many owned by the province. They literally had to be shamed into giving some up for the expansion of the convention centre. There really wasn't a loss of parking there since they went to a parkade below. It is hard to build more mixed use buildings with parking underneath when hoarding of surface space is so rampant. However, the post-pandemic trend of work from home may make holding these spaces less lucrative.
The above is the Keeewwayden block that was almost lost to fire in 2019. It had been left abandoned when finances fell through for a hotel. Squatters had been seen entering the building and fires inside could have been attempts to stay warm or outright arson. The rise in fires has devastated even operating businesses. Largely, we don't hear much about the investigations after. However, the devastation left is hard to ignore. In this case, it was heavily damaged with an elevator shaft collapsed and visible fire damage outside.

The Keewayden which had been a combination of warehouse and offices will now be a mix of new and old as a $36 million, nine storey, 158 unit apart block. Two storeys will be added and a new section attached with those 55 units having balconies. An experienced Winnipeg company is at the helm that sticks to their knitting even during the pandemic. Steady wins the race in conversions. They aren't fast but they have a profound effect on a neighbourhood. If a place clears out at 5 PM and there isn't a soil around, it has a poor street presence and it can be a security threat. Below are supplied renderings of what the Keewayden will look like.
It simply isn't true that people don't want to live or work downtown although the pandemic has changed how people work. Many work from home even now. But does that mean in the suburbs? It could. But it could also mean in a condo or an apartment downtown. If safety is a concern, keep in mind that a machete attack took place at Polo Park inside the mall. We've talked about crime here before about addictions, mental illness and trafficking have led to issues of security. Housing of all kinds is needed. As bad as the 1970s were violence, we didn't see a few thousand people living outdoors in Winnipeg.

To be sure the population after many years of decline downtown is slowly rising due to a slow but steady pace of adaptive use building.  But even around places like Keewayden are massive amounts of surface parking lots, many empty in evenings and weekends. It will take a steady hand to fill in the space as we have seen in places like Toronto where a surface lot is far less lucrative than doing something with it. Some developers in recent statements have said it is often takes four years of planning and four years of construction. And likely two years of leasing before fully occupied. In that period the market can go up down and back up again. 

Sadly, a few projects have come to a halt for financing reasons even as they are half built. Such is the case with the apartment at St. Mary and Donald. It was to feature a 10,000 square foot Keg on the first floor but after 40% completion, it is stalled. The apartment itself was to be about 19 floors. Developers picture of what the tower was to look below.
The project might be saved with new investors but we have seen projects like One Wellington Crescent stall after initial work was done and stay that way for decades. Some projects on Assiniboine were stalled for years from bureaucracy and sometimes financing. No one wants shoddy work to go up or work that work that displaces other communities already living there. However, sometimes the criticism might be: no buildings over two stories, no multi-family housing, leave as a parking lot or make a park.
Seven new towers are the centerpiece of the True North Square. A new hotel will be added to the mix as well. 

The older offices that companies are relocating from older buildings to True North could be candidates for conversions. This isn't as new as people think. All along roads like Portage Avenue are offices that were once government, banks or social services buildings. As their needs change, they move elsewhere and their old offices are taken over by small businesses, accountants, union offices, law firms and so on. 

The only difference now is that instead of offices, we are seeing housing being put up. Or at least a mixed use building. The real growth remains housing of all kinds. With at least five years of increased immigration, Winnipeg and the province in general need thousands of units of housing on an already short supply. The 400 units at 300 Main Street coming on stream July 1 are exactly what you might expect from a mixed development. The timeline to complete this was six years. Or if you want to be blunt, the base pad for development had been there since 1979 and it took decades for anyone to build on it.

The pandemic has slowed supply chains but even before that time, the process of zoning, rejection, revision and a go or no go timeline could take years. The city and province have been so used to slow growth and have built out suburbs instead of looking at aging neighhbourhoods. As the population has aged, they have had less less need of large detached houses. But there are often no multi-unit buildings anywhere in the area they used to live. People living in River Heights looking for something for senior living usually have to move out of there area. My parents did.

There are only so many developers out there that are good at restorations and reclamations. Many stick to new builds and newly serviced land. The ones that do the older work take their time and do it well. In their wake over the last decades, their work has created neighbourhoods. And the thing about neighbourhoods is that they take a while to show their character. In other words, a new subdivision might not show what it is made of till you see schools, community centres, local coffee places emerge.

The city and the province need to expedite housing conversions because in the post pandemic era, we may only see a two thirds restoration of people returning to the office. Imagine if the empty office spots were housing?

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Portage and Main Redesign

No matter what anyone thought who voted in the plebiscite, Portage and Main was always going to come back to city hall. The Concourse is leaking and will become the biggest pothole in North America. The advocates of don't let people cross because the Concourse is sufficient can't very well use that argument given the vapour barrier can only be replaced by removing the road atop it. I'm not sure that happens without closing part of the road and part of the Concourse for lengthy periods. The pictures here are supplied by the city for discussion.

This week some proposals for second floor pathways were proposed. No budget listed for them. No idea what the costs to fix the road. The concrete barriers themselves are built into the superstructure so they have to be demolished too. A good deal of the reason for not opening Portage and Main was because many people thought it would cost money as well as delay traffic. The saving money is out of the question now. As for delaying traffic, the repairs will do that for a few years.
Even if you believe Portage and Main should be closed, I think we can all agree that the walls that divide the sidewalks from the streets are ugly. It is hard to believe that this Soviet design continues to exist and painting rainbow colours does not make it less a Berlin Wall. Can you imagine this design at any other corner? It isn't safe to approach the entry ways to the Concourse. They are blindspots from the road and if you are unlucky, they are closed when you go to them. If you are really unlucky, someone is there is commit a crime against you knowing you have no escape and no one to see you assaulted. 

In some of the pictures they show the use of bollards and railings. Can you imagine how the intersection would look if it was designed with bollards and rails as seen below.
The above is safe in that vehicles cannot pass by bollards as they are anchored to the ground. The railings prevent children and most leashed animals from entering the street. It is high enough to discourage most people from climbing over to enter the street. Traffic planners might prefer higher and thicker walls but then they are in office to keep traffic speeding through and not protecting citizens behind that walls that no one sees scared to walk in peace on the sidewalk. Visibility from the street is an important safety feature.

The debate online has been ferocious and polarized. In some cases people have argued that people should not cross under, through or over as the entire area as it is a crime zone. The only safe place is in your car at high speed running to Saskatoon. I wish that was an exaggeration but often you hear people talk about how they don't go downtown anymore. Mind you, the same people sometimes are strongest for keeping the corner closed.

On the opposite side are those who want Portage and Main opened and lanes on both streets dedicated to bikes. Scramble crossings have been suggested like Shibuya. Thoughts are speeds should be reduced and cars redirected elsewhere. These are the people arguing for dedicated, protected bikes lanes on every street in Winnipeg and reduced speeds as a city-wide mandate.

Now, these two sides have dominated the debate. It doesn't help the many businesses and offices who work in the area including some of Manitoba's biggest need solutions. Presently, they have a leaking underground Concourse that is not open 24 hours anymore. So if someone attends a Jets game and stays at the Fairmont Hotel, they cannot either get to the game/concert or come back from the said events when entryways are closed. If they cross at a light, they have to make a fair detour. The promise that was made when people were diverted to the Concourse is that access would always be there. It isn't.

Many city councillors are likely squirming over the whole issue. They should be. Asset management has been so poor for decades. How they let city owned parkades collapse to dust and city buildings get mismanaged such as Public Safety Building and new police headquarters is enough to shake any faith they can fix this problem. The desperation of many councillors to get billion dollar suburban road projects through with little indication where the money is coming from is downright scary.

Still, the engineers report is indicating they could be in for a big problem if they don't address the issue. The whole of Portage and Main could be affected. Still, you feel they are irritated they have to deal with it and are not prepared to put themselves out on any policy. Lawsuits will abound if the Concourse has to close with no solution of any kind is in site.
A consultation phase is supposed to happen. Some councillors are calling for a plebiscite. Some are wary knowing that plebiscites could easily be asked for on their own projects. Imagine voting on Peguis Trail or Kenaston. Councillors and mayor would hate that. Why elect officials at all if we can have a clicker at home we can press yes or no? You think the British are happy they voted on exiting Europe? Do you think Canada will be happy with another vote on separation? It is an abrogation of responsibility in being elected. People are voting on decision-making borne of policy on persona. It is about acting and not reacting. Duff Roblin did not seek to have a vote on the Red River Floodway. He was voted in to govern, set a policy and it is one we have benefitted in for decades.

There is no substitute for solid policy initiatives backed by data. Some time ago, the sum of $20 million for membrane replacement was tossed around but that seems painfully low. No engineering and design specs were shown. Even a layman can see the walls are crumbling and the road built forty-five years ago in 1978 needs tending to. By the time that actually happens could be as the road nears fifty years old. No mere asphalt is likely to suffice.
Millions have been spent in the last few years by owner bordering Portage and Main. The Richardson have done major work on the street presence, 201 Portage has done work above and below with addition of BMO and 529 still being worked on. And the 42 storey apartment block is complete and starting to lease spaces. Let's not forget Goodlife, Earls and OEM breakfast place. Friskee's has opened in the old Earls. There is a lot riding on making sure the Concourse doesn't reach the point where it is too dangerous to pass through. And no telling what the legal liability is if it isn't. Or what might happen to the road above if there is trouble below.

So whatever people think of the downtown, if the concern is to keep this as major travel route, it is incumbent on the making sure this is dealt with and not to neglect make it as a crisis as we have seen all too often in Winnipeg.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Charles Adler Returns to Winnipeg as Free Press Columnist

This past week Charles Adler returned to Winnipeg media as a columnist twice weekly. At nearly 70, he could rightly have retired after having worked in broadcasting all across Canada and the U.S. It is very likely he could have retired and lived in several places too. In his opening column, he states as much. But he has said that he found friends and contacts in this city that he found no where else and that hastened his return.

His longest turn was 17 years in the key morning slot on CJOB where he ruled the ratings. In 2015 though the station lost overall first to CBC and laid off people. It seemed a good time to go himself. The Jets 1.0 had left in 1996 and without a major league sport (aside from Bombers and Moose), they focused on their strength in the mornings and Adler came in to replace the legendary Peter Warren. 

Warren had been in the job from 1971 to 1998 as an investigative reporter and broke stories his entire career, It was a hard act to follow even for an Emmy awarded broadcaster. But the ratings held for mornings even without the Jets back till 2011. But chaos in the radio world has been going on for decades. It is possible to make money in it but media empires routinely try to brand everything to squeeze out even higher margins. Eventually, people leave that mediocrity. And it leads to a shuffling of the decks. Winnipeg radio stations often see whole teams swapped and a format change to something called Bill or Sue that is being done in every other city. TV networks in Canada brand everything Global or CTV and try to erase any sense of location. CBC itself is repetitive in a one hour broadcast whether it is local news or national news.

That is not to say there are not great reporters or great reporting happening. There are and there is. There are quite a few who come and go. Oftentimes I wonder about the sausage making of who gets hired, retired or moves on. We don't have much in the way of media analysis here at a granular level. The Free Press publisher does do some informational posts regularly but mostly on data collected by the paper. Sometimes about personal things or upcoming stories.

In choosing Adler, it appears there are three regular male political columnists. There are two guest political contributors, one male and one female, who appear less frequently.  There are two indigenous columnists, one male and one female, who often write on politics but not always. There is a sports columnist. There is one female general columnist. 

There are special sections columnists, freelance ones and syndicated ones as well. The biographies give a general idea of what areas reporters and columnists write about. What would be clearer might be a publisher to explain how the newspaper works and why. Or editors explaining. A general wayfaring would be great. And I don't mean this to be critical. I mean this as a guide as important as an index listing. The reason I ask is because I'm not sure the mandate of the main columnists? Is it city hall, the province, the Feds? Do they have free reign?

I remember when I first heard Charles Adler in 1983 when he was at CKY Radio. The station actually had a news desk back then and he was news director. All of them covered sports and Jets were starting to be part of the daily conversation. But news was also covered by radio, TV and print journalists. It was possible to get a range of coverage from a variety of sources in a variety of mediums. It was the time of no Internet or Smart Phones. Adler was there a while but it was a time when people moved every few years. Eventually, Adler too was off to one of several locations until the pinnacle of radio jobs became available in 1998.

Peter Warren's decision to end his career at CJOB probably generated applications for the job from all over Canada. Spending 35 years at a job as highly rated and as compelling was rare even for the time. A lot of elections federally and provincially were probably won and lost in Winnipeg ridings because of his leader interviews. Who wouldn't want that type of stage or platform? So many great journalist and anchors have gotten a Manitoba start or have been part of the local excellence for years. 

It was no wonder Charles Adler wanted the job and continued to have it from 1998 to 2015. CJOB burned through so many people in the 2000s. Being part of a corporate empire meant counting every penny to pay for massive debt for every acquisition. Meanwhile, CBC Radio which runs without commercials, largely stuck to its knitting with local and national coverage that reached number 1 overall in Winnipeg. Adler, could have likely continued for more years at CJOB but the layoffs in the station and sister stations but have felt toxic and sickening.

Adler, moved out to B.C. where some family was and continued to do work for Corus broadcasters in western Canada in different capacities until 2021. Geoff Currier took over and worked many years until retirement when Hal Anderson took over. Oddly enough, both radio hosts after Adler ran for city office.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that CJOB that many of the broadcasters at CJOB come from admittedly conservative backgrounds. Adler himself has admitted he was a paid member Conservative until Harper. He has probably been more forthcoming than some who came after him but CJOB has never been a FOX acolyte. It has right of centre hosts for its news shows or hosts who are straight news. Lately, they have been more light information which has seen them win one ratings period against CBC but not the most recent one.

Adler defended the CBC is one of his more recent columns when talking about his dad and his appreciation for the network. He mentioned as well that he would have likely voted for Kevin Chief had he been the leader of the NDP. We know he endorsed Glen Murray last election. We are not likely to see that type of column from Tom Broadbeck or Dan Lett who will write opinion but not endorsement. 

It remains to be seen where Adler takes his column. And it is curious to what the expectations are from Free Press management and editors. To the present Conservatives, it probably doesn't matter. They do not like any kind of media as pointed out by Adler. He noted that Filmon and Doer both regularly spoke to media and they expected their ministers to as well. The present elected officials not so much.

There have been quite a lot of reporting changes at the Free Press. It sometimes pays to have a veteran presence to give context to what ahs happened in previous years. Goods as some reporters are, having institutional knowledge is effective in contrasting present issues.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Pierre Poilevere To End CBC If Elected

By Manning Centre c/o: Jake Wright - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32870907

The leader of the Official Opposition has made it is mission to defund the CBC. For his base supporters, this has been an objective for decades. In actuality, he wants to defund English CBC while keeping Radio-Canada which would require a change to the Broadcast Act. And likely an explanation why Canadian taxpayers should support one over the other.

The defund the CBC platform is right on the Conservative website. But why not Radio-Canada in Quebec? The answer is votes in Quebec. The Conservatives need to find votes there or some way to win a majority. The big question is whether Quebecers will believe that Conservatives would actually stop defunding at English CBC and not continue to gut the whole corporation.

Outside of the Conservative party, it is unclear whether is support for ending CBC. In recent weeks, Poilevere has been trying get Twitter to classify CBC, among others, as government funded. He succeeded in doing so and says this is evidence of the network being a propaganda arm of the Trudeau government. This is an accusation he has made against all forms of media in Canada for twenty years. It is a dubious accusation because he has never able to show marching orders coming from the Liberal government to slant stories. His argument is that it is self evident which requires no proof. This may be adequate for the base but to win an election on this will require a little more substance.

People will want to know what actually happens if the CBC is actually closed. Does it include radio? Does it include northern Canada? Will assets be sold to the private sector? Will Hockey Night in Canada have less of a reach in the country where some places won't be able to get it without difficulty? Will government support also be dropped for other print, radio and TV. Will Canadian content guidelines and ownership rules be eliminated?

One question leads to another and even some who might be allies ideologically with the Conservatives might come to realize implications beyond a victory of seeing the CBC ended. The big companies that own the media, including the Sun and Postmedia, also receive money from the government. Ending the CBC doesn't necessarily help if it ends their supports too. And if their supports remain, the base of the Tory party might ask why. Quite simply, the Conservatives will have to explain why they pick winners and losers for support. Keep in mind the Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg Sun and all the private stations including CJOB receive some sort of government money, protection or support. Does everyone get cut off? And if they do and news rooms shut down around the country, does this serve the nation well?

As for cozying up to Elon Musk and Twitter, it seems seeking legitimacy in someone who receives government money for Tesla as well as SpaceX while devaluing his overpaid asset in Twitter, is shortsighted. I left Twitter some time ago. I'm not sure what the future is there and who knows if anything will survive AI. Even Elon Musk is afraid of AI because the veracity of real human beings on the site is near impossible. A blue check make might not keep AI from flooding a site like Twitter with inhuman conversations.

But back to CBC. it seems to generate the same hatred in the far right that Trudeau does. It is a deep and ferocious anger that is slightly deranged which is ironic because that is what they often accuse the left of in terms political leaders on the right. One wonders what happens if they truly get their wish and end CBC's existence if that will make them happy. Or will they be like the dog chasing bumpers finally catching one and then not knowing what to do with themselves after as in the case of conservatives defeating Roe v Wade in the U.S.

In the case of the U.S, some Republican are wondering now that they have achieved their goal on abortion, how do they win elections after if the feeling is that they are the wrong side of how Americans actually think? For Conservatives in Canada, if they achieve a majority and end the CBC, do they find that the decision produces another majority or makes them a one term government? Do they care? I suppose they should because as demonstrated by south of the border, elections have consequences. And if your record is one of competent governance, fighting culture battles seems a waste of time and energy.

The $1.2 billion in government funds and the $500 million of commercial revenues helps run a coast to coast to coast network. Eliminating English CBC means that Radio-Canada won't have source material to provide nation-wide information in Quebec. Presently, no other network does that. And in the north, will resources still be left if place there for non-English and French programming? Or do they only get information from the south...in non-native languages? 

If Conservatives become the government, actual legislation has to be introduced to indicate what the plan is. Will the network be sold? Will assets be sold? Will the government allow international players to come in buy CBC, other Canadian networks? Will they eliminate Canadian content regulations? Will they eliminate Canadian ownership rules? It is can of worms where the outcome is unknown. Will it end up with U.S. owned media that eliminates all news in Canada and even hockey coverage because there is no mandate to produce content made in Canada?

While it might appear to be controversial bringing attention to this policy of Pierre Poilevere, it is something that he brings up in every speech. Not Ukraine, but this. He wants his policy to be known and in the absence of a defined way a Conservative government achieves this, we can envision almost anything. It is no wonder that Conservative MPS in Quebec don't want to say anything on this. They are literally hiding under their desks as Radio-Canada remains popular in Quebec. Even if this branch of CBC is preserved, questions about what changes to the Broadcast act and budget will invariably have to be discussed. 
It is possible the Conservatives believe they lost the last elections, including the one when Harper was prime minister, because of the CBC and the media. His supporters seems to think so and it isn't likely anyone can convince them otherwise. It is not much different than Republicans believing the election results were altered and instigating an insurrection. This belief that media is for the left flies in the face of print media across Canada endorsing Conservatives pretty much across the board. As for TV, they don't do editorial endorsement and every news show have Conservatives on their panels to explain policy.

Sadly, many government and opposition parties are frequently avoiding media and are more reluctant to share any information or take questions. Case in point is Joe Biden has down fewer news conferences than Ronald Reagan. This is deliberate on his part. Canada's House of Commons makes it more difficult to hide from questions. However, Question Period is a poor format for information and is more about talking points. It is why journalism can be so effective. It is this journalism that Poilevere depended on this week to reveal Prime Minister Trudeau's visit to Jamaica to a billionaire's house.

Poilevere reaching out to Twitter feels childish and angry. Elon Musk is pushing all the buttons there while the adults in business are heading for the doors. There has to be some serious concern with Conservatives being a freaking train wreck firing Bank of Canada Governor, ending the CBC and ending all the carbon taxes in the first 100 days and watching some serious responses. Not all of it will come from Canada. Much of it will come from world markets. 

It isn't entirely clear that Poilevere can pivot from Opposition to Government. His permanent campaign of anger and accusation that nothing is working means his approach might be a bull in china shop. It also doesn't bode well for letting his cabinet operate independently. It could very well be him in the Prime Minister's Office not telling anyone what he is doing akin to Brian Pallister. Except, you can expect it to be more of a disaster than a premier ditching WWII ceremonies to go on a tour of Europe and visit businesses without their staff.

If the Conservatives expect to win the next election, they need to look less unhinged. They really don't appear to be able to show they are competent enough to take over for a government that walks into rakes all too regularly. It doesn't look great that they walk into rakes just as much.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

David's Bridal Goes Bankrupt. May Close all 12 Stores in Canada

For the second time David's Bridal has gone bankrupt in North America and has secured only enough money to fulfill bridal gowns already in the system. The 300 stores including the 12 in Canada are for sale and if a buyer is not found in the next weeks, the company will begin a shutdown by July.

It is unclear why the company with a rebounding wedding market is struggling so badly. It is another example of a U.S. company that might close their Canadian unit with no attempt to find a buyer in Canada. This was how Sears did it in Canada and so many others.

David's Bridal has been in Winnipeg since the early 2000s when Kenaston Common was built as the anchor Costco went up. With a jeweler in the same cluster of businesses, it seemed a can't lose location for a bridal shop.

There has been quite a lot of retail chaos going on. Even online retailers are reducing workforces. Still, it seems that wedding spending has recovered and this shouldn't be happening. This leads back to management. It feel likes management has not managed things well. Still, David's Bridal sells one out of four dresses in the U.S. Imagine the panic about wedding this spring.

There are many independent wedding retailers out there and they have been competing against this giant for some time. They also seem to be able to take the pulse of what is wanted out there. It isn't impossible for this store to recover but it is just as likely they cut all Canada out no matter what happens in the U.S.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

New Hampton Inn By Hilton to Open Fall 2023

The former Charter House and a Best Western Plus since 2002 is under construction and adding two more floors. This picture in 2022 shows the work in progress and opening is scheduled for September 23, 2023. The entire interior was gutted for a completely new configuration. There will be a change in branding too from Best Western to Hampton Inn by Hilton.  This will be a return of Hampton Inn to downtown as the Humphrey Inn used to be a Hampton. An increase from 87 rooms to 134 will make it easy for convention groups in town can stay in one hotel. The former seven conference rooms will be reduced to two. There will continue to be balconies on the west side continuing a tradition of hotels in town. Yes, it's true. 

The old hotel with the Rib Room and Tivoli Cafe was a popular destination  for the business and lawyer crowd for years. The hotel was originally built in 1959 and had additional floor built in 1960 and for a time had 96 rooms. It also had one of the first patios and a swimming pool. Built as a motor hotel, it served the car traveller coming to town for leisure and business. In 1960, Winnipeg's downtown was hopping with business, shopping and entertainment.

Above is the supplied picture of what the new hotel will look like. It is not the only hotel is progress right now. It seems that work by the Sandman has been going on for years. The Windsor, the Pembina and the Cambridge all gone. The Marlborough is for sale. If one had to guess, it would not be too far fetched to think it might be a candidate for conversion to apartments.

While downtown Winnipeg is not the shopping mecca it once was when the original Charter House Hotel went up, the expanded RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre and the Canada Life Centre are quite close by for out of town guests in for a hockey game, concert or a convention. Some who live in the city might question those outside of Winnipeg about the hotels they choose to stay in but consider this: If you are coming in for an Eagles concert from Dryden, you might want to stay downtown to avoid having to find a place to park your car if you had stayed in the airport hotel area. Likewise, if you are attending Ai-kon over three days the RBC, you might want a hotel close by to go back and forth in your anime costume. 

The entertainment district being built piece since the 1975 construction of the convention centre has accelerated in recent years. The new arena downtown was built in 2004 connected the two buildings via skywalk system. The doubling of the convention space by 2015 has triggered a long awaited hotel and condo complex. True North has also added and continues to add office, residential and event space in the former parking lots that had marked the area for decades.

It is easy to see why two floors was being added to a hotel only steps away from the arena and convention centre. The business actually sees quite a future ahead. They are also trying to get work done before Sussex Place Hotel and condos are complete to re-establish their bonifides for the motoring crowd who have stayed there since the 1960s. 

There has been tens years of construction in this area, seven towers, a double sized convention centre and coming out on the other side from the pandemic. Expect to see more business announcement i the surrounding area as Portage Place, The Bay and Portage and Main begin their construction phase.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

George's Burger and Subs Coming to Tuxedo


Tuxedo Village Restaurant has had a few owners over the years. River Heights and Tuxedo suffer from a lack of restaurants. Lots of houses but not a lot of places to hang out, talk with folks and get a meal from breakfast to dinner. The closure of the Sal's where the present Liquor Mart is was particularly effective in removing a place that seniors to students used 24 hours. While I agreed a liquor store was well suited for the mall, Sal's disappeared. The nearest liquor store prior for River Heights and Tuxedo was some blocks away.

A Timothy's and a Starbucks are opposite each other on this stretch of Corydon and of course there is Rumor's which has been around since the very early 1980s. However, a family restaurant is something every neighbourhood needs. It is tasty, covers the whole day for offerings, isn't overly pricey and knows the whole family.  A lot of families drive out of the neighbourhood to find that because it isn't in their area.
Tuxedo Village Restaurant was that place for many years. With the big grocery across the street, recreational facilities next door and the intersection of Tuxedo and Corydon right there, it was and still is the perfect location. Passing from owner to owner, it ought to have been an institution to last decades but alas, it wasn't.

The last owners took over in 2018. Even before the pandemic started something appeared off. Rumours of employee and owner friction abounded. Some of these comments found their way to social media just as when Stella's went through its dark period. It isn't easy to run a restaurant at the best of times but how workers are treated eventually gets out. The pandemic brought a new response from owners when they made it clear they were going to ignore restrictions. However, commentary on Jews, blacks and indigenous also crept up in media as well as social media commentary by employees. The fines piled up and while it seemed support from those chafing at rules was filling seats, the aftermath was that locals stayed away. And kept staying away.

The past owners put the business up for sale and in the windows now are signs in the windows for George's Burger and Subs. The windows are papered over and a makeover inside is taking place that will probably last into the fall. George's has been around since 1975 and has five other locations in the city and two outside of it.

The menu varies between George's. Many serve affordable breakfasts, have hours that go into the the evenings and have a few items for those not wanting to eat a Fat Boy every meal. Since a Greek family is behind it, imagine a few Greek dishes as well as everything in between. Seating is likely to be around the same at 40 seats, 15 to 20 staff and new signage. Many local businesses and residents are greatly looking forward to the return of a restaurant on the spot.

The neighbourhood restaurant is always going to be a community centre of family talks, gossip and opinion. People should feel safe there in terms of hygiene and food, building safety, pest control and yes, a pandemic. They should also feel they are not subject to bigotry in all its forms. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but rules on safety and the treatment of people have been put in place because of past experience. For example, we know that pests can can cause foodborne and airborne illness and death. It is why restaurants are required to submit to inspections and can be closed till the problem is corrected. It isn't the woke crowd trying to persecute. 

Many restaurants did their best in compliance these past years. Some did not survive while others deserve your patronage and respect as they try to re-build in these next several months. We all deserve neighbourhood restaurants who nourish our bodies and souls. It is very likely George's will receive a warm welcome from Tuxedo, River Heights and Charleswood in the days ahead.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Prairie Public Television in Manitoba 1975

The year 1975 was an important year for television in Manitoba. Cable came to Winnipeg in 1968 and over the next few years more and more people in the city were starting to sign up for it. The first station in Winnipeg was a bilingual CBWT in 1954 and for the first two years it had affiliations with the Paramount Network in Los Angeles which meant Winnipeggers first exposure to wrestling on TV was Hollywood Wrestling. The below map is from Wikipedia listing on the defunct Paramount network.

CBC began to scale up year by year. News was just a weekly affair Tuesday in 1959. By 1960, the CBC was split into an English channel and French channel. In 1961, Winnipeg was home to a third channel of the  eventual CTV network. CJAY (later CKY by 1973) and the two CBC channels were the only channels picked up over the air. It wasn't always easy to pick up the French channel in our family home in River Heights even with rabbit ears.
With no cable most of the 1960s, Winnipeg made do with three channels with a fourth KCND beaming in from Pembina, North Dakota. This station, the smallest in the United States, carried NBC and ABC programming and was strictly set up as a pirate station for the Winnipeg market. Reception wasn't always great so the broadcaster actually sold antennas in Winnipeg because profitability depended on Canadian businesses buying commercials. We never did get an antenna but many home owners in the city did. The way, the C in  KCND stood for Canada. The above was the full page ad published in Winnipeg Free Press on August 29. 1975 when KCND shut down and moved to Canada. Below unsourced picture of KCND. Unknown date. The View from Seven has a wonderful backgrounder on the race for KCND and CJAY to get on the air. https://theviewfromseven.wordpress.com/tag/cjay/
Colour TV broadcasts in Canada did not start till 1966. Even though U.S. broadcasts were being produced for some time in colour, Canada was slow to adopt. In Winnipeg, it was not more common until 1969. This was probably directly related to cable first coming to the city in 1968 and the availability of so much colour programming from ABC, CBS and NBC. Still, it was not till 1974 that full-time colour programming came to Canada. It was a slow rollout to say the least. Kind of like Hi Def from Standard Def which seems like it has taken even more time.

Cable TV was an improvement on choice of channels for people in Winnipeg. However, reception continued to be a problem in the warmer months. A bad thunderstorm and the picture might be unwatchable. Even the French channel in the last 1970s and early 1980s could fuzz out, The racy weekend fare of the French channel was usually what was the least consistent in reception. The complaints on reception on every U.S. came in every year for more than 15 years.

The offerings of KCND made people in Winnipeg crave more of the offerings it had, especially older movies and past TV series. Even kids, who had plenty of material from the U.S. networks such as Saturday cartoons knew that there was programming they would never find on those stations. For example, I saw the animated Star Trek before the original series. I missed out on the the first 1960s run of the show as I was too young.

Our family travelled to U.S. on long camping trips and to Grand Forks or Fargo for weekend trips starting in the 1970s. Every now and then we'd stay in motels on the long trips and there is when we first encountered PBS, the U.S. public broadcaster. We were already familiar with Sesame Street which CBC showed with Canadian segments in 1972, three years after it started in the U.S. Sesame Street actually preceded PBS' origins. The kids show started in 1969 whereas PBS started in 1970.

I remember in 1973 when in the States during a long weekend seeing PBS on a hotel TV doing gavel to gavel coverage of the Watergate hearings. It was the first network to actually show it on primetime. Remember my parents being rather horrified and my dad saying that my grandfather had thought Richard Nixon had been a good president. My brother and sister were not so interested but none of us were unware of how tense things were in the U.S. with the Vietnam War and Watergate going on. It was much easier to seek refuge in Sesame Street although in those early years our parents were wondering if we learning too much Spanish rather than French. The CBC segments removed the Spanish content over the years for French or unique Canadian segments. Many were filmed right in Winnipeg.
August 30, 1975, Winnipeg Free Press
It is quite extraordinary that although TV in Manitoba began in 1954 (first stations for Canada in Toronto and Montreal in 1952), it took some time for the country to develop infrastructure to support additional channels. By the end of the 1950s, 9 out of 10 families in Canada had a black and white TV. And although there was a hunger for Canadian content, there was so little of it. And in some cases, no motivation to create it by the private sector. By 1958, there was a recognition that for English Canada in particular, reliance on the United States entirely for content was not in the self interest of the country. By 1968, that came with a real mission to support Canadian content.

It came just in time because cable television really exposed all of Canada to huge amounts of U.S. product. They very culture of Canada came into question on whether our ability to stand as nation was strong enough to survive. We had just become an independent nation and that need to make our own way was strong but it didn't come without support. Some critics to this very day want to end that support but have never indicated how they expect culture and business to flourish in such an environment. In some cases, it seems to suggest we should be part of the U.S. which I don't see wide support of.

By 1975, people in Winnipeg were hankering for a third station based in Winnipeg. CBC and CTV were accepted well enough. In fact, the two networks were helping to entrench professional sport in Canada by covering the NHL and CFL. For the NHL, there was nearly no interest in the broadcast side of things south of the border. Likewise, curling would never have generated interest in the U.S. It was ownership and content rules that made that possible. Left to their own ends, the stations would have become affiliates of U.S. networks and done none of those things.

By the mid 1970s, it became untenable for KCND on the border beaming into Winnipeg, especially when the Canadian government was about to license a new local station built around somewhat around the same format. That set the stage for one of the most unique broadcasting sales and relocations in North America history where KCND became CKND and moved from Pembina to Winnipeg with a change to Canadian ownership.
But this isn't about that change in 1975 TV in Winnipeg as significant as it was. This is about the coming of Prairie Public Television and PBS to the Winnipeg market. The Public Broadcast System was new to North Dakota even though educational TV went back further historically in the State. By 1970, PBS bought the public system and in 1974 the Prairie Public Television network was official in name and title. This happened the same year as KGFE was established in Grand Forks, North Dakota which made it possible to for a signal to be picked up and put on Winnipeg's cable line-up.
It is safe to say that the arrival of CKND and Prairie Public TV in 1975 was a game changer for television in Winnipeg. CKND replicated the old movies and series that made KCND popular while fulfilling their CRTC mandate of local news and sports that made the local market truly competitive for the next two decades. The first broadcasts of the Winnipeg Jets began on CKND in their WHA days. However, they did meaningful work in indigenous and Metis reporting and had the Ray St. Germaine Show. Not mention talks shows and kid shows.
Meanwhile, Prairie Public TV which was only five years as a PBS station when it joined the Winnipeg cable line-up probably had no idea how much support financially Canadians would put into their public TV enterprise, The small curtained studio during pledge week would have phones ringing off the hook for movies and other programs. The production values were quaint but when the host read off the pledges, more than half of them were from Manitobans. Other PBS stations have run afoul with with Canadian Revenue Agency over the years but not Prairie Public. It created a clear division and board of directors for Manitoba and they made their own decisions including funding programs made locally for Prairie Public.
In the beginning Saskatchewan was part of Prairie Public but for many years have received their signal from Detroit PBS. Winnipeg also receives a signal from Detroit on cable but it is not on HD. Since 1982, around 20% of Canadian households get their PBS from Detroit. The thing is that that Detroit does not issue Canadian tax receipts nor has a group in Canada that does what Prairie Public does. Occasionally, I have watched a pledge drive by Detroit PBS and it is quite striking the amount of callers from Saskatchewan and Manitoba calling to make pledges. Nearly 2.5 million Canadians get Detroit PBS in their homes. That is actually more than in Detroit itself.

Even with a station in Grand Forks, hot summers and a storm could zap the signal. I remember watching Where Eagles Dare with my parents in the late 1970s starring Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton. First time for any in the family to watch this 1968 movie set in WWII and it was a real corker. It was down to the last few minute and the big reveal was about to be made when the worsening storm outside and all the way down to the Dakotas took the show off the air. It was replaced by static while I screamed nooo for at least 10 minutes. Went to bed not knowing how it ended and it would take a number of years to watch it again to the end. 

It is easy to imagine this type of loss of signal from a lot of the North Dakota stations led to the 1986 decision by cable companies in Manitoba and Saskatchewan dropping a number of stations. Winnipeg dropped the NBC and CBS Fargo stations for Detroit. While the signal was better, the news in metro market there was a far cry much more peaceful North Dakota. A move to Toledo stations was not much better. The last move to Minneapolis stations was much better accepted.

Throughout this time, cable continued to carry WDAZ (ABC) and Prairie Public in Manitoba. While WDAZ in Devil's Lake/Grand Forks lost its station, the signal and all its commercial inserts from the city remain except where Canadian commercial substitution is in effect. The near Manitoba death experience saw the two stations boost their signal strength and they have been a fixture of our insight into North Dakota ever since. Not to be outdone, CBC has been a fixture of Grand Forks cable stations since the 1980s as well. 

Former stations in Fargo of KXJB (CBS) and KTHI (ABC and later NBC)  were delisted with the switch to NBC and CBS signals from Detroit and then later to Toledo and Minneapolis. The two stations had the distinction of having the tallest towers in the world for their antennas. KTHI is now KVLY and KXJB became KRDK. The new KLVY keeps on the KXJB name and call sign as well as the CBS affiliation under one roof. They share the same news crews and studios.

Digital has changed how local stations are in the United States. Every one of them has several split off from their signal. Even Prairie Public Television has four different offerings. In Manitoba, we receive only the main channel but there is also PBS Kids, World, Lifelong and MN Ch. Manitobans who donate to Prairie Public get Passport access to content online. 

The relationship between Manitoba and North Dakota's Prairie Public Television has been a healthy one that has been good for both countries. Canadian Revenue Agency has been fully supportive of organization in Manitoba that supports Prairie Public unlike some other groups in Canada. The reason, in short, is that Manitoba keeps a separate board of directors and actually creates award winning programming that has viewers both sides of the border. Canadian viewers also get to support Prairie Public in getting top flight programming that includes Frontline and Masterpiece as well as unique documentaries and dramas. 

It is a shame that Saskatchewan had to go Detroit in 1986. Any contribution they make does not get a tax receipt in Canada and no unique Canadian programming that is from Saskatchewan ever airs in Detroit and never will.

In two years, it will be 50 years of Prairie Public TV in Manitoba. In that time we have seen them grow from that tiny pledge TV studio to a professional operation that contributes unique programming to the prairies. In a digital world, it is hard to see where broadcasting will be in the future but the links between North Dakota and Manitoba ought to be stronger, not weaker. 

Certainly when 1975 hit with two new TV stations for the Winnipeg market, it was as exciting as you can imagine. Both CKND and Prairie Public TV were about as different as can be but both enriched the province with both local, North American and international fare.