December 4, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
It's time to think and maybe - just maybe - reflect. Given 90 minutes to do so on a sunny Saturday, here are some reflections of my own, delivered in the form of greetings to the individuals and institutions who exercise a great deal of control over our lives.
To Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Late last year, when the Idle No More movement took off, a lot of Canadians started thinking about indigenous rights - or at least had way more of an impetus to do so.
While your government's relationship with Canada's First Nations, Inuit and Métis is not overly fantastic, it's arguably no worse than that of many of its predecessors. And you personally carved out a place in history with your 2008 apology for the treatment of First Nations in Canada's residential schools. That apology went a long way toward reconciliation between Canada's original inhabitants and more recent arrivals from Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere. But a lot more work has to be done before our indigenous population enjoys the same standard of living and basic dignities the rest of us enjoy.
While achieving this will take years, here's a radical idea for a symbolic gesture: Consider reserving the appointment of all future Governors General for citizens who are First Nations, Inuit or Métis.
Such a move would honour the intention of the partnership between the Crown and Canada's original inhabitants. It would also be one hell of a symbolic gesture.
Don't make this an official policy, as that would require a constitutional amendment, and there's little patience among the Canadian public for such a debate.
But even on an unofficial basis, the elevation of an aboriginal Canadian to the symbolic position of head of state would make a powerful statement.
To Premier Greg Selinger
You're behind in the polls, your policies are unpopular and it would take a minor miracle for your party to form a fifth straight majority government in 2015.
So here's a crazy thought to consider while you kick back at the cottage over the next week, assuming you get a day or two off: Why not spend the remaining 15 months in office governing like you will never get to govern again?
The long-standing criticism of modern politics is too many decisions are made solely on the basis of averting risk. People in power are so focused on winning the next election, they don't make decisions that benefit the populace in the long term.
Since the NDP probably can not win the October 2015 provincial race, why not pull a Bulworth (Google that one, Millennials!) and say whatever you feel like saying and start making unpopular reforms that will create public outrage but will benefit Manitoba in the long term. The Opposition may cry foul in the short term, but they, too, will benefit in the long term and may even credit you in hindsight for your contributions.
Remember Duff Roblin - ridiculed in his own time but beloved in posterity for the Red River Floodway.
To PC Leader Brian Pallister
Dude, you are probably going to be the premier in two years. Don't let that go to your head. The NDP has been in power for almost 14 years and can not go on governing forever. Even with Stu Murray or Hugh McFadyen at the helm of your party, you would probably win in 2015.
So as you consider your campaign platform, remember you still have two years to earn the respect and allegiance of the great many Manitobans who hug what most of us would describe as the political centre. This is not a province of socialists or neocons. This is a province of pragmatists who by and large appreciate both fiscal conservatism and a social conscience. But of course, you already know that because you're not an idiot. You don't need some moron at a newspaper to explain basic demography.
But if you do consider one idea, please consider this: Promise to diversify the economy. Promise to encourage innovation. Do not simply promise to slash the budget, even if that simplistic message finds currency among your existing base.
That would go a long way to garnering not just votes, but a genuine mandate.
To Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz
Sorry you were booed at Investors Group Field on Thursday night. That can't be great for the ego. If it makes you feel any better, Selinger was booed at the MTS Centre during the final Jets' game of the season in April.
On the other hand, there's a palpable sense the Manitoban public dislikes the premier because of provincial policies such as a PST hike, while the disdain directed against you has a personal element.
For example, a Transcona-bound Bomber fan on the bus ride home after the game described the mayor in less than complimentary words. "But he's probably going to win again," he said.
Transcona Fan is right, Mr. Mayor. You're still the frontrunner in 2014. But if you do choose not to run again, please do the right thing and provide prospective candidates plenty of notice, the way former Toronto mayor David Miller did before he chose not to seek a third term in 2010.
To Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries
On behalf of many Manitobans who consume alcohol outside our own homes, allow me to express support for the regulatory reforms you have planned for liquor licensees.
One of those reforms, according to cabinet member Dave Chomiak, is to provide leeway when it comes to major outdoor events. So here's the plea: Can you figure out a way to legally sanction tailgate parties on the University of Manitoba campus?
Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans are in the midst of adjusting to Investors Group Field, the club's new stadium on the U of M campus. For some, game day is now a seven-hour time commitment.
Being able to tailgate in some fashion would take some edge off of arriving early to the games. And as our football-loving U.S. counterparts have demonstrated in hundreds of college towns and dozens of NFL cities, tailgate parties do not necessarily translate into drunken free-for-alls.
No one is advocating a free pass for open liquor across the U of M campus. But it is a university. Generally speaking, university students are more than a little familiar with alcohol.
So please consider a tailgate plan, if not for the latter part of the 2013 CFL season, then for 2014. If Osborne Village can become a street party for two days this weekend, the U of M campus can tolerate eight hours, 10 times a years.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 30, 2013 A8
Updated on Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 9:46 AM CDT:
Removed web formatting errors
Updated on Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 11:17 AM CDT: