The Sausage Factory
with Dan Lett
Like many of you, I have read and heard much over the past two weeks about the experience of getting to and from the new Investor's Group Stadium -- home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and sundry other sports and entertainment events. I get to experience, first hand, the game-day experience on Thursday, when I take my family to see the regular season home opener.
The debate in Manitoba over infrastructure funding is still pretty heated, two weeks after the NDP government announced it was raising the sales tax by one-point to essentially double the annual cash contribution to capital projects. When fully implemented, and combined with current cash-to-capital contributions, in theory the proposal will generate about $560 million annually for infrastructure (based on current PST yields).
Score another direct hit for the Canadian Taxpayer Federation. Our friends at the CTF grabbed headlines this week by revealing, through an access to information request, a personal expense scandal involving Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth. CTF chief prairie sleuth Colin Craig, acting on a tip from a "whistleblower," revealed several questionable expenses claimed by Forsyth over the past two years. These included $200 for golf shoes, $130 for a duffle bag and automobile expenses, including her driver's licence fee.
She's running way behind in the polls, is mired in debt and deficit and facing a provincial election in just 10 weeks time. Could things get any worse for BC Premier Christy Clark?
If you have a son or daughter in hockey, you will likely come across this video sometime in the next few days. It shows a Selkirk hockey dad, Jason Boyd, infant child in arms, protesting a penalty against his 15-year-old son in a game at Southdale arena.
Optics are a funny thing in politics. Thanks to attack ads, talking points, Question Period rhetoric and good old-fashioned retail political manipulation, we develop certain impressions of politicians, parties and even government. These impressions could be well-earned and accurate. Or they could be completely unfair. Sometimes the only way to really assess the labels we put on politicians is to look at the hard numbers.
Allegations of misconduct abound in federal politics right now. We've got the "robocall" scandal, where opposition parties believe the ruling Conservatives sent out fraudulent and misleading automated phone messages to NDP and Liberal voters to discourage them from voting. On the other side of the House of Commons, it's "@Vikileaks," where Tories are howling for more information about the Liberal political staffer who has taken responsibility for revealing intimate details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toew's divorce file via Twitter.
One of the best stories out of our City Hall bureau today explains that Mayor Sam Katz is getting very close to withdrawing a $7-million offer to a private developer – any private developer – to build a water park. If he withdraws the offer of funding, it would put to an end almost eight years of lamentable management of the recreational facilities file at city hall.
The Free Press has written numerous articles in the last few days on the rising cost of corrections, and concerns by the Manitoba Government Employees Union about prison overcrowding. I weighed in with a column pointing out that maybe it was time for the strident law-and-order advocates to figure out a way of paying for the increased costs of longer sentences and new criminal code offences. The provinces claim it will cost them billions of dollars to pay to administer and incarcerate the increased numbers of prison inmates that will accrue from the federal government's omnibus crime bill, expected to become law later this year.
Those who know me, especially those unfortunate enough to receive my emails on a regular basis, will snicker a bit when they see that I am writing today to take politicians to task for sending out inappropriate emails and Tweets.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that on Tues., Nov. 15, the same day the Free Press published a column on on Mayor Sam Katz and his failure to show up at Remembrance Day ceremonies, I had an opportunity to speak to a political science class at the University of Manitoba. The class, taught by the extremely well-informed Robert Ermel of the Manitoba Institute for Policy Research, wanted to discuss the relationship between the media and politicians. They couldn’t have picked a better day.
There is a reason why smaller provinces do not see a plethora of mid-campaign opinion surveys.
Here we are, a full seven days before the provincial election is expected to be officially called, and for all intents and purposes, the campaign has really already begun.
Few politicians could be smiling more these days than Manitoba's Environment Minister Bill Blaikie. The source of his amusement is the current round of moaning and whining in Ottawa over the eviction of veteran Liberal MPs from their coveted Parliament Hill offices to make way for a C-Note of NDP MPs, elected in the Orange Wave in the most recent federal election.
Like many of you, I was shut out in my bid for season tickets to the AYUHT (pronounced Ay-Yoot, it means As Yet Unnamed Hockey Team). It wasn't a surprise -- I had previously predicted that pent up demand from Winnipeg hockey fans would snap up the tickets in no time. I mean, did you see the way people fought with each other to grab those free hockey sticks Canadian Tire was giving away last week? We've collectively lost our nut. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The Globe and Mail reported this week that the Conservative government will proceed soon with legislation to increase the number of federal seats in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan told the G&M the move was necessary to address the needs of larger provinces with growing populations. “What has happened is that we’ve have had a situation arise where votes are worth very different amounts across the country,” Van Loan said. “This is because the existing formula restrains the growth of seats in areas that are experiencing high growth, particularly in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia.”
pre*ma*ture ex*cla*ma*tion: /prēməˈCHo͝or ek-skluh-mey-shuhn/ Noun
It came as some surprise Thursday when the province announced it was revamping liquor laws to allow, among other things, the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores. It’s a pretty deft political move for the province, a measure that sounds like it could have been a plank in the Progressive Conservative election campaign platform this fall. Only it won’t be a Tory plank, because the NDP’s already done it. Clever, clever.
About Dan Lett
Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.
Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.
In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.
He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.
In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.
Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.
Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.
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