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A wasted gem

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What an appalling waste of an historical gem!

We were at Union Station Saturday morning, the sun barely up, waiting for child the elder to arrive home from university. Yes, university, so that does so make this topic an education blog.

The train from Toronto on its way to Vancouver was due at 8:01 a.m., and when we’d called Via’s toll-free number a little after 7 a.m., we were told it was 10 minutes early, so we hustled down to the station....and, of course, it was half an hour late. But I digress.

The railway station is, it goes without saying, magnificent. The rotunda remains one of this city’s most beautiful places, and the history in that place is priceless. We walked around the departures/arrivals area, not quite alone but close to it, examining the fabulous photographs from as much as a century ago, of the station and immigrants arriving and soldiers departing, of great trains chugging through the snow and ice.

And when it became apparent that the train’s arrival wasn’t imminent, we went in search of coffee, stepping out the back door.....and just one step, and we were in The Forks, everything laid out in front of us, from the ballpark to the museum to the market, a minute’s walk to get a coffee from Tall Grass Prairie....OK, OK, we couldn’t resist something more than coffee.

And then back to Union Station, footsteps almost echoing through the caverns, so empty is it. Surely someone can figure out a way to put this magnificent building to some greater public use, and use it as a pedestrian bridge between downtown and The Forks, make it part of The Forks.


I wrote this past weekend about the new Canadian studies program at the University of North Dakota. When I was on campus — UMSU, UWSA people, pay attention here — there was a student council election going on, and several of the guys who were involved in slates, their photos plastered around the UND campus, they were all wearing suits. Like, seriously, with dress shirts and ties and everything.

To my horror, someone at UM emailed me right away after the UND story ran, and told me I’d erred when I’d written that UND has the only Canadian studies program within thousands of kilometers in the US, told me that Minnesota State University in Moorhead has a program.

Oh (bad word), I said, reading that, and immediately called Moorhead. Turns out that MSUM has been trying for several years to establish Canadian studies, but the state of Minnesota has severe fiscal issues which make a program unlikely in the near future, said one official.

Changing topics......I encountered a professor I know, out with his grandson, prof says, "This is Nick. Nick writes for the newspaper. Nick writes fiction for the newspaper."

One of these days, I’ll gather all such incidents in a blog, the classic of which remains the nice party I attended, at which another guest said after insulting me for 15 minutes over what I do for a living and where I work, "People are trying to give you a message. It’s time you got that message, and stopped going to parties."


I was in my favourite supermarket chain, and I’m getting sandwich meat at the deli. The roast beef was more expensive than what’s normally there, so I asked, deli staffer says it’s because the meat is as close to real roast beef as I can expect to get.

I did the classic double take. This isn’t real roast beef?

Of course not, she said, all deli meat is full of filler and binder and stretcher, and gets pumped with sodium nitrate and other stuff, this one just happens to have less of all that than the regular stuff.

But, says I, this isn’t packaged bologna, I thought all these meats were cut from a roast. She gives me that look that people in retail save for explaining things to customers who are total morons, and tells me that they can’t just slice meat from a roast, because a roast doesn’t have preservatives.......

Still on food — pretend this is a school lesson in positive learning outcomes in the nutrition part of the health curriculum — I was at our favourite fruit and veg store on Pembina, and this guy is pushing around his cart, and he’s wearing one of those hands-free phone thingees, the black thingamajig over his ear. And he’s making a business deal, call after call after call. I’ve got to tell you sir, and I think I can speak for everyone who was in the store, just how impressed we all were to hear you driving Canada’s economic recovery, but if you’d spoken just a little louder, I’m sure the patrons in the beverage room of the hotel next door could also have shared in your entrepreneurial acumen. And since all that technology means that wherever you go, it’s your private office, then being potty mouth was OK, too.


Got a call this morning from yet another one of those public relations firms in the Centre of the Universe, telling me that someone from one of the major financial institutions will be here end of next week, pitching competitions which schools can enter, and surely I’ll want to interview her. No, said I......when she recovered, the pr type says, but it’s the 20th anniversary of our program. Call us when a school in Winnipeg actually receives something, and we’ll think about it, I said....she seemed less than happy to have made the call.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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