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Doer gym honour survives, barely

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Gary, your majorities with the Manitoba electorate were a lot more impressive than your 5-4 squeaker at Winnipeg school board this evening.

Though, to be fair, Gary Doer isn’t proposing that the George V School gym be named after him, he’s not campaigning on it, and no one knows what he thinks of the idea, since the Canadian embassy in Washington hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

The motion was to bounce trustee Mike Babinsky’s proposal to consider naming the soon-to-be-built elementary school gym after Doer over to a committee for study. Note that the motion is to consider naming, not to name, the gym after the former premier.

Among those opposing the referral were N-Dipper trustees Kristine Barr and board chair Suzanne Hrynyk.

You first read about Babinsky’s idea in our dead trees edition; you can refresh your memory here

Babinsky made a long, rambling pitch for his idea, relying on data he’d accumulated through extensive research on the department of education website and Wikipedia.

School divisions have named schools after all kinds of people, said Babinsky. WSD has named schools such as Norquay and Greenway after premiers whose ridings weren’t even in Winnipeg, let alone the division.

Lots of things other than schools have been named after politicians, he said — Sterling Lyon Parkway, Norquay Community Centre, The Knowles-Douglas Building at Brandon University.

Nary a school gym in there anywhere.

"The party he represented spent a lot of money in my community," said Babinsky.

It should be noted that there has never been a suggestion that Babinsky is a New Democrat. He’s a right winger on a lot of issues, once inexplicably ran for the provincial Liberals, but I’ve never heard him call himself a Tory.

Babinsky said that Doer represented Concordia riding for 23 years, and that George V is one of two WSD schools in Concordia, the other being Kent Road School. He didn’t mention that the vast bulk of Concordia encompasses River East Transcona School Division.

Babinsky did allow that he wasn’t advocating putting the proposal to a yes or no. "You have to ask the school parents whether they’re interested, you have to ask the community," he said.

Trustee Catherine Collins, a New Democrat who said she’s on a first name basis with Doer, eventually backed sending the referral to a committee, but was not particularly enthusiastic.

"The issue is, we don’t really have a naming policy," Collins said. When she was on the provincial heritage committee, people had to be dead five years to be considered for naming honours, the same policy that Ottawa uses, Collins said.

"We run the risk of doing what the City of Winnipeg did when it named Milt Stegall Drive — everyone wondered where it came from," Collins said.

Stegall, it should be pointed out, like Doer, didn’t ask to be involved in this discussion.

Relying on the Mr. Spock logic for which his debating skills are renowned, Babinsky pointed out to Collins that the school division has named 77 schools and other buildings without having a naming policy.

Barr said that the only named gym in the division is the Audrey Jones Fieldhouse at Tec Voc, named only after the community came forward and the division held widespread consultation.

Barr wanted to toss the whole idea.

"It will send a message to our community that we’re going to start naming gyms" in all 77 schools, said Barr. "I don’t believe we should open that can of worms."

Eventually, everyone voted, with Babinsky, Collins, Rita Hildahl, Anthony Ramos, and Darlyne Bautista putting it on a future agenda of the policy and program committee.

Opposed were Barr, Hrynyk, Joyce Bateman, and Jackie Sneesby.

Your tax dollars at work.

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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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