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It seems to me...

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...that Mayor Sam Katz’s ongoing fight with the province is wearing a little thin.

If it’s not about more provincial dollars for rapid transit, it’s about more provincial dollars for the new polar bear and Arctic exhibit at Assiniboine Park. If it’s not about more provincial dollars for waste water treatment, it’s about more provincial dollars for police cadets and the police helicopter.

What gives over at city hall? Is this the best way to negotiate? Does Sam do this on his own? Does he just pop out of his office on a whim for a media scrum to kick the province in the shin? Or is this part of some grand bargaining scheme put together by the deep thinkers on Main Street?

From what I see at the legislature, a lot of what Sam says catches Premier Greg Selinger and his ministers completely off-guard. You can see it in their faces and hear it in the words they choose. And unless attending classes at the Acting Studio is now part of a minister’s duty, their response to what Sam says appears genuine. They’re pissed, and they have every right to be.

And the more Sam keeps doing this he loses more of whatever credibility he has on Broadway. Pick up the phone, Sam. It’s the dusty thing on your desk.

While we’re talking provincial dollars, the flood fighting bill for this year is now pushing about $1 billion. To put this in perspective, this time last year when the Manitoba government was putting together its 2011 budget, it estimated the flood flight would be about $30 million. Ottawa, under Disaster Financial Assistance, was to pay $27 million of that.

So imagine the government’s reaction when Ottawa recently mailed it a cheque for $50 million to help cover some flood costs. Peanuts. The province and Ottawa are still talking, like on who’ll pay for the $100-million Lake St. Martin emergency channel. You also have to wonder what next spring will be like. Forecasters are already saying another flood is likely only because so much water is still in the system.

The other issue is what the flood fighting will do to government planning of next year’s budget and the deficit, and Selinger’s promise to be back in the black by 2014. The province is to release its latest quarterly report sometime in the next month. It might provide a clue.

Moving on, it also seems to me the province’s kid-glove handling of the Occupy Winnipeg protest in memorial park is at its end.

The mostly empty tents are still there, but the Occupy movement has pretty much moved on, be it occupying Justice Minister Andrew Swan’s office over the Harper government’s anti-crime Bill C-10 or raising awareness about homelessness through the Red Tent campaign.

And while the few remaining protestors appear benign, some say that’s not the case.

Area residents who use the park, even in winter, say they want the tents and the protestors gone. Some also walk their dogs in the park.

"I don’t feel safe anymore in it," Donna Sealy says. "It’s an eyesore. These people need to go. The rest of us want our park back. We all got their message — now go home."

I’m no Kreskin, but I expect like everywhere else already, the Occupy camp will be shut down by the end of the month.

If I were a camper and had some stuff still there, I’d move it now.

And interesting to see that Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McCaskill has come out with a three-year plan to reduce violent crime.

Again, I'm no expert, but I thought the job of police was to mainly enforce our laws and do what they can to go after those who’d do us harm.

It seems to me real crime reduction hasn’t got anything to do with police. It has to do with dealing with poverty and all that comes with it, the broken families and substance abuse. The stuff that gives people hope.

Putting political pressure on police to be responsible for bringing crime numbers down is unrealistic if not irresponsible. It’s just setting things up for failure. You’d think we’d know that by now. Maybe when it does we can blame the province.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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