Under the Dome

with Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Email Larry Kusch & Bruce Owen

  • Mr. Premier: It's time

    10/28/2014 10:03 AM

    The betting is Premier Greg Selinger resigns by the end of the week, if not today.

    He’s got no choice.

    The movement against him from within his own party, including from some of his once-most-trusted lieutenants, is just too strong.

    What’s also working against him is that in less than a month the NDP government is to present its throne speech, its policy blueprint for the coming year.

    I can tell you without hesitation what the top of the story will be on that day if Selinger has not resigned by then.

    "Premier Greg Selinger presented his government’s plan today for the next year, a year many close to him believe is the last year the NDP will be in power."

    The NDP cannot allow that. They cannot allow themselves to be seen as a lame-duck government.

    There are those loyal to Selinger who still support him, but they’re just looking for daisies in the cracks of the pavement.

    Selinger also cannot be seen to be dragging the political fortunes of the NDP down with him. If he decides for some reason to cling to his office, he might as well slip a note under Opposition Leader Brian Pallister’s door saying, "Hey, Bri, I’m keeping the chair warm for you."

    It gives me no pleasure to write this, but Selinger has to put on a brave face and step down immediately. In the next moment, he has to tell Manitobans that he will remain premier until a new leader is chosen. I suspect a leadership convention will have to be held before the NDP introduces its next budget in the early spring.

    The NDP, since it came to power in 1999, has always taken great pride in being able to reinvent itself to stay relevant.

    Now is one of those times.



  • Air 1 ride-along

    10/14/2014 3:44 AM

    I've changed my mind. 

    Almost five years ago I wrote that there was no need for a police helicopter, and that smarter policing on the ground would eliminate the need for the helicopter. 

    I was wrong. A few weeks ago I spent a night in Air 1 riding in the back seat.

    I'd read about the helicopter's capabilities, but until seeing it first-hand did I begin to really appreciate the benefit to policing in Winnipeg. 

    Now, I don't see how the city could do without a helicopter. It gives police - when it's in the air - an advantage that cannot be replaced by officers on the ground.

    Almost four years since it began operations, Air 1 is still a work in progress as the police service learns to utilize its full potential. The service also has to train more police officers as pilots so that no matter when it's flying, a trained officer is at the controls. Right now, two civilian pilots are on staff to fly Air 1.

    On my flight, WPS Sgt. Jeff Quail was the pilot and Const. Clayton Wood was the technical flight officer, the person who operates the camera and spotlight.

    Here's Quail speaking on the teamwork needed so that Air 1 is used to its fullest capabilities. The sound was recorded in the helicopter, so some words are tough to make out over the engine and radio chatter.

    To get an idea of what it's like to ride in the back seat, here are a series of short videos. Again, the sound you hear is the helicopter, so turn your speakers down first.


  • Confessions by the kitchen sink

    10/2/2014 7:57 AM

    Confession time.

    My wife is right.

    I hate saying that. It's tough for the man of the house to admit he's basically been a dork for more than a decade. Some would say my dorkdom goes back to the moment I took my first breath, but for today I'll stick to at least the last 10 years.

    I've been habitually hand washing our recyclables. From gunky plastic ketchup bottles to stinky cat food cans to pickle and salsa jars and those small individual yogurt cups. I wash them all clean, and then scrap the paper labels off. I also take great pains to wash and rinse out milk cartons and beer bottles.

    I always thought I was doing my part to make it easier to reuse all the stuff I chuck in my in my Blue Box recycling cart in the backyard. I also thought by washing everything it would make my cart smell nice and clean and be of help to anyone down the line who had to sort the recyclables at the depot.

    What a ninny I've been. What a twit.

    "You don't have to wash them," Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba executive director Karen Melnychuk says.

    "You're actually wasting water and it becomes redundant then. You're supposed to be recycling."

    In the big picture beyond my Blue Box cart, most of the stuff I recycle goes to big plants where it's melted down to be reused.

    "Each material melts at a different temperature and so the residue on it would actually burn off and get separated in the processing," she says. "You don't have to take lids off. You don't have to take labels off. Most of the time these things will fall off anyway during the processing cycle, the sorting cycle."

    Melnychuk's advice comes on the heels of the release of the MMSM's 2013 annual report. The MMSM is an industry-funded, non-profit organization that operates a province-wide recycling program for packaging and printed paper.

    (My boss Freep publisher Bob Cox is on the MMSM's board of directors, but he did not order me to write this. Really.)

    What the report shows, despite my own twerpedness, is that I'm among the 93 per cent of Manitobans who now have access to a recycling program, and that which each passing year we're recycling more and more. 

    But it also shows that we could be doing better, like recycling more beverage containers.

    The province is aiming for a 75 per cent recovery rate for beverage containers by 2016; aluminum cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles, milk and juice cartons and drink boxes. The recovery rate in 2013 was 61 per cent, according to the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association.

    The City of Winnipeg has said it's found that more than $1 million worth of aluminum cans still goes to landfills each year. 

    Then there's e-waste. the Electronic Product Recycling Association says 3,026 metric tonnes of end of life electronics were collected in the province in 2013, the first full year of operations for EPRA Manitoba. EPRA's plan is to add more collection sites to increase diversion of residential and commercial/industrial e-waste. 

    In 2013 overall recycling in the province increased by 11.7 per cent to 84,443 tonnes, according to MMSM's annual report.

    Melnychuk says that increase is mostly due to Winnipeg's first full year of the recycling and garbage cart program. Recycling in Winnipeg increased by 20.1 per cent.

    "That's huge," she says. "They went from 45,710 tonnes to 54,880 tonnes in one year. The citizens of Winnipeg have bought into recycling. It's huge."

    What might be behind that increase is that we now have a bigger Blue Box containers--we can put more stuff in it like folded cardboard boxes.

    Melnychuk also says the province's diversion rates, the percentage of recyclables diverted from landfills, is also going up. The MMSM's 2013 recovery rates are to be released Oct. 15.

    She says besides beverage containers, the other big thing consumers can do is further reduce the amount of plastic shopping bags. Since 2010, the province has seen a 47.7 per cent reduction in the number of bags used annually. The goal is to hit 50 per cent by 2015.

    Consumers can take their plastic bags back to drop-off bins at most large retailers or use reusable bags. 

    "Almost every retailer in the province has a bin at the front of their store to put those bags into so that they get recycled," Melnychuk says. "They don't go into the Blue Box. Bring them back to where you got them."

    It goes without saying you don't have to wash them.



  • Quitting time

    09/22/2014 2:54 PM

    Two PC MLAs have so far said they won't seek reelection.

    Agassiz MLA Stu Briese gave notice in June and Riding Mountain MLA Leanne Rowat followed him earlier this month.

    For the 68-year-old Briese, first elected in 2007, it was about slowing down.

    For Rowat, she says she's moved further away from Winnipeg and that the road trips to the legislature are becoming a bit of a grind. She was first elected in 2003.

    "I just decided to explore other options," she said.

    Briese and Rowat were preceded by former Morris PC MLA Mavis Taillieu, who stepped down in February 2013 after 10 years in office. She was replaced by Tory Shannon Martin in a by-election.

    There are rumblings at least two other PC MLAs may announce that they won't seek reelection when we head back to the polls, which appears to be April 19, 2016.

    To date there's only been one NDP MLA to step down. Frank Whitehead, who had represented The Pas since 2009, resigned in May for health and family reasons. If there are any other NDP MLAs not running again, they're holding their cards close to the vest if not under the table.

    The waiting game for who's not running again will likely stretch into the new year, although some party organizers would want a decision from a sitting MLA to be made sooner than later to give enough time to recruit new candidates and hold nomination meetings.

    The PCs under Brian Pallister have recently nominated two candidates, outgoing city councillor Scott Fielding in Kirkfield Park and James Teitsma in Radisson. Both were acclaimed.

    In June, Winnipeg Beach resident Jeff Wharton was acclaimed as the PC candidate in Gimli.

    The challenge for Pallister in the absence of Taillieu and Rowat is recruiting more women, not an easy task.

    Right now the only female PC MLAs are Myrna Driedger, Bonnie Mitchelson and Heather Stefanson.

    You only have to look at the number of women running in the civic election to see how challenging it is to elect more women to public office.

    Paula Havixbeck and Judy Wasylycia-Leis are two of seven candidates for the mayor's job.

    In the wards, there are only nine women running for council out of 58 candidates.

    If Pallister and the PCs want to capture more seats in Winnipeg, to form the next government, it goes without saying they need to appeal to a wider range of voters.

    Rochelle Squires, who beat Nancy Cooke for the PC nomination in Riel in June, is a good start, but that's all that it is.


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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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