Mary Agnes Welch's Gripe Juice

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  • Selinger on the hook

    How did it happen that one of the most respected cabinet ministers, known for his by-the-book, squeaky-clean image, was the one stuck facing hoards of reporters peppering him with questions about the NDP’s 1999 campaign finances?

  • Arts mayor

    I thought my hometown was kind of boring and straight until it named hip hop artist Cadence Weapon its new poet laureate.

  • Rebategate

    Couple quick thoughts on new questions now swirling around how the NDP filed their campaign spending returns in 1999.

  • Schmutz patrol

    Before I gripe about big businesses who let garbage fester around their properties, let me give a shout-out to all the volunteers who spent the weekend picking up months and months of soggy trash in West Broadway and along Omand’s Creek.

  • Downtown is where real governments go

    If the current incarnation of the First Nations Governance House project at Polo Park is belly up, why not build it downtown instead?

  • Tax cut hype

    Have you seen those snazzy ads on TV touting the bevy of new Harper tax cuts? The one where the cheerful citizens pull dozens of new tax benefits, like the one for first-time homebuyers, out of the air? My beau and I just bought a new house and we were checking out how much we might get from that credit. Turns out, bupkis.

  • It’s a surplus! (Except for that $11 billion we owe.)

    So the NDP are doing some pre-budget ramp-up that involves touting a steady-as-she-goes budget that makes good on small tax cut promises and makes education a priority.
  • I can't blog about this because it doesn't exist

    Here's my favourite obfuscation of the day: "The minister is unable to comment on legislation that does not exist."
  • Elmwood strategy

    Two smart people on opposite sides of the spectrum have been kibitzing to me lately about the stranglehold Doer's NDP have on the province's political culture, and how that will only change if people THINK it can change.
  • Byelection speculation for nerds

    When will Doer call the by-elections?
  • Catch Up

    Some unconnected tidbits from the last month
  • Crash course in parliamentary democracy

    I just received what I expect will be the first of many press releases from Treasury Board President Vic Toews (with a very unusual post-script that shows how serious this all is – “To book an interview with Vic Toews, please call….”). It lambastes the Grit-NDP coalition. Toews calls it a “separatist-driven coalition” no fewer than three times and calls on Canadians to make their views known.
  • Cheap seats

    Check out the big Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce ad on the back page of today’s B-section that touts the upcoming State of the Province and State of the City speeches Sam and Doer are delivering in the next little while.
  • Wind and the WRHA, in no particular order

    The province re-announced a wind farm re-announcement today. Besides the fact that the company building the wind farm is dying a slow and painful death in the pages of every Australian newspaper, there were a few interesting things about the announcement:

  • 0.000001% of Manitobans think your billboard is lame

    On the way out to Transcona to cover NDP Leader Jack Layton's rally last night, I spotted a billboard on Regent I hadn't seen yet. It was part of that "Unfriendly Manitoba" campaign against the hog barn ban. It said something like "98% per cent of Manitobans say kill the anti-farm bill."That made blink. When do 98% of Manitobans agree on anything? This morning I checked out the lobby group's website and got the truth. Earlier this year, about 400 people spoke at the legislature's committee hearing on Bill 17, the barn ban bill. Ninety-eight percent of those 400 people, whose opposition was coordinated by the Pork Council, opposed the bill. That's not a scientific poll. It's not a focus group. It's not even a Free Press question-of-the-day.The billboard is downright dishonest.   
  • Elmwoodians, move to Altona

    I covered two candidates debates yesterday. One made me totally depressed, but then Altona fixed it.First I went to Kildonan East where an energetic teacher organized an afternoon forum for the Elmwood-Transcona candidates. I went because Tory Thomas Steen was going to emerge from hiding and do battle for the first time.The students asked generally vapid questions ("What will you do for junior high students?") and the candidates were a sad collection. Jim Maloway, the perennial provincial backbencher, blustered a little about the Disraeli Bridge. The Liberal candidate was downright bizarre, rambling about Communists at one point. And Steen only answered questions when he had a tabbed page in his briefing binder he could read from. When he didn't have a pre-written answer, he either declined to speak or apologized and said "I'm new at this." He read virtually every word he uttered, with a bemused and gentle smile. He is by all accounts and appearances a lovely and honourable gentleman, but he is radically out of his depth. Only the Green guy, teacher Chris Hrynkow, made any kind of coherent impression, and a couple of students I spoke to afterward agreed. Standing in the back as the Liberal went on another whacky tangent and Steen riffled through his notes, I wondered if I wasn't witnessing the end of democracy as we know it. This is as bad as it gets.Then I drove to Altona to cover an all-candidates debate in the school board office. I went to check out Tory candidate Candice Hoeppner in the flesh, since she sometimes isn't the best at returning phone calls. She is almost sure to win Portage-Lisgar, and she is a force to be reckoned with. She's uber-organized, smart, well-spoken, well-connected and, let's just say it, attractive. It's not supposed to matter, but it does. Dare I predict: She will be Manitoba's senior minister one day and it might be sooner rather than later.Hoeppner is a very fine candidate amid a batch of fine candidates. Unlike E-T, any one of the five people running in Portage-Lisgar would make a credible MP. You've got the moppy-haired young farmer for the Greens, the rather erudite labour activist for the NDP and the plain-spoken gentleman for the Liberals who made an eloquent plea for tolerance and equality. Even the Christian Heritage candidate (they tend to be the most cringeworthy at these kinds of debates) was confident, likeable and well-spoken.Good candidates are one thing. Smart voters are icing on the cake. As I wrote today, the questions from Altonans were wide-ranging, intelligent and pointed but polite. People floated good ideas. Everyone knew everyone else and they teased each other a little. The debate ran like clockwork with just enough latitude for some older folks who'd earned it. It was a pleasure to witness.Roy MacGregor wrote today that this has been the worst election he's covered in 30 years. If I'd been around to cover all of it and not just the last two weeks, I would probably agree, except I got to go to Altona.
  • Chicken

    I was at a debate last week at the University of Winnipeg, one organized by the Women's Studies department. It was a packed house, full of young voters wedged into the stairwell of Eckhart-Grammate Hall, the same young people politicians always say fail to participate in the process. Granted, some were taking notes for a class assignment, but still, it was a good turnout.No Tory, though, a trend across Canada that has seen Conservative candidates shun public events. Kildonan-St. Paul MP Joy Smith was supposed to attend but copped out. She also cancelled an appearance at another forum this week.I heard several students grumble about that as they filed out. I don't know why Smith chickened out. She's combative and well-spoken. She's a spotlight hog off the campaign trail. She would have made it a much more lively and relevant debate. Why didn't she show up, put up her dukes and make her case? The students probably would have lobbed the toughest questions at her, but, as it was, the crowd was painfully polite. The candidates spent more time promoting the sisterhood than really slagging each other off. This is Women's Studies for God's sake. It's not the Teamsters. What does it say about the Tories when they don't trust a veteran politician in the most tame of environments?Meanwhile, I just got an e-mail from the organizer of a debate tomorrow night in Winnipeg South Centre, where Tory Trevor Kennerd has failed to meet any of his opponents in head to head combat. This one was at Riverview School and we were planning to cover it. Turns out Kennerd has pulled out. The organizer said, as a constituent of Winnipeg South Centre, he finds it very hard to vote for someone to speak for him in Ottawa when that person can't even speak for themselves in front of a crowd.
  • That Matt

    I could be woefully out of the loop after three weeks in Europe (where I spent more time keeping track of the Bavarian state elections than the Canadian one), but has anyone else noticed that Matt Shaubroeck, the young NDP candidate in St. Boniface, is the very same unknown name who did remarkably well in Tuxedo in last year's provincial election?He was still a hefty 1,400 votes away from defeating Tory MLA Heather Stefanson but I remember a few bug-eyes on election night at Tory HQ when the returns started rolling in and Shaubroeck was nipping at Stefanson's heels. That riding's been Tory for pretty much as long as Shaubroeck's been alive, and it should have been a cakewalk for the Tories, but it was a little tighter than I expected. Also, speaking of the Canadian federal election, I was reminded just how sadly insignificant Canada is abroad. Searching around for a bit of news while in Norway, I picked up a copy of the Wall Street Journal that had a little front page brief on the election call. It said this is Canada's third election in five years, which is partly true. It's the third election in a little over four years. And Time Magazine's international edition had a blurb on the race but pegged Toronto as Canada's capital. Nuts.
  • You know there's an election coming...Part II

    Anyone notice the full page ad the University of Winnipeg and President Lloyd Axworthy took out in this Saturday's Detour section, touting the flurry of recent senior appointments at the school?It was a big list, granted. Sixteen appointments to top jobs. But among them was Dan Hurley, Liberal candidate in Winnipeg Centre. He's the school's senior executive officer and advisor to the president. Big title, nice headshot and a mention of the fact that he was Stephane Dion's chief of staff when Dion was environment minister.Good little pre-writ plug on the paper's biggest circulation day.
  • You know there's an election coming when....

    Brandon-Souris MP Merv Tweed puts out the first press release I've ever seen from him, touting $6,484 in federal funding for the Virden Employment Skills Centre's youth training program.There was even a backgrounder attached.

About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first covering city hall and then the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter. Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school. She has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category.

She was a Southam journalism fellow at the University of Toronto’s Massey College in 2012-13, where she studied indigenous issues, urban planning and political science. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists and has served on several boards.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

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