Mary Agnes Welch's Gripe Juice

with Mary Agnes Welch

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  • The Great and Painful Filibuster of 2008: Who won?

    The Tories, but it's a political victory more than a policy one.Last night, at about 9-ish, after endless negotiations, the NDP basically pulled their entire legislative agenda off the table and delayed it until the fall. That's the balanced budget overhaul, the elections changes, the access to information tweaks and the hog barn ban. There's some other little bills that will pass, but none are hugely significant.The NDP capitulation comes after days of old-fashioned time-wasting by the Tories. They also stacked the committee meetings with their own people and finagled the rules so that just a handful every night got up to speak. That threatened to stretch things out into July.It's not like the party rallied huge public opinion against the balanced budget bill or the elections overhaul - the public doesn't care, frankly, and the Tories probably can't make them, even if they have all summer. But the PCs did rally their own people - a good 150 of them - which is something one Tory supporter said hasn't happened in an effective way for years. The NDP didn't expect that kind of organised gridlock because it's never really happened before. The Tory called it "a chink in the NDP's armour."Problem is, all the bills will probably pass pretty much as written in September. This was a wiener-measuring contest, and the Tories won, but the NDP still wears the pants.
  • Shirts and notes

    This pic, courtesy of freelance reporter Anne Cote (the only scribe to slog through until the wee hours of committee) is the tame version of what went on earlier this week when your elected officials were supposed to be debating the minutia of democratic process.mablog.jpg It’s Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen, Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon and Tuxedo MLA Heather Stefanson -- all decked out in their memorabelia. (Click on it for a bigger image.)The other night in the justice committee, the NDP called a short recess that stretched into nearly an hour. All geeked up on energy drinks with no one to filibuster, the Tories launched a mock committee, with Goertzen at the head of the table playing Chomiak. I sure wish there was video. Sadly, there’s only this art.Down the hall a few nights earlier, there was another weird encounter involving a Tory staff note Labour Minister Nancy Allan apparently yonked right out from under Tory MLA Len Derkach’s nose. I’ve heard a couple versions of the story, and it sounds like the truly high-school parts of the incident weren’t captured in Hansard.What is on record is Derkach demanding the note be returned to him and threatening to get security if it wasn’t. All the while the chair of the committee dithered and said she’d take the matter under advisement. The note was eventually returned, when a real adult in the form of Health Minister Theresa Oswald intervened.
  • Rebecca rumour recall

    If only because I was about to start a rumour...Rebecca Blaikie has not moved back to Winnipeg to run in her dad's seat, or so I am told by a couple of reliable insiders. Good thing, since I was about to track her down to ask about the Disraeli Freeway and whether it should go to six lanes.Blaikie recently left the Quebec NDP to move back to Winnipeg, but for a job in Labour Minister Nancy Allan's office, not to continue the Blaikie dynasty in Transcona. Which is actually a shame since that low-grade nomination race has so far been a little disappointing. A hotshot young NDPer fresh off a surprise victory in Quebec might add a little spice to the federal party here.So far, it looks like maverick MLA Jim Maloway might take it, even though he's still lamely coy about whether he's actually running. But, the stink he's raising about the Disraeli reconstruction - he's even got T-Shirts and bumper stickers, which you will NOT see stuck on Mayor Sam Katz's Pacifica - has left all the cynics with the impression he's just trying to boost his profile for a run.Nurse and veteran NDP volunteer Lorene Mahoney is running, as is CUPE boss Kevin Rebeck, but he hasn't been hugely aggressive selling memberships. Maloway has a stockpile of hundreds, apparently.Without another Blaikie, Transcona might be Maloway's for the taking.
  • Upstaged by the page

    One of the young legislative pages rocked it today, putting to shame all the adults who have spent the last several days filibustering and cry-babying and calling for endless points of order and matters of privilege. The page, a high school student, had to stand in the centre of the house and call out the names of all 57 MLAs (making sure to add “honourable” before the cabinet ministers’ names) as they rose to vote on a challenge to a speaker’s ruling. I can’t keep some of the MLAs straight even after a year spent looking down on all of them from the press gallery, but this page recited each name like she was reading them off her hand. Which she wasn’t. Lots of poise and she never missed a beat. She got a big round of applause afterward, which was nice. Then the pols went back to yelling at each other.  
  • PA

    That's Prince Albert, the small Saskatchewan city I should clearly just move to.PA keeps popping up around here lately. First, it's the place where the Cree Nation child welfare agency - one of the ones under scrutiny for overspending and nepotism - often held its board meetings and staff retreats and stuff. Why not just hold them in a meeting room in The Pas, where the agency has its headquarters? Because, say several former staffers, you get a way better per diem for out-of-province travel, so it's worth a few hours on the road. Every time I spoke to the former workers, it was "PA this" and "PA that".Now, PA is where the Western Premiers are having their annual confab. Rookie Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is hosting, and all the premiers, including Doer, are gathering there tonight. That is basically the most interesting thing I know about the premiers' meeting, that it's in PA. What significant projects or policies might emerge from these huddles, I have no idea.
  • I spoke too soon

    Okay, last QP post ever.

  • Rowat, Part 2

    On Monday, Speaker George Hickes handed down his ruling on Aboriginal Affairs Minister Oscar Lathlin's point of privilege – the one he raised a couple weeks ago demanding an apology from Minnedosa MLA Leanne Rowat and Tory boss Hugh McFadyen. Rowat apologized back when the whole thing erupted, but McFadyen refused to, saying his comments on CBC Radio were nowhere close to offensive.In his ruling, Hickes sided with McFadyen. This is all pretty arcane House rules type of stuff (Beauchesne Citation 31(3), anyone?) but the upshot is that the McFadyen made his comments outside the House and the speaker said he had no authority over those.But that touched off a whole ‘nother round of debate over racism and whether calling someone racist counts as unparliamentary language. Apparently, in 1995, Lathlin called a Filmon government fishing policy racist and got punted by the speaker for it, which gave him pause this time when raising hell about the Rowat comment. One interesting bit of subtext to the whole debate was discussion about other groups – Ukrainian, Mennonite, East Indian – that have also experienced racism in Manitoba, which prompted Lathlin to posit that no other group has suffered the degree of sustained racism as aboriginal people. All this is only some background to the following two excerpts from Hansard – one from Lathlin and the finale from Hickes, who is Inuit and has probably had the most interesting life of anyone in the House. Both men were riveting, for different reasons.Hon. Oscar Lathlin (Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Afairs): Mr. Speaker, you see, I have learned their ways. I went to their schools. I learned their language. I also learned their culture, their religion, their customs. I learned everything about members from the other side and also members from this side, but, you know what? They have never learned about Indian people to the degree that I learned from their society.My first language was Cree; then I was forced to learn English. I don't mind it today because now I can converse with the folks across the way and this way. Mr. Speaker, the point I am trying to make here is, I say that I'm a First Nations person. I know who I am, but I also have a very good idea what the other side and this side–the non-Indians–are all about, including members of the media. I know what they're all about because I've spent about six years learning all about them, learning their ways. I guess one might say that I've gotten to be educated on their psyche and I know what makes them tick.The last thing I want to say, Mr. Speaker, is I have a little four-year-old granddaughter and I spend a lot of time with her when I go home. I always think of the things I went through and I don't want her to experience the same thing. So I always try to teach her the good things, nice things. When she says something negative, I say, that's not nice. I hope she'll become a good citizen of Manitoba; I hope she'll become a citizen in Manitoba where she doesn't have to experience racism the way Aboriginal people have. Every time we raise that racism, instead of getting support, we get attacked.I know other ethnic groups, when they're under attack, it's like the whole world has come to an end. Everybody gets upset, but nobody gets excited when Indians get thrashed.Mr. Speaker: … I don't know if a lot of you know this, but when I was eight years old we moved to Churchill. We were the first Inuit family to ever move to Churchill. I come from a different family than pretty well anyone in this room. I come from an Inuit-style family where my mother always had two men, like two husbands. That's why our family is Hickes and Tootoos, because we all lived in the same house. When we moved to Churchill, we were the only family living that way. Do you think we were not criticized or looked down upon? We arrived there with our caribou-skin clothing, our mukluks, and do you not think we had a lot of explaining to do? Over the years, we had tremendous amount of explaining to do.But I can go to Churchill. I can hold my head high. People understand now. They are educated. I think when we talk about hurtful or offensive or intolerance of some people or a comment that is made in a racist manner, that is deemed to be racist by a member, we have the opportunity to hear it and for that to be explained so, hopefully, we can all get a better understanding of it. To me, that is very important and that's why, as long as I am the Speaker, any one of you, I don't care what side of the House you're sitting on, any one of you if you feel that way, you rise up on a point of order or–I would recommend a point of order, but if you rise up on a point of order or matter of privilege, I will hear you and I will make a ruling, because that is your right as a member. My job as the Speaker is to protect the rights of all members.
  • QP: The problem is me

    I've been going back and forth with Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen and NDP House Leader Dave Chomiak about why Question Period has sucked lately.The Tories have been asking lame questions, the NDP have been giving even lamer answers and everyone's almost done caring. But there's a third batch of players in the QP equation that also bear some responsibility, and that's reporters like me.McFadyen was telling me about what it was like under Filmon, when he'd emerge from the House for the daily scrums to be surrounded by cameras, microphones and veteran reporters who would buttonhole him for some pretty ugly Q&As. Filmon couldn't physically escape down the hall because of all the journalists, and the reporters sort of fed off each other's questions for a pretty high-octane scrum.Granted, it was a more intense time - major budget cuts, selling MTS and the like. The Leg is now a far more boring place, thanks to good economic times and a premier who thinks new driver’s licenses are a major public policy initiative.Still, this session, we've had only one scrum that I'd call remotely invigorating - the one where everyone hassled Doer about Crown corps giving money to the human rights museum. Even then, there was only a half-dozen reporters and the story died the next day.On any given day in the media balcony in the house, there's maybe five regulars and the odd camera that shows up because a reporter needs a clip from the roads minister about potholes or something equally one-off. We’re just not covering QP the way we did, and the MLAs know this, so they’ve just stopped trying as hard. It’s not just QP.There's far, far fewer reporters covering the Legislature in general, competing with each other and spending time digging up stuff. CBC has all but abandoned the Leg, and no television station sends anyone down with any regularity. Space in my own newspaper has shrunk dramatically since the days of Arlene Bilinkoff and Curt Petrovich, so we’re doing fewer stories. Whole bills get briefed. That means the daily clash of Question Period, the moment where ideas and policies crystallize, just doesn’t have any impact on voters anymore. I don’t know what to do about that.

    The ministers' travel expenses were posted online yesterday, and a few of us veteran cheapskate backpackers spent some time bitching about how bad the Doer government appears to be at, like, checking out fairness, most of the ministers were pretty frugal. Ag Minister Rosann Wowchuck spent about $6,000 on her 10-day trade mission to India, which I don't think is unreasonable at all. Couple readers wrote me to say the same, which is not the feedback you usually get with these kinds of stories. Plus, I actually WANT ministers to travel and learn things and get new ideas, so I am loathe to begrudge a trip.Having said that, there was one tidbit in the pages of forms that is too funny to go unmentioned.Healthy Living Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross went to an aboriginal women's summit in Corner Brook, Nfld and spent about $450 on her flight. I couldn't have scored a better deal myself. Way to use the, Kerri!But Aboriginal Affairs Minister Oscar Lathlin went to the exact same conference and spent nearly $3,000 on his flight.I didn't write about it today because I was worried Lathlin and Irvin-Ross had taken a charter and he'd just eaten most of the cost. Or that he'd taken a bunch of staff along (the original explanation from the province, that didn't make sense at all). But, no. He just booked the flight late due to a schedule change. Even with that, though, I just checked Air Canada and I can score a last minute Tango flight to Deer Lake for half that price.How about Trip Advisor? Anyone? 
  • Two weeks of pent-up griping

    The Rowat SmearI can't recall a dirtier bit of political character assasination than the one perpetrated on Minnedosa MLA Leanne Rowat this week. In my years as a political reporter, it was the first time I've sat in the gallery and thought to myself that politics has become so petty and small and perverse that it's probably unsalvageable. And I covered Winnipeg city hall for four years, so that's saying something.I didn't hear Rowat's heckle, but I heard about the YouTube video almost as soon as it was posted just hours after QP. I got calls about it. I didn't bite because it all seemed so clearly bogus and trumped up. But then Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Oscar Lathlin raised it on the floor of the House and it became impossible to ignore.No right thinking person who follows the Manitoba Legislature would ever think Rowat intended anything other than a knee-jerk heckle of the NDP's Spirited Energy campaign. Speaker of the House George Hicks agreed, telling the Winnipeg Sun the other day that he never for a moment thought Rowat was making a racist slur. Rowat is among the brightest and most progressive Tory MLAs elected, and I can think of two other occasions when she has made the same heckle, part of the stupid and childish daily shouting matches that MLA's from both sides of the House engage in.The NDP tried to argue that they were really going after McFadyen, not Rowat. She apologized and he didn't. But half of Lathlin's speech - which was a rare show of passion for him on the floor of the House - was about "the member from Minnedosa." And he gave a rare interview to the Brandon Sun, read by many people in Rowat's Westman riding. Keep in mind, Rowat won her seat the first time around by just 14 votes, earning her the nickname Landslide Leanne.As Lathlin delivered his indictment, many reporters noted how uncomfortable Premier Gary Doer looked. And he didn't much want to talk about the allegations of racism during an unrelated press conference later that afternoon. But he just couldn't resist Thursday. When he got up to withdraw an unparliamentary remark, he looked pointedly across the aisle at McFadyen and said "And, I apologize." It was pretty much the only reference to an episode I think most MLAs would just as soon forget.Not yet, though. Today, Rupertsland MLA Eric Robinson had another go at Rowat during a meeting in Hollow Water. He called her a big mouth and said her remarks were cheap and stupid. Which is odd because just moments before she uttered the infamous "wine and beer" heckle, Robinson and Rowat had one of the most respectful exchanges in the house I have heard for a long time. Rowat called Robinson an honourable man, which he is. And Robinson acknowledged that Rowat cares just as much about Aboriginal poverty as he does.There might be rednecks in the Tory caucus but Leanne Rowat isn't one of them. And there are certainly racists comments made every day in this country and in the halls of the provincial Legislature, but Rowat's just weren't among them.Empty SeatsI've been trying to keep track of MLA attendance because the Legislature itself has no accurate way of doing it. MLAs are supposed to report their absences but most don't.I gave up keeping track, though, when I was sick for a couple days and my system went to pot. But for the last three weeks or so it looks like Russell MLA Len Derkach and The Pas MLA Oscar Lathlin have been the most absent. But there was a rare day a couple weeks ago when all 57 MLAs were in the house for Question Period.It's hard to make a cogent argument as to WHY MLA's shouldn't miss Question Period. It's become a waste of time.What happened to Sam's Clean-n-Green pledge?An NDP flack was telling me recently about a German journalist who stopped in Winnipeg on his way to Churchill and commented on how dirty the city looked.I couldn't agree more. Is it just me or is this year particularly schmutzy? There's layers of litter caught in bushes and fences just about everywhere I go, even in front of the Free Press building. The dust is disgusting and every window in the city needs to be washed.Why can't we get Winnipeg cleaned up a little faster in the spring? And why can't we ban those white plastic bags that are a huge part of the litter that makes the city look so shoddy and sad?Um, so if Hugh is Neville Chamberlain, that makes Toews....Earlier this week, McFadyen quizzed Doer about the hold-up on the deal with Federal Treasury Board President Vic Toews on federal infrastructure money. McFadyen said Doer was standing in the way of a deal with Ottawa. Here's Doer's reply:"Well, Mr. Speaker, there's a difference between standing in the way and standing up. I've never seen a Leader of the Opposition act like Neville Chamberlain in this Chamber. It's the first time I've seen that happen."How come no one got cheesed off at THAT?  
  • Hugh is a nerd

    And that's refreshing. In his speech to party faithfuls Saturday in Brandon, Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen quoted JFK (and not a quote I've heard a million times), made reference to 18th century political economist Thomas Malthus and pulled an anecdote from a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of John Adams. 
  • "I haven't even written anything down yet, man."

    Those were the immortal words of a fellow press gallery scribe, cuddled up with all of us in the media gallery for Question Period last week.It's been the most boring three months ever at the Manitoba Legislature. Except for the hog barn ban, the NDP government has done absolutely nothing of note since Christmas. That means the Tories had plenty of time to mine their sources, hoard all sorts of damning details of government waste and corruption and craft the perfect question to make Premier Gary Doer's head explode. Nope. They asked about hogs (way to woo Winnipeg, guys...) and hallway medicine. The health question was based on a story CJOB's Richard Cloutier had on his show that morning, not on any sleuthing the Tories did while the house was out.There's two things to say here.One, Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen believes Question Period is good for getting Doer on the record about some things but essentially useless for getting the Opposition's message into the media. That's true, and I don't know whose fault it is - the Tories for asking such lame questions or us for throwing up our hands in boredom all the time. Traditionally, the Free Press has sent both reporters up to the gallery to sit through QP, since there used to be a schwack of tidbits that shook lose. I think that might change.Second, as reheated as the Tory questions are, there's just not a huge amount to bug the government about that will score points among voters. Doer has done just enough on just enough fronts to have just enough of an answer for everything. He is so painfully cautious that he almost never causes controversy. The economy is fine and a windfall in federal transfer payment means the NDP escaped the budget hacking and slashing the Tories were forced to do in the 1990s. So, except the power line, Crocus and the odd lady stuck in a hospital hallway, McFadyen doesn't have a lot of material to work with.Which is why our notebooks might stay empty during QP for some time to come.
  • Obama/Clinton in GF: Three Things

    #1 It was so relaxed.Free Press Photographer Mike Aporius and I were all anal retentive about covering the big deal in Grand Forks Friday night. We left Winnipeg super early. We worried about security and getting pinned in a crush of egos from NBC and CBS. We fussed about access around the Alerus and whether the cops would be jerks if we tried to wander around freely. We figured that after Sept. 11 and given the intensity of the nomination battle and the short notice that party oganizers and the candidates would turn the Alerus into Tiananmen Square.Whatever. Those were the nicest cops ever. At one point, Aporius grabbed his 47 cameras, snuck out of the media pen and wandered right up to the stage, thinking he'd be nabbed by Secret Service and sent back within five minutes. Instead, it took a long time for a party volunteer to notice him and even then a Secret Service guy stepped in and said 'Nah, he's alright." Aporius got within two feet of Obama as he walked the rope line, which we all saw on the jumbotron.Basically, no one really cared where we went. There was a special checkpoint before the ballrooms where Obama was having his $100-a-ticket private reception. We wandered through and the police officer just shrugged his shoulders and said "sure" when I asked if we could head down to the reception area.Compare that to my trip to Churchill last year to see Prime Minister Stephen Harper dole out some money to the railway and port up there. We schlumped 1,000 km there to ask him one question and get our bathroom breaks micro-managed. Every step we took was pre-ordained and after the brief press conference I never got within 20 feet of Harper again.#2Yes, I know. Clinton told a whopper.In my story from GF, I mentioned Clinton's highlight moment - a story she told about a pregnant Ohio woman who was uninsured and refused care at her local hospital. Her baby died and so did she. It was, for cynical me, the only tingly moment of the night.But Saturday morning my Blackberry was abuzz with readers pointing me to a New York Times story that morning that debunked Clinton's anecdote. The Times did some digging on the story, which Clinton has been using in her stump speech for at least the last month, and it turns out the woman had insurance and was never refused treatment. The small-town hospital is imploring Clinton to quit telling the story.That's disappointing, and given the Clintons' rep for manipulating the truth, entirely predictable. But the interesting thing about it was how many e-mails I had from people demanding we correct the record. The e-mails appeared to come from average readers - Lynnes and Dianes and Amys. After a little backing and forthing, I realised these weren't Winnipeggers who happen to read the New York Times (except you, Jeff Browaty). These were Obama supporters, probably part of some media monitoring office that sends e-mail blasts to reporters under the guise of being average folk. #3Clinton was still cooler. I was waiting for the big shiver when Obama spoke. He was great at first - with the kind of cadence and symmetry you only hear from politicians on The West Wing. Then it got kind of repetitive and empty and then I got bored. Then I realised I couldn't really remember exactly what he had just talked about.Clinton had tons of ideas, ones that made common sense and ones I actually remembered when it was all over. She spoke for too long but she had plenty of crowd support, a surprise since nearly everyone I spoke to was there to see Obama. Compared to Obama, she seemed miles more substantive and detail-oriented and mature. Plus she worked harder - she was the last to speak at an event where she was clearly second-fiddle. She worked the rope line for at least a half an hour, taking pictures and signing swag. Obama was out of there like a shot.I said all this to Conservation Minister Stan Struthers when I ran into him on the way to the bathroom. He countered with the idea that the top job ought to belong to someone who can really inspire people, get them thinking beyond themselves. You can hire people to come up with smart policy. You can't fake the inspiring part.  
  • Melnick in the gym

    Okay, how do you get a gym full of tots all fired up about nutrient management regulation so the photo op doesn't go all to hell while CTV is rolling? Ask Water Minister Christine Melnick, not a politician or a portfolio normally associated with inspiring Hallmark moments.The province finally signed off on some new water pollution regs Tuesday (see crabby post below) and did a little press announcement at Lakewood School. Reporters were rolling their eyes at the deja-vous of it all, and the cute kids were getting a little antsy when Melnick (known for her elementary teacher-style sweaters) made the trip to St. Charles a tiny bit worthwhile.The kids got a chance to ask a couple questions before reporters did. They asked how many fish were dying from pollution in Lake Winnipeg and how much algae is too much. Melnick fielded the questions like a pro - short, simple, colourful answers that were really answers. Then she fired off a few questions to the kids - how many have fish tanks? How many have cottages? How many have been swimming in Lake Winnipeg? How many have heard the loons around the lake? Hands were shooting up all over the gym and even I was reminded why we give a crap about Lake Winnipeg. 
  • I just caught a memorandum of understanding THIS BIG!

    The day after the city budget cut millions from pretty much every department (except cops) and imposed a new tourist tax, we get this helpful bit of news from Ottawa and the FCM:BRANDON, MANITOBA - The Government of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to better conserve, protect and enhance fish and fish habitat throughout Canada.To quote a good buddy of mine: "Hey - it's important to close the fish-frastructure deficit."
  • Give Stan some love

    A batch of environmental groups gathered this morning to say how angry they are that the province failed to extend the hog barn ban to the entire province, not just the central part.Sigh. Come on, guys. You won. The hog barns lost. The province finally did Lake Winnipeg a solid. It deserves at least one little kudo.Until now the province has been pretty much all talk on water. The Tories say it, and they're right. We've got the ban on dishsoap with phosphates, which would be cool except for the fact that it doesn't kick in for two years, at which time the soap makers were going to quit using phosphates anyway. We've also got a flurry of tiny rules that say you can't put your pig poop on this little patch of ground because it's too close to the river. But not until 2015 or 2020, so no worries. And we've got the nutrient management regs, which nobody but KAP and a couple scientists understand.Now the province finally gets serious, catapults beyond what the CEC even recommended and caps hog barns in the parts of the province where they are unequivocally out of control. Granted, they're being kind of machiavellian by hoping the crappy market culls the barns down to a manageable size.But still, Conservation Minister Stan Struthers probably has cauliflower ear from all the crabby phone calls he's been fielding from hog farmers. They are really, really mad.So, green folks, give Stan a break and acknowledge that the province has finally taken leadership on an issue after eight years of dithering.
  • Favourite February press release

    (It's even better than the thin-skinned one about parks the province fired off yesterday moments after a handful of environmentalists held a little demo at the Leg...)February 7, 2008


    Manitoba’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team will set up and test emergency response equipment including a solar-powered tent and the Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC) will deliver a winter rescue and survival course for emergency response personnel during a remote deployment exercise in Waterhen Feb. 12 to 14.
  • Camelot Down Under

    Premier Gary Doer is sharing top billing at an Australian climate change conference with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.That's the same Kennedy who has publicly condemned plans to put a hydro line down the east side of Lake Winnipeg. He runs the the National Resources Defense Council, one of the moneybags environmental lobbying groups Doer fears could hold up a power line through the boreal forest for years.That's also the Kennedy the Tories get so much mileage out of in Question Period, heckling Doer for being in the pocket of a wealthy American do-gooder.The duo are both keynote speakers at the International Solar Cities conference in Adelaide, where experts on urban climate change are meeting. (Wonder if, I dunno, maybe, er, rapid transit will come up?)Also on the keynote bill is Peter Garrett, the bald-headed former lead singer of Midnight Oil who is now the country's environment minister. Which is pretty cool, just on the face of it.
  • Politics and the English Language Part Deux

    What's up with everyone changing their names to words that mean nothing?We've seen the Fort Whyte Centre change its name to FortWhyte Alive, spelled all weird in a way that makes high school English teachers write us nasty letters. We've had AgriCore United become Viterra, which sounds like an SUV or a type of gatorade.Now, the province is changing the name of its annual Rural Forum to Capturing Opportunities. I've actually been to the Rural Forum in Brandon (with MLA Rick Borotsik, who schmoozed his way through the sprawling Keystone Centre during last spring's campaign) and it was exactly as advertised - a forum for farmers talking about ag innovations and marketing and growing stuff.Capturing Opportunities? What in those two tired old buzz words says farmers? For all I know, it could be the tag for the methane project at the city dump. It could be a new justice program for car thieves. It could be my dustbuster.   
  • NIMBY Nonsense

    There's been a lot of stuff in the news lately that has made me shake my head at the frustrating shame of it all - Kapyong Barracks, those folks in the Bannerman rooming house, the fact that Portage-Lisgar candidate Candice Hoeppner never returns my calls.But nothing has been as big a bummer as the NIMBYism in St. Vital that forced the St. Amant Centre and Marymound to abandon a plan to build a drug treatment centre there.Policy Frog said it bluntly and best here so no sense repeating. But I will add that this is the second time the good folks at Marymound have tried to open another drug treatment facility and failed because of misplaced neighbourhood outcry.You can't complain about how dangerous the downtown is and how your Honda got stolen and then balk when some non-profit drug treatment centre tries to do something about the root causes of all that.

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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