Mary Agnes Welch

  • Firefighters skilled at manipulating the political system

    They work cheek-to-jowl out of the same stations. They race to the same crash scenes and emergency calls. In Winnipeg, they have the same top bosses. One-on-one, they usually get along just fine. But the political rivalry between firefighters and paramedics, tense for years, is now back to Defcon One, thanks to some shenanigans by the firefighters at last weekend's NDP leadership convention.
  • Bafflegab or bureaucratese?

    Here is a typical blurb from a typically baffling government press release: "The Manitoba government recognizes the important role sustained investments in our schools plays in improving student engagement and achievement." Here's the English translation: Spending money on schools makes kids smarter.
  • Welcome to Winnipeg, Vince Li

    Several years ago, while standing in a long Christmas line at a gift shop in Portage Place, a lanky, unkempt man walked through the mall, shouting to invisible demons at the top of his lungs and madly flapping his dirty ski jacket. The women in line with me tut-tutted in alarm. The cashier said something disparaging about how mall security needed to kick the man out.
  • Better daycare works for us all

    Not long ago, in her small corner of Facebook, new mother Jamie Slight got a local taste of a national debate, one that gets at the heart of how we think about kids and families. In a discussion thread about day care policy, Slight said giving up a teaching job she loves is not an option, and more affordable, accessible daycare spaces are needed. A family member, a stay-at-home mom, gently took issue with that.
  • Facebook sits in as watchdog

    When Facebook reveals more about how doctors are policed than the College of Physicians and Surgeons does, it's fair to say the college has a secrecy problem. It's a secrecy problem the province has been unable to solve despite legislation passed nearly six years ago that's still not in force. It's a secrecy problem that cropped up again recently as part of a most bizarre and troubling health story -- the saga of "Dr. Doug" Broeska.
  • Watchdogs without teeth

    WHAT happens when the watchdogs won’t bite? For years, with some occasional exceptions, that’s been the state of affairs in Manitoba, where arms-length public advocates tend to be a little wimpy. We don’t have an André Marin, the wild and crazy ombudsman in Ontario who is as unpredictable as he is pugnacious. Nor have we had a child advocate as fearsome as B.C.’s Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. We’ve rarely had a homegrown Sheila Fraser, whose legendary tenure as auditor general saw her blow the whistle on everything from the Liberal sponsorship scandal to the on-reserve education gap.
  • Our inconvenience, their way of life

    We're a province whose essential culture is defined by water -- by all-hands-on-deck spring flooding, by plentiful and cheap hydro power, by summertime lake life, by hip restaurants on the frozen Red, by larviciding, by pickerel cheeks, by algae blooms. But it's only when the taps quit working or the drinking water's dodgy that we really think about how good we've got it or what daily life might be like without it.
  • Urban reserves offer a renaissance

    The Arboc smoke shop, gas station and nearby VLT lounge is a humble little cluster. Its trailer and pumps and low-slung lounge are easy to miss among the shiny new hotels and car dealerships that have popped up along the TransCanada Highway through Headingley. As small-time as it is, the tiny urban reserve helped spark Swan Lake First Nation’s renaissance, turning it into one of the best-run and most self-sufficient bands in the province. The small business ventures gave the band capital — cash-flow that helped fund everything from new playground equipment to a wind-farm proposal to the new casino near Carberry. The band was even able to fix up nearly every old house on the reserve. During a visit a couple of years ago, photographer Ruth Bonneville and I coveted one of the cool log cabins the band built for several young families, a kind of test project for a home-building business. It’s pretty rare to be jealous of a rez house.
  • Bylaw a fix for our stray-cat problem

    AFTER a summer trying to fatten him up on cans of Fancy Feast, we knew it was time to trap Sad Cat when an abscess on his forehead nearly girdled his eye. He was skinny and skittish, his head too big for his body. My neighbour, Wanda, and I fed him when no other cats were around because they’d bully him away from the bowl. When his patheticness finally forced us to take action, his abscess exploded in puss and blood on my porch as Wanda shoved his butt into my old dog cage. Then, unable to keep him ourselves, we deposited him at Craig Street Cats along with a big cheque for his vet bills.
  • Kapyong is a symbol of sabotage

    It's expected that federal judges will soon deliver their fourth in a tortuous series of rulings on the fate of Kapyong Barracks. It's been a decade since soldiers vacated the old base on Kenaston Boulevard, and a year since several of the province's best-run First Nations repeated their pitch in court for a role in the barracks' redevelopment.
  • Generosity doesn't solve poverty

    It's the holiday season, so Winnipeggers are operating at peak generosity. Arm's-length strips of raffle tickets are sold at school Christmas concerts and office parties all over town to raise money for the Christmas Cheer Board, Siloam Mission, the Sally Ann. The United Way's annual campaign is nearly done and almost at its $20-million goal. Winnipeggers are busy assembling shoeboxes and hampers and even piles of baby formula. As a think tank reported Tuesday, income-tax data proves we, indeed, are the most generous folks in Canada.
  • CMHR no conversation starter

    It was supposed to spark howls of anger from groups whose grievances got overlooked or underplayed. It was supposed to be the scene of rallies and street protests. At the very least, there was supposed to be a lineup to get in. Instead, the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has been met by something worse than outrage: Indifference.
  • A mother's burden: Women still do the heavy lifting in raising kids

    It took a quip by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to make me look up from my laptop and realize there was barely a man in sight. "It's great to be in a room full of women, with a few male allies," Wynne told the ChildCare2020 conference in Winnipeg last week.
  • Remembering Rocky's lesson

    In my last few years writing about welfare and homelessness and slum housing, I've met a lot of poor people. One of my favourite is Bill Rockwell. He lost his left foot to diabetes, and then doctors discovered cancer in his chest. Shortly after, the wheelchair-bound former wrestling referee found himself mired in a ridiculous, red-tape fight with welfare officials, a fight that perfectly illustrates the Orwellian nature of chronic poverty.
  • The kids are all right

    After years of rock-solid cabinet discipline, we're watching the provincial NDP implode in real time, with no sense yet how the brinksmanship will end. That ruckus in Premier Greg Selinger's government made national news just three days after Mayor Brian Bowman's landslide victory, a come-from-obscurity win that shocked even Bowman himself. And, if it weren't for the all-consuming mess at the Manitoba legislature, we'd be turning our gaze toward four Tory-held federal ridings and the Liberal and NDP challengers already working to steal them. All that is big news. Below the surface of these headline-grabbers, though, there's the start of a deeper shift in Manitoba politics, one that finally makes us a little more interesting and a little less predictable. And the shift is largely generational.
  • In praise of democracy at mayoral forums

    At the end of this election, most reporters and candidates will be sick of debates. Mayoral candidates have crowded into school cafeterias, church halls and chlorine-smelling community clubs a dozen times so far this campaign, and there are still at least seven more to go before voting day. That's a lot of precious evenings for candidates to spend talking to rooms of voters who may or may not have made up their minds. Few new ideas emerge. Talking points get rehashed. And most forum organizers tend to be too nice, shunning any chance for candidates to really interact, meaning promises don't get challenged and sparks rarely fly. Those are some of the reasons Mayor Sam Katz shunned most mayoral debates in 2010 and Gord Steeves is doing so this year.
  • Let's consider city sales tax

    Among the circular, self-sabotaging debates -- about rapid transit, mosquitoes, Portage and Main -- that seem to plague Winnipeg, none is more damaging than the one over property taxes. This election, just like the last ones, has been about who will raise your property taxes by how much. That's a boring and pointless argument, one we've been stuck in for decades and that condemns us to second-class status.
  • Labour endorsement could mean win

    Every civic election, the Winnipeg Labour Council endorses municipal candidates. The list is typically met with a collective yawn. It's never been clear labour's nod amounted to much on voting day, despite frequent moaning from the right that certain candidates are beholden to unions and couldn't get elected without labour's shock troops. Unions, like corporations, can't make donations. Their roster of endorsed candidates, especially non-incumbents, has never been star-studded. And during the last two campaigns, labour endorsements rarely resulted in the installation of new, progressive faces in the council chamber. Labour was no match for the entrenched power of incumbency, and even in wide open seats, its influence has been spotty. In 2010, for example, labour-backed Ross Eadie won the open Mynarski seat, but broadcaster Shaneen Robinson lost Elmwood, a traditional NDP/labour stronghold, to Thomas Steen's Tory-organized campaign.
  • Indigenous issues hot topic in mayoral race

    Historic marginalization. That's a university professor phrase you don't expect to hear in a civic election campaign typically dominated by potholes, police and tax hikes.
  • City dangerous by design

    When the doors of the downtown parkade elevator opened to the basement and I realized I'd pushed the wrong button, a fleeting moment of panic washed over me. It was mid-morning, a few days after news broke about a young woman raped by a cab driver after a night out with friends. The parkade basement was dark, and I couldn't see much outside the elevator. Close the doors, close the doors, close the doors.
  • When words fail us

    On the walls of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, behind the headlines of this newspaper, on the Facebook pages of young indigenous writers, the same debate keeps popping up. What should we call Canada's first peoples? Or, better put, what do Canada's first peoples want to be called, especially by white reporters like me?
  • Dangerous demographic: Lion's share of grief on road caused by young dudes with attitude

    There's a word, a little bit rude, that perfectly describes a certain kind of driver. The guy who weaves in and out of lanes, cutting off other motorists, swerving into the spaces between cars to get to the red light a few seconds faster. The guy who floors it down Portage Avenue, engine roaring, blowing through yellows. The guy who tailgates so close it borders on road-rage intimidation.
  • Excuse me while I stop disparaging myself

    Robert. John.
  • Can MPs find the courage to debate the right to die?

    Not long ago, I was sipping my juice box and eating my chocolate-dip donut after giving blood, killing the required 10 minutes to make sure I didn't feel woozy. I happened to pick up an old, wrinkly copy of Businessweek magazine and flipped to a short story about Alzheimer's. It was devastating.
  • Risky business

    Peter MacKay has a tough job ahead, one that could alter the fate of hundreds of Winnipeg's most vulnerable women. Before the end of the year, the federal justice minister must untangle Canada's bewildering, arcane and ineffective prostitution laws, key parts of which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in December.


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