Mary Agnes Welch

  • Has fringe been politically neutered?

    In the fall of 2011, a local indie theatre company staged a play called Generous by Michael Healey, one of the country's most controversial writers. In it, a Calgary oil exec gleefully scorns the environment then seduces a reporter while the heritage minister stabs an opposition MP to stave off a non-confidence vote. It was a riot, a hot mess of complicated morality and improbable politics and outrageous characters. It tapped into the moment, especially for a city just finished with a federal election and smack in the middle of a provincial one. It was, pretty nearly, the last overtly political play I've seen in Winnipeg.
  • History may repeat itself in a tight race in Winnipeg South Centre

    Until a few weeks ago, most local Conservatives had written off Winnipeg South Centre. It was seen as the most vulnerable Conservative riding outside of Atlantic Canada, a Liberal stronghold the Tories miraculously stole 2011 and have no hope to keep. Now, the Tory talk has been replaced by rumblings in Liberal and NDP circles that a vote split might deliver Conservative MP Joyce Bateman a squeaker victory this fall.
  • 'Freedom Road' is coming

    Last week, what should have been a celebration on Shoal Lake 40 First Nation ended in tears and frustration. Politicians of all stripes were on hand to begin construction of the permanent bridge that will help end the reserve's century-long island isolation.
  • Major shift just low expectations

    When it comes to the federal government and climate change, the creation of a working group counts as a really big victory. That was the "major shift" that occurred at this week's meeting of provincial environment ministers, yet another gathering in yet another hotel ballroom in yet another city, this time Winnipeg.
  • Gov't's 'major shift' on climate change just low expectations

    When it comes to the federal government and climate change, the creation of a working group counts as a really big victory. That was the “major shift” that occurred at this week’s meeting of provincial environment ministers, yet another gathering in yet another hotel ballroom in yet another city, this time Winnipeg. 
  • Building bridge to ivory tower

    A few years ago, imagining I was smarter than I am, I sat in on a PhD class in Canadian politics at the University of Toronto. It was a year of reading and debating all the greats in the Canadian political science canon. I understood about half of what I read. Of that half, about half again was practical enough to be of some use to a reporter covering the day-to-day dirty work of Canadian politics — the Senate scandals, the parliamentary prorogues, the endless polling, the debate over indigenous sovereignty. A smaller fraction still was of use to reporters like me, who cover provincial politics or their local MPs or even city hall.
  • Harper government blowing smoke on GHG stats

    Here's a fib federal Conservatives repeat so often it almost sounds true: Greenhouse gas emissions are decreasing. Tories casually slip that fiction into radio interviews, into question period retorts and into back-and-forths with journalists. Earlier this month, when Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced new climate change targets in Winnipeg, she told reporters since the Harper government took power in 2006 emissions have dropped by 130 megatonnes.
  • The poor and the rich both benefit when they share neighbourhoods

    The folks behind the latest trendy apartment building planned for Osborne Village are doing something crazy. They're earmarking 30 units in the co-op for the poor. That includes a handful of units for teenagers who got a rough start in life, survived the child-welfare system and are ready to live on their own, with the help of Macdonald Youth Services.
  • Tories short on tangible policies

    It's been six months since the NDP imploded, one since the party's bungled leadership race narrowly preserved the status quo. Inexperienced MLAs thought to be lifelong backbenchers have taken on the government's biggest cabinet posts. Premier Greg Selinger, his roster of talented staff depleted and his leadership tenuous, continues to be largely invisible. Much of the day-to-day work of government has stalled. There's been no better time for Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister to cast himself as the premier-in-waiting, as the veteran policy expert brimming with pragmatic ideas to set the province right, as the statesman-like remedy to Selinger's messy leadership.
  • No debate on Manitoba's secret love affair

    IT could be easy to be environmentally smug in Manitoba. There are kilometres of intact boreal forest and pristine waters, unsullied by smog or oilsands or coal-fired power plants. All the clean hydro power and UNESCO World Heritage sites and the moratorium on hog barns are certainly something to crow about. Algae in Lake Winnipeg? Please read these 78 press releases about how the government is working on it. In the meantime, let's talk about the new cosmetic-pesticide ban and how Manitoba has almost met the Kyoto targets.
  • Welcome to our cowardly new world order

    What’s worse than a racist Facebook page? One that’s been set up as part of an ongoing attempt to cyberbully and smear a young woman. That, with a few hours of hindsight and a bit of reporting, is essentially at the core of Wednesday morning’s media hubbub about the Facebook page called Aboriginals Need To Get A Job And Stop Using Our Tax Dollars. The page, which included a bunch of predictably racist vitriol, was set up in December but caught fire on social media Tuesday night.
  • 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.


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