Mary Agnes Welch

  • 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.
  • Paying for a purebred doesn't make sense when so many lovable dogs need homes

    The best dogs are the ones you get for a case of beer. That's what my Edmontonian father always says, and that's how we got our best dog, Gizmo (named after Henry "Gizmo" Williams, the Edmonton Eskimos' wide receiver.)
  • Boycotting the obscene Olympics

    At $51 billion, the Sochi Olympics cost more than all other past Winter Games combined. That tidbit, now widely repeated, was included in a national news story one night last week, and marked the moment I decided to boycott, as best I can, the Sochi Olympics.
  • Politicians used to try to make a splash; now they're more focused on splash pads

    Last year, teeter-totters dominated Manitoba politics. Over the summer, which feels so long ago now, it seemed every cabinet minister in the Manitoba government was out in the sunny suburbs announcing a few thousand dollars for splash pads and twirly slides. Every week brought a new photo-op next to the monkey bars. At one point, after I made a snide tweet about the merry-go-round of announcements about merry-go-rounds, a senior New Democrat half-jokingly replied it was great to have a provincial government "focused most on what matters to Manitoba families."
  • Bank shot

    Rick Waugh is one of this city's outstanding products. The son of a Winnipeg firefighter, Waugh began his career as a bank teller in Windsor Park and retired last week as the head of Scotiabank, Canada's third-biggest lender. During Waugh's 10-year tenure as Scotia's CEO, he tripled the bank's profits to $6.5 billion and beefed up Scotia's presence around the world. Scotiabank now does business in 50-plus countries, and makes almost as much from its operations abroad as it does in Canada. If you've ever taken a winter holiday in Puerto Vallarta, you've probably spotted the familiar red colours of a Scotiabank ATM.
  • Homing in on homelessness

    More than 300 North American cities have pledged to end homelessness in 10 years. Winnipeg will soon do the same. The Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council is launching a high-level task force that will create the city's first 10-year plan to eliminate homelessness. That plan could include the first real count of Winnipeg's chronic couch-surfers and street-sleepers, a cap on shelter stays and a way to better co-ordinate the dozens of non-profits and government agencies who help the homeless. It will also include hard targets.
  • Rough road to redemption?

    "Terrible." "Atrocious."
  • The campaigns within the campaign

    In the days following the 2007 election, the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s board was deflated. The board gathered for a debrief, where the chamber’s policy and communications boss Chuck Davidson explained how the election shook out and what then-premier Gary Doer’s third term would mean for business.
  • Hydro sell-off hot campaign issue

    BETWEEN the TV ads, the duelling websites and the endless political chatter, you’d be forgiven for thinking Manitoba Hydro will be the only issue in this fall’s election. So far, it’s trumped the typical bedrock issues of crime and health care thanks to bickering about Bipole III and the NDP’s attempts to whip up fears the Conservatives have a secret plan to sell Manitoba Hydro.
  • It's more out of duty than passion for politics

    Young mother Erin McDowell is a steadfast and enthusiastic voter -- "I don't ever miss it," she said. During one of the flurry of federal elections several years ago, McDowell was knocked out by a brutal cold, but dragged herself down to her neighbourhood community club to vote anyway. "Then I went home, got back into my pyjamas and went back to bed," said the former hairstylist, small business owner and now mother of two girls. "If you don't vote, you do not get to complain."
  • But how do we reconcile?

    The search for truth, however arduous, will be the easier part.


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