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PCs spurn young blood

Re: Volunteer crunch hurting PCs? (Dec. 3). It is a good sign that Brian Pallister is trying to get new and younger blood into the Progressive Conservative party, but it's how he goes about it that may leave him in the same ruins as Stewart Murray and Hugh McFadyen.

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They, too, sought the support of the new and young members of this party but failed because of a few good ol' boys from the Filmon era who continue to run things. They believe that the youth have nothing to contribute except selling memberships and distributing junk mail.

When I was a member of the PCs, there were numerous motions our youth wanted to bring forward. They included selling off Manitoba Hydro, creating a flat tax and legalizing pot. Unfortunately, motions like these never reached the floor because the party faithful (the white and blue hairs) would have had coronaries. The point is, nothing will change with the PCs until the youth are taken seriously and the good ol' boys shown the door.



A narrow perspective

Re: Narrow perspective harms war correspondent's memoir (Dec. 1). An author has no right to a positive review of his work. When it appears in a publication such as the Winnipeg Free Press, however, he deserves one that is written with a modicum of coherence and intelligence.

Mike Stimpson's review of my book, Is This Your First War? Travels Through the Post 9/11 Islamic World, fails to meet both criteria. His chief complaint seems to be that I don't rely on "learned critical observers" -- his words, not mine -- such as Noam Chomsky.

Well, no. I chose instead to sneak into Iran to meet with democratic dissidents who risked their lives standing up to the murderous regime running that country; to report on the ground about the mostly ignored ethnic cleansing of eastern Chad; and to shelter from Taliban bullets with Afghans who were fighting the Taliban before we got to Afghanistan and who will continue to do so long after we leave.

I was also in New York immediately after the 9/11 attacks and saw firefighters who were brave and selfless. Stimpson dismisses this description as predictable -- which I suspect tells you pretty much all you need to know about him.

Stimpson's review is the sort of thing one might expect to find in a second-rate alternative newspaper at a lesser community college. I find it difficult to get that worked up about it. The Free Press, however, is a poorer and, frankly, sillier newspaper for having published it.



Real water-park art

Re: It's our Winnipeg, for art's sake (Dec. 3). Public art is beginning to show a glimpse of promise in our fair city. The orbs at Air Canada Place and along Portage Avenue add levity and colour to our four seasons. The addition of another bridge of beauty has emerged into the realm of public art.

I wish to take this conversation a step further to discuss Parcel 4, the land at the centre of the water-park controversy, which galvanized citizens to object so strongly because of poor planning. If indeed we wish to have a water park in the truest sense of the words, imagine this: public sculptures in the midst of water fountains, gardens and meditative nooks and crannies for musical interludes to meld the inner-city architecture of the Exchange District into a city park, which opens one's view to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

We have the landscape architects, the engineers, the creative artists and the smarts, since Winnipeg was recently named one of the smartest cities in Canada.



Deflecting discussion

When John Feldsted writes in his Dec. 3 letter, Klingons can take it, that a "gay Klingon" remark is a freedom of speech issue and any attempt to suppress it is censorship, he is doing what so many do: trying to deflect discussion from the real issue.

I suggest that even when these phrases are thrown out without intention to hurt, they amount to hate speech and that supersedes any right to free speech. I'm sure someone will write that I am overreacting.

But in a world where a country (Uganda) is currently trying to pass legislation for sentences of life imprisonment and the death penalty for being gay, I suggest I am not. Let's focus on the real issue. Gay bashing is not a right and it is not funny.



The problem with boundaries

Re: Proposals to rejig 3 ridings rejected (Dec. 4). The issue is not just where the boundaries between ridings are drawn but the very existence of those boundaries. That is why we may paraphrase George Orwell in Animal Farm: All votes are equal but some votes are more equal than others.

Consequently, candidates' victories do not necessarily reflect full-majority support for their political ideas and affiliation. This situation does not diminish the importance of direct local or regional representation. But it should not trump the electorate's collective views and wishes.

To the best of my knowledge, only in the modern German system do all votes have the same effect on the parliamentary seat distribution, even though constituencies do exist. The key is the use of a dual voting system: for a candidate and for a party.



Not that Kim Campbell!

Re: In defence of dingbats, showboats (Dec. 4). "Dingbat" is too strong a word for Kim Campbell. To hold her up as a feminist icon, however, is stretching credulity.

The Kim Campbell who said, "Now is not the time to discuss important issues"? The Kim Campbell who posed semi-nude? The Kim Campbell who is about as much the first female prime minister of Canada as John Turner was a prime minister at all, or David Rice Atchison president of the United States?

Kim Campbell, who turned her back on Joyce Milgaard? That Kim Campbell? A dingbat, no. A ditz, naw. A feminist icon? Only if you stretch a point, make allowances, bear things in mind, give the benefit of the doubt, consider the circumstances, turn a blind eye and willingly suspend disbelief.



The Red River's heritage

I applaud the great architectural ideas reported in your Dec. 3 story One fantastical city. But let's not forget our natural and historic heritage of the lovely Red River.

For 25 years we lived along the Red in Elmwood. Despite the flood of 1997, we riverbank owners loved our river. It was a living organism that was lovely and poetic as it streamed through the centre of the city and its historic sections.

Given that Winnipeg is a rather featureless city, being built on a flood plain, it needs to work with the Red and realize that it is a remarkable gift of nature. Many North American cities have a river that defines their history and culture. And some of these cities have worked hard for many years at maintaining and enhancing that feature.

IKEA is a shopping venue and not a place to visit for natural beauty. It can never come close to competing with the beautiful flow of the Red River.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2012 A17

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