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Robbing the poor

Re: Winning bet for arena (Jan. 23). Apparently, the Jets selling out the MTS Centre for the foreseeable future isn't profitable enough for team owner Mark Chipman. He will now become the antithesis of Robin Hood -- he will rob from the poor and give to the rich: himself.

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Anyone deluded enough to believe that this "gaming centre" is going to be a glamorous operation only needs to visit one of Winnipeg's other so-called luxury casinos to see who warms the seats of the slot machines. It's not Chipman and his ilk.

Gambling revenues have been called a "tax on idiots," but there are thousands with real addictions who have lost everything and untold others who will dump what little they have into a slot machine with the false hope it will change their desperate lives.

Chipman has been heralded as some sort of altruistic businessman, but other than tapping into public money and now becoming an epigone of Bugsy Malone, all I see are uninspired ventures supported by an equally uninspired provincial and civic government.

Downtown needs real business and residences that will benefit the city and its citizens, not a den of vice that enables the rich to pick the pockets of the poor.


Palm Springs, Calif.


What a wonderful social democracy Manitoba is when the government will turn to gaming revenue to fund a pro-sports franchise. Gambling revenue is most often derived off the losses of addicts, the poor and those with mood disorders. These groups represent the most vulnerable in our society.

It is wrong and irresponsible of our government to turn to expansion of gambling to fund a private business owned by millionaires and enjoyed by those with sufficient disposable income to become season-ticket holders. It is time for our government to address this serious issue -- and not expand its own addiction.



Measuring achievement

Michael Zwaagstra's Jan. 22 column, Reward teachers who show merit, raises important issues about accountability, but he misses the entire point about education. Teaching is not a business, and more so now than ever given the incredible challenge of students with highly specialized needs.

There are so many variables involved in teaching, many beyond the control of teachers, that providing merit pay for academic improvement is nearly impossible. This is the same thing as saying that doctors with the healthiest patients should be paid the most.

In reality, the people with the most difficult cases result in the most work and greatest challenge. Doctors, at least in most cases, can choose their patients. Businesses can terminate contracts with bad suppliers. Teachers must accept all that is given to them.

Zwaagstra rails against the salary grid and mentions that teachers could have a system such as the university's, where full professors are paid more than assistants. In reality, there are many cases where lowly paid assistants are far better teachers than professors.

Another factor is student achievement. How do you really measure this? Is it scoring very high on a standardized test? Is it measuring the greatest increase in marks? Is it the ability to be able to communicate, collaborate and use critical thinking? A grade of 60 per cent for one child can be a massive accomplishment and a 90 per cent could be a horrendous result for another.

Merit pay does have some validity, but until teachers can control some of major variables and have clear definitions of what is a measurable achievement, this system will be as flawed as any other.




Although some teachers may be doing a better job than others, it could be difficult to decide how you would measure what makes that teacher better, because people would have different views on this.

For example, one parent might like how a teacher involves all the kids and thinks this shows merit. Another might see that his child learns more with a certain teacher and thinks this shows merit.

Two teachers could be of the same abilities, but if a student views one to be a mean old man and the other to be a nice young person, the student will not realize that they teach the same way; he or she will only believe that one is meaner than the other, so the other one teaches "better."

In short, I believe we should not be giving teachers pay for merit because it could be difficult to gauge who has more merit.



Herds need protection

Craig Fontaine makes some excellent points in his Jan. 12 letter, A necessary pursuit. Most hunters harvest wild game for the nutritional value and many are opposed to rewards being given for taking the animal with the largest set of antlers because this detracts from herd genetics.

Old Bullwinkle has not changed since he crossed the Bering land bridge 12-15,000 years ago. But look at the technologies we have that make pursuing and harvesting him that much easier -- snowmobiles, ATVs, high-powered firearms and, yes, easier access via roads and groomed trails. What chance does he have? Therefore, there must be limits as to how many can be removed from a population to ensure it remains sustainable.



Lake is top priority

Your Jan. 22 story Lake Winnipeg conservation projects get $600-K boost states our government's investments in Lake Winnipeg are to "help dispel the belief that the lake is dying."

Our great lake is in serious peril -- I can't say it enough. That's despite full fishnets and vast, popular beaches and even the international Blue Flag recognition of Grand Beach's excellence.

To guard against any misinterpretation, I repeat what I said on my appointment to the conservation and water stewardship portfolio a year ago: "Saving Lake Winnipeg is Job 1."

That is why our government made three major initiatives to help save the lake in the last three weeks alone and we will continue with substantive improvements, including new sewage plants with Winnipeg.



Corporate welfare

Re: Sun News losing big bucks (Jan. 22). We read that Quebecor's Sun News TV network has lost $17 million in 2012 and calls this unacceptable. This is the Sun News that launches tirades against the left, the centre, welfare recipients, provincial transfers, etc.

Instead of pulling the plug on a failed business model, they go cap in hand to the federal regulator for corporate welfare requiring all cable companies carry them on their basic service, at a cost of $2.16 per year per household. Talk about free enterprise.




Waaaah! Nobody wants to pay for our opinions, so please force them to pay for our opinions, or else we'll be forced to give away the service the way we do our newspapers.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2013 A12

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