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Downtown can be unnerving

Zach Fleisher's March 21 letter, Talking among themselves, prompts me to respond to his view of what is wrong with the downtown. The Bay wants to close its downtown store, and community consultation is not going to change what is at heart a business decision -- Stalinist central planning is not part of a free-market economy.

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My own view of the problem may not be viable today, but I have fond memories of my youth in the mid-'60s spent visiting small businesses existing cheek by jowl in the downtown, which was a vibrant place to be at all hours of the day.

What has replaced this human-scale retail environment are obscenities such as Portage Place, with its barren, cliff-like facade. I work downtown, and going to the Bay through Portage Place on my lunch break is an unnerving experience.

I have witnessed what appeared to be drug transactions near the Carlton Street entrance to the mall on a couple of occasions and plenty of very tough-looking characters loitering around the entrances and in the food court area.



The downtown needs work, it needs people, it needs a full-service grocery store. What it doesn't need is the negativistic, self-indulgent comments from people who have not lived or ever spent a legitimate amount of their time in the downtown area. You can't let your fear rule your existence. It is what it is, and we have to work with that.

The potential is amazing and unending. With a good, proactive growth plan and a community-centred approach, the downtown's possibility for constructive, innovative growth really has no bounds. What it seems to lack is full-throttle leadership, skilled planing and financial backing.

It's not that the abilities aren't there; it's the fear of stepping out on a limb, or maybe falling once or twice before you get going. But we need to get going. The downtown is slowly heading into a financial pause. Unless the leadership's proficiencies kick in soon, we will head backwards.

Who would allow a cornerstone of existence, food availability, to disappear when they knew ahead of time it was going to occur. Proactive planning was not in sight. The downtown is and will be a legitimate, functional place to work, live and play. The planners and shakers had better pull out their A game, because the time is running short and the crowd is getting angry.



In his March 22 story CEO's contract illegal, Larry Kusch quotes from a government letter: "This begs the question whether the province has other motivations... "

With due respect to the writer of the letter, he or she makes a common usage error. "Begging the question" (in Latin, petitio principii) is an attempt to prove something by using the unquestioned assumption of that very statement being true.

As my old schoolteacher used to say, "Circular arguments don't get you anywhere." The proper expression is "raising the question."




Chirping in Churchill

In her March 16 story To see aurora borealis in all its grandeur, Churchill is the place to be, Alexandra Paul states that Churchill has three seasons. In fact, it has a fourth season, spring bird-watching.

Churchill is well-known by birders as being one of the top 10 birding destinations in the world because of the diverse birdlife found there. More than 270 bird species have been recorded in the Churchill area.


Churchill Nature Tours


Lipstick in kindergarten

Re: New bill protects transgender Canadians (March 21). Am I the only one who thinks it is unacceptable for a big, hairy man (for example) to be allowed to wear lipstick, a dress and high heels and go in and substitute-teach my child's kindergarten class for the day? Or to go hang out at the mall and use the public female washroom where preteen girls are?

It is one thing to protect these groups from harassment but it is quite another to pass legislation to make it illegal to discriminate against transgender Canadians who are "expressing themselves."



Unconnected to academics

Your March 20 story Fewer immigrants living here says that "Level 4 English-language skills (are) the equivalent of Grade 8." This is incorrect. Canadian Language Benchmarks are a description of a person's communicative ability in the English language and are not connected to a person's academic experience or ability.

A person can be a highly educated professional and have Canadian Language Benchmark levels of 1 or 2 -- not because they have no education, simply because they have not yet learned to communicate in the English language. I am a well-educated professional but unable to communicate in Punjabi or Cantonese. Academic ability and communicative ability are not the same things.


Winnipeg English Language Assessment and Referral Centre

A place for penitence

Re: Jails shouldn't be racial ghettos (Editorials, March 20). Howard Sapers is living in some cloud cuckoo land where he believes the federal government can wave a magic wand and, presto, there will be fewer aboriginal offenders going to jail.

That so many offenders, and violent offenders in particular, are aboriginal is disheartening. But this problem and its solutions are not responsibilities of our gaols and penitentiaries. Wardens are not social workers and jails are not places where getting in touch with your feelings is taught in class.

Jails were created as a place for criminals to do penance and atone for their crimes. Hence the word penitentiary. Their actual application is to keep criminals, violent criminals in particular, away from law-abiding citizens.

If rehabilitation happens to be an outcome from courses allowed in prison, so much the better. But keeping violent offenders away from society should always be the main goal.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2013 A14

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