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Imagery for the birds

As bucolic a scene as its rendering paints, I very much doubt whether the planned University of Manitoba land-development project could attract non-native northern cardinals or sustain early spring maple-tree tapping on site (Thinking ahead, Nov. 4).

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Both natural elements are features of Ontario's south Laurentian and Lower Lakes regions, not of Winnipeg's distinct Prairie region. Even as an artist's impression, one would have thought putting "the concept of 'landscape first' " would highlight native ecology, not superimpose iconic Ontario images onto Winnipeg's topography.

On a more realistic note, it's good to see that the envisioned bike-and-pedestrian paths are serene enough to coax out the elusive female mountain bluebird from her usual hidden perch, although, like many, perhaps she's just openly pining for her old golf-course home.



Opportunistic pandering

Re: Booze bill called legally sound (Nov. 1). The NDP is running around and opportunistically playing on people's genuine fears and insecurities by copying the most reactionary policies of some of the most right-wing governments in Canada, increasing arbitrary police powers and pushing an extreme law-and-order agenda that one would expect from the Tories.

At the same time, they refuse to address the root causes of poverty, the prime source of the problem this narrow law-and-order agenda purports to address, in any meaningful, progressive fashion, an approach that only reinforces the decay and decline of inner-city neighbourhoods. It is like treating cancer with bandages, rather than tackling the cause of the disease.

Their approach reduces the options of those living in poverty, increasing the likelihood of petty crime and the growth of street gangs. And then, just this past spring, the Manitoba Conservatives came out with a proposal to raise social assistance rental supports to three-quarters of median-market rents. This would have represented the first significant improvement in 30 years, above the inflation rate, of financial support to the poorest sectors of our population.

The NDP response was to label this as meaningless political posturing by the Tories, who could not be relied on to carry it through if elected. If that is true, then they could have called the bluff and introduced that proposal in their provincial budget this past spring. The Conservatives would then have been put in the position of either supporting their own proposal and allowing this to pass through the legislature with unanimous support, or be exposed as liars if they opposed it.



Serving the incumbents

It is rare that I agree with the Free Press editorial staff, but they are bang on with the commentary on Winnipeg's arcane election laws (City elections aren't fair, Nov. 2). They are designed to serve the incumbents and to limit the ability of outside challengers to try to take their jobs away.

We need laws that encourage democracy and open doors for those who wish to serve the public good. If individuals like Gord Steeves want to get out early and make their case as to why they should be mayor, as long as they adhere to the spending limits, they should be able to do so without drive-by smear attacks by an incumbent who would then use the existing rules to her advantage should they decide to run for mayor.



Yard waste a priority

Winnipeggers should voice their support for the city's proposal to reduce arson risk by having city crews expedite the removal of bulky waste that has been unlawfully discarded in lanes (City targets quicker bulk waste removal to reduce arson, Oct. 31).

The significant arson risk posed by the hundreds of bags, boxes and bundles of yard waste that sat abandoned for weeks this past summer throughout at least one Winnipeg neighbourhood means measures to ensure the rapid pickup of yard waste also has to be part of the plan to reduce arson.

The facts are that over the 28-day period encompassed by the three scheduled pickups of yard waste in Wolseley on May 27, June 10 and June 24, hundreds of bags, boxes and bundles of yard waste remained in the lanes and on the boulevards for fully 21 of those 28 days, packed tightly together up against fences and garages in the narrow lanes.

Repeated telephone calls to 311 over that three-week period to express a particular concern about the arson risk did not result in action.

Emterra was more than one day late picking up the second-to-last yard-waste pickup for the year on Oct. 30. This was the big pickup of the fall season and this time thousands of bags and boxes of bone-dry leaves and branches sat in the lanes and on the boulevards.

By including the rapid pickup of yard waste in the plan to reduce arson, the city will help to ensure the plan to reduce the arson risk isn't just smoke and mirrors.



Political survival skills

Re: An apology, but few answers (Nov. 4). Scandal-plagued mayors such as Toronto's Rob Ford (along with a few disgraced senators) should be sent to Camp Mea Culpa, a wilderness retreat where they can help instruct others in the vital survival skills needed in public life.

These would include learning how to: shoot the breeze and duck sober inquiries; weave around behaviour problems; spin incredible fish tales meant to be swallowed hook, line and sinker; create smoke where there's fire; observe only female deer by passing the buck; hide in the cabin when asked to be a team player; camouflage the trail and find direction with a broken moral compass; and enjoy fine meals at the camp's expense and leave the mess for somebody else to clean up.




If crack cocaine is such a destructive drug, how come Toronto Mayor Rob Ford had to be exposed by clandestine video rather than observable behaviour? Not one of Ford's decisions as mayor has ever been attributed to drug impairment, so what business is it of the public what he does in his spare time?

Who cares that John A. Macdonald was a drunk when he confederated Canada?



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2013 A8

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