November 26, 2015


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Folk Fest magic gone

Jonathan Wilson's report of the changes at the Winnipeg Folk Festival comes as no surprise to my family and me (Castle Boys' creativity will be missed at Folk Fest, June 24).

I have faithfully attended this event for 20 years running, with my family for 19 of those years, up until 2006. We loved the musical diversity, the intimacy of the workshop stages, the treasures of the Handmade Village and the eclectic, friendly, and safe atmosphere of the whole site.

Then came the beer tent, and the loss of the little stages where performers were allowed to explain their craft. Then came the yahooism engendered by folks who weren't there for the music, but simply to be seen making spectacles of themselves to impress their buddies on social media.

The magic that had been the vision of the irascible Mitch Podolak was gone ... and so were we.

Now, the Winnipeg Folk Festival is just like any other amorphous, expensive, overblown outdoor concert gathering that thinks it is still special.





Refugees offer history lesson

I was moved by Carol Sanders' article from June 21 regarding the long painful wait of refugees waiting to enter Canada (In the danger zone).

The federal government has often responded to criticisms of its refugee policies by touting Canada's supposed glowing record as a world leader in accepting refugee claimants. The moratorium imposed by Canada on new private refugee sponsorships begs the question of whether Canadians and their public officials have really learned the lessons of our country's history.

In May 1939, 938 mostly Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler's Third Reich boarded the St. Louis hoping to find a safe haven in the Americas. The passengers were turned away by Cuba, the U.S., and Canada before being forced to return to continental Europe.

Canada's minister of immigration at the time decided that there was no more room in our ever-underpopulated country for a single Jewish passenger; 254 of the passengers of the St. Louis would be killed during the Holocaust.

Then, as now, Canadians had a choice: save human lives from extermination, or let people die. I hope that our government learns the lessons of our history.





Walters a kind, caring soul

Kevin Walters was such a kind and caring soul (Walters was 'big champion' for Winnipeg, June 24). He was always an enthusiastic supporter of the arts and the "heartbeat" of Culture Days.

He was indeed a promoter, a promoter of people, and creative ideas -- a businessman with both compassion and commitment.

His passing is indeed a loss for the city, but I am saddest and most sorry for those closest to him. Their loss must be greatest of all.





The value of democracy

I'm in complete agreement with Peter McKenna's conclusion that mandatory voting can save democracy (At least one good reason to vote, June 23).

But is it worth saving? Democracy is expensive, inefficient, time-consuming and, dare I say, gives a voice to those least equipped to handle it. Need proof? See George W. Bush, or Vladimir Putin. As Winston Churchill once famously quipped: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

Perhaps the solution to our governing woes rests in the example of the Bank of Canada. There, people move ahead based on education, merit and experience -- a meritocracy, if you will. Canadians don't elect the board of the central bank and yet their influence, efficiency and absence of political agenda when making policy would turn politicians green with envy.

Better yet, they're not restricted by the whims and whining of Canadians.

We trust the Bank of Canada with the value of our currency and the state of our economic livelihoods on any given day. Why risk our political leadership to the slings and arrows of outrageous political sensitivities such as saving a penny of tax on a cup of coffee, or the state of Justin Trudeau's hair?

Then again, wouldn't that take all of the fun out of our dinner conversations?




Rapid transit poll too small

With a paltry sample of 603 respondents, the rapid transit poll might be less than useful in guiding decision making (Voters want say in rapid transit, June 24).

As with pre-election polling, more and more people are difficult to reach, what with cellphone use becoming the norm and those with landlines, and more likely to be reached, tending to be the older demographic.

The poll purports to break down responses by quadrant -- northeast, southwest, etc. -- but with a mere 150 responses per sector, one should be cautious of basing decisions on such numbers.

That said, it might have been useful to add a couple of upfront questions to ease into the topic. I would suggest asking whether respondents were familiar with the saying "penny-wise and pound foolish," or whether they were concerned that further delay after 40 years of dithering would likely open Winnipeg to substantial national derision.

For once, let's just finish what we've started.





Healthy rivers required

I loved Brent Bellamy's suggestions for embracing and showcasing our rivers (Let's make River City a reality, June 23).

Yet enjoying our rivers means supporting river health -- and we're pretty bad at this. Raw sewage, road sand and salt, lawn chemicals and malathion all end up in the water system.

Our sewer and water treatment infrastructure need attention, and a closer look at our inadvertent inputs is long overdue.




Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2014 A8

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