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For the love of horses

In the discussions regarding the proposed takeover of Assiniboia Downs by the Red River Ex, it is distressing that no mention has been made of the athletes -- the thoroughbred race horses -- nor their owners, who support directly or indirectly the livelihood of thousands: breeders, trainers, grooms, exercise riders, hay, straw and grain producers and more.

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Although some money has been put into minimal improvements to the grandstand and clubhouse, successive provincial governments, mainly NDP, have ignored the working conditions of the horses and the people who provide the real labour that underwrites racing.

The shedrows have not been maintained or brought up to contemporary safety standards for years. The living quarters for riders are appalling. Despite ample land, no turn out paddocks exist for the horses that spend most of their working life at the track, in a 10-foot by 10-foot box stall. Assiniboia Downs has gone from being one of two A league tracks in Canada in the 1970s to today's sorry state of affairs. This has affected attendance.

And yet, despite this, we keep sending our horses to race at the Downs, fixing up the barns as best we can, making due with an inferior setting, because many of us love the horses.

People do not just go to the races to bet; they go because they love to watch these magnificent animals, for their beauty, their speed, their grace and stamina. Perhaps it is time to restore thoroughbred racing in Manitoba to its former prestige by treating the backside to as much or more attention and funding as the frontside.

Without the horses and their owners, there are no races. Perhaps it is time to bring us into the conversation.





Kudos to the Jets project

I applaud the Winnipeg Jets ownership and management on Project 11 in honour of Rick Rypien, which brings awareness to mental health issues to young people. Certainly I would have benefitted had there been such a program 50 years ago.

Depression is a silent and devastating thief. It robs one of self-worth and feelings of accomplishment. It takes away everything and leaves nothing in return. Left unchecked it can lead to thoughts of suicide and even attempts. I know. I have tried many times. Then one is left with embarrassment and even more feelings of worthlessness.

Blessing on the Jets organization. I am sure your efforts will save many lives.





Starts at home

With Lake Winnipeg's recent designation of "Threatened Lake of the Year" for 2013 by the Global Nature Fund it is surely time to get proactive in our efforts to clean up our planet-neglecting ways. The path to green living starts at home.

The city is offering compost bins at a reduced cost of only $30. Food scraps account for nearly 33 per cent of most people's trash so this small step will surely have a major impact on our landfills.

Next, say no to plastic shopping bags. Many countries such as parts of Australia have banned entirely the use of plastic bags and the people there have been coping just fine. Carry reusable shopping bags and throw your kitchen scraps in the compost. A Manitoba without its lakes is a frightening thought and one I surely never want to see come true.





Say no to P3s

Re: Mark Romoff's article p3s a viable option (Feb. 4). While municipalities are deciding the best solution to securing additional infrastructure funds, the federal government seems content with their blind commitment to the P3 Canada Fund, which makes grants conditional on privatizing through public-private partnerships.

No matter how lobbyists such as the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships pitch the benefits of P3s, they cost the taxpayer more and provide less accountability.

It's time for a national long-term infrastructure funding strategy to ensure our community assets and services continue to be publicly owned, operated and delivered on a not-for-profit basis now, and for future generations.



President, CUPE Local 500



Magical fix

According to a recent report the average Canadian now carries a debt load of $27,000. This is up six per cent from last year. These are alarming numbers.

But it's no surprise. Taxes have increased year over year from all three levels of government. Wages have either remained flat or have been scaled back, and the availability of high paying, full-time permanent jobs seems to be a thing of the past. Each year the working class citizen has more money taken from their pocket in the form of taxation, leaving very little disposable income.

With no money in the bank and a hungry family to feed, adding $350 to the credit card seems to be the only option. There are only three ways out of this problem: raise interest rates, lower taxes and increase wages. This could be magical thinking, though.





Talk about charity

Marilyn Baker (Charity should not begin at the checkout, Feb. 6) makes a valid point in her rant about charities. Guilt only works once or twice. It does nothing to forge long-term relationships with donors. Charities have to balance the annoyance experienced at the cash register against how much they actually gain from this type of fundraising.

With respect to charities being "a big fat ripoff", I suggest Baker and anyone else who feels this way address their concerns with the charities they support. If you don't like receiving notepads and address labels, let the organization know.





Warm coat, cold heart

Re: Fur's flying in Montreal as pelts make a comeback (Feb. 4). Hot on the heels of an increase in the wearing of furs is the fur industry's propaganda machine. Even "just a little" fur trim is the result of a whole lot of suffering. Like so many other issues, we can make a difference for the animals by choosing to participate in the humane economy. A warm winter coat does not have to be the result of a cold human heart.




Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2013 A9

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