Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck

Columnist

When Tom first started covering politics in Manitoba, paper files, hand-held tape recorders and direct access to politicians were the norm at the Manitoba legislature and city hall.

While technology and public relations strategies have changed significantly since then, the task of getting the story behind the story and trying to make sense of it for readers hasn’t.

Tom has been doing that as a news reporter and a columnist since the early 1990s, covering city, provincial and federal politics with the enthusiasm of the most ardent political junkie.

Whether it’s dissecting budgets, exposing wasteful spending or doing deep dives into complex government policies, Tom approaches his job as a journalist with the rank-and-file reader in mind, always interested in how decisions made by politicians affect the average person on the street.

Tom has covered some of the biggest stories in recent Manitoba history, including the Tory vote-rigging scandal, the privatization of MTS, the 1997 Flood of the Century, the Crocus Investment Fund debacle and the NDP mutiny that led to one of the worst provincial government defeats in decades.

Born and raised in Montreal, Tom came to Manitoba in 1990 and graduated from the University of Manitoba with an economics degree. He is a long-time community centre volunteer, an ice-rink maker and an enthusiastic hockey and soccer dad. When he’s not pounding his keyboard, he’s usually behind a drum kit playing in one of several bands around the city.

Tom joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

Recent articles of Tom Brodbeck

Tory path of post-decision criticism leads nowhere

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Tory path of post-decision criticism leads nowhere

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Yesterday at 2:00 AM CST

Marty Morantz thought he had a “gotcha” moment and wanted to share it with the world.

“Watch me question the governor and deputy of the Bank of Canada on the cost of living crisis facing Canadians,” the Conservative MP, who represents the federal riding of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley, posted on Twitter last week.

The gotcha moment Morantz thought he had was getting Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, to acknowledge that had the Trudeau government cut its deficit spending during the COVID-19 pandemic in half, Canada would have less inflation today.

“If the deficit spending had been half of that — $250 billion instead of $500 billion — would inflation have been less today?” Morantz asked Macklem, who spoke at the House of Commons finance committee Nov. 23.

Yesterday at 2:00 AM CST

Winnipeg Conservative MP Marty Morantz. (House of Commons screenshot)

Tories shake off potential NDP election pitch

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Tories shake off potential NDP election pitch

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government may have stolen the Opposition NDP’s thunder on its pledge to freeze electricity rates.

Finance Minister Cameron Friesen announced Wednesday government will immediately cut in half two major fees Manitoba Hydro pays to the province, saving the Crown corporation almost $190 million a year. According to recent figures published by Hydro, that would be more than enough to pay for rate freezes in 2023 and 2024.

In its rate application to the Public Utilities Board earlier this month, Hydro estimates this year’s rate increase of 3.6 per cent (which came into effect Jan.1) and its proposed increase of 3.5 per cent in each of 2023 and 2024, would generate close to $200 million in annual revenue by 2024-25.

Savings from the province’s 50 per cent cut to water power rental rates and the debt guarantee fee it charges Hydro would exceed lost revenues if a rate freeze were implemented between now and 2024-25.

Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022

Manitoba Hydro’s power transmission lines lace the northern skies around Gillam and Fox Lake. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Disgraceful, inaccurate Poilievre video exploits suffering of vulnerable people

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Disgraceful, inaccurate Poilievre video exploits suffering of vulnerable people

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022

The only thing more offensive than Pierre Poilievre’s peddling of dangerously false information about illicit drug use in a recent video is how he exploited marginalized people to make it.

The Conservative Party of Canada leader’s five-minute propaganda piece, posted online Sunday, is shot mostly on a downtown Vancouver beach where a tent city is visible in the background. Poilievre is shown sitting on a log, where he peers into the camera and asks smugly: “You ever feel like everything’s broken in Canada?”

Behind him, Poilievre says, are people “hopelessly addicted to drugs, putting poisons in their bodies” who have “probably lost their homes, their families — they lost control of their lives.” And where does the fault lie in this human tragedy? With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, of course, because he and like-minded politicians are supplying these “addicts” with drugs, Poilievre claims.

“This is a deliberate policy by woke Liberal and NDP governments to provide taxpayer-funded drugs, to flood our streets with easy access to these poisons,” Poilievre moralizes.

Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022

Minister of State (Democratic Reform) Pierre Poilievre comments on the Liberal Senate announcement in the Foyer of the House of Commons Wednesday January 29, 2014 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Use of private clinics is not end of public health care

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Use of private clinics is not end of public health care

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Monday, Nov. 21, 2022

There may be more than one reason why the Manitoba government is looking to expand the use of private clinics for surgeries, such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts, and it has nothing to do with ideology.

The Stefanson government in its throne speech Tuesday said it plans to further explore the use of private clinics to shorten hospital wait times for Manitobans. The issue probably got more attention than it deserved: there is only one sentence, maybe two, in the entire 18-page speech that references private health care.

“Other provinces have demonstrated that a blended public-private delivery system works,” the speech said. “We will continue to secure partnerships to ensure we explore any and all avenues to get Manitobans the help they need now.”

That led the Opposition NDP to light its hair on fire, which it usually does any time a Conservative government uses the word “private” when talking about health care.

Monday, Nov. 21, 2022

PAUL CHIASSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

There may be more than one reason why the Manitoba government is looking to expand the use of private clinics for surgeries, such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts, and it has nothing to do with ideology, says columnist Tom Brodbeck.

Province’s plan to protect students from predators falls short of the mark

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Province’s plan to protect students from predators falls short of the mark

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022

The problem with Manitoba’s plan to crack down on teachers who prey on children in schools is it excludes other staff and volunteers who work in the education system.

In its throne speech Tuesday, the Stefanson government announced plans to introduce legislation to create a teacher registry and an independent body to investigate teacher misconduct. The move is being praised by some child-protection advocates as an effective tool to fight child sexual abuse in schools. But does it go far enough?

When you consider that teachers are not the only ones who have access to children in schools, focusing solely on that category of personnel may be falling short of what’s really needed.

A 2018 report by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection found the majority of perpetrators in sexual offence cases against children in schools were teachers. But they weren’t the only offenders.

Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Teacher Kimberley Peters, Grade 5 classroom at Ecole Julie-Riel. See Maggie Macintosh story 210901 - Wednesday, September 01, 2021.

‘Progressive’ Conservatives deliver decades-old tough-on-crime throne speech

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

‘Progressive’ Conservatives deliver decades-old tough-on-crime throne speech

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022

It’s hard to imagine how the Progressive Conservatives’ new “tough on crime” agenda could rescue the party from the depths of political despair by the time Manitoba voters go to polls next year.

Collaring criminals with more downtown cameras and providing police with enhanced resources was the leading theme in the Tories’ speech from the throne Tuesday. It’s a continuation of a 1990s-style approach to crime and punishment Premier Heather Stefanson launched a few weeks ago. The hope is that by taking a tough stance on crime with corny slogans, such as “enough is enough,” the Tories will save themselves from almost certain defeat next October.

“Throughout our province, communities are confronted with unprecedented concerns over violent crime and public safety,” Lt.-Gov. Anita Neville read from the throne speech.

That may be. But there are different ways of addressing those concerns. The tough-on-crime approach that was popular in the 1990s, which the Tories have adopted, is the wrong one.

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

“Throughout our province, communities are confronted with unprecedented concerns over violent crime and public safety,” Lt.-Gov. Anita Neville read from the throne speech.

Ideology trumps evidence in Manitoba safe consumption site stance

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Ideology trumps evidence in Manitoba safe consumption site stance

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022

It’s surprising the provincial Tories are still clinging to the ideologically-driven position safe consumption sites for illegal drug use are not a good fit for Manitoba.

With former premier Brian Pallister no longer in the mix, the Progressive Conservatives had an opportunity to take a fresh, evidence-based look at a harm reduction tool that has been successful all over the world.

They instead continue to ignore a growing body of evidence that providing people with safe, supervised places to use drugs saves lives.

Pallister was the chief opponent of safe consumption sites in government when he was premier. He used the most inflammatory language to argue against them, including false claims they cause crime and attract drug dealers.

Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Premier Heather Stefanson and the Progressive Conservative party had an opportunity to take another look at supervised consumption sites, something former premier Brian Pallister staunchly opposed.

No denying genocide intent of residential school system

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

No denying genocide intent of residential school system

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022

It’s becoming increasing difficult for residential school denialists to defend their cause. The latest blow: a unanimous resolution by the House of Commons last week that calls on the government to recognize what happened to Indigenous children at residential schools as genocide.

The motion was introduced by NDP MP Leah Gazan. It was the Winnipeg Centre representative’s second attempt to convince her parliamentary colleagues to come to grips with Canada’s true past. A similar motion last year failed.

As Canadians learn more about how their country conspired with organized religion to eradicate Indigenous people through assimilative and other policies, the term genocide can no longer be dismissed. Pope Francis, who issued a formal apology during his visit to Canada in July for the Catholic Church’s involvement in residential schools, acknowledged it was genocide.

The House of Commons resolution, although not binding on government, was significant. The fact it received all-party support, including from the Conservative Party of Canada (hardly considered “woke” members of Parliament) is indicative of the public’s growing awareness of Canada’s genocidal policies against Indigenous people.

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022

KEN GIGLIOTTI WINNIPEG FREE PRESS APR 5 2002 PINE CREEK RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL (RIGHT) 1940'SPHOTO, NORTH OF DAUPHIN , THE SCHOOL WHERE GABE AND HIS WIFE THERESA MENTUCK WENT TO SCHOOL-KG

Note to Gillingham: make good on vow to end mayor’s grip on power

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Note to Gillingham: make good on vow to end mayor’s grip on power

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, Oct. 28, 2022

Mayor-elect Scott Gillingham may have won with only 27.5 per cent support in Winnipeg’s civic election Wednesday. However, if he follows through on one of his key election promises — to reform city hall’s powerful executive policy committee — city council could be a more democratic institution than it has been in years.

Gillingham narrowly defeated Glen Murray, who captured 25.3 per cent of the vote, in one of the tightest mayoral contests in recent Winnipeg history. It’s not unusual for the mayoral winner to receive less than 50 per support, especially in a crowded field of candidates (there were 11 in this year’s race). Former mayor Susan Thompson won with only 39 per cent support in 1992, when there were 17 candidates in the race and no incumbent. Sam Katz won the mayor’s chair with 42.5 per cent of the vote in a 2004 byelection to replace former mayor Murray, who quit mid-term in a failed bid to enter federal politics. Murray won with 50.5 per cent support in his first run for the mayor’s job in 1998, with no incumbent in the race.

Gillingham’s support was low by any standard. Candidates Kevin Klein and Shaun Loney each captured just under 15 per cent of the vote and former Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette received 7.7 per cent support. Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk — who sought the far-right, “anti-woke” vote — managed only 3.8 per cent support; not surprising in a centrist, if slightly left-leaning city.

Having that much choice in a mayoral contest is good for democracy. However, it also means no candidate is likely to run away with a majority vote. Short of adopting a new electoral system, such as ranked ballots (where voters provide second and third choices and a winner is only declared after a majority is reached, a system which has its own pitfalls), the first-past-the-post model will usually result in a fragmented vote, especially with that many people in the race. Even majority governments at the provincial and federal level rarely approach 50 per cent support.

Friday, Oct. 28, 2022

DANIEL CRUMP / THE CANADIAN PRESS

If mayor-elect Scott Gillingham follows through on his promise to reform city hall’s powerful executive policy committee, city council could be a more democratic institution than it has been in years.

Voters got it right with Gillingham

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Voters got it right with Gillingham

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022

Congratulations, Winnipeg: you dodged a bullet. Glen Murray, seen by many as a shoo-in to get his old job back as mayor of Winnipeg, crashed on Wednesday, finishing second behind winner Scott Gillingham in a tightly contested mayoral race.

Murray’s toxic behaviour, arrogance and repeated falsehoods finally caught up with him. Once voters saw him up close over the past few weeks, they realized he wasn’t fit for the job.

What the results showed is most voters wanted stability at city hall and a coherent, realistic plan for the future.

They got that from Gillingham, who presented voters with a responsible, fully costed platform that included revenue and expenditure projections. He won the day because he treated voters with respect, opting to give them a true picture of the city’s finances, not the falsehoods and trickery Murray was trying to peddle.

Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022

Scott Gillingham supporters celebrate his win over Glen Murray to become the next mayor of Winnipeg. (Winnipeg Free Press)

Something for everyone on diverse mayoral ballot

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Something for everyone on diverse mayoral ballot

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022

There is one thing Winnipeg voters can’t complain about in this civic election: a lack of choice. With 11 candidates running to replace outgoing Mayor Brian Bowman and 42 people battling it out in 13 wards, there is plenty to choose from on voting day.

The only exceptions are in two wards, where incumbent councillors Markus Chambers (St. Norbert-Seine River) and Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan) have been acclaimed. There are three or more candidates in nine wards and two in the other four.

The mayoral race has been diverse.

Candidates Scott Gillingham and Shaun Loney have by far the most complete and coherent plans, including revenue and cost estimates to support their campaign pledges. They are the only ones who have provided detailed financial projections. Each is offering a very different approach to governing but they both have released well-thought-out platforms. Their pledges have been consistent, with neither candidate wavering on taxation, costs or how they would address top issues, such as crime and infrastructure.

Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Voters have a full menu to choose from Wednesday, not only when it comes to campaign promises, but also regarding the character and integrity of candidates.

MPs who stood with illegal protesters bear some responsibility

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

MPs who stood with illegal protesters bear some responsibility

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, Oct. 21, 2022

The Ontario Provincial Police was bang-on when it warned last winter that politicians who openly supported the lawbreakers who occupied downtown Ottawa and terrorized its citizens for three weeks would encourage further lawlessness.

That’s precisely what occurred after MPs such as now-Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and others lent their support to the so-called “freedom convoy.” As parliamentarians, their actions should face the same level of scrutiny as the federal government, whose response to the occupation is now under review by an independent commission.

“The apparent support from Canadian political figures is certain to further embolden those organizing and participating in the blockade, lending credibility and validating their tactics,” read an OPP report, submitted to the inquiry. “Any such validation may also motivate further blockades elsewhere in the country, such as those in Alberta.”

It did. Gaining the political support of politicians such as Poilievre and others (some of whom posed for pictures with the occupiers and promoted their cause on social media) gave them a boost. It granted them a moral licence to continue employing lawless tactics to promote their twisted message that public-health measures designed to save lives and prevent the collapse of hospitals infringed on their personal freedoms.

Friday, Oct. 21, 2022

Police move in to clear downtown Ottawa near Parliament hill of protesters after weeks of demonstrations on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. The much-anticipated public inquiry into the federal government’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act during “Freedom Convoy” protests last winter begins Thursday.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Murray, Motkaluk peddling tax-freeze nonsense to win votes

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Murray, Motkaluk peddling tax-freeze nonsense to win votes

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022

Freezing property taxes at city hall would be the single most destructive step any new mayor of Winnipeg could take. It would result in deep service cuts and a further erosion of the city’s already-crumbling infrastructure.

Yet, mayoral candidate Glen Murray – who has plummeted in public opinion polls after allegations of sexual harassment and dismissal from a former job in Calgary surfaced last month — is now proposing to freeze taxes. It is a desperate and reckless bid to shore up support in the dying days of a campaign that ends Wednesday.

City hall has been running a structural deficit for more than a decade, after property taxes were frozen and reduced between 1998 and 2011, including a six per cent cut under Murray when he was mayor between 1998 and 2004.

To offset the shortfall, the city has increased borrowing, sold off assets and drawn down reserve accounts — steps that are not sustainable. The city has found savings in some areas, including slowing the growth of labour costs. There are opportunities to reduce expenditures further, but nowhere near enough to offset rising cost for core services.

Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg mayoral candidates, from left, Jenny Motkaluk and Glen Murray in a mayoral forum.

Honesty not Murray’s best campaign policy

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Honesty not Murray’s best campaign policy

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022

With a week left in Winnipeg’s civic election campaign, the lead candidate in the race for mayor, Glen Murray, still hasn’t revealed how he would pay for the millions he’s pledged in new spending. Instead, he plans to ask the provincial government for a share of its retail sales tax — an old idea that has been rejected by successive provincial governments, NDP and Tory, and is unlikely to be granted in the future. That’s not a financial plan, that’s wishful thinking.

Murray has promised a long list of new spending initiatives during the election campaign, including increasing the frequency of transit buses by 50 per cent, funding for seniors housing, boosting resources for bylaw inspections, expanding library hours, launching a new tree funding program and improving transit safety. He has not costed out his pledges and, more importantly, has not said how he would pay for them. Murray is not being honest with Winnipeg voters.

Two other leading mayoral candidates, Shaun Loney and Scott Gillingham, have costed out their platforms and have shown how they would pay for them. Loney is proposing a 3.7 per cent property tax increase and Gillingham a 3.5 per cent hike, plus a one-time, $1.50-per-foot increase on frontage levies. Mayoral candidate Kevin Klein has criticized council for raising taxes, but said he would still increase them in 2023 by 2.33 per cent.

There are two main reasons why Murray hasn’t come clean on how he plans to pay for his election pledges. If he proposes a property tax increase, it would be an admission that cutting property taxes by six per cent when he was mayor of Winnipeg between 1998 and 2004 was a mistake.

Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Glen Murray speaks during a Mayoral forum. Four candidates for mayor (Kevin Klein, Scott Gillingham, Glen Murray, and Shaun Loney) attend the Mayoral Forum: Growing Winnipeg’s Economy at the Holiday Inn Express Winnipeg Airport early Wednesday morning. 221005 - Wednesday, October 05, 2022.

Surgery tracker set to launch after bureaucratic delays

By Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Surgery tracker set to launch after bureaucratic delays

By Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, Oct. 14, 2022

The Stefanson government’s long-awaited online dashboard to track surgical and diagnostic wait times is expected to launch as early as next week. According to sources close to the province’s diagnostic and surgical recovery task force, the dashboard was ready to launch weeks ago, but was delayed by senior health officials.

“It’s just been bouncing around from one government silo to another,” said one source. “It looks like, fingers crossed, it may be ready to go next week.”

The dashboard, which will be available on the task force’s website, will include median wait times for a number of procedures, including hip and knee surgeries, cataract surgery, and diagnostic testing, such as MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds. Unlike existing wait time data on the Manitoba Health website, the dashboard will provide historical figures dating back to 2019, which will allow comparisons with wait times prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will also measure the backlogs that were created during the pandemic, similar to what Doctors Manitoba published on its website until a few months ago.

Friday, Oct. 14, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS An operating room at the new HSC Women’s Hospital, which is slated to open December first, in Winnipeg on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. For Jessica Botelho-Urbanski story. Winnipeg Free Press 2019.

Candidates ignore police salaries at taxpayers’ peril

By Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Candidates ignore police salaries at taxpayers’ peril

By Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022

There’s an elephant in the room in Winnipeg’s civic election campaign that candidates are not talking about: how the city plans to pay for ballooning police salaries under a new collective agreement expected in the coming months.

It could be one of the biggest financial challenges the next mayor and city council face after the Oct. 26 election.

The police’s collective agreement expired Dec. 31, 2021. The Winnipeg Police Association and the city are still in contract talks. With inflation at levels not seen in more than 40 years, the union will almost certainly ask for annual wage hikes well above what its members got in the last contract (about 2.5 per cent a year). If the union doesn’t get what it wants through negotiations, it may try its luck in binding arbitration, which is required if a negotiated settlement can’t be reached.

Either way, taxpayers could be facing a massive increase in policing costs. It’s something candidates should be talking about.

Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022

Marked difference between candidates’ plans, wishful thinking

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Marked difference between candidates’ plans, wishful thinking

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022

A chicken in every pot or a shovel full of asphalt in every pot hole is great political fodder at the door during election campaigns. However, unless candidates can tell voters how they plan to pay for campaign promises, they aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

Winnipeggers have been inundated with ambitious plans over the past several weeks in the 2022 civic election campaign on how to “fix” soaring crime rates, patch-up crumbling roads, tackle addictions and homelessness, and rejuvenate Winnipeg’s failing transit system. What’s been missing from these plans is a detailed financial blueprint.

Everyone wants better infrastructure, more bike paths, less crime and reliable transit. There are no shortages of good ideas on how to make improvements in all those areas. However, they all cost money. So far, most mayoral candidates haven’t told the public how they plan to fund them.

It was refreshing, then, to see at least two of them release their financial plans Tuesday.

Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022

RUTH BONNEVILLE /FREE PRESS FILES

Pot hole

Delayed wait-list tracker adds insult to injury for Manitobans awaiting help

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Delayed wait-list tracker adds insult to injury for Manitobans awaiting help

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, Oct. 7, 2022

There may be a reason why the Stefanson government still hasn’t posted its long-awaited online dashboard to measure hospital wait times: the numbers just took a turn for the worse.

After a slight improvement in July, wait times for hip and knee surgeries grew again in August, according to data released by Manitoba Health this week. The median wait time for all hip and knee surgeries jumped to 42 weeks in August, up from 35 weeks the previous month. It’s the third-highest monthly wait time over the past year. It means half of patients are waiting longer and half are getting their surgeries sooner.

It’s not for a lack of surgical output at hospitals. A total of 506 hip and knee procedures were completed in August, the second-highest monthly figure over the past year. The problem is the backlog created during the COVID-19 pandemic, when thousands of surgeries were cancelled, postponed or not booked at all during the height of the crisis. Even though operating rooms are performing at or above pre-pandemic levels, wait lists continue to climb because of the pent-up demand created during the pandemic.

The longest wait times for hip and knee procedures is at Grace Hospital, where the median wait time has soared to 60 weeks. That’s the highest it’s been in at least five years. In 2019, the year before the pandemic, the median wait time at Grace was 26.5 weeks. Overall, the wait time in 2019 in Manitoba was 24.8 weeks. The province has a long way to go to bring wait lists back to pre-pandemic levels.

Friday, Oct. 7, 2022

ETHAN CAIRNS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The longest wait times for hip and knee procedures is at Grace Hospital, where the median wait time has soared to 60 weeks.

Winnipeg’s next council at crossroads over infrastructure deficit

Tom Brodbeck 8 minute read Preview

Winnipeg’s next council at crossroads over infrastructure deficit

Tom Brodbeck 8 minute read Friday, Oct. 7, 2022

The City of Winnipeg plans to spend $873 million to reconstruct or renew 1,035 kilometre-lanes of streets over the next six years — about the distance to Churchill from Winnipeg.

It seems like a lot, but it only represents about 13 per cent of the city’s total road inventory. At that rate, it would take about 48 years to resurface or reconstruct all of Winnipeg’s streets and alleys. That doesn’t include new roads built in suburban areas.

The city has improved the overall condition of its roads in recent years, funded in large part by a two per cent annual property tax increase dedicated to street repair. However, experts say the level of investment in roads, sidewalks and active transportation routes still falls short of what’s needed. They say fixing the city’s crumbling infrastructure should be a top priority in this civic election campaign.

“At a high level, I would say that the city has done a relatively good job in terms of investing in its streets system, inadequate though it might be,” said Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association.

Friday, Oct. 7, 2022

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

City hall is spending record amounts on infrastructure, including more money for bridges, sewer and water treatment plants and buildings.

Murray tanking his job interview

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Murray tanking his job interview

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022

Election campaigns are like job interviews: candidates are the applicants and members of the public are the prospective employers.

Those who want to hold public office and make important decisions on behalf of the people (and who usually collect generous paycheques for their efforts) are typically engaged in lengthy job interviews during election campaigns.

The public asks questions about their qualifications, their ideas and how they performed in various roles in the past. As prospective employers, the public expects answers. It’s the same for people seeking regular employment. They often face lengthy, sometimes gruelling, interviews and are asked about past performance, including how they handled difficult situations in their former jobs.

Mayoral candidate Glen Murray doesn’t think that scrutiny applies to him. A recent CBC News investigative report found the former Winnipeg mayor was dismissed from his previous job at the Pembina Institute in Calgary — a non-profit clean energy think tank — and is accused of multiple transgressions, including sexual innuendo in the workplace, physically harassing a former employee, breaching confidentiality and refusing to accept briefings. He was allegedly frequently late for meetings or didn’t show up at all. Last week, in a statement he made in response to that report, Murray denied the sexual harassment allegations. However, he acknowledged issues in his personal life affected his job performance and that his work style clouded his judgment.

Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS LOCAL - Murray Glen Murray, candidate for Mayor of Winnipeg, is emotional as he talks about a major policy commitment at Two Ten Recovery, Inc., Maryland. presser on Friday. Sept 16th, 2022

More excuses from someone not fit for the job

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

More excuses from someone not fit for the job

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022

Accusations that mayoral candidate Glen Murray engaged in erratic and inappropriate behaviour while working at an Alberta think tank shouldn’t come as a great surprise to those who remember his objectionable behaviour and public outbursts during his time as Winnipeg mayor.

Who can forget when Murray berated a police officer after getting a traffic ticket, or when the former mayor verbally attacked the police chief at a fundraising ball in 2002, poking the former top cop in the chest? In 2001, an irate Murray lashed out at a city councillor in a parkade and threatened to “bury” him.

Murray has always had anger-management issues. The question for Winnipeg voters is: do they really want that kind of instability and narcissism back in the mayor’s office?

A CBC investigative report this week found Murray was forced out of his job as executive director of the Pembina Institute — an environmental interest group based in Calgary — where he worked for a year between 2017 and 2018. Murray was accused by staff of multiple transgressions, including sexual innuendo in the workplace, physically harassing a former employee, breaching confidentiality and refusing to accept briefings. Staff said he was frequently late for meetings or didn’t show up at all. It appears to explain why he lasted only 370 days in a position he once described as his “dream job.”

Thursday, Sep. 29, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Candidate for Winnipeg Mayor, Glen Murray, reads from a prepared statement, Thursday afternoon at his campaign office on Portage Avenue, addressing allegations of harassment made in a CBC story.
See Chris Kitching story
220929 - Thursday, September 29, 2022.

Manitoba voters have their left-turn signals on

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Preview

Manitoba voters have their left-turn signals on

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2022

Manitoba’s political landscape is about to undergo a major shift. If the polls are correct and voter sentiment remains largely unchanged, about a year from now NDP Leader Wab Kinew will be Manitoba’s premier and Glen Murray will be mayor of Winnipeg.

It would be similar to 1999, when the NDP under former premier Gary Doer won government after 11 years in opposition, and Murray (yeah, the same Murray) won the mayor’s chair the previous year. Doer defeated a Tory government and Murray narrowly beat out a business-backed Peter Kaufmann.

The election of a provincial NDP government and a left-leaning mayor wasn’t exactly the socialist extravaganza many had expected. A politically astute Doer moved his party closer to the political centre, espousing balanced budgets and ushering in tax cuts, much to the chagrin of orthodox New Democrats. Murray, who as a city councillor was previously endorsed by the left-leaning “Winnipeg into the 90s” group, was also eager to show the business community and others he had undergone a political transformation. There was, in those days, political currency in shifting from left to right, even if modestly. Doer phased out the business tax, cut income taxes and balanced the books most years, while Murray reduced property taxes by six per cent.

What would an NDP-Glen Murray political landscape look like today? Nothing like it did 20 years ago. For starters, no one will be cutting taxes. In fact, it appears inevitable that no matter who wins the mayor’s chair, Winnipeg property taxes will rise beyond the 2.33 per cent increase that’s been in place for the past several years. Even conservative-minded mayoral candidate Scott Gillingham (ranked second behind Murray in the latest Probe Research poll) has said he would raise property taxes beyond that level if he wins.

Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2022

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

NDP Leader Wab Kinew tends to espouse left-leaning ideas, but also claims to be fiscally responsible and wants Manitobans to know they can trust him with their money.

Derelict property plan has potential

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Derelict property plan has potential

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Friday, Sep. 23, 2022

Mayoral candidate Jenny Motkaluk’s pledge to have the city seize derelict buildings and turn them into affordable housing may sound like a pipe dream. However, it is doable.

It’s just a lot more complicated than she suggests.

The City of Winnipeg has had the legal mechanism to seize such property since 2002, when it passed the Vacant and Derelict Buildings Bylaw. Taking title of derelict buildings without compensating the property owner (which is different than expropriating them for development, where owners are paid) is allowed under the City of Winnipeg Charter.

It’s considered a last resort. It allows the seizure of property if the owner repeatedly violates the city’s vacant building bylaw, such as refusing to properly secure it. However, it’s a long and cumbersome legal process, which is one of the reasons it’s seldom used.

Friday, Sep. 23, 2022

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Concerned resident Vivian Ketchum checks out a vacant building on William Avenue in Winnipeg on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. For Erik Pindera story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.

Behold the transformation of Poilievre

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Behold the transformation of Poilievre

Tom Brodbeck 4 minute read Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022

It appears newly minted Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is willing to add a little water to his wine. After months of criss-crossing the country peddling conspiracy theories and fuelling anti-Liberal rage with juvenile slogans and deranged claims about Canadians losing control of their lives, Poilievre is showing signs of moderation.

He has insisted, wrongly, for months that government spending is the main cause of inflation in Canada, a claim not supported by economic evidence.

University of Calgary economists Trevor Tombe and Yu Chen released a study last week confirming what many economists have said: that inflation has been caused by many factors, but that it’s primarily supply-driven, mostly from rising global energy prices. Government spending and expansionary monetary policy from the Bank of Canada (which Poilievre erroneously refers to as “money printing”) has played a role, but it’s not the driving factor.

Poilievre knows that. However, he blamed the federal Liberals and the “financially illiterate” Bank of Canada for inflation because it helped him win the leadership race.

Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022

JUSTIN TANG / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre blamed the federal Liberals and the 'financially illiterate' Bank of Canada for inflation because it helped him win the leadership race.