The Sausage Factory

Did he die in vain?

dan lett 5 minute read Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014

Brian Sinclair did not have to die.

You can search through the entirety of provincial court Judge Timothy Preston's remarkable, 190-page inquest report on Sinclair's 2008 death at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre, but you will find no greater truth than that.

Sinclair came to HSC's emergency department (ED) and waited 34 hours without receiving medical treatment before being found dead in his wheelchair. He was dead for many hours before anyone took action.

Even before this report came out, the impacts of Sinclair's death have been profound, including a redesign of the ED from both a physical and procedural standpoint. As well, there have important discussions about improving patient flow to reduce the chaos that is endemic in Canadian EDs.

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Politicians, the media and gag orders

Dan Lett 3 minute read Preview

Politicians, the media and gag orders

Dan Lett 3 minute read Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2014

| This week, we got updates on two important bids by the federal government to muzzle its employees.

In the first instance, plans to subject MPs' staff to an indefinite gag order have apparently been ditched. Last March, MPs' staffers were told they would be subject to a lifetime ban on discussing any of the details of their time working in Ottawa.

The gag order was only one of several new guidelines for staffers, which included new rules on conflict of interest and disclosing gifts and payments by third party.

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Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2014

| This week, we got updates on two important bids by the federal government to muzzle its employees.

In the first instance, plans to subject MPs' staff to an indefinite gag order have apparently been ditched. Last March, MPs' staffers were told they would be subject to a lifetime ban on discussing any of the details of their time working in Ottawa.

The gag order was only one of several new guidelines for staffers, which included new rules on conflict of interest and disclosing gifts and payments by third party.

Not even Twitter can save us now

Dan Lett 4 minute read Preview

Not even Twitter can save us now

Dan Lett 4 minute read Monday, Jul. 8, 2013

It was a number that leaped off the page at me.

According to national survey conducted by Samara, a non-profit group that promotes civic engagement in Canada, only 10 per cent of respondents had volunteered for, donated to, or joined a political party in the previous five years. Only 17 per cent had taken part in a political discussion on social media, or written a letter to the editor on politics or a political issue in the last year.

Reading this reminded me that I recently also read that only 20 per cent of Canadians still smoke.

Imagine that. More people smoke than use the brave new tools of social connectivity to discuss political issues. All this at a time when smoking is considered unfashionable, and the internet makes it so much easier for us to engage, debate, organize and mobilize.

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Monday, Jul. 8, 2013

It was a number that leaped off the page at me.

According to national survey conducted by Samara, a non-profit group that promotes civic engagement in Canada, only 10 per cent of respondents had volunteered for, donated to, or joined a political party in the previous five years. Only 17 per cent had taken part in a political discussion on social media, or written a letter to the editor on politics or a political issue in the last year.

Reading this reminded me that I recently also read that only 20 per cent of Canadians still smoke.

Imagine that. More people smoke than use the brave new tools of social connectivity to discuss political issues. All this at a time when smoking is considered unfashionable, and the internet makes it so much easier for us to engage, debate, organize and mobilize.

Bomber transit adventure: no one got left behind

Dan Lett 2 minute read Preview

Bomber transit adventure: no one got left behind

Dan Lett 2 minute read Friday, Jun. 28, 2013

For those of you following my Bomber game-day transit deliberations - all two of you - here is the final report.

Went at 5:30 sharp to the Osborne Street rapid transit station to take the 161 Super Express to stadium. The 161 did not materialize, for reasons not entirely understood by the two dozen Bomber fans waiting with us at the platform. At least one 161 did appear northbound from the U of M campus, leading some to speculate the root STARTED at the U of M. If that's so, that's dumb given the need to move people south.

Waited 25 mins and finally caught a 162 to the stadium. There were a ton of buses moving southbound on Pembina Highway. So many that we were able to leap frog several and didn't have to make every stop. It was a semi-express and got us into the stadium in 25 minutes.

Total time needed to get to the game - 50 mins. Not bad.

Read
Friday, Jun. 28, 2013

For those of you following my Bomber game-day transit deliberations - all two of you - here is the final report.

Went at 5:30 sharp to the Osborne Street rapid transit station to take the 161 Super Express to stadium. The 161 did not materialize, for reasons not entirely understood by the two dozen Bomber fans waiting with us at the platform. At least one 161 did appear northbound from the U of M campus, leading some to speculate the root STARTED at the U of M. If that's so, that's dumb given the need to move people south.

Waited 25 mins and finally caught a 162 to the stadium. There were a ton of buses moving southbound on Pembina Highway. So many that we were able to leap frog several and didn't have to make every stop. It was a semi-express and got us into the stadium in 25 minutes.

Total time needed to get to the game - 50 mins. Not bad.

The great game-day deliberation continues

Dan Lett 3 minute read Preview

The great game-day deliberation continues

Dan Lett 3 minute read Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013

| I can't be absolutely sure because I was only able to check every five minutes all afternoon, but I'm going to suggest that Winnipeg Transit finally posted updated transit information for Bomber game days at 4:40 p.m. Tuesday. I'll let you decide whether, based on previous commentary, that was "urgent" enough.

The information posted on its site is helpful, although I did find it a bit incomplete. And the presentation is very cumbersome.

For example, it did not contain information about the temporary diamond lanes (open buses and bicycles only) that will be established to help get buses into and out of the campus on game days. That information was contained in a great story by WFP reporter extraordinaire Bartley Kives. The diamond lanes will be in effect on Bishop Grandin and University Crescent. Why is that information important? Consider my dilemma.

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Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013

| I can't be absolutely sure because I was only able to check every five minutes all afternoon, but I'm going to suggest that Winnipeg Transit finally posted updated transit information for Bomber game days at 4:40 p.m. Tuesday. I'll let you decide whether, based on previous commentary, that was "urgent" enough.

The information posted on its site is helpful, although I did find it a bit incomplete. And the presentation is very cumbersome.

For example, it did not contain information about the temporary diamond lanes (open buses and bicycles only) that will be established to help get buses into and out of the campus on game days. That information was contained in a great story by WFP reporter extraordinaire Bartley Kives. The diamond lanes will be in effect on Bishop Grandin and University Crescent. Why is that information important? Consider my dilemma.

Urgency is another way of saying, ‘I care.’

Dan Lett 5 minute read Preview

Urgency is another way of saying, ‘I care.’

Dan Lett 5 minute read Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2013

Like many of you, I have read and heard much over the past two weeks about the experience of getting to and from the new Investor's Group Stadium -- home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and sundry other sports and entertainment events. I get to experience, first hand, the game-day experience on Thursday, when I take my family to see the regular season home opener.

We haven't yet decided how to go to the stadium. Might hitch a ride with friends. (Carpooling is the intelligent person's solution to traffic problems after all.) My wife, a regular Winnipeg Transit passenger, has suggested we try out the Bomber express buses from a park and ride site. Just for the experience, I thought that might be the ticket.

Went to Winnipeg Transit's website and found out that the page with all information on how to get to and from the stadium on game day is down. No information at all. Nothing as well on the Bomber website. It's all being updated, and team officials have promised that it will be available sometime Tuesday afternoon.

As I write this, it's now officially Tuesday afternoon. In fact, it's just after 12 noon. Nothing yet. I'm going to watch carefully to see what happens in the next few hours.

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Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2013

Like many of you, I have read and heard much over the past two weeks about the experience of getting to and from the new Investor's Group Stadium -- home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and sundry other sports and entertainment events. I get to experience, first hand, the game-day experience on Thursday, when I take my family to see the regular season home opener.

We haven't yet decided how to go to the stadium. Might hitch a ride with friends. (Carpooling is the intelligent person's solution to traffic problems after all.) My wife, a regular Winnipeg Transit passenger, has suggested we try out the Bomber express buses from a park and ride site. Just for the experience, I thought that might be the ticket.

Went to Winnipeg Transit's website and found out that the page with all information on how to get to and from the stadium on game day is down. No information at all. Nothing as well on the Bomber website. It's all being updated, and team officials have promised that it will be available sometime Tuesday afternoon.

As I write this, it's now officially Tuesday afternoon. In fact, it's just after 12 noon. Nothing yet. I'm going to watch carefully to see what happens in the next few hours.

Ontario’s ‘Big Move:’ pay more to get more

Dan Lett 5 minute read Preview

Ontario’s ‘Big Move:’ pay more to get more

Dan Lett 5 minute read Tuesday, May. 7, 2013

The debate in Manitoba over infrastructure funding is still pretty heated, two weeks after the NDP government announced it was raising the sales tax by one-point to essentially double the annual cash contribution to capital projects. When fully implemented, and combined with current cash-to-capital contributions, in theory the proposal will generate about $560 million annually for infrastructure (based on current PST yields).

The debate over the PST hike has been, as could be expected, pretty shrill stuff. Citizens, special interests, lobbyists and opposition politicians are all jockeying for position. There is no consensus yet, but it's fair to say there aren't a lot of people outside the government proper who like Premier Greg Selinger's plan to implement the tax, and do it without holding a referendum.

Of course, Manitoba is not the only province involved in a debate about politics, tax increases and infrastructure. Our neighbors to the east have their own debate going, and it's a doozy.

Newly-minted Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne last week introduced a provincial budget which calls for, among many things, a new array of surcharges, levies and taxes to help pay for 'the Big Move,' the name given to her ambitious $50-billion transit improvement strategy. The Big Move would see $2 billion spent in each of the next 25 years on new highways, bus rapid transitways, and extensions to the Go Train and Toronto Transit Commission subway systems.

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Tuesday, May. 7, 2013

The debate in Manitoba over infrastructure funding is still pretty heated, two weeks after the NDP government announced it was raising the sales tax by one-point to essentially double the annual cash contribution to capital projects. When fully implemented, and combined with current cash-to-capital contributions, in theory the proposal will generate about $560 million annually for infrastructure (based on current PST yields).

The debate over the PST hike has been, as could be expected, pretty shrill stuff. Citizens, special interests, lobbyists and opposition politicians are all jockeying for position. There is no consensus yet, but it's fair to say there aren't a lot of people outside the government proper who like Premier Greg Selinger's plan to implement the tax, and do it without holding a referendum.

Of course, Manitoba is not the only province involved in a debate about politics, tax increases and infrastructure. Our neighbors to the east have their own debate going, and it's a doozy.

Newly-minted Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne last week introduced a provincial budget which calls for, among many things, a new array of surcharges, levies and taxes to help pay for 'the Big Move,' the name given to her ambitious $50-billion transit improvement strategy. The Big Move would see $2 billion spent in each of the next 25 years on new highways, bus rapid transitways, and extensions to the Go Train and Toronto Transit Commission subway systems.

CTF scores a direct hit — on itself

Dan Lett 5 minute read Preview

CTF scores a direct hit — on itself

Dan Lett 5 minute read Friday, Mar. 15, 2013

Score another direct hit for the Canadian Taxpayer Federation. Our friends at the CTF grabbed headlines this week by revealing, through an access to information request, a personal expense scandal involving Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth. CTF chief prairie sleuth Colin Craig, acting on a tip from a "whistleblower," revealed several questionable expenses claimed by Forsyth over the past two years. These included $200 for golf shoes, $130 for a duffle bag and automobile expenses, including her driver's licence fee.

Let it be said that Forsyth should have known better. The golf shoes in particular are one of those expenses whose symbolic value far exceeds its monetary value. Forsyth said she needed the shoes to attend a golf tournament as a representative of RRC. Most golfers know that a) you can get a decent pair of golf shoes for less than two C-notes, and b) a lot of non-golfers (which she admits to being) have been known to get through a round of golf in a pair of trainers. Either way, it was a silly expense that a highly paid civil servant should have known was a lightning rod for axe-grinders and dissidents.

As for the other expenses, you could make a strong case that they are rather mundane. Perhaps there were explanations for why Forsyth claimed a duffel bag or her licence fee. We'll never know because the CTF, as is its style, did not call the president for clarification before posting the expenses online. 

This publish-first-ask-questions-later-style is well practised by bloggers and other self-proclaimed, Internet-fuelled watchdogs. Get your shot in, worry about whether you were on the mark later. The CTF, like a lot of bloggers, would argue that it is not part of their job to call the people they skewer for comment; that's the work of hack journalists like me. However, not calling and getting clarification or reaction means that you don't really care if what you're saying is accurate, fair or even worthy of publication.

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Friday, Mar. 15, 2013

Score another direct hit for the Canadian Taxpayer Federation. Our friends at the CTF grabbed headlines this week by revealing, through an access to information request, a personal expense scandal involving Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth. CTF chief prairie sleuth Colin Craig, acting on a tip from a "whistleblower," revealed several questionable expenses claimed by Forsyth over the past two years. These included $200 for golf shoes, $130 for a duffle bag and automobile expenses, including her driver's licence fee.

Let it be said that Forsyth should have known better. The golf shoes in particular are one of those expenses whose symbolic value far exceeds its monetary value. Forsyth said she needed the shoes to attend a golf tournament as a representative of RRC. Most golfers know that a) you can get a decent pair of golf shoes for less than two C-notes, and b) a lot of non-golfers (which she admits to being) have been known to get through a round of golf in a pair of trainers. Either way, it was a silly expense that a highly paid civil servant should have known was a lightning rod for axe-grinders and dissidents.

As for the other expenses, you could make a strong case that they are rather mundane. Perhaps there were explanations for why Forsyth claimed a duffel bag or her licence fee. We'll never know because the CTF, as is its style, did not call the president for clarification before posting the expenses online. 

This publish-first-ask-questions-later-style is well practised by bloggers and other self-proclaimed, Internet-fuelled watchdogs. Get your shot in, worry about whether you were on the mark later. The CTF, like a lot of bloggers, would argue that it is not part of their job to call the people they skewer for comment; that's the work of hack journalists like me. However, not calling and getting clarification or reaction means that you don't really care if what you're saying is accurate, fair or even worthy of publication.

The ethnic vote: the dirtiest little secret in politics?

Dan Lett 7 minute read Preview

The ethnic vote: the dirtiest little secret in politics?

Dan Lett 7 minute read Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2013

She's running way behind in the polls, is mired in debt and deficit and facing a provincial election in just 10  weeks time. Could things get any worse for BC Premier Christy Clark?

Apparently, they can. Last week, the opposition NDP, frontrunners in the pre-election polls, released exerpts of an internal memo from B.C.'s Liberal government that outlined its strategy to woo ethnic voters in the upcoming election. The 17-page document, prepared by Clark's chief of staff, described ways of earning "quick wins" among ethnic voters by unleashing a wave of apologies for historic wrongs and creating a team of partisans to flood open-line radio shows catering to ethnic audiences with pro-Liberal callers. 

Ethnic-gate, as it's been dubbed, prompted a tidal wave of protest, both from within and without the party. Not surprisingly, the NDP were morally offended by the cynical strategy, and that government resources would be used to facilitate it. More surprising was the fact that a group of 89 Liberals who claimed to be of "ethnic background" met last weekend and voted to ask Clark to step down as premier.

Perhaps I've spent too much time breathing the same air as political operatives, but I had trouble figuring out where the scandal part comes in here. I spent the weekend reading everything I could on ethnic-gate, and found some interesting other facts of the story. It serves, I hope, as a bit of a reality check.

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Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2013

She's running way behind in the polls, is mired in debt and deficit and facing a provincial election in just 10  weeks time. Could things get any worse for BC Premier Christy Clark?

Apparently, they can. Last week, the opposition NDP, frontrunners in the pre-election polls, released exerpts of an internal memo from B.C.'s Liberal government that outlined its strategy to woo ethnic voters in the upcoming election. The 17-page document, prepared by Clark's chief of staff, described ways of earning "quick wins" among ethnic voters by unleashing a wave of apologies for historic wrongs and creating a team of partisans to flood open-line radio shows catering to ethnic audiences with pro-Liberal callers. 

Ethnic-gate, as it's been dubbed, prompted a tidal wave of protest, both from within and without the party. Not surprisingly, the NDP were morally offended by the cynical strategy, and that government resources would be used to facilitate it. More surprising was the fact that a group of 89 Liberals who claimed to be of "ethnic background" met last weekend and voted to ask Clark to step down as premier.

Perhaps I've spent too much time breathing the same air as political operatives, but I had trouble figuring out where the scandal part comes in here. I spent the weekend reading everything I could on ethnic-gate, and found some interesting other facts of the story. It serves, I hope, as a bit of a reality check.

How well do we know the rules of hockey?

Dan Lett 4 minute read Preview

How well do we know the rules of hockey?

Dan Lett 4 minute read Monday, Feb. 25, 2013

We laid down a challenge to all hockey fans: test your knowledge of the rules of the game. You responded in remarkable fashion.

Last week, the Free Press posted the Great Canadian Hockey Quiz to test the average fan's knowledge of the rules of hockey. There were 14 questions on everything from offsides and icings to more complex queries on specific infractions. Hockey Canada, the guardians of the rules of the game, get a big assist for helping us compose the questions and answers.

So, how did you fare? More than 3,000 readers have taken the quiz so far. The average score was slighly more than eight right answers out of 14, or about 60 per cent. That's a solid 'C' grade. Only 120 people got a perfect score; that was about four per cent of the total number who took the quiz.

For those who self-identified as referees, the results were, perhaps not surprisingly, better.  Referees scored 83 per cent on the quiz, a solid 'A.' That's important to remember next time you're hounding a zebra at the rink.

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Monday, Feb. 25, 2013

We laid down a challenge to all hockey fans: test your knowledge of the rules of the game. You responded in remarkable fashion.

Last week, the Free Press posted the Great Canadian Hockey Quiz to test the average fan's knowledge of the rules of hockey. There were 14 questions on everything from offsides and icings to more complex queries on specific infractions. Hockey Canada, the guardians of the rules of the game, get a big assist for helping us compose the questions and answers.

So, how did you fare? More than 3,000 readers have taken the quiz so far. The average score was slighly more than eight right answers out of 14, or about 60 per cent. That's a solid 'C' grade. Only 120 people got a perfect score; that was about four per cent of the total number who took the quiz.

For those who self-identified as referees, the results were, perhaps not surprisingly, better.  Referees scored 83 per cent on the quiz, a solid 'A.' That's important to remember next time you're hounding a zebra at the rink.

In minor hockey, stupid is as stupid does

Dan Lett 7 minute read Preview

In minor hockey, stupid is as stupid does

Dan Lett 7 minute read Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013

If you have a son or daughter in hockey, you will likely come across this video sometime in the next few days. It shows a Selkirk hockey dad, Jason Boyd, infant child in arms, protesting a penalty against his 15-year-old son in a game at Southdale arena.

Boyd's son delivers a violent hit along the boards against a much smaller opponent, and is assessed a penalty for making contact to the head. As soon as the referee raises his arm signalling a penalty, Boyd launches into a diatribe, complaining that it was unfair to penalize his son for hitting a smaller opponent that he refers to several times as a "midget." His outburst draws the ire of a parent from the other team who has a video camera and the father of the smaller player left motionless on the ice. It is during this outburst that Boyd several times threatens to "cave in" the eyeglasses worn by the other father. 

The video, posted on several video sharing sites, has obviously become a hot topic of conversation.  Perhaps realizing his indefensible position, Boyd issued an apology to those he verbally abused at the rink. He also indicated he would abide by the terms of a rink ban that will keep him away from his son's games throughout the remainder of this season. 

Boyd focused his apology on his deplorable behavior, blaming it in part on the heat and emotion of the moment. That is the convenient cop-out when someone loses their cool while attending a minor hockey game. Unfortunately, a lack of self-control is not really Boyd's major problem. His big flaw, shared by a gross majority of hockey parents in this country, is that he knows nothing about the rules of hockey.

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Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013

Handout / THe Canadian Press
Hockey dad Jason Boyd shouts in a video taken from YouTube on Friday.

It’s not a revenue problem. It’s a revenue problem.

Dan Lett 5 minute read Preview

It’s not a revenue problem. It’s a revenue problem.

Dan Lett 5 minute read Monday, Feb. 11, 2013

Optics are a funny thing in politics. Thanks to attack ads, talking points, Question Period rhetoric and good old-fashioned retail political manipulation, we develop certain impressions of politicians, parties and even government. These impressions could be well-earned and accurate. Or they could be completely unfair. Sometimes the only way to really assess the labels we put on politicians is to look at the hard numbers.

That's not always a panacea for accuracy. But it can be the stuff of great debate.

Consider that last week, Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty offered a fiscal update that essentially framed his continuing deficit worries as a "revenue problem."

It was a surprising shift in lexicon for Flaherty and the Conservative government. Going into the current fiscal year, Flaherty had earned the label of a hard-line fiscal manager thanks to significant spending cuts and civil service reductions.

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Monday, Feb. 11, 2013

Optics are a funny thing in politics. Thanks to attack ads, talking points, Question Period rhetoric and good old-fashioned retail political manipulation, we develop certain impressions of politicians, parties and even government. These impressions could be well-earned and accurate. Or they could be completely unfair. Sometimes the only way to really assess the labels we put on politicians is to look at the hard numbers.

That's not always a panacea for accuracy. But it can be the stuff of great debate.

Consider that last week, Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty offered a fiscal update that essentially framed his continuing deficit worries as a "revenue problem."

It was a surprising shift in lexicon for Flaherty and the Conservative government. Going into the current fiscal year, Flaherty had earned the label of a hard-line fiscal manager thanks to significant spending cuts and civil service reductions.

Justin Trudeau’s premature priministerial posture

Dan Lett 6 minute read Preview

Justin Trudeau’s premature priministerial posture

Dan Lett 6 minute read Friday, Oct. 19, 2012

He’s not leader of anything right now, and even if he does win the Liberal crown, it’s a long shot that he will ever get the chance to lead a government. Still, that hasn’t stopped Quebec MP and presumptive leadership front-runner Justin Trudeau from acting like he’s already prime minister.

Trudeau is scheduled to appear at a Liberal rally in Winnipeg on Saturday October 20. This is the first time he is visiting Winnipeg since he announced his intention to run for the leadership of the federal Liberals earlier this month. Once he declared, and even before he confirmed his appearance this weekend, a cadre of Free Press journalists began rousting their contacts in the party to secure a sit-down interview with him whilst in our fair city. In particular, we attempted to get him to do a live webcast interview at the Free Press News Café on McDermot Avenue, where we have interviewed federal politicians such as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Heritage Minister James Moore, among others. Heck, we even had then-interim Grit leader Bob Rae in for a chat.

After nearly two weeks of back-and-forth with local Liberals working on his campaign, and his federal handlers, we were told Trudeau “isn’t doing one-on-one interviews” at the moment. We were free to scrum him after his Saturday gig, the Grit handlers said, but that was the extent of his availability.

The fact is Trudeau is doing one-on-one interviews. He did an “exclusive” interview with the Globe and Mail’s Jane Taber, a veteran ‘inside the ropes’ journalist, for a story that appeared October 6. He also did a sit-down with Maclean’s Magazine for their October 11th issue.

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Friday, Oct. 19, 2012

He’s not leader of anything right now, and even if he does win the Liberal crown, it’s a long shot that he will ever get the chance to lead a government. Still, that hasn’t stopped Quebec MP and presumptive leadership front-runner Justin Trudeau from acting like he’s already prime minister.

Trudeau is scheduled to appear at a Liberal rally in Winnipeg on Saturday October 20. This is the first time he is visiting Winnipeg since he announced his intention to run for the leadership of the federal Liberals earlier this month. Once he declared, and even before he confirmed his appearance this weekend, a cadre of Free Press journalists began rousting their contacts in the party to secure a sit-down interview with him whilst in our fair city. In particular, we attempted to get him to do a live webcast interview at the Free Press News Café on McDermot Avenue, where we have interviewed federal politicians such as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Heritage Minister James Moore, among others. Heck, we even had then-interim Grit leader Bob Rae in for a chat.

After nearly two weeks of back-and-forth with local Liberals working on his campaign, and his federal handlers, we were told Trudeau “isn’t doing one-on-one interviews” at the moment. We were free to scrum him after his Saturday gig, the Grit handlers said, but that was the extent of his availability.

The fact is Trudeau is doing one-on-one interviews. He did an “exclusive” interview with the Globe and Mail’s Jane Taber, a veteran ‘inside the ropes’ journalist, for a story that appeared October 6. He also did a sit-down with Maclean’s Magazine for their October 11th issue.

Your scandal is bigger than my scandal

Dan Lett 5 minute read Preview

Your scandal is bigger than my scandal

Dan Lett 5 minute read Friday, Mar. 2, 2012

Allegations of misconduct abound in federal politics right now. We've got the "robocall" scandal, where opposition parties believe the ruling Conservatives sent out fraudulent and misleading automated phone messages to NDP and Liberal voters to discourage them from voting. On the other side of the House of Commons, it's "@Vikileaks," where Tories are howling for more information about the Liberal political staffer who has taken responsibility for revealing intimate details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toew's divorce file via Twitter.

Do we dare suggest they both doth protest too much? It's a marvellous, hideous convergence of technology, politics and partisanism the likes of which we have never seen. But what's it all about, Viki? Is it really fair to compare the two scandals?

It's safe to say, as many commentators have already, that both the opposition and government sides are trying to use their own protests about what the other party has done to divert attention away from what they may have done. Get uppity about fraudulent robocalls, and you're likely to hear a chorus of "shame" from the government benches asking for more Liberals to fess up to being involved in @Vikileaks. Harp on @Vikileaks, and you're going to get a face wash of robocalls. As certain as Liberals are that Tories deliberately tried to suppress Grit and NDP voter turnout, so too are Conservatives confident that the staffer was used as a fall guy, and the decision to publish Toews' divorce file was made by people higher up the Liberal hierarchy.

Is it fair to compare the two? At first blush, (if substantiated) robocall certainly seems to be a much bigger deal than @Vikileaks. The former describes a deliberate attempt to undermine an election. In that regard, robocalls would be no different in magnitude than say the 1995 vote-splitting scandal in Manitoba. @Vikileaks, on the other hand, is pretty salacious stuff but it's hardly an affront to democracy. An ethically questionable act but if you look at the kind of full disclosure on the private lives of politicians that occurs in the United States, this was pretty tame stuff. The fact that a Liberal employee was the agent of dissemination is more of an embarrassment than fodder for a public inquiry.

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Friday, Mar. 2, 2012

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews

Flush the water park

Dan Lett 4 minute read Preview

Flush the water park

Dan Lett 4 minute read Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012

One of the best stories out of our City Hall bureau today explains that Mayor Sam Katz is getting very close to withdrawing a $7-million offer to a private developer – any private developer – to build a water park. If he withdraws the offer of funding, it would put to an end almost eight years of lamentable management of the recreational facilities file at city hall.

As detailed today by my city hall colleague Bartley Kives, the money for the water park was taken from a $43-million pot of multi-lateral money destined to fund the first stage of Bus Rapid Transit. However, once Katz was elected in a 2004 mayoral by-election, he mothballed the BRT scheme and asked the money be used instead for recreational facilities. Out of that fund, Katz set aside $7 million in 2008 for a world-class water park.

The problem was that nobody has seen fit to take the money. Canad Inns was thought to be a willing partner, but even they withdrew a project that would have involved a water park. No other private developer has stepped up with a plan that meets the city’s standards. Katz has now set a deadline of March 31 for another developer to take up the challenge. We should all hope that nobody steps up.

With all of the needs this city has in terms of recreational facilities, the mayor’s decision to earmark $7 million for a waterpark has always stood as one of the most curious of his administration. It was just two years ago that a city report detailed more than $50 million in repairs needed at Winnipeg arenas. This season, the city had to close one rink for a year, and temporarily close three others, because of chronic mould problems. Hockey, ringette and figure skating families can attest to the despicable state of our arenas and the deplorable response to the problem by the city. Struggling ice plants, heaving and sagging rink boards, inadequate dressing rooms and showers - it’s a sorry state of rink affairs.

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Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012

Phil Hossack / Free Press archives
Maginot Arena was closed for mould remediation.

The rising cost of crime and punishment

Dan Lett 2 minute read Preview

The rising cost of crime and punishment

Dan Lett 2 minute read Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012

The Free Press has written numerous articles in the last few days on the rising cost of corrections, and concerns by the Manitoba Government Employees Union about prison overcrowding. I weighed in with a column pointing out that maybe it was time for the strident law-and-order advocates to figure out a way of paying for the increased costs of longer sentences and new criminal code offences. The provinces claim it will cost them billions of dollars to pay to administer and incarcerate the increased numbers of prison inmates that will accrue from the federal government's omnibus crime bill, expected to become law later this year.

The focus of the MGEU story was on prison overcrowding, but that is, of course, only one part of the total justice portfolio. Policing, court administration and prosecutions all have their own budget lines.

The following is information provided by the Manitoba government on the increases in spending for the four main areas of justice programs:

 2004/20052005/2006 2006/2007 2007/20082008/20092009/20102010/20112011/2012 BudgetCOPS (RCMP, WPS, BPS, Dakota Ojibway)$72,223$81,789$86,978$92,994$104,273$112,132$120,794$126,601COURTS $39,747$41,326$43,618$45,067$46,483$52,840$52,255$50,970CORRECTIONS$102,932$111,590$121,401$134,003$155,928$176,915$188,918$180,889PROSECUTIONS$16,366$17,094$17,713$22,878$21,457$24,929$25,713$26,293 

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Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012

The Free Press has written numerous articles in the last few days on the rising cost of corrections, and concerns by the Manitoba Government Employees Union about prison overcrowding. I weighed in with a column pointing out that maybe it was time for the strident law-and-order advocates to figure out a way of paying for the increased costs of longer sentences and new criminal code offences. The provinces claim it will cost them billions of dollars to pay to administer and incarcerate the increased numbers of prison inmates that will accrue from the federal government's omnibus crime bill, expected to become law later this year.

The focus of the MGEU story was on prison overcrowding, but that is, of course, only one part of the total justice portfolio. Policing, court administration and prosecutions all have their own budget lines.

The following is information provided by the Manitoba government on the increases in spending for the four main areas of justice programs:

 2004/20052005/2006 2006/2007 2007/20082008/20092009/20102010/20112011/2012 BudgetCOPS (RCMP, WPS, BPS, Dakota Ojibway)$72,223$81,789$86,978$92,994$104,273$112,132$120,794$126,601COURTS $39,747$41,326$43,618$45,067$46,483$52,840$52,255$50,970CORRECTIONS$102,932$111,590$121,401$134,003$155,928$176,915$188,918$180,889PROSECUTIONS$16,366$17,094$17,713$22,878$21,457$24,929$25,713$26,293 

Resisting the urge to hit ‘send’

Dan Lett 4 minute read Preview

Resisting the urge to hit ‘send’

Dan Lett 4 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011

Those who know me, especially those unfortunate enough to receive my emails on a regular basis, will snicker a bit when they see that I am writing today to take politicians to task for sending out inappropriate emails and Tweets.

However, as bad as some of my digital correspondence has been, I’ve never written the kind of profanity-laced tirades that erupted this month from Winnipeg Coun. Ross Eadie and Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin. I’ve been verbose (God knows, I’ve done that) and I’ve frequently been uppity, cranky and unnecessarily confrontational. And I’m the kind of person who absolutely insists on sending out the last message, and then gets disappointed when someone won’t email me back. All that having been said, I try avoid two really bad email habits: I never hit "Reply All" to show people how smart or funny I can be; and I never use expletives.

Perhaps it’s the knowledge that all of my internal correspondence could, at some point, be called as evidence in some sort of defamation case. If someone were trying to establish malice on my part, then my decision to toss around a few F-bombs in an email to a colleague could get me, and the newspaper, into a lot of trouble.

Some readers will know all too well that I’m frequently combative when responding to those who email in or post what I consider abusive or mean-spirited comments. Fighting fire with fire is my general philosophy in those moments, although not everyone appreciates the attention. Still, I try to remember that in the digital world, every email, tweet, Facebook entry or comments section post can gain an audience much larger than originally intended.

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Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011

Those who know me, especially those unfortunate enough to receive my emails on a regular basis, will snicker a bit when they see that I am writing today to take politicians to task for sending out inappropriate emails and Tweets.

However, as bad as some of my digital correspondence has been, I’ve never written the kind of profanity-laced tirades that erupted this month from Winnipeg Coun. Ross Eadie and Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin. I’ve been verbose (God knows, I’ve done that) and I’ve frequently been uppity, cranky and unnecessarily confrontational. And I’m the kind of person who absolutely insists on sending out the last message, and then gets disappointed when someone won’t email me back. All that having been said, I try avoid two really bad email habits: I never hit "Reply All" to show people how smart or funny I can be; and I never use expletives.

Perhaps it’s the knowledge that all of my internal correspondence could, at some point, be called as evidence in some sort of defamation case. If someone were trying to establish malice on my part, then my decision to toss around a few F-bombs in an email to a colleague could get me, and the newspaper, into a lot of trouble.

Some readers will know all too well that I’m frequently combative when responding to those who email in or post what I consider abusive or mean-spirited comments. Fighting fire with fire is my general philosophy in those moments, although not everyone appreciates the attention. Still, I try to remember that in the digital world, every email, tweet, Facebook entry or comments section post can gain an audience much larger than originally intended.

It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you

Dan Lett 4 minute read Preview

It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you

Dan Lett 4 minute read Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011

Perhaps it was no coincidence that on Tues., Nov. 15, the same day the Free Press published a column on on Mayor Sam Katz and his failure to show up at Remembrance Day ceremonies, I had an opportunity to speak to a political science class at the University of Manitoba. The class, taught by the extremely well-informed Robert Ermel of the Manitoba Institute for Policy Research, wanted to discuss the relationship between the media and politicians. They couldn’t have picked a better day.

My column took direct aim at Katz for failing to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies. It was particularly easy to pick this fight because it was so incredibly odd for the mayor of a big city to miss this one particular day, given its incredible political importance. We punctuated our case by showing photographs of the legion of other big-city mayors who did attend Remembrance Day.

(Parenthetically, as demonstrated by the parenthesis to the left, I was not able to get any answer from Katz or his handlers about where he was on November 11. Thanks to sources and citizens, we have been able to confirm he was at his vacation property in Phoenix, and left the Wednesday before Remembrance Day.)

Katz would not talk to the Free Press about his decision to pass on November 11. He did, however, go on CJOB radio where, after refusing to actually say where he was, he complained that the Free Press in general and me in particular were “out to get him.” At Ermel’s class, I denied that was the case, arguing that the inner workings of political office, and decisions such as the one Katz had made, were relevant issues that deserved debate. Thus, our justification for exposing it.

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Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011

Perhaps it was no coincidence that on Tues., Nov. 15, the same day the Free Press published a column on on Mayor Sam Katz and his failure to show up at Remembrance Day ceremonies, I had an opportunity to speak to a political science class at the University of Manitoba. The class, taught by the extremely well-informed Robert Ermel of the Manitoba Institute for Policy Research, wanted to discuss the relationship between the media and politicians. They couldn’t have picked a better day.

My column took direct aim at Katz for failing to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies. It was particularly easy to pick this fight because it was so incredibly odd for the mayor of a big city to miss this one particular day, given its incredible political importance. We punctuated our case by showing photographs of the legion of other big-city mayors who did attend Remembrance Day.

(Parenthetically, as demonstrated by the parenthesis to the left, I was not able to get any answer from Katz or his handlers about where he was on November 11. Thanks to sources and citizens, we have been able to confirm he was at his vacation property in Phoenix, and left the Wednesday before Remembrance Day.)

Katz would not talk to the Free Press about his decision to pass on November 11. He did, however, go on CJOB radio where, after refusing to actually say where he was, he complained that the Free Press in general and me in particular were “out to get him.” At Ermel’s class, I denied that was the case, arguing that the inner workings of political office, and decisions such as the one Katz had made, were relevant issues that deserved debate. Thus, our justification for exposing it.

You can’t both be right

Dan Lett 4 minute read Preview

You can’t both be right

Dan Lett 4 minute read Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2011

There is a reason why smaller provinces do not see a plethora of mid-campaign opinion surveys.

Good surveys are expensive. They can only be done by a handful of companies. And in a province the size of Manitoba, with the media resources that now exist, it’s pretty hard to find the money to do a comprehensive survey.

The Free Press knows this. For the first time in a long while we’re producing a poll, conducted by Winnipeg’s Probe Research, without another media partner. Our Probe poll will be published Friday and Saturday of this week. Bucking the trend from past elections, the other news organizations wanted to go in another direction and declined to partner. Or they realized that once it appears in our newspaper first thing in the morning, they can report the results  essentially for free. Many times without mentioning who paid for the poll.

For those who went in another direction, we got two early surveys. CJOB struck a deal with Viewpoints Research on a small-sample poll the radio station released early Monday morning. It showed the NDP (41 per cent) way out in front of the Progressive Conservatives (32 per cent). The spread was even bigger in Winnipeg, where the Viewpoints survey found the NDP leading 46-25.

Read
Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2011

There is a reason why smaller provinces do not see a plethora of mid-campaign opinion surveys.

Good surveys are expensive. They can only be done by a handful of companies. And in a province the size of Manitoba, with the media resources that now exist, it’s pretty hard to find the money to do a comprehensive survey.

The Free Press knows this. For the first time in a long while we’re producing a poll, conducted by Winnipeg’s Probe Research, without another media partner. Our Probe poll will be published Friday and Saturday of this week. Bucking the trend from past elections, the other news organizations wanted to go in another direction and declined to partner. Or they realized that once it appears in our newspaper first thing in the morning, they can report the results  essentially for free. Many times without mentioning who paid for the poll.

For those who went in another direction, we got two early surveys. CJOB struck a deal with Viewpoints Research on a small-sample poll the radio station released early Monday morning. It showed the NDP (41 per cent) way out in front of the Progressive Conservatives (32 per cent). The spread was even bigger in Winnipeg, where the Viewpoints survey found the NDP leading 46-25.

Writ of Election? We don’t need no stinkin’ writ of election. Part Deux.

Dan Lett 2 minute read Preview

Writ of Election? We don’t need no stinkin’ writ of election. Part Deux.

Dan Lett 2 minute read Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011

Here we are, a full seven days before the provincial election is expected to be officially called, and for all intents and purposes, the campaign has really already begun.

Last week, the Tories announced they would be launching some but not all of their platform at an event on Aug. 30. Then, over the weekend, the Tories were nice enough to give the Free Press an advance look at the slimmed down platform document, McFadyen 2011.

When first notified of the Tory intention to go a week early, the NDP initially claimed to be unfazed. Senior NDP strategists said the party would do some pre-writ advertising this week, and then focus on Premier Greg Selinger's nomination Monday night as the focus of their week-before-the-official-election activities.

Well, that was last week. On Tuesday, the NDP unveiled their "vision document," a slimmed down, sneak peek of the Selinger platform. Like the Tory document, it's just an appetizer, stripped of many specific pledges.

Read
Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011

Here we are, a full seven days before the provincial election is expected to be officially called, and for all intents and purposes, the campaign has really already begun.

Last week, the Tories announced they would be launching some but not all of their platform at an event on Aug. 30. Then, over the weekend, the Tories were nice enough to give the Free Press an advance look at the slimmed down platform document, McFadyen 2011.

When first notified of the Tory intention to go a week early, the NDP initially claimed to be unfazed. Senior NDP strategists said the party would do some pre-writ advertising this week, and then focus on Premier Greg Selinger's nomination Monday night as the focus of their week-before-the-official-election activities.

Well, that was last week. On Tuesday, the NDP unveiled their "vision document," a slimmed down, sneak peek of the Selinger platform. Like the Tory document, it's just an appetizer, stripped of many specific pledges.

Photo radar: evidence that idiots rule the roads

Dan Lett 4 minute read Preview

Photo radar: evidence that idiots rule the roads

Dan Lett 4 minute read Tuesday, Jul. 5, 2011

A recent study of our photo radar system shows that while the unblinking intersection cameras are in fact helping reduce fatal collisions, they are not stopping all collisions.

The study, commissioned by the Winnipeg Police Service and compiled by Ottawa’s Traffic Injury Research Foundation, found that right-angle collisions were down by nearly half. That is good, because these collisions quite often lead to fatalities. Unfortunately, at photo-radar-controlled intersections, rear-end collisions had actually gone up by 15 per cent.

Think about that for a moment. Photo radar is effective at stopping cars from running red lights and T-boning a car coming the other way. But it is not effective at stopping the car behind the car that is obeying the red light.

If you ever needed evidence that in Winnipeg, the idiots rule the roads, you would find it in this report. Some of us are trying valiantly to respect the cold, calculating efficiency of photo radar by not running red lights, an act that in and of itself goes against almost everything most drivers in this city live for. And our reward? We get rear-ended by the car behind us, who is so fixated on running the red traffic light they don’t even see that someone has already stopped in front of them.

Read
Tuesday, Jul. 5, 2011

A recent study of our photo radar system shows that while the unblinking intersection cameras are in fact helping reduce fatal collisions, they are not stopping all collisions.

The study, commissioned by the Winnipeg Police Service and compiled by Ottawa’s Traffic Injury Research Foundation, found that right-angle collisions were down by nearly half. That is good, because these collisions quite often lead to fatalities. Unfortunately, at photo-radar-controlled intersections, rear-end collisions had actually gone up by 15 per cent.

Think about that for a moment. Photo radar is effective at stopping cars from running red lights and T-boning a car coming the other way. But it is not effective at stopping the car behind the car that is obeying the red light.

If you ever needed evidence that in Winnipeg, the idiots rule the roads, you would find it in this report. Some of us are trying valiantly to respect the cold, calculating efficiency of photo radar by not running red lights, an act that in and of itself goes against almost everything most drivers in this city live for. And our reward? We get rear-ended by the car behind us, who is so fixated on running the red traffic light they don’t even see that someone has already stopped in front of them.

Payback is, well, an unpleasant experience

Dan Lett 3 minute read Preview

Payback is, well, an unpleasant experience

Dan Lett 3 minute read Thursday, Jun. 9, 2011

Few politicians could be smiling more these days than Manitoba's Environment Minister Bill Blaikie. The source of his amusement is the current round of moaning and whining in Ottawa over the eviction of veteran Liberal MPs from their coveted Parliament Hill offices to make way for a C-Note of NDP MPs, elected in the Orange Wave in the most recent federal election.

Veteran Grits such as Ralph Goodale, who has served more than two decades in Ottawa, and even interim leader Bob Rae, have been told to vacate their offices, sparking howls of protest from the vanquished Liberal Party. Goodale and Rae are not making much noise themselves, but other Liberals and the few remaining Bloc MPs are howling mad. "Since the start of this session, beyond their public comments on collaboration and doing things differently, the NDP has had a deplorable attitude toward the Bloc," Bloc MP Jean-François Fortin told The Globe and Mail.

The focus of the battle is the Centre Block, considered to be the most prestigious place for an MP to hang his or her hat. Never mind that many of the offices outside the Centre, East and West Blocks like Rae's suite in the Confederation Building are often nicer and more modern. A Centre Block office is a sign you've arrived in Ottawa. The NDP, with 37 MPs in the previous parliament, had only one MP in Centre Block. And that is apparently going to change.

You see, Blaikie has seen the other side of this equation. In 1993, when the Liberals swept to power with a massive majority and the Bloc Quebecois arrived on the federal political scene, it was the NDP that was sent packing. The Bloc won 54 seats and thanks to some fortuitous vote splitting, became the official opposition, giving their MPs claim to some coveted Centre Block offices. Blaikie was one of only nine NDP MPs to survive that vote, a result that stripped the party of official status in the House of Commons and put veterans like Blaikie at the mercy of the up and coming parties.

Read
Thursday, Jun. 9, 2011

Few politicians could be smiling more these days than Manitoba's Environment Minister Bill Blaikie. The source of his amusement is the current round of moaning and whining in Ottawa over the eviction of veteran Liberal MPs from their coveted Parliament Hill offices to make way for a C-Note of NDP MPs, elected in the Orange Wave in the most recent federal election.

Veteran Grits such as Ralph Goodale, who has served more than two decades in Ottawa, and even interim leader Bob Rae, have been told to vacate their offices, sparking howls of protest from the vanquished Liberal Party. Goodale and Rae are not making much noise themselves, but other Liberals and the few remaining Bloc MPs are howling mad. "Since the start of this session, beyond their public comments on collaboration and doing things differently, the NDP has had a deplorable attitude toward the Bloc," Bloc MP Jean-François Fortin told The Globe and Mail.

The focus of the battle is the Centre Block, considered to be the most prestigious place for an MP to hang his or her hat. Never mind that many of the offices outside the Centre, East and West Blocks like Rae's suite in the Confederation Building are often nicer and more modern. A Centre Block office is a sign you've arrived in Ottawa. The NDP, with 37 MPs in the previous parliament, had only one MP in Centre Block. And that is apparently going to change.

You see, Blaikie has seen the other side of this equation. In 1993, when the Liberals swept to power with a massive majority and the Bloc Quebecois arrived on the federal political scene, it was the NDP that was sent packing. The Bloc won 54 seats and thanks to some fortuitous vote splitting, became the official opposition, giving their MPs claim to some coveted Centre Block offices. Blaikie was one of only nine NDP MPs to survive that vote, a result that stripped the party of official status in the House of Commons and put veterans like Blaikie at the mercy of the up and coming parties.

Wake up and smell the season tickets

Dan Lett 4 minute read Preview

Wake up and smell the season tickets

Dan Lett 4 minute read Monday, Jun. 6, 2011

Like many of you, I was shut out in my bid for season tickets to the AYUHT (pronounced Ay-Yoot, it means As Yet Unnamed Hockey Team). It wasn't a surprise -- I had previously predicted that pent up demand from Winnipeg hockey fans would snap up the tickets in no time. I mean, did you see the way people fought with each other to grab those free hockey sticks Canadian Tire was giving away last week? We've collectively lost our nut. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

But now, we're going to have to endure days, perhaps even weeks of whining from those of us who didn't get tickets to see the AYUHTs play. Upset about the way True North handled the pre-sale, or upset about the fact the arena is so tiny to begin with. Or, as is most likely, upset that brokers and scalpers, some thousands of kilometres away, grabbed some of the seats.

Welcome to major league professional sports. As those of us who have lived in other so-called major league cities can attest, scalpers and pro sports go hand in hand. Particularly in cities where demand for a particular sport is high, competition for season ticket contracts is fierce. In Toronto, my hometown, scalpers have dominated season ticket contracts for years.

I can remember going down to old, departed Maple Leaf Gardens as a 13-year-old and naively attempting to buy tickets. It was Saturday morning and I lined up with a dozen others in the hopes of snagging a single. They had to have one or two available?

Read
Monday, Jun. 6, 2011

Like many of you, I was shut out in my bid for season tickets to the AYUHT (pronounced Ay-Yoot, it means As Yet Unnamed Hockey Team). It wasn't a surprise -- I had previously predicted that pent up demand from Winnipeg hockey fans would snap up the tickets in no time. I mean, did you see the way people fought with each other to grab those free hockey sticks Canadian Tire was giving away last week? We've collectively lost our nut. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

But now, we're going to have to endure days, perhaps even weeks of whining from those of us who didn't get tickets to see the AYUHTs play. Upset about the way True North handled the pre-sale, or upset about the fact the arena is so tiny to begin with. Or, as is most likely, upset that brokers and scalpers, some thousands of kilometres away, grabbed some of the seats.

Welcome to major league professional sports. As those of us who have lived in other so-called major league cities can attest, scalpers and pro sports go hand in hand. Particularly in cities where demand for a particular sport is high, competition for season ticket contracts is fierce. In Toronto, my hometown, scalpers have dominated season ticket contracts for years.

I can remember going down to old, departed Maple Leaf Gardens as a 13-year-old and naively attempting to buy tickets. It was Saturday morning and I lined up with a dozen others in the hopes of snagging a single. They had to have one or two available?

Getting only what we deserve

Dan Lett 3 minute read Preview

Getting only what we deserve

Dan Lett 3 minute read Thursday, Jun. 2, 2011

The Globe and Mail reported this week that the Conservative government will proceed soon with legislation to increase the number of federal seats in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan told the G&M the move was necessary to address the needs of larger provinces with growing populations. “What has happened is that we’ve have had a situation arise where votes are worth very different amounts across the country,” Van Loan said. “This is because the existing formula restrains the growth of seats in areas that are experiencing high growth, particularly in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia.”

However, neither the G&M or Van Loan addressed the issue of how this proposal would affect smaller provinces. There was some concern expressed about how this would impact Quebec, which in many respects has hit above its weight because of a variety of factors, not least of which was the on-again, off-again threat of separation. However, in this most recent election, the Conservatives demonstrated quite clearly there is a majority government to be had without substantial support from Quebec.

So what’s behind all this? At a time when the Tories have proven conclusively you can build a majority with concentrated support in only a few provinces, moving to increase the number of seats in those provinces seems, at first blush, rather cynical. However, you cannot ignore the fact population gains in those provinces do in fact require some sort of response. It’s not cynical, but it is very fortuitous that the Tories have an opportunity to rebalance Parliament at a time when those provinces that stand to gain also happen to vote predominantly Tory.

And what will happen to smaller provinces? It’s hard to imagine how provinces such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Atlantic provinces could have less influence than they do now, which is to say, very little. In the last federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Manitoba once. This was a reflection of the fact that Manitoba — which was seen as having little growth potential — was not important to the Tory war plan. In the end, the Tories did pick up two seats despite little support from the central campaign. But that is not likely to earn Manitoba any additional attention from Ottawa. It is important to note this isn’t just a Tory attitude; the former Liberal government had little love for the smaller provinces, concentrating its campaigns on already seat-rich Ontario.

Read
Thursday, Jun. 2, 2011

The Globe and Mail reported this week that the Conservative government will proceed soon with legislation to increase the number of federal seats in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan told the G&M the move was necessary to address the needs of larger provinces with growing populations. “What has happened is that we’ve have had a situation arise where votes are worth very different amounts across the country,” Van Loan said. “This is because the existing formula restrains the growth of seats in areas that are experiencing high growth, particularly in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia.”

However, neither the G&M or Van Loan addressed the issue of how this proposal would affect smaller provinces. There was some concern expressed about how this would impact Quebec, which in many respects has hit above its weight because of a variety of factors, not least of which was the on-again, off-again threat of separation. However, in this most recent election, the Conservatives demonstrated quite clearly there is a majority government to be had without substantial support from Quebec.

So what’s behind all this? At a time when the Tories have proven conclusively you can build a majority with concentrated support in only a few provinces, moving to increase the number of seats in those provinces seems, at first blush, rather cynical. However, you cannot ignore the fact population gains in those provinces do in fact require some sort of response. It’s not cynical, but it is very fortuitous that the Tories have an opportunity to rebalance Parliament at a time when those provinces that stand to gain also happen to vote predominantly Tory.

And what will happen to smaller provinces? It’s hard to imagine how provinces such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and the Atlantic provinces could have less influence than they do now, which is to say, very little. In the last federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Manitoba once. This was a reflection of the fact that Manitoba — which was seen as having little growth potential — was not important to the Tory war plan. In the end, the Tories did pick up two seats despite little support from the central campaign. But that is not likely to earn Manitoba any additional attention from Ottawa. It is important to note this isn’t just a Tory attitude; the former Liberal government had little love for the smaller provinces, concentrating its campaigns on already seat-rich Ontario.

Premature Ex-clamation

Dan Lett 4 minute read Preview

Premature Ex-clamation

Dan Lett 4 minute read Thursday, May. 26, 2011

pre*ma*ture ex*cla*ma*tion: /prēməˈCHo͝or ek-skluh-mey-shuhn/ Noun

An announcement that is made before its time;An attempt by a politician to take credit that is not due;A condition suffered by politicians who have an absence of delayed gratification.Those directly involved in the negotiations to bring the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg are keeping a pretty low profile these days. All we know for sure is that representatives of True North Sports and Entertainment are putting the finishing touches on a deal that (many hope) will bring the team north to play in Winnipeg. It is a complex deal, and involves hundreds of millions of dollars. Not surprisingly, TNSE is saying very little. But others are talking. Boy are they talking.

Top of the local chatty Kathy list is Mayor Sam Katz who, it seems, can’t stop talking about the impending return of NHL hockey. In late April, he was among the first to hint that the object of TNSE’s desire wasn’t Phoenix, but in fact the Atlanta Thrashers. On May 20, he told everyone it was “only a matter of time” before a deal was done. On May 24, Katz indicated a deal would be done in 48 hours. And then when that deadline passed, Katz continued to assure anyone with a tape recorder or notepad that a deal could be done this week.

At this point, Katz is running the risk of being mentioned in the same breath as Christian broadcaster Harold Camping, who predicted the world would end May 21 and when it didn’t, told everyone to brace for the world to end in October.

Read
Thursday, May. 26, 2011

pre*ma*ture ex*cla*ma*tion: /prēməˈCHo͝or ek-skluh-mey-shuhn/ Noun

An announcement that is made before its time;An attempt by a politician to take credit that is not due;A condition suffered by politicians who have an absence of delayed gratification.Those directly involved in the negotiations to bring the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg are keeping a pretty low profile these days. All we know for sure is that representatives of True North Sports and Entertainment are putting the finishing touches on a deal that (many hope) will bring the team north to play in Winnipeg. It is a complex deal, and involves hundreds of millions of dollars. Not surprisingly, TNSE is saying very little. But others are talking. Boy are they talking.

Top of the local chatty Kathy list is Mayor Sam Katz who, it seems, can’t stop talking about the impending return of NHL hockey. In late April, he was among the first to hint that the object of TNSE’s desire wasn’t Phoenix, but in fact the Atlanta Thrashers. On May 20, he told everyone it was “only a matter of time” before a deal was done. On May 24, Katz indicated a deal would be done in 48 hours. And then when that deadline passed, Katz continued to assure anyone with a tape recorder or notepad that a deal could be done this week.

At this point, Katz is running the risk of being mentioned in the same breath as Christian broadcaster Harold Camping, who predicted the world would end May 21 and when it didn’t, told everyone to brace for the world to end in October.

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