South Osborne community correspondent
Andrew Braga is a community correspondent for South Osborne.
Recent articles of Andrew Braga
For weeks, he called for the glass, doors, heating, and seating to be stripped from two bus shelters that were the subject of frequent calls for emergency-service response, and complaints from the constituents in his electoral ward.
Then, just two weeks after he and his colleagues in city council’s public works committee voted in favour of the idea on June 9, he stood in the courtyard at City Hall with fellow city councillor Sherry Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) to listen to advocates for the homeless.
By the end of the month, Coun. Shawn Nason (Transcona) had not only backed off his idea, but supported supervised consumption sites, and promised to work with Rollins on creating low-barrier housing.
His was a remarkable turnaround – one that was applauded by soon-to-be outgoing Mayor Brian Bowman – but it probably shouldn’t be surprising. It is an election year in Winnipeg, and the one-term councillor is running for re-election, and the issue seemed to catch peoples’ attention.
At the time of this writing, Manitobans were bracing for what was being called an “historical event” in the form of a “once in a generation storm.”
Meanwhile, inflation is at its highest rate in a generation, and there are warnings about the possibility of a “worst-ever affordability” crisis. It is of course thanks in large part to a once in a lifetime pandemic that may or may not be far from over, and a military conflict that might also lead to nuclear fallout and the start World War III.
With so much to worry about, we should be working together. But we’re also being told that this is the most divided we’ve ever been in our history.
Reading headlines these days, one might suspect we’re dealing with horrors the likes of which we’ve never seen all at once.
By the end of this week, another tough year will be behind us. Unfortunately, the outlook for the one ahead is grim.
Our health care system is on the brink of failure. Nearly two full years of periodic lockdowns have left many Canadians fatigued and in a state of economic uncertainty. Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to rise.
The prices of all types of consumer goods are already inflated, but grocery bills in particular are expected to see the biggest annual increase on record in 2022. The affordability of housing in Canada — already at a 31-year low — is also expected to deteriorate even further.
Of course, there are some people and businesses that have thrived under the present conditions. They are generally better-off individuals and bigger businesses into whose hands wealth seems to be consolidating. For the rest, and particularly for small businesses and people with more modest incomes, recovery remains fragile and uneven.
When I was in university, I had a professor who gave excellent lectures that provided some of the best social criticism I’ve ever heard. All semester he promised to reveal what he saw as the defining characteristic of our generation.
“You’re all a bunch of closet liberals,” he finally told us with a smirk on the last day of class. Then he chuckled and set us loose into the world, bewildered if a little underwhelmed. We knew he meant a great deal more than that we were all secretly supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada, but what exactly did he mean?
The old man retired that year, and I never got to ask him. But every so often I find myself turning those words over in my mind.
What my professor saw was a sharp decline in student activism as compared to his own time, a trend he accredited to the rise of liberalism in our culture.
October was Small Business Month, and the entrepreneurs who make up the community deserved to be celebrated.
They have endured 19 months of hardship, and even though Manitoba’s official “state of emergency” expired on Oct. 21, there are likely very few in the community who believe that hardship wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Some businesses are still operating at limited capacity, heavy debt loads are still being carried, and only 40 per cent of businesses are back to normal sales, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses. Meanwhile, the federal government has ended many of the pandemic relief programs that helped businesses stay afloat.
Of course they didn’t say these supports were being cancelled but rather “redesigned.” It was a nice piece of euphemism, and there is still support available to some businesses and individuals, but no one expected rent and wage subsidies to last forever.
There’s an old adage in politics that tells us “people vote with their pocketbooks,” and every election the major political parties repackage old platitudes and roll out big promises and so as not to be outdone by their competition.
Judging by the expensive promises being made this year, they obviously see “pocketbook issues” as a major theme in 2021.
And as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau found out at a recent campaign event, at least some voters think the big money should go towards addressing affordability.
Standing in front of a half-built home in Hamilton, Ont. that will likely retail for around $1 million, the prime minister was heckled by a young man who asked him: “Are you going to help us pay $1.5 million? Are you, buddy?”
It was an arresting sight for anyone to behold - the statue of Queen Victoria removed from its pedestal, its head removed from its body.
It was also one of stark contrasts between the toppled, headless statue, the 215 orange flags on the lawn in front of it, and the 215 pairs of shoes on the steps behind – solemn and moving memorials to the 215 children whose remains were discovered in an unmarked grave at a former Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C.
Looking down on them and shining under the brilliant sun was the Golden Boy, firm atop the dome of the Legislature, still clutching a bushel of wheat, still facing true north down Memorial Boulevard toward Colony Street.
For many people, it probably evoked a mixture of complex feelings; for others, it obviously did not.
If there’s one thing we can all say with absolute certainty at this stage in the pandemic, it is this:
It’s been too long.
But how long has it been, exactly? Fifteen months? Maybe 16?
If you feel like you can’t really remember, know this – you’re not alone.
Happy (belated) anniversary Manitoba.
Forgive yourselves if you forgot to mark it on your calendars, but our dear province quietly turned 151 years old last week. You understandably had other things on your mind. Besides, even if we could have celebrated together, it is more typical of us to mark major anniversaries like a sesquicentennial (for 150 years), which in Manitoba’s case was last May.
But the Manitoba Act, which formally received royal assent on May 12th, 1870, led to the negotiations that shaped this country as we know it today.
Those negotiations began on July 27, 1871, and were finalized eight complicated and tense days later when Treaty 1 was signed. It represents the first “legal” agreement between Indigenous peoples, the British Crown, and the Dominion of Canada.
Last Monday was Louis Riel Day, and just three days after the province eased restrictions and allowed many businesses to open for the first time in months, albeit at reduced capacity, they had to spend one day open at reduced holiday hours.
Still, it was better than the alternative. Holiday or not, the answer to the question “what’s open?” was a blanket “nothing” just days before.
Also last Monday, anyone who had previously registered with the Government of Canada’s Registration of Canadians Abroad received an email from the federal service (it obviously wasn’t a federal holiday). About halfway down, it advised or reminded any recipients that strict new air travel requirements go into effect on Feb. 22.
As the saying goes: one hand giveth, the other taketh away.
For thousands of years, probably since the dawn of civilization, people have celebrated festivals of light in the darkest times.
It is no coincidence that so many holidays and festivals across the diverse cultures around the world fall sometime around the winter solstice. Whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, or any of the other festivals around this time of year, billions of people across the northern hemisphere have been celebrating this month and last because the darkest time is also the moment that light is about to return.
In a culturally diverse city like the one we live in, no doubt many of these festivals will be celebrated by our own friends, neighbours and co-workers. Not every one of those celebrations holds the same significance. Christmas, for example, is an important date on the Christian calendar; Hanukkah by contrast is relatively minor.
What is equally significant to all of us is that how we celebrate has been markedly different this year than any other we can remember. Stories of surviving through the darkness connect all of us across cultures and time, but this year we are all sharing a hardship of a different kind. COVID-19 doesn’t care that it’s the holiday season, and, in that, we are ironically connected by what is forcing us to stay apart.
Halloween 2020 is officially in the books, and for many people it probably served as another stark reminder of how terrible this year has been. Yet another date people circle on their calendars has been ruined by the pandemic.
For those who didn’t get enough of a paranormal fix, it might surprise you to know that Winnipeg is rife with options.
Cities such as Baltimore, hometown of spooky writer Edgar Allen Poe, and places like Maine, which is the backdrop of so many Stephen King novels, are generally considered the eeriest on the North American continent. But the supernatural has a long and colourful history in Winnipeg.
Room 202 of the Fort Garry Hotel is infamously “haunted”. People have reported seeing ghosts, blood, and experiencing all manner of strange activities in the room. Le Musée de Saint-Boniface, originally built as a nunnery, is also apparently haunted. So are the Marlborough Hotel, Pantages Playhouse Theatre, Burton Cummings Theatre, St. Boniface Cathedral, Seven Oaks House, and St. John’s Cemetery, among others.
I must confess: I often find it lazy and unoriginal when people use militaristic axioms to describe situations that have nothing to do with war.
And yet, circumstances being what they are in this 10th month of 2020, “once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,” seems as apt as anything.
The famous line from Shakespeare’s King Henry the Fifth belongs to the title character. He says it to motivate his troops as they approach a gap in an enemy city’s protective wall, as a more uplifting way of saying “let’s give this another go.”
We, too, could use some encouraging words in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, even if the inverse is true in our case. Unfortunately, it is us, dear friends, who are being breached once more.
The date was Aug. 29, 1970. A man of 58 took the microphone in front of a packed house of young people at the old Winnipeg Stadium and defiantly declared: “We’ll show those squares in government!”
The man onstage was Maitland Steinkopf, a former minister in Duff Roblin’s cabinet, and the event was the Man-Pop Concert. Intended to be the grand finale of a summer full of festivals celebrating Manitoba’s centennial, it was described as a “wonderfully bold idea from a crusty but sincere, driven, dedicated father and Manitoban.”
Man-Pop was initially proposed as a two-day festival, and John Lennon was invited to play. The ex-Beatle, embroiled in a controversy over the album art of his latest release, politely declined, and the event was scaled back to a one-day affair. It still became the stuff of Manitoba legend.
Hours into the concert, and with none other than Led Zeppelin waiting to take the stage, Mother Nature decided to flex her muscles.
We’ve finally passed the halfway point of 2020, and it’s been a struggle. Forgive yourself if you feel you’ve earned a nice, cold refreshment in your favourite neighbourhood pub … or park?
According to some health experts,the latter may be the safest option.
Dr. Zain Chagla of McMaster University in Hamilton made headlines last week (admittedly nowhere near the front page), including in the Winnipeg Free Press, for suggesting that cities loosen public drinking rules.
Busy public spaces such as bars and restaurants, as well as house parties and other social gatherings, have been reported as hot spots for transmission of COVID-19. People, it seems, are growing weary of staying home. Eager to socialize, they have been filling crowded bars and restaurants.
Some call it ‘cancel culture,’ others are calling it ‘radical political correctness,’ but no matter where any one person stands on the issue, it’s not going away.
Across Canada, the United States, and around the world, people are demanding the removal of names or monuments honouring historical figures that represent negative legacies of injustice or racism. Some depict more obvious culprits — like Confederate generals from the American Civil War — others represent the more complicated legacies of people such as Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, or former British prime minister, Sir Winston Churchill.
In Winnipeg, Cecil Rhodes School and anything named after Garnet Joseph Wolseley are the latest targets. Rhodes was an integral figure in the rise of apartheid in South Africa, while Wolseley led the military campaign that suppressed Louis Riel’s Red River Resistance, expelled the Metis, and created the conditions for the growth of Winnipeg on Treaty 1 land.
Rhodes and Wolseley are two who are getting attention but most every community in Winnipeg has something named after similarly-flawed historical figures. They may have been considered ‘Great Men’ in their time, but many have no direct historical connection to Winnipeg, Manitoba or even Canada.
We’ve been hearing it a lot lately — prepare for a ‘new normal.’
It’s not the first time we’ve heard it. Every so often a major world event forces us to re-evaluate things we take for granted. Think of how airport security changed after 9/11.
In the current context, the ‘new normal’ can mean any number of things but all of them are understandably linked to the global pandemic. Some are small, like increased awareness of hand-washing techniques, or seeing people wearing masks on the street.
Others are bigger. Large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events are probably out for the foreseeable future, more people are working from home, and there’s even talk about reducing the work week to four days.
It’s been almost two months since quarantine started, but it feels like a lifetime.
Days dragged, then blended together and turned into weeks. In the span of two months, what used to be familiar has become peculiar.
We’ve been granted permission to start coming back out. We’ve fared better in Manitoba than most everywhere else in the world and the economy can’t stay shut down forever, so Premier Pallister took the lead among the provinces in loosening restrictions.
The next stages, we’re told, are up to us. Restrictions remain, but our personal decisions will define the next steps.