Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Piss Poor Idea: Winnipeg's Water Park Scheme

Tomorrow Winnipeg's City Council will vote on whether or not it should give a private developer $7 million tax dollars to build a less-than-world-class water park on one of Winnipeg's most prized parcels of land. Fervently backed by Mayor Sam Katz, the Hotel & Water park scheme calls for the new attraction to be built in the heart of Winnipeg at the historic Forks. As luck would have it, the proposed site for the new water park just happens to be across from Mayor Katz's very own baseball stadium. As majority owner of baseball's Winnipeg Goldeyes, Mayor Katz has recused himself from Wednesday's votes on both the land sale and the tax dollar give-away. Yet, notably, he only did so after some Winnipegger's worried about the state of the city raised serious questions about Katz and his role in the affair. And, again notably, he only recused himself after he had already done the local media rounds to promote the deal and was secure in the knowledge there was zero chance his confederates in his 'cabinet' would fail to back the scheme at the committee level. As such, j'accuse that Katz's je me recuse was, at its core, a purposefully disingenuous ruse and too little too late to be considered a truly ethical and effective recusal. 

The Mayor's insincere ruse aside, there are many other troubling aspects to the present water park scheme before City Council. For instance, whose idea was it to offer the designated land (Parcel 4 at Winnipeg's Forks) exclusively to this particular developer instead of opening it up to other competitive bids?  Where is the detailed plan? What happens to the provision that binds the water park developer to issue $700,000 in vouchers per year to low income children for 25 years should the developer go bust and/or sell the property?  And finally, why is City Hall so hell bent on ensuring $7 million tax dollars must go to a private water park rather than to our local community centres?  As Dennis Lewycky of Winnipeg's Social Planning Council pointed out on CBC radio this morning, the monetary math of the scheme doesn't add up. The plan, he says, "Just doesn't make sense." And because it doesn't make sense, its important City Council say no to this scheme now.

Councillors Steen and Sharma, are you listening? Despite all the propaganda you've heard from Mayor Katz & Co., the proposed water park (at 50,000 sq ft) will, most assuredly, be 'less-than-world-class'. We don't need a substandard 'Wally World-esque' structure at the Forks. We need to stop wasting taxpayer money on back room deals. We need to redirect the funds in question to our existing community recreational facilities. We need to do better by our historic site at the Forks. A piss poor idea from the start, this scheme should be thrown out with the bathwater - anything less would be a civic crime. Councillors Steen and Sharma, Winnipeg deserves better, please vote NO on Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Election Fraud Endangers Us All: Legitimacy or Bust

When a civil society looks away from evidence the vaunted Ship of State may be afloat atop a rotting hull - the abyss draws nearer. And if the rot is allowed to escape examination, keep festering, and remain immune from the only disinfectant citizens have at their disposal... the VOTE - all bets are off!  Without a demonstrably free and fair exercise of our franchise we are but nothing; nothing but a ship of fools. Inquiry now!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Selinger's Siesta: Silence, Stealth and the 40th Manitoba legislature - Part I

Over the last four months, Manitoba's NDP government and its hapless opposition have been more than happy to cede the political stage in this province to the federal government. In stark contrast to the House of Commons in Ottawa, Manitoba's Legislative building has been operating under a consensual all-party code of silence since last November. All the plebes, politicos, and politicians toiling away within the bowels of the legislature since last fall's election have seemingly gone mute. And, this suits Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger just fine.

With Manitoba's provincial economy performing reasonably well and with the annual flood (drought?) drama still weeks (months?) away; Greg Selinger is under no pressure from his party to recall Manitoba's legislature. As for Manitoba's official opposition, currently flailing about like a headless chicken in search of savior ... any savior... they too are in no hurry to reengage the government. For these reasons, coupled with the fact that Ottawa is seemingly hellbent on stealing ALL the national, provincial and local headlines anyway, Greg Selinger may be forgiven for believing that "the silence" is golden. From his perspective, delaying the resumption of the 40th Manitoba legislature and continuing to govern by stealth is political no-brainer. The NDP's stealthy governance not only makes for greater management efficiencies; it also allows it all the time it wants to craft, define, refine, then redefine, re-refine, etc., etc., a new course for our future - all without having to respond to the silly partisan questions that routinely arise when a legislature is in session. As such, Selinger has no good reason to recall Manitoba's legislature at this juncture. Err... save one niggling thing... it's high time we regular citizens (i.e. Manitoba's average Joe & Jane Blow's) were kept abreast of what exactly the NDP government has planned for us in the days, months, and years ahead.

Now some will say: "But, but, we had an eight day session in late October that included a throne speech. And, okay, okay, sure it passed no bills and ended early - but really, what more did you Joe and Jane Blow's expect after our election victory?"  Well, in a word: Clarity. We Joe & Jane Blow's want clarity on what specific bills the government intends to bring forward in a new session. We want clarity on how the provincial government will adapt should Ottawa's fanatic fidelity to fiscal retrenchment end up hurting either our provincial treasury and/or our overall general welfare. We want clarity on how our provincial government proposes to continue to strive to fix our public school system's abysmally poor graduation rates. We want assurances the NDP government has plans in place to insure that healthcare in Manitoba will remain viable, available, and manageable in the face of finite front line resources. In short, we want the kind of clarity that can only be achieved when the process of governing is laid bare - the kind that only comes when a Legislature is, in fact, in session. After a break approaching four months, with no end in sight, it's time Premier Selinger for you to tell us when you'll be calling an end to this post-election victory siesta. Manitobans expect some clarity.  Bottom line, we deserve to know when the Manitoba legislature will be recalled.