Friday, 29 June 2012

Facebook page

The kool kids of blogging keep stressing the importance of social networking sites for spreading one's message. So I've recently decided to create a Facebook Page for The Winnipeg RAG Review. I hope to import this blog there shortly.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Jerks who drive U-Hauls & Semis

All the jerks in U-Hauls and Semi-trucks who've recently been trying to drive me off the road need to STOP IT, NOW!

Granted, I might be slower than some road cyclists because I actually stop for stop signs, but I view that as a small price to pay for road safety, traffic law compliance, and rule-based regularity. Cyclists belong on the roads, not the sidewalks, and jerkasses in Semis and U-Hauls are what's driving the more weak willed bike-riders onto the sidewalks, where they don't belong.

I am getting pretty damn close to actually mounting a camera onto the back of my bike so I can start writing down the numbers these vehicular thugs on the streets of the 'Peg.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Katz stands against P3 Accountability

Image from the CBC

Well, the country club conservative of Tuxedo was at it again earlier this month, whining at the Province for introducing safeguards. The safeguards would be over our city's more lucrative Public-Private Partnerships (P3s).  Last time Katz was whining about the Legislature putting its foot down and ending corporate/union donations to city councillors. It seems that in any case where there's a risk of corporate welfare - as was the case with corporate donations and as there is with P3s - Katz just hates Provincial safeguards. Sometimes, though, the adults have to step in to oversee the child in such risky sitatuons.

Monday, 25 June 2012

How a Torontonian columnist describes Winnipeg

41st Mayor of Winnipeg, Glen Murray

Image Source: Yonge Street Media
Given some (sorta) recent discussion of Winnipeg's status as a "small town" on Winnipeg Internet Pundits, it seems topical for this prairie city blog to review outside perspectives on the Gateway to the West. Who better to have a say than a columnist from Canada's biggest city?

On a piece about the 41st Mayor of Winnipeg's rising political aspirations in Ontario, Toronto Life writer Gerald Hannon has this to say about the 'peg and it's interaction with the former mayor:

Winnipeg Jets team building

Lukas Sutter - second round Jets' 
draft pick.

Image obtained from Toronto  Star,
who obtained it from
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images.  
Team-building is underway for the Winnipeg Jets as they prepare for the 2012/13 NHL Season, which starts on Oct. 11, 2011. The Jets' first game of the 2012-2013 season is on Oct 13, 2012, where they will face the Carolina Hurricanes at the MTS Centre.  The game will be held at 2:00 PM. They've drafted some up-coming players in the first and second rounds, who'll hopefully ad to the team's standings this year or in upcoming seasons.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Tom Mulcair in Saskatchewan

Well, Tom Mulcair was in Saskatchewan on June 23. He delivered a sound message, including that the environment and the economy aren't separate issues (something this blog has noted before).  

Mulcair also clarified his position on oil sands development.

“We are in favour of development of the oilsands as long as it’s sustainable development that includes basic principles such as polluters pay.”
The media, in their thoughtless, knee-jerk attempts to portray this as a national-unity busting, East vs West, cynical political move as opposed to a long held environmental conviction will probably largely ignore this qualification. It figures.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Shout Out o thon'

Economist Mel Watkins has an article out about how quintessentially Canadian "Dutch Disease" is on Straight Goods. It's worth a read and points out (as this blog has) that Western Canadian manufacturing is also depressed by a high dollar.

The June 20th edition of Winnipeg Internet Pundits (WIPs) discussed many interesting topics. Among them was rising property values along the Riverfront in Wolseley. Can't say that I share John Dobbin's optimistic assessment that this will lead to mixed development rather than gentrification.

Cherenkov has a suggestion for fixing the Confusion Corner fiasco: TUNNELS!!!  

The Green Action Centre discusses Manitoba's Green Action Plan.

 Policy Fix discusses their in-the-community based model for research.

According to a June 1, 2012 Winnipeg Free Press Article, the long and draw-out Lake Saint Martin First Nation tragedy has yet to be resolvedThe article is viewable here. The community, which was flooded out over a year ago, is still without a home. The top priority right now of the Federal government seems to be bickering with the First Nation's council over who's responsible for screening out people "ineligible" for flood compensation. This is a far cry from the response delivered to flooded out farmers and cottage owners when it came to compensation, where the political debate was largely centred on how fast the authorities - particularly the provincial authorities - were delving it out right after the flood (with Manitoba PCs urging speedier delivery and Manitoba NDPers saying they were doing it as fast as they could).

Please, Winnipeg, don't kick yourself in the face again!

Our mayor, playing soccer with children in the
North End in a 2010 mayoral election
photo opt gone wrong.

Image Source: CBC

Well, good ol' Sam Katz might be running for another term. Please, fellow Winnipeggers, stop robotically reelecting incumbents.

Sam Katz praises himself for developing pedestrian and cycling routes. To be honest, I really doubt that stuff wouldn't have happened Glen Murray had a few more years or Judy been elected. We probably would've had a longer rapid transit route if Katz hadn't taken to demanding Light-rail Rapid Transit (LRT) right when the BRT funding deals from other levels of government were coming in. To show for all this we have pathetically few kilometres of BRT two years later.

And, more importantly, Winnipeg would've had the honour of having a mayor who realizes big money in politics is a problem rather than one whines when it is limited because the centre-right will be hurt without it.

Also, if Judy is running again, please run a more hard-hitting campaign. The country club (small-c) conservative of Tuxedo's visionless, lethargic mayoralty needs to stop. Someone has to put a dent in his "no tax hikes unless absolutely, extra-specially, necessary" rightwing faux populism soon and show what a feckless, corporate welfare supporting hack he really is.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Violet Nelson Memorial Ride Tomorrow

Violet Nelson, tragically killed 
in a collision with a semi-trailer. 

Image Source: Winnipeg Free Press

Violet Nelson was community volunteer for various inner-city organizations and a Graffiti Gallery financial manager. She tragically died in a collision with a semi-trailer commuting from the Gallery to the Native Women's Transition Centre on May 24, 2012.

A cautious commuter cyclist, she taught girls road safety. With little formal education and dyslexia, the administrative skills she independently learned enabled her find meaningful work.

At 10:30 AM tomorrow (June 22, 2012) there will be a memorial ride held for Nelson. Participants will meet in a parking lot at 181 Higgins. The memorial ride will follow Violet Nelson's intended route to 667 Ellice. More information can be obtained from memorial organizer John Harvie.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Fortune Block to go the way of Eaton Centre?

This blogger has to admit that they really haven't been to Fortune Block, though the building seems vaguely familiar. Very few people in the downtown area I questioned about the landmark's whereabouts had even heard of it.  My search to find that building this week was inspired by Mike Petkau raising so much concern over it's potential demolition on the June 13, 2012 instalment of Winnipeg Internet Pundits (WIPs). My familiarity with the situation and concern for the chance of demolition wasn't high to begin with, but it grew with increasing knowledge of the issue.

Initially, doubts entered my mind about what to make of this. I weighed various perspectives, including that concern over demolition were just semi-snobbish sorrow over a "nice to have" building leaving. There are certainly bigger issues, aren't there? Affordable housing, structural poverty, racial discrimination, gentrification, you name it. But, as my knowledge improved, it dawned that this was one of those big issues. Tearing down iconic landmarks with long-term value to the city to make a cheap buck in the short-run. This mindset is ruinous for our Winnipeg.

When they say that the Fortune Block is a "historic building", they mean it. It was built in 1882 by a man who would die aboard the Titanic. To give you some perspective, less than thirty years before the construction of the Fortune Block there wasn't much of a city - what would become Winnipeg was largely hinterland. There were some trading posts, European and First Nation fur-trading activity, and Metis lot farms, but the area around the Fork of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers was no recognizable city. When Winnipeg became an urban centre the Fortune Block was one of the earliest big buildings. That's pretty historic and shows the rapid pace of development in a very short timespan.

The recent owner inherited the building. The "president/janitor" of the Fortune Block says it makes sense to sell something you inherited if you could make a million dollars off it.  Due to the fear of sale, the president/janitor hasn't done a lot of interior renovation. This is huge potential that's being squandered because of uncertainty. Furthermore, this under-renovation is leading to a less desirable joint in the long-run and raising the likelihood that the place will just be torn down due to low worth. What's the root cause of this vicious circle?

On the WIPs Cherenkov argued for an answer based on the tax structure.  He claimed that property taxes disincentivized the renovation of commercial buildings downtown. The premise was that owners would pay higher property taxes by redeveloping their buildings (because it increases their value), meaning that improvements fail to generate high returns. Tearing buildings down and replacing them with surface parking or condos is cheaper and earns a higher return, the argument goes, so developers will do that instead.

The perverse incentive argument sounds plausible. Taxing more expensive properties at a higher rate is crucial to maintaining the fairness of the system, so scraping the system wholesale is undesirable. While the province can tell the city where they can and can't tax (which they did when Glen Murray floated the idea of a municipal sales tax), a municipal (or provincial) Pigovian tax on surface parking lots of, let's say, 20% of the assessed value would correct the misplaced incentives in favour of surface parking lots. Tax credits or grants for redeveloping downtown building would halt the rapid pace of the wrecking ball, though very profitable condo development plans would still win out in some cases. Still, there has to be something to prevent hereditary owners and tenant businesses from just sitting on a historic building as it rots away. A building with so much potential and value, if only the will existed. Grants would give these buildings a fighting chance.

Condos and other upmarket residential development projects present the greatest threat to the future of the Fortune Block. It's such a shame that a Victorian era building might be crushed down to make way for such residencies, as there's a tonne of other spaces in the area - like various surface parking lots - that would suffice. There aren't, however, countless pre-20th century buildings in Winnipeg - a city that only became a city in the late 19th century. A focus strategic focus on historic sites, with the right municipal leadership, is a job winning tourism strategy for Winnipeg. Making a few bucks off condos or other residential developments is forfeiting a gigantic opportunity here.  

Sadly, there's a strong likelihood of it. While one can hope that long-term vision is kept in sight - if not by developers than by city officials - one shouldn't bank on it given recent history at City Hall. So look at this Victorian era building, as it might be gone forever in the very near future.


Bike to Work Day

This Friday is bike to work day, a yearly event that energizes commuter cyclists and raises awareness of biking issues. Various sponsors and organizations are going to run pit-stops.  You can get snacks and help with basic bike maintenance there. A 3:30 - 5:30 pm BBQ at the Forks for registered participants will close off the day.

Wilderness Supply employees partaking
in "Bike to Work Day" 2010 in Winnipeg.

Image Source: Wilderness Supply
MPI is taking part, pledging to donate 50¢ for every registered participant to the Winnipeg Education Repair and Cycling Hub (the WRENCH). Educating bikers (and car drivers) is a surefire way to ensure less people get killed or maimed on the road, so I'd recommend registering. You can register here.

Bike to work day is held in various other cities across North America. An entire "bike to work week" is held in Victoria, BC. It's a fine tradition in our increasingly bike-friendly city since 2008.

Have a happy bike to work day this Friday. Hope to see some of you cycling to work!

The top image, of course, is from Bike to Work Winnipeg 2012.  

Monday, 18 June 2012

EKOS Survey & the ideology of the Canadian prairies

Extremely complicated attempt at
representing a three-dimensional political

Image Source:
In March EKOS unveiled quite a treat of a poll. The March 16, 2012 release was entitled "The Return of Ideology? A Starkly Divided Canada". Rather than just looking at partisan affiliation and voting intentions -  as so many other opinion polls and survey's (even those discussing left-right ideology) do - this survey actually asked respondents to ideologically self-identity themselves. This is a staple of opinion polling in the US, but hasn't been used much in Canada - which is such a shame. Ideology is more stable and deeper than the ever-changing platforms of political parties. Party affiliation can be more a function of un-ideological machine politics than citizens aligning with organizations that share their core values. Ideological surveys, thus, hold a lot more promise in getting to peoples' core principles (even if they have flaws as well).

EKOS found some interesting results, both relating to political parties and the overall political landscape.      
For some time, Canadians were relatively unique in the advanced western world by virtue of their aversion to ideological compartmentalization. In an essay in the lead up to the NDP leadership convention and the government’s imminent budget, we will be looking at these longer term trends and their implications for the state of politics and democracy in Canada.

We note that the single most powerful predictor of the constellation of values which one adheres to is one’s self identified ideological orientation. Therefore, the tracking of this indicator can be a useful proxy for the broader question of values shifts. Are we indeed blueing as some have claimed? Is the traditional, non-ideological centre of Canada shrinking and what does that mean in terms of political opportunities and risks? We will attempt to answer those questions early next week, but here we will lay out the basic empirical ingredients.
The NDP constituency, not the Liberal’s, now tends to be the mirror image of the Conservative Party in terms of both ideology and in terms of demographics and social class. While the Conservatives (at 35 per cent) draw strength from older, male Canada and do very well with upper income and faith based voters, the NDP draws its strength in the more economically vulnerable portions of Canadian society, youth, seculars singles, and the university educated. The Conservative strength is Alberta (even more so than usual) is overwhelming but the NDP are doing very well in Quebec and British Columbia and perhaps showing some strength in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (though the smaller sample suggests caution here). The Conservative Party is showing no real sign of immediate weakness in light of recent controversies and the Liberals seem to be stuck at levels near the last election. 
The most liberal parts of Canada appear to be Quebeckers, British Columbians, women, those under the age of 45, university graduates, those who are unmarried or come from non-traditional households, visible minorities, social media aficionados, the upper-middle class (but not the upper class itself), and those holding valid passports. The small-c conservative camp, meanwhile, is made up of Albertans, Saskatchewanians, Manitobans, men, those over the age of 45, the high school and college educated, those who are married, religious service attendees, and the parochial non-passport holders. Those who haven’t yet been dragged into the left-right discord include Green, Bloc, and undecided voters (suggesting a certain level of disillusionment with mainstream politics), seniors, and those of low social economic status.

("The Return of Ideology?".EKOS. March 16, 2012)

Former Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas,
under a billboard for his democratic socialist
CCF party.

Image Source: Canadian Encyclopedia 
Now, others have commented on how goofy it is to have "liberal" and "conservative" as party-independent ideological categories in a country with Liberal and Conservative parties. I personally would've preferred they adopt a left-right scale like I did for this blog's online poll, especially since EKOS seems to regard "liberal" and "conservative" as equivalent to "left" and "right" in their press release anyway. Personally, I've considered myself centre-left for quite some time but have never identified as "liberal" - preferring "social democrat", "progressive", or "centre-left" as labels.

If they'd done that, "liberal" Liberals could identify with the centre-right, centre, or centre-left, "liberal" New Democrats could identify with the "left", "centre-left", and perhaps even a few with the "centre", and "conservative" Conservatives could identify with the "centre-right" and "right". While there was a greater absolute number of "liberal" New Democrats than "liberal" Liberals, the percentage of "liberals" in the NDP (60.6%) was less than the percentage of "liberals" in the Liberal Party (72%). Party name obviously has something to do with it.

But what particularly interests me is the ideological survey results for Manitoba and Saskatchewan (which I'll also call "the prairies" or "the Canadian prairies"). The numbers obtained show that a greater percentage of prairie Canadians are small-c conservative than Albertans!

EKOS self-reported ideology survey results
for MB/SK. Margin of Error (MOE) was high for the
Prairie Provinces due to a poor sample size.
The MOE was plus or minus 9.7.
The effects of the MOE, in the upward and downward
directions, on each ideological group are shown. 
The sample size was small and the margin of error high, but the results seem rather unusual given that Manitoba re-elected an NDP government at the provincial level (an unwaveringly moderate one, but an NDP government nonetheless) and Saskatchewan serves as the birthplace of the NDP. Autonomy for All has also noted the staunchly conservative results, attesting that he could see a rightwing shift in Saskatchewan but not Manitoba.

Now, what can we read from this data?

  • Perhaps our Province and Saskatchewan really are ideologically more rightwing than Alberta, which would explain difficulty the NDP's had gaining traction in Saskatchewan the last few election cycles and it's falling federal fortunes in Manitoba. Maybe people are swayed to vote for the Manitoba NDP by non-ideological issues. 
  • Perhaps the sample size was so ridiculously small that the results really don't hold.

  • Perhaps prairie politics are unusually polarized, but the evenness of this polarization is hidden by the "Neither" category. Many "Neither" responders may be aligned with left-leaning groups like "progressive", "social democrat", and even "socialist", but have a particular distaste for identifying as "liberal" given the existence of a centrist large-L Liberal Party in Canada and at the provincial levels. In Saskatchewan, a few Liberal MLAs in the 1990s joined with various anti-NDP, centre-right, forces to form the Saskatchewan Party - this would certainly diminish the brand for left-wingers in the province. In Manitoba, given the more progressive stanches of the Manitoba Liberals, the brand may be less diminished but more than a few left-leaning NDP members would chose "Neither". The portion of obtained "Neithers" in the Canadian prairies is smaller (21.1%) than nation-wide (25.5%), but that's within the upward MOE. 

Osborne Village during Canada Day 2010.

Osborne Village is a Winnipeg neighbourhood with
many groups (the unmarried,  

social media aficionados,
 people from 
untraditional households, and 
- given he high property values for some homes 
- some people in the upper middle class,
 young professionals and professors) that 
tend to be ideologically "liberal", 
according to the EKOS survey.

Last provincial election, 51% of voters in the  Fort Rouge

 riding (which contains Osborne Village) voted NDP.

Image Source: CBC
All in all, I'd definitely encourage local pollsters to get into the ideological affiliation survey gig, as I think they're more skilled at getting appropriate samples from this province. If they are listening to this blog, I'd also suggest they scrape the "liberal, neither, conservative" system and replace it with a scale from left to right, perhaps tacking on a "Neither" or "Other" category as well.  

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Why Diane Francis is clearly a national embarrassment

Country club conservative elitist Diane Francis.

Image Source:
National Post Editor Diane Francis has had quite a few red-letter experiences, taking on prominent political issues and hopping from the glamorous business centres of Toronto and New York. She's gotten some attention for her screeds against the centre-left, much to the delight of country club conservatives. The problem is that she sacrifices fact, to an embarrassing extent, while doing so. This anti-Mulcair column is no exception.

Political orientations of this blog's readership

Well, my 17 day online poll asking readers what their orientation is has ended. The sample size was 16, which is pretty small. Based on it, though, it looks like readership spans the ideological spectrum, with a heavier concentration of centre-left readers.

The results seem reasonable in that much of the analysis on this site is something the average centre-leftist could get behind, while there's been quite a few sparring matches in some of the comments section with readers who seem pretty far-right. It'd be interesting to see the results for other sites that discuss ideologically charged issues, BTW.

Self-reported ideological orientations of
The Winnipeg RAG Review readership.

Data for image obtained from 17 day online poll
on The Winnipeg RAG Review. 

Friday, 15 June 2012

Why I hate the Woods in summertime

South Winnipeg Parkway

Image from Winnipeg  Trails Association
Well, in this warm, sunny weather I took a trip down to the Forks. There, I looked for the Assiniboine Parkway - I'd been on that trail a few times a couple of months ago, but it's exact location was fuzzy in my memory (my spatial memory is piss poor). I ended up in quite a bit of dense brush along the way, finding out that the city entomologist was right: Winnipeg's infested with mosquitoes this summer.

While the sunlight and warm weather is nice each summer, the bugs really bug me. I find that even with insect repellant one is lucky to get out Winnipeg's dense urban forests without losing a few litres of blood. The bitting insects really do suck.

Sunday, 10 June 2012


Okay, I know that the poll is unscientific as hell and all, but I really want a sample size greater than 6. VOTE IN THE POLL, FOLKS!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Queen in Canada

Image Source:
Global News
 I'm not sure if I should give a certain blogger the attention of being criticized, but their rather deplorable remarks have really ticked me off. For some context as to why I'm ticked off, as a long-time proponent of Canada as a Commonwealth parliamentary republic, the fact that our country (and so many other parliamentary democracies, for that matter) are tarnished by the inegalitarian, aristocratic stench of royalty really bugs me.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Alberta Budget Office: Dutch Disease is Real

The Provincial Budget Office of Alberta recognizes that the commodity boom is pushing up the dollar and hurting manufacturing.

A section of the provincial government's spring budget, titled Risks to Alberta's Economic Outlook, refers positively to the importance of the oilsands to Alberta's economy.

But the report notes that the province's manufacturing sector is challenged by the high Canadian dollar, which in turn is linked to natural resource exports.

"The Canadian dollar remains elevated, buoyed by high commodity prices. An appreciation of the Canadian dollar could hurt exporters," it states.

In another section the authors noted that "manufacturing companies will continue to be challenged by a strong Canadian dollar and moderate external demand," though it added that "they should benefit from growth in energy and agricultural sectors."


While Alberta is known for its oil and gas industry it also has a robust manufacturing sector, dominated by petroleum products, food, chemicals, machinery and fabricated metal products, according to Statistics Canada.
          ("Alberta's own budget backs "Dutch Disease" theory: NDP." Peter O'Neil (June 1, 2012).
           Postmedia   News)

Despite shameless energy McCarthyists trying to paint this as an "East-West" issue, Dutch Disease really is a "trans-Canadian manufacturing issue"  and a "heavily resource-based economy" vs "industrially balanced economy" issue. Sadly, Canada's chattering class doesn't seem to realize this (witness a particularly odious column by Diane Francis).

It's becoming increasingly apparent that pundits who're accusing Tom Mulcair of pitting West against East are projecting. This has been framed as an East-West issue despite the decline of manufacturing in prairie cities, along the West coast, and despite the fact that more British Columbians agree with Tom Mulcair than Ontarians. For the shake of intellectual honesty and journalistic integrity this nonsense has got to stop.  

(Hat tip to Buckdog)