By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 19, 2011 - 0 Comments
Ontario is unimpressed.
Moments after Mr. Flaherty announced the new five-year funding commitment, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan issued a statement, accusing the federal government of reneging on a promise made during the election campaign to support health care … “All we were looking to do was implement what the federal government campaigned on – 6 per cent a year growth in the Canada Health Transfer for the duration of the next health accord,” he said. “Today they backed away from that.”
The Globe counts Quebec, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, PEI and Manitoba as standing, quite literally, in the general vicinity of the Ontario finance minister. Quebec is definitely displeased. Canadian Press counts Manitoba among the visibly angry.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 5:55 AM - 0 Comments
In 2010 Winnipeggers endured 2,000 robberies
In 2010 Winnipeggers endured 2,000 robberies. Consider the holdups of just one night in February. Two men skulked into a business on Notre Dame Avenue and confronted the 22-year-old girl working behind the counter. They grabbed a fistful of cash and ran. An hour later, two others burst into a Westminster Avenue store wielding a gun and stole money. Just after midnight, another business was robbed at gunpoint. Then at 1:10 a.m., several men attempted to rob a Manitoba Avenue home.
Worst cities (% higher than national average)
1. Winnipeg (228%)
2. Saskatoon (164%)
3. Montreal (153%)
4. Regina (141%)
5. Victoria (137%)
Best cities (% lower than national average)
1. Rimouski, Que. (100%)
2. Stormont/Dundas/Glengarry, Ont (97%)
3. Lac-Saint-Jean-Est, Que. (96%)
4. Arthabaska Region, Que. (90%)
5. St. Clair, Ont. (89%)
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 5:52 PM - 21 Comments
The Scene. Shortly before the start of Question Period this afternoon, Conservative backbencher Patrick Brown rose to repeat his side’s line that the NDP is too “disunited” to govern. A moment later, Conservative backbencher Greg Rickford rose to lament that the NDP, in punishing two MPs who defied the party’s decision to whip a vote on the gun registry, was also too committed to enforcing unity.
Presumably this was Mr. Rickford’s way of protesting his own government’s decision to whip this week’s vote on asbestos exports. Hopefully his caucus leadership won’t too severely punish him for so bravely asserting the independence of individual MPs.
Immediately thereafter, the Speaker then called for oral questions and the official opposition sent up Joe Comartin, Mr. Comartin having apparently discovered an example of irony that he was eager to share with everyone. Continue…
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 7:00 AM - 10 Comments
Provincial Liberal leader Jon Gerrard used his own car as a campaign bus
Jon Gerrard looks down at his mushroom crepes and sighs. It’s not that breakfast isn’t to his liking, just the discussion accompanying it: the painful, post-mortem examination of an election that left the leader of Manitoba’s Liberals perhaps the loneliest man in Canadian politics. On Oct. 4, Gerrard’s party captured a sole seat in the provincial legislature—his own—and just 7.5 per cent of the popular vote. And his fellow Liberals didn’t even wait for the ballots to be counted before planting their knives firmly in his back. “It hurt and it had an impact,” he says, voice barely audible over the Sunday morning din at Winnipeg’s Pancake House.
In late September, when opinion polls showed the party dipping into single digits, Harry Wolbert, a member of the provincial executive and one of their few “name” candidates, started musing in the local media about electoral wipeouts and leadership reviews. Then two former federal Grit MPs, Anita Neville and John Harvard, publicly endorsed the NDP health minister—the principle target of Gerrard’s political attacks. “When it hit, it was a total surprise,” says the 64-year-old physician and one-time junior minister in Jean Chrétien’s cabinet. “I had spent the last 12 years being very concerned over what was happening in the health care system.”
“The media played it so high,” Gerrard’s wife, Naomi, a palliative home care nurse, chimes in from the other side of the table. “It was a bombshell, I thought.”
By From the editors - Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 11:30 AM - 2 Comments
It is not clear online voting actually has the power to draw more people to the polls, whatever their age
The technology of voting has changed substantially since ancient Athenians tossed coloured stones in jars and scratched names on pottery shards. Today it’s paper ballots that seem ancient and outdated.
Poor turnout by voters in Manitoba and Ontario this month has prompted renewed calls for online voting. “We have to do something,” vowed Greg Selinger, recently elected premier of Manitoba, referring to his province’s depressing turnout numbers. “We’re going to take a look at e-voting.” Elections Canada plans to test electronic balloting in a federal by-election
by 2013sometime after 2013. Many municipalities across the country are already using the new technology.
The appeal of online voting is obvious. Voter turnout is poor across the board, but particularly dismal among the youngest cohort of voters. Since this generation has grown up immersed in online communications, its members might be enticed to vote in greater numbers if the ballot was in a format familiar and convenient to them. Voting at home via a smartphone certainly seems more attractive than walking down the street to a public school or community hall, standing behind a cardboard screen and putting an X on a piece of paper.
And yet it is not clear online voting actually has the power to draw more people to the polls, whatever their age. From the municipal election evidence in Canada, it appears online voting may boost the number of people who vote in advance polls, but does little to change overall voter turnout. A large-scale experiment in Britain was abandoned in 2007 after numerous technical glitches and no appreciable improvement in turnout. All of which suggests online voting provides already-committed voters with a more convenient means of voting, but fails to address the underlying apathy of those who don’t.
This makes intuitive sense. Declining voter turnout is unlikely to stem from the physical requirements of voting—it is no more difficult to vote than to go to the grocery store, something most Canadians of all ages manage to do on a regular basis. Rather, what is crucial to the decision to vote is the time invested before that walk.
Casting an informed vote requires a mental effort that far outweighs the physical act. Thinking about the election, learning about the candidates and their platforms, getting involved in politics in general; it is social failure in these areas that has produced the poor voter turnout. Any real solution to the voter turnout question thus lies not in new technology but old-school effort. Parties and candidates need to stir greater excitement among the voting public. And voters themselves need to take the time to understand how politics affects them personally.
One of the great ironies of the Internet age is that while it has made it far easier for voters to inform themselves about elections, it has done little to increase the interest that people show for democracy in general. If there is a role for the Internet to play in reducing the democracy deficit, it should come in improving the level of public engagement and altering voter behaviour prior to election day, through the use of forums, blogs and various other online tools. This is where the innovation ought to occur.
A further note of caution arises from the impersonal and impulsive nature of electronic voting, often with grimly humorous results. In 1999, Time magazine’s Person of the Century global online poll was hijacked by Turks eager to express their admiration for Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Ataturk became the top vote-getter in all categories, including Entertainer, Scientist and Warrior of the Century. Time instead gave Albert Einstein the top honour. Similarly in 2009, an online vote to name a new NASA space module was swamped by fans of television comedian Stephen Colbert; “Colbert” outpolled “Serenity” by 40,000 votes but NASA ignored this result as well. The same goes for a poll organized by the Northwest Territories in which “Bob” appeared as a top pick among potential new names for the jurisdiction. While such results are obviously meant as a bit of fun, the flippancy encouraged by online polling ought to give all voters pause for thought.
Online voting may indeed hold the promise of greater convenience for many voters. And for this reason alone Elections Canada and other electoral authorities should continue their experiments. Every little bit helps. But it is impractical and naive to expect electronic ballots to reverse the long-standing trend of voter disinterest. That responsibility lies with all Canadians. Democracy is no easy job. And it’s time for everyone to get to work.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, October 7, 2011 at 10:30 AM - 5 Comments
Air Canada stops sending its pilots into downtown Winnipeg “due to safety concerns”
You’ve heard of people moving out of downtown areas and into suburban neighbourhoods. Now the airline personnel are doing it themselves—in Winnipeg, at least. Air Canada has announced that “due to safety concerns,” it will stop using the Radisson Hotel in the city’s downtown core to house its pilots and crew. Instead, during layovers, Air Canada employees will be bussed to an airport hotel. A spokesman for the airline told the Winnipeg Free Press this came in reaction to an assessment by “local law enforcement officials, and our own security people,” and didn’t say when—if ever—it will be safe for flight attendants to venture back downtown.
’Peggers bristled at the suggestion their downtown is dangerous. Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz fumed that Air Canada should “say exactly what it is they’re saying” about the perceived threats, implying that safety issues might be an excuse for cutting costs: “There’s more to this than meets the eye,” he said. “The reasons don’t appear to be valid.” The decision comes as a blow at a time when, finally, Winnipeg’s reputation seemed on the mend. This summer, the NHL returned to Winnipeg, but now that the Jets are back, the jet pilots are fleeing.
The airline hasn’t yet given a full public justification for the decision, but an internal memo fingered the “1,000 displaced people from rural Manitoba” who were forced to flee their homes during summer flooding. Air Canada has since apologized for what the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called a racist claim that Aboriginal flood victims were making the city dangerous. Airlines expect their pilots to be brave enough to withstand bad weather and the threat of terrorist attacks but, it seems, they must be protected at all costs from homeless people.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 at 9:44 PM - 8 Comments
With early returns now coming in, it appears the NDP is headed for its fourth consecutive majority government in Manitoba. This would be the first time in that province’s history that a party has managed four-straight majorities.
Fans of proportional representation take note: As of this typing, the New Democrats lead in nearly twice as many ridings as the Progressive Conservatives, but trail in the province-wide popular vote.
12:39am. A few hours later… By seats the NDP leads 37 to 19 to 1. By popular vote, they lead 45.8 to 44.1 to 7.5. The line to the PR riot starts behind Andrew Coyne.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 12:22 PM - 3 Comments
Provincial election could highlight new approaches
As voters in Manitoba consider their options for the province’s October 4 election, law-and-order questions are bound to be prominent. Manitoba’s violent crime rate is the highest in Canada, and Winnipeg is sometimes slagged as “Murderpeg.” Statistics Canada reported recently that Manitoba once again led the country in homicides in 2010 — 3.6 for every 100,000 people in the province. Long-established native gangs like the Manitoba Warriors and Indian Posse have been joined more recently by bikers such as the rival Hells Angels and Rock Machine. And so the politicians inevitably wade in. Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen drew attention this week by saying high-risk sex offenders should have to wear GPS ankle bracelets when they get out of jail. Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard calls for another $1.2 million to be spent to reduce wait times for people seeking treatment for addictions, noting that research shows 70 per cent of violent criminals are substance abusers. And NDP Premier Greg Selinger promises “more police, faster prosecutions and tougher consequences,” although platform details have yet to be announced.Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill, rather than stressing a get-tough attitude, says much more should be done to give young people options to keep them off the streets.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 1:45 PM - 0 Comments
The Canadian military heads for the far North while Manitobans stare at a massive bill for flood cleanup.
Boots on the snow
Canada is planning its biggest summer military exercise in the far North. More than ever, a grand show of force in the Arctic is vitally important. Russia recently announced that it plans to send two new military brigades to the Arctic and is boasting of plans to build a year-round port there. Tensions between Arctic nations are on the rise over the drawing of borders in this resource-rich part of the world. And while flag-planting displays may seem trivial, when it comes to Arctic sovereignty, Canada needs to use it or risk losing it.
The Greek government has prevented a likely tragedy by stopping a flotilla of pro-Palestinian protesters from embarking for Gaza. An attempt to break the Israeli blockade last summer ended in a confrontation on the high seas that left nine dead. With both sides bent for a repeat showdown, the results this year could have been even worse. The Greeks are offering to work with the UN to ferry the ship’s cargo—food, medicine and building materials—to the Gaza Strip’s many needy. A bit of reasonableness that should serve as an example to the radicals on both sides.
A liberating decision
Ottawa reversed course and approved trials for a controversial procedure used to treat multiple sclerosis called “liberation therapy,” which involves opening blocked neck veins. Canada, which has among the highest rates of MS in the world, said last year it would not fund the trials due to concerns about the procedure’s efficacy and safety. Advocates, though, argue it is life-saving. The trials may finally provide some much-needed answers.
Cellphones don’t cause cancer after all, according to a major academic review of research by experts in Britain, the U.S. and Sweden. The report comes two months after the World Health Organization said the devices should be classified as “possibly” carcinogenic (along with pickled vegetables and coffee). Such cancer scares haven’t curbed appetite for the technology. The last wireless patents held by Nortel were bought for US$4.5 billion by a consortium including RIM, Apple, Ericsson and Microsoft.
Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian dictatorship, one of the Middle East’s most repressive regimes, continues to plumb new depths as it confronts pro-democracy protesters. This week its security forces opened fire on peaceful crowds in several towns, wounding dozens and killing at least three. With the West focused on removing Moammar Gadhaﬁ from power in Libya, Assad seems to feel untouchable. And to our collective shame, he appears to be right.
A couple of months back, Treasury Board President Tony Clement was criticized for tweeting a comment on a CRTC decision that was effectively a change in government telecom policy. Now he’s been caught out sharing photos of Will and Kate snapped at a private reception. Clement says he’s done nothing wrong, but clearly his desire to self-publicize is getting the better of him. Facing similar aggrandizers, the BBC is reportedly considering adding a clause to its contracts with its talent to prevent tweeted leaks and spoilers. But it all pales compared to the numbskull who hacked the Fox News Twitter account on July 4 and shared the “news” that Barack Obama had been assassinated. Can’t we all ﬁnd better things to do with technology?
This case has no clothes
An Ontario court this week heard arguments about whether laws preventing public nudity are unconstitutional. Lawyers for Brian Coldin, who was arrested when he showed up naked at a Tim Hortons drive-through, argue police should have discretion when enforcing nudity laws. In Coldin’s case, restaurant employees testified they felt “uncomfortable” seeing his genitals on display. If anything, this case offers an all-too-clear example why nudity laws exist and shouldn’t be fiddled with.
Researchers writing in the American Journal of Public Health say they have calculated how many deaths may be caused by poverty each year: 133,000 in the U.S. That’s not to say money guarantees good health. A Canadian study found low-income, urban children are more likely to walk or bike to school and are therefore in better shape than their more privileged counterparts.
By Alex Ballingall - Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 9:15 AM - 0 Comments
Manitoba canola farmers are using helicopters to plant their rain-soaked fields
If you’re a canola farmer on Manitoba’s flood-ravaged prairie, what do you do when you can’t plant your seeds because your fields are too wet for your tractor? John Gibson and his team at Provincial Helicopters, Ltd., have a solution: hire one of their helicopters to do it for you. “The farmers are really having a hard time of it,” says Gibson, president and chief pilot of the company based in Lac du Bonnet, Man. “Getting the seed on the ground, even if it is wet, is a high priority right now.”
Rob Pettinger, president of the Manitoba Canola Growers Association, says this is one of the wettest seasons he’s ever seen. In some regions, he expects canola to produce just 10 per cent of its normal yield. But Gibson says the rain-soaked fields, while a problem for tractors, are just wet enough for the seeds they drop from their helicopters to land without being damaged. He and his team have already planted seeds for three farmers this season, and they have received interest from at least 15 more.
When hired, Gibson’s team mounts a seeding system to a helicopter. In the back, a hopper is filled with thousands of canola seeds. The seeds are then dropped into a large circular dispenser that hangs like a wheel beneath the helicopter. As the aircraft flies back and forth at about 30 feet above the ground, the wheel spins, spitting out seeds.
By Nicholas Kohler and Cathy Gulli - Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
A tiny Wolfe at the bathroom door, a flirty old Castro in Cuba and the Times’ new editor needs her red pen
Happy birthday, Mr. President
Turning 80 usually warrants a birthday party. But Cuban President Raúl Castro was hardly celebrated at all. It seems his advanced age is an uncomfortable reminder to many Cubans that their country’s leaders are old—and old-guard. With no young successors in place (the next in line for the job are 79 and 80), Cubans worry that economic reforms now under way will be jeopardized if either Castro or his brother Fidel, 84, take ill. Still, Castro was positively spry on his birthday, asking female reporters: “How do I look, ladies, how do I look at 80? How many old men of 60 are there who aren’t in my shape?”
Three decades after losing her son Terry to cancer, Betty Fox is ﬁghting to stay alive. The Fox family, in the spotlight ever since Terry’s Marathon of Hope across Canada in 1980, released a statement that the matriarch is “seriously ill,” but stressed she does not have cancer. Though details are scarce, she reportedly spent time at a hospice in Chilliwack, B.C. Her last major public appearance was carrying the Olympic flag during the opening ceremonies in Vancouver last year.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Friday, May 20, 2011 at 7:25 AM - 0 Comments
This Manitoba man is gambling that he can
The bright red “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster went up on Steve Ashton’s office wall on May 7. Manitoba’s minister of emergency measures had originally given it to his son Alex as a gift last Christmas, but faced with a massive once-in-300-year surge in the Assiniboine River, the 55-year-old politician figured it might be of more use down at the provincial legislature.
It also happened to be the weekend he and his colleagues were grappling with a stark dilemma: let nature take its course, or intervene and create a smaller, and hopefully controllable flood of their own. The Assiniboine was rising at an unprecedented rate. As the Souris River joined the flow southeast of Brandon, the waters were already 1½ times greater than the last major flood in 1976. And plenty of rain was in the forecast.
For more than a month, Ashton had been locked into a schedule that moved from briefing, to meeting, to media conference, to more obligations. (And continues still: the conversation with Maclean’s was sandwiched in between a helicopter tour of the flood zone with opposition leaders and question period.) But by Mother’s Day it was becoming clear that weeks of frantic work to shore up dikes downstream at a cost of $25 million wouldn’t be enough. Neither would further tweaks to a floodway at Portage la Prairie that diverts water into Lake Manitoba. The predicted peak flows of more than 52,000 cubic feet per second would overwhelm the defences.
By Stephanie Findlay - Friday, May 13, 2011 at 7:15 AM - 0 Comments
The province has called in the troops to battle the Assiniboine River
Hours after the Manitoba government declared a provincial state of emergency this week to deal with “unprecedented and historic” flooding of the Assiniboine River, Steve Ashton, the minister of emergency measures, announced the government’s decision to break Assiniboine dikes and release “controlled” water—an unusual plan that speaks to an increasingly unmanageable situation. The release of 2,000 to 6,000 cubic feet per second of water will affect 150 rural properties. Ashton said it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was a necessary one: an uncontrolled release would put 850 homes at risk.
Since early April, the floods—underestimated by faulty river gauges, and caused by a series of wetter-than-average springs—have displaced about 2,000 people. And the government has estimated that the final bill for damages could be $100 million. (The 2009 flood cost Manitoba $70 million.)
The same day a state of emergency was declared, some 800 members of the Canadian Forces arrived. Their job? Help top up existing dikes, fortify previously unprotected properties, and deploy mobile flood protection equipment to high-risk areas. Brandon, Manitoba’s second-largest city, is one of the high priorities. On May 7, the water level in Brandon measured 1,181 feet, the highest it’s been since 1923. An evacuation order was issued this week for those in about 900 homes and businesses in “the Flats, an area south of the river in Brandon. (Winnipeg, with three major water diversions, remains relatively safe.) “It’s a murky, muddy mess,” says Matt Goerzen, an editor for the Brandon Sun.
Shawn Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says First Nations communities are disproportionately hurt by the floods since their poor diking systems are “nowhere near” able to displace the water. He says “major policy issues” must be addressed. But for now, it’s a race against time as the flood-fighters try to mitigate the effects of a rising Assiniboine.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 6:06 PM - 0 Comments
Manitoba hopes to stem rising waters in a risky operation on Thursday morning
Manitoba will continue with a high-stakes breach of the Assiniboine River at 8 a.m. on Thursday in an effort to prevent massive flooding in the area, unless conditions require more immediate action. Provincial spokesman Rachel Morgan told The Globe and Mail that residents are still being notified about the need to evacuate the area of Hoop and Holler Bend, 90 km west of Winnipeg. The province hopes to achieve a “controlled breach” by cutting a notch in the dike and filling it with a rocky substance that should stem the water flow. “We want to minimize the amount of water that goes out of the controlled breach,” said Morgan. “Above 4,000 [cubic feet per second] is going to be a challenge.” Engineers chose the location based on the hope that water would head towards the LaSalle river. In the worst flooding Manitoba has seen since the 1820s, more than 2,700 people have been evacuated. 700 troops are aiding with relief efforts, which have so far exceeded a cost of $70 million, after the province requested military assistance on Sunday. Prime Minister Harper visited Manitoba on Wednesday and was briefed on the situation by Premier Greg Selinger.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Good news/bad news
Signs of glasnost appeared in Cuba as the ruling Communists held a party congress and Fidel Castro prepared to step down as first secretary. Fidel’s successor as president, brother Raul, opened the meeting with a speech endorsing term limits for senior leadership—a surprising suggestion, coming from half of the duo that has held power since 1959. Delegates discussed an astonishing package of market-based reforms, including property rights, free currency flows, and the elimination of universal food rationing.
More news is good news
Quebecor launched its Sun News Network cable channel, receiving praise and catcalls for its “populist” programming in the visual style of Fox News. Key figures in the day-one lineup included talk-radio star Charles Adler, multimedia reporting vets David Akin and Brian Lilley, and daytime anchor Krista Erickson, who provided a special fillip to the rollout by posing as the Sun papers’ Sunshine Girl. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the presence of Liberal campaign advertising; party president Alf Apps noted that “the price was right.”
Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich announced results from simulations of crowds that may help police prevent fatal panics like the one that killed 21 at a music festival in Duisburg, Germany, last year. New models show that when a crowd reaches a critical density, a coordinated “undulation” begins, signalling the potential onset of a turbulent “crowd quake” of deadly physical force. Review of video from Duisburg confirms that a wavelike motion preceded the stampede, raising hopes that similar disasters could be averted in real time.
A real shell game
The University of Maine and the Canada-U.S. Lobster Institute introduced a biodegradable golf ball made from discarded lobster shells. The balls can survive just a few swings, but they are a good fit for use on cruise ships, since they break down in water within a few weeks. The cost of the lobster balls is lower than that of existing biodegradable alternatives, and the lobster industry is eager to find profitable uses for the shells, which make up half of the weight of the total catch.
Residents of the southern Prairies coming off a wet growing season and a very snowy winter are facing spring flooding. In Manitoba, a total of 700 people, including 576 from the Peguis First Nation, had to evacuate threatened homes, and Highway 75, the province’s key overland link to the U.S. border, was closed. Floodways and dikes have performed well during the crisis, protecting all but a handful of homes, but two rural Manitoba motorists were killed trying to navigate flooded roads.
A Fraser Institute study shed harsh light on the recent increase in Canadian health care costs, showing that provincial health spending grew by an average of 7.5 per cent a year from 2001 to 2010; during the same period provincial revenues expanded at a pace of 5.7 per cent and the Canadian economy by 5.2 per cent. Ontario and Quebec will already be spending 50 per cent of total revenues on health by the end of 2011, said analysts Brett Skinner and Mark Rovere. But their proposed solution—a five-year waiver of Canada Health Act provisions outlawing private insurance and care providers—found no takers among those running for election.
Bond rating agency Standard & Poor’s stunned markets by downgrading the debt of the United States Treasury. U.S. bonds remain AAA-rated, but S&P, firing a warning shot across Washington’s bow, adjusted the outlook from “stable” to “negative.” An S&P analyst noted that “policymakers have still not agreed on how to reverse recent fiscal deterioration,” adding that S&P estimates the likelihood of the U.S. losing its triple-A status within the next two years at “at least one in three.”
As the NHL playoffs began amidst a clamour over ill-defined “head shot” rules—which came into play after Vancouver Canucks forward Raffi Torres received only a two-minute minor for blindsiding Chicago’s Brent Seabrook—new research from the University of Calgary confirmed estimates that players experience about 1.8 concussions per 1,000 hours of ice time. Breakdowns of the numbers emphasize the risks of repeat concussion and of attempting to play through one.
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 12:40 PM - 11 Comments
Hutterite-run firms don’t pay their workers wages or seek big profits. Competitors say it’s unfair.
Competitive spirit might run through the veins of any good businessman, but a handful of Prairie companies say they can’t win the war against some unlikely rivals in the building supply trade—Hutterite colonists. Frustrated by a steady drift of metal roof and siding orders to Hutterite-owned competitors, building supply companies are pressuring the Manitoba government to take action, arguing the market is tilted in favour of Hutterite enterprises because colony members work for free, and because their firms are exempt from certain taxes.
The Hutterites are an Anabaptist sect whose adherents live communally, sharing resources and property on farming colonies that speckle the southern Prairies and parts of the U.S. plains. For the most part, they’ve coexisted peacefully with neighbours, but tensions began rising in the 1990s, when some colonies turned to commercial enterprises to help support their way of life, raising the unexpected question of whether communal living constitutes an unfair advantage in the marketplace.
By Jason Kirby - Monday, December 6, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 9 Comments
How an economic laggard became a leader in the recovery
Six years ago, Rylan Hart, a contractor from Winnipeg, packed up his tool box and headed west. While Manitoba’s economy was expected to continue plodding along, British Columbia was on the cusp of a housing boom, and as a skilled tradesman he was perfectly positioned for the windfall when it came. But Hart had been warned by veterans of B.C.’s “roller coaster” construction sector not to expect the good times to last, and they didn’t. The combination of recession, an Olympic hangover and the new harmonized sales tax sent shivers through his industry. “Everything just tanked,” says Hart, 35. So in July he did what a lot of others in the Manitoban diaspora have done over the last year—he packed up and headed back to the Prairies.
But if the Winnipeg that Hart left was dull but stable—it’s often said Manitoba doesn’t suffer economic slumps because it never enjoys boom times in the first place—the Winnipeg he returned to, with its luxury condo projects, massive housing developments and stunningly low unemployment, is scarcely recognizable. “From the moment I got back I’ve been going full tilt,” he says. “I keep having to tell [potential clients], ‘No, I’m too busy.’ I’ve already got work until at least next spring lined up.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 10:16 AM - 25 Comments
However awkwardly and ridiculously the Industry Minister has handled questions and criticism in the past, he perhaps outdid himself yesterday with the following tut-tutting of two questions from the NDP’s Niki Ashton.
For whatever reason, after Ms. Ashton had asked her first question rather haltingly, Mr. Clement decided the proper tone for the moment was “patronizing.” When he turned, with the last bit of his second answer, to direct scorn on Ms. Ashton his voice was entirely overwhelmed by a torrent of shouting from the opposition side. Continue…
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 3:20 PM - 0 Comments
Manitoba Housing tweaked Heat Assault’s system into a powerful bug killer
Winnipeg is at war with bedbugs, and the latest weapon against them is a system of heaters that warms up a house, cooking the insects to death. It’s proven so effective that even the Manitoba government is using it.
Back in 2008, Manitoba Housing partnered with Heat Assault (a company that makes construction-grade heaters used to thaw frozen ground or cure cement) to develop the technology. Dave Funk, who heads up the government agency’s in-house pest control group—it has 20 full-time staff, including 10 exterminators—says they tweaked Heat Assault’s system into a powerful bug killer. Insecticides or other heat treatments can be “like bringing a knife to a gunfight,” says Clint Rosevear, co-owner of Monarch Pest Control, which also partnered with Heat Assault and markets the system.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 1 Comment
Who’s suing whom
Nova Scotia: A 33-year-old man is suing a pub in Dartmouth, alleging that early one morning last May he was left “highly intoxicated” after being “over-served alcohol.” He claims that the bar is liable for the resulting car accident and injuries he sustained as a result of driving drunk. A bartender at the pub denied the charge.
Ontario: Tobacco farmers in Ontario have launched a $500-million class-action lawsuit in federal court against Ottawa for failing to collect taxes from illegal smoke shacks. The suit alleges that Ottawa ignored “flagrant violations” of the prohibition on the sale of black-market tobacco.
Manitoba: A Winnipeg man is suing a North Dakota hotel for damages, alleging to have suffered head and neck injuries because an attendant was not in place on the receiving end of a waterslide. The man is seeking $194,000 for medical bills and other economic losses, and at least $75,000 for personal injuries. Lawyers for the hotel say the lawsuit has no merit and asked that it be dismissed.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
What you’re thinking
Quebec: Quebecers are the most likely to gossip at dinner parties. More than four in 10 say that friends’ chatter around the table revolves around family gossip, celebrities, or friends who aren’t there. British Columbians, by contrast, are the most weighty in terms of dinnertime conversations, with 68 per cent claiming that discussions are usually focused on current affairs—or so they say.
Ontario: Over 54 per cent of entrepreneurs in the province (and 56 per cent nationwide) believe they’ve had it easy in the recession, saying the downturn has had no effect, or even a positive one on the bottom line. The outlier is Toronto, the country’s financial engine, where only 47 per cent of small businesses claim to have ridden out the crisis without suffering a few bumps along the way.
By Peter Shawn Taylor - Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 3:40 PM - 0 Comments
NDP government announced it will provide a pension plan for all daycare staff in the province of Manitoba
Pensions and toddlers don’t often go together. They do now in Manitoba. Last week, the NDP government announced it will provide a pension plan for all daycare staff in the province. An estimated 7,000 workers will qualify, including those who offer child care out of their home. It’s proving a controversial move.
The new $6.6-million-a-year policy creates a defined-contribution pension plan for staff working at privately run non-profit child care centres. Payments will be made to retroactively recognize up to 10 years service. For home-based daycares, the government will contribute up to $1,700 a year to the owner’s RRSP. All this is in addition to increases in provincial wage subsidies over the past decade that have pushed starting salaries for daycare workers in the province to $32,000.
By Ken MacQueen with Colby Cosh and Patricia Treble - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 3:30 PM - 81 Comments
Drugs plus gangs equal the top crime cities in Canada
Darren Munch was shot multiple times in the middle of an August Saturday afternoon, in Prince George, B.C. The 25-year-old staggered to the middle of residential Oak Street where he collapsed and died, as children played in the sunshine and stunned residents tried to process the scene. Munch’s Facebook photo, which still lives on the Internet, shows a handsome young man in a black patterned T-shirt. He glares from behind dark sunglasses and under a billed cap, striking a don’t-mess-with-me kind of pose. But someone did.
Munch, whose death local RCMP say was “gang-related,” was the fifth of seven murder victims in Prince George so far this year, a disturbing body count in a community of just 74,000. Six of those murders are tied to gangs or drugs, says RCMP detachment commander Supt. Brenda Butterworth-Carr. Yet, the greatest outrage in the community seemed reserved for the Prince George Citizen, for running a front page picture of Munch’s body, sprawled on the pavement in a pool of blood. The next day the Citizen ran a gutsy, unapologetic editorial under the headline: “Take a look in the mirror.” This is a city in trouble, it warned. “It’s only a matter of time, if left unchecked, before the bullets fly across your lawn, before it is your child prone on the pavement, before someone you know goes to jail, or hooks up with a gang.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
What you’re thinking
British Columbia: While three-quarters of Canadians admit to being distracted while driving, British Columbians are some of the most responsible. Just eight per cent of West Coast drivers talk on the phone without a hands-free device, compared to 15 per cent in the country overall. B.C. drivers do lead in one category: six per cent coif their hair and apply makeup while behind the wheel.
Alberta: Eighty-six per cent of Albertans have heard, seen or read something about the oil sands. That means one in six Albertans know nothing about their province’s most valuable resource. In Quebec, the land of abundant hydro power, only 66 per cent have heard about the oil sands.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba: Eighty per cent of women between the ages of 45 and 64 in Saskatchewan and Manitoba believe that they are smarter investors than their mothers were at their age. And while 29 per cent of Canadian females have a financial plan, that number climbs sharply to 38 per cent of the women in those two Prairie provinces.
Quebec: If NHL players have their way, then La Belle Province should be next in line to get a hockey franchise. In a survey of 90 pro players, Quebec City earned the most support, with the backing of 37 per cent. Other top Canadian cities included Winnipeg, which finished second with 20 per cent of the vote, and Hamilton, a distant fourth, with 12 per cent.
Atlantic provinces: When it comes to entrepreneurship, the East Coast lags behind most of Canada. Only 3.1 per cent of individuals in the region took steps to create or take over a business. And just 7.4 per cent own a business, compared to Alberta and British Columbia, where 13.2 per cent of the population are owners. (Quebec was lowest with 5.1 per cent.)
SOURCES: Léger, Ipsos Reid, The Hockey News, Léger, Environics