Archive for October, 2009

Let’s have honourable holidays

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Let’s have honourable holidays
By Ken Waddell
At the end of the year seems to have more “significant” days than other times of the year. We have Thanksgiving in early October, Hallowe’en on Oct. 31, Remembrance Day on Nov. 11, Christmas on Dec. 25 and Boxing Day on Dec. 26. That’s closely followed by New Year’s Day, which of course is at the beginning of the year but follows so closely on the heels of Christmas that it feels like the end of the year.
How we view each of these days is a study in human behaviour.
Thanksgiving is an obvious celebration. Harvest is coming in, food is abundant. We stop and be thankful for all the blessings that have come our way. It’s an easy holiday to embrace.
Hallowe’en is the strangest of significant days. It’s devoted to a worship of death and all things scary. It has become a huge retail event  and that simply baffles me. The celebration, if you can call it that, is focussed on graves, witches, death and gory, scary things. That we want to celebrate this day at all is somewhat amazing and disturbing. Why would we celebrate a day devoted to death? And furthermore, it’s not about a peaceful transitional death that’s talked about in the Christian faith. It’s about a troubled, violent death, the more gore and fright the better.
In my mind, Hallowe’en is one holiday that can pass into the history books and never be re-visited and we would all be better off.
Remembrance Day is quite another matter. While it deals with death and the horrors of war, it shows that in times of trouble, a nation can depend on the fact that good men and women will rise to the defense of the defenseless; that countries can and will work together to fend off evil. It in no way negates the need to avoid war but rather it reminds us all of the possible need for a sacrifice  when the stakes are high.
Christmas is about giving. That “God gave his only Son” is the theme message. It has been commercialized and yes, it has been perverted somewhat by many. However, the theme of giving is honoured; there’s the  thrill of showing love to one another in gathering and gifting. Only God could give the ultimate gift but we can honour that and each other by giving as best we can. The theme is solid, the message is pure. God gives life to us all initially on earth and eternally in Heaven to those who accept his ultimate gift.
Boxing Day is a bit frivolous but it reflects and extends the Christmas message. It’s a huge shopping day but you have to be a dedicated consumer to survive the rush. It’s better to stay at home and rest up.
New Year’s is a bit different. We celebrate the new year at a rather arbitrarily set date. New is good. Noting where we want to go and where we have been is a good thing. New Year’s is good. If a person stays away from the boozy side of life, it’s even better. The old tradition of kissing a whole bunch of people at midnight is wearing thinner with each passing pandemic. I think SARS pretty much smothered the big kissing thing. H1N1 should about kill it off. Anyway, New Year’s is good. 
So out of these late season special days one has to wonder with the abundance of Thanksgiving, the reverence of Remembrance Day, the giving of life emulated at Christmas and the fresh start signified by New Year’s, why would we celebrate the death holiday Hallowe’en?
Beats me, but I know that when it’s over I’m a happier man. If it never started, I would be even happier.

Local solutions the best kind

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

If you look at our living room on any given day you are likely to see a pile of newspapers.
I read three daily papers, two by hard copy and one on-line. Each week we get several weekly papers and it’s always interesting to see how different communities handle the same issues.
But before I go any further I must congratulate Greg Sellnger on becoming premier of manitoba. He won his leadership race handily and he obviously generated a lot of support in the NDP party. I know Mr. Selinger fairly well and it’s no secret that I wanted his opponent, Mr. Ashton, to be premier. The reason was both stated and obvious. Mr. Ashton is willing to debate policy much more readily than Mr. Sellinger. The new premier has , in the past, debated little and spent much. He may, in the future, be forced to reverse that priority. I will do my best to be supportive but I will also do my best to point out better and different ways to run the government of Manitoba.
Closer to home, a review of weekly papers shows that every community in Manitoba is facing huge infrastructure deficits. Neepawa has it’s on-going water debate. Rivers needs a new community complex and the old train station stands begging for new purpose and funding. Every other community has an infrastructure problem.
The real problem is that communities, both large and small have, for the most par,t not had a long term plan. Councils are really only required to have a one year budget. A longer term capital plan is loosely cobbled together but few, if any, have a 20 or 50 year plan.
Long term planning should be easier now than it was in 1950. Many of our towns haven’t grown much since then and the experiences they have had have been repeated over and over again. The smaller towns have of course changed, they have shrunk or disappeared. We should be able to see into the future based on the last 50 years experience. We also can more easily measure, plot and map out infrastructure. With computer modeling and computer assisted drawing and plotting we can quickly update a map, a projection or a written presentation. We have more experience and we have more tools than 50 years ago.
What we are lacking is foresight, will and courage.
We need to face the fact that we have limited resources, that government grants are scarce and elusive and that the only thing we can certainly depend on is our own locally, generated resources. Outside funding and investment is welcome but it’s not the norm. We need to look outside for ideas, for research and for best practices but it’s usually internally that we need to cast our gaze for our long term sources of financial resources for infrastructure construction and maintenance.
That said, every councillor and mayor can tell you about a project that if locally designed and locally built would have come in a lot less expensive than the government-funded project designed by a high priced engineering firm. Stories abound doubling and quadrupling of costs are not uncommon.Something as simple as a low level creek crossing assumes astronomical costs as two federal agencies vie for outrageous spending limits, that is the Department of Fisheries and oceans and the navigable waters regulators. Most people would be absolutely astounded at how small a creek can be and still be classified as a navigable waterway. You would think that Pierre Trudeau himself might want to come back to paddle his famous canoe up some little rural Manitoba creek. There have been creeks subjected to these expensive regulations where even the ducks have to walk upstream in July.
You get the point. While we need to look far afield for ideas, we should be able to implement our own solutions.
I wonder if the government is listening. After Mr. Selinger has had a day or two to celebrate and rest we’ll check back and see.

Who calls the shots?

Friday, October 16th, 2009

When the dust settles after the NDP leadership race, Manitobans will have many opinions on the winner and the loser.
No matter who wins the race, Sellinger or Ashton, there will be one big winner who isn’t even on the ballot.
That winner is the labour movement. The unions will decide who the next premier of Manitoba will be.
That was pre-arranged a few years ago when the NDP went away from their plan to have one – member, one – vote. They went back to the delegate system. Even though they had adopted using one – member, one – vote, they went back to the delegate system. The unions are guaranteed 400 delegates at the convention. Now most parties, provincial and federal, have used the delegate system at one time or another. The NDP planned to do so but the unions knew they could control the outcome of a leadership race much better with a delegate quota system. They can control policy conventions much better that way as well.
If another political party, such as the Conservatives, used a delegate quota system but, rather than allocating 400 delegates to the unions, decided another group would be better, what would the reaction be? If the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce or the Keystone Agricultural Producers were allocated 400 votes at a leadership convention there would be a huge outcry. The NDP would cry foul, the media would be howling too. But when the NDP have 400 union delegates at their convention, hardly anyone says a word.
The NDP system of electing a leader is effective and it will get the desired result. The winner will probably get the most union votes. Even if he doesn’t, the new premier will know that, come policy convention or election platform time, he better be union friendly. The unions are the largest controlling block of votes in Manitoba. The aboriginal vote could be very large but they rarely get activated in large groups. The unions control Manitoba politics and they know it. They don’t intend to give up control either.
The NDP system isn’t democratic; it may be effective for the unions but it’s far from democratic. With a one-member, one-vote system, everybody gets a chance to vote. It doesn’t matter whether you are old or young, whether you can travel or not, whether you can afford delegate fees or not, a member gets a vote. You can be a shut-in senior in Grandview with no chance to get to Winnipeg and you can get a say in who the leader of the party will be. It’s a very fair system.
As we get a new premier through a quota delegated system, we’ll know it wasn’t by a democratic or a fair system but we can rest assured that the unions will have had their say. They will continue to have their say, and that’s not a really good thing judging by recent history. Health care will focus on increasing salaries and job numbers. Job numbers equal union member numbers. Results in health care will come fourth to increasing salaries,  job numbers and union numbers.  Similarly in education, emphasis on salaries, job numbers and union numbers put results in fourth place on the priority list. In industry the same effects will be continuing. Labour unions only look at a company’s bottom line when they absolutely have to do so. Many don’t look at the bottom line until the company has closed down.
We will see a continuation of business stifling legislation such as the payroll tax, tax bracket creep and labour friendly legislation, some of which will simply be bureaucratic rather than helpful.
Manitoba is in for a rough couple of years. Gone is the Doer charm that kept the left-wingers somewhat at bay. The unions will be emboldened and little legislation will be passed that actually helps the economy. If the debt-spending continues at the current rate, Manitoba government debt will rise to $25 billion.
Hopefully, Manitobans will realize soon that government isn’t the answer to every problem but it looks like it will be two more years before they get to say so.

How stupid have the NDP become?

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Or why Greg Sellinger should never be premier of Manitoba
By Ken Waddell
How stupid have the NDP become?
Very stupid indeed. Just read the following quote from the Winnipeg Sun from last Tuesday regarding the prison riot at Brandon correctional facility.
“This is indicative of a system that is under stress and is at the breaking point,” said Ken Crawford, MGEU’s corrections staff representative. Crawford said 72 per cent of 1,763 adult inmates in Manitoba are on remand while the remaining 28 per cent are sentenced prisoners. BCC has beds for 157, but Sunday it housed 282, including 50 who bunk in a gymnasium.
In total, Manitoba jails are currently overcapacity by at least 300 to 400 people. Manitoba jails are filled with many people who are either alcohol or drug addicts or both. Add to that, many are mentally ill and urgently need treatment even to be stabilized, if not rehabbed.
So how stupid have the NDP become? Well, stupid runs pretty deep and the NDP have been in denial for years. First they deconstructed the anti-gang initiative of the previous government. That was stupid, but it was worse than that if you can believe that at least one charged gang member was related to an NDP cabinet minister.
The NDP have been in denial for over 10 years about the true nature of the problem as outlined above. Yes, we have a crime problem but we have a huge overcrowding problem and we a have huge problem with inadequacy of the type of facilities and treatment needed.
How stupid are the NDP?
They blame the federal government for the overcrowding because the federal government doesn’t pass tougher sentencing laws. The last time I checked, the feds tried to pass laws, repeatedly. The last time I checked, the federal NDP, which are closer than cousins to the provincial NDP, voted against such laws. That includes, by the way, the daughter of NDP leadership candidate Steve Ashton, that being Nikki Ashton, NDP MP for Churchill.
How stupid are the NDP?
In the last election they were really stupid. When PCManitoba leader Hugh McFadyen announced his intention to build a 300 unit treatment centre he was scorned by the NDP and the media. How can that be? Why didn’t the NDP embrace the idea and run with it? Why didn’t they say thank you very much and ask McFadyen to call his federal friends and lobby for funding? Why didn’t they do that? Because they are stupid, that’s why.
But, maybe not so stupid. One has to ask what’s the main goal of the NDP under Gary Doer? It’s to get re-elected. Nothing more. As this space has stated before, what has Gary Doer done?  Name one solid thing that we can put down in the history books for a legacy? It’s that he got re-elected again and again. So if that’s the goal, and it obviously is the goal, then the NDP aren’t stupid. They are smart. They know that if you want to get elected you ignore the problems and, when you can no longer ignore the problem, you blame the federal government.
Blaming the federal government has become a fine science. Just ask ag minister Roseanne Wowchuk. BSE comes along, blame the feds. Floods come along, blame the feds. The hog industry approaches a collapse, slap on a moratorium and blame the feds.
But as anyone who looks closer than the media headlines will see, the NDP is in fact stupid because Manitoba isn’t going anywhere except backwards. The economy is reasonably good but nowhere near its potential. Jails are double booked, the health system is teetering across the province and has disappeared in most small towns. The livestock industry is collapsing.
And that folks is why Greg Sellnger should not be premier of Manitoba. His only claim to fame is that he isn’t Steve Ashton and he will stay the course set by Gary Doer.
If we fall for that, then we are stupid too.


kwaddell@kenwaddell.ca This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247