Archive for December, 2010

No hope

Friday, December 31st, 2010

According to information released at  a press conference last week in Winnipeg, the Blue Bombers will need close to $4 million a year to pay down the $85 million plus interest the club has agreed to take as their portion the new $190 million stadium. The stadium is already under construction at the University of Manitoba. It will take 44 years to pay back the $85 million share at an interest rate of 4.65 per cent.
The team says there will be four revenue streams: increased ticket sales, corporate suites and parking revenue; naming rights; a facility fee of $6 a ticket and an entertainment tax of 10 per cent on each ticket sold. I’m not sure what is the difference between a facility fee and a 10 per cent entertainment tax but I guess that’s splitting hairs
The Bombers will own a one-third share of the new stadium for their portion of the construction cost.
The $190 million deal is good news for the City of Winnipeg. They get a new stadium and are only on the hook for about six per cent of the cost. The Bombers are on the hook for $85 million and the province for the rest of the deal.
There’s a number of problems with this deal. While it’s good deal for the city, it isn’t a good deal for the province. Provincial taxpayers are on the hook for most of the money, perhaps nearly all of it, if the Blue Bombers can’t meet their payments. And it’s hard to believe that a football club that hasn’t won a Grey Cup championship in a generation and hasn’t consistently made big profits will ever be able to generate that kind of positive cash flow. The province of Manitoba could very well be tagged with the whole deal.
The second problem is that 60 per cent of Manitoba’s taxpayers live in Winnipeg, so it isn’t really a good deal for city taxpayers either. What these dreaming bureaucrats forget is that there is only one taxpayer.
Like I said a few weeks ago, hang onto your wallets.
I love football, in fact played it for three years in high school. I watch some of the Bombers’ games on TV maybe and usually watch the Grey Cup game. I have never been to a Bombers’ game. At the level of ticket prices they are going to be charging, I may never ever get to a game.
The months and years to come may prove me wrong but we have been lied to by the provincial government. They try to tell us that renovating the old stadium would cost over $50 million. If that were true, then it would be pouring good money after bad. Agreed? But there are fairly substantial opinions out there that it would only cost $14 million to renovate the Canad Inns Stadium.
The other problem is that there have been several significant offers to build the stadium with substantial chunks of private money, a much preferred path. Those all fell away as time marched on. It’s too bad. To have only taxpayers money in this deal is a recipe for disaster.
One can only hope for two things. One, that all the real estate deals, the taxes, the ticket sales, etc. generate the dollars needed. The second hope is that that we as taxpayers have built Winnipeg a ballpark, an arena, a human rights museum and now a stadium, that future dollars will be directed to clean water, health care and education on our First Nations and remote communities.
It has to be pretty hard for our rural and remote area NDP MLAs to go home and tell some sick kid’s parents that they might be able to have clean water in a decade or so but we have to pay for a stadium first. It’s surprising that some NDP MLAs get home alive from one of their rare visits to these communities. That they can’t bring home better news than “wait 10 years” is a disgrace and a travesty of justice. There’s no hope in Shamattawa (see letter to editor Neepawa Banner, Dec. 24/10) because there’s so few brains in Winnipeg. Not much compassion or vision either.

Christmas 2010

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Christmas 2010 seems like a strange thing to write. I can remember Christmas 1960. Truth is, I can remember a few Christmases before that.
Seems that at Christmas time, memories flood back. It’s probably because the western world celebrates this special birthday, Christmas, all together. Unlike our human birthdays, which are scattered all across the calendar, many millions of people remember the birth of Jesus, all on one day. December 25, though perhaps arbitrary in its choosing, is the day the Christian world slows to a near stop and pauses to reflect about the baby in a manger. Emmanuel, God with us, in human form, our baby Jesus.
Today, Christmas is celebrated in a way that Mary and Joseph could never have imagined. In fact, if Mary and Joseph ever thought about what the next 20 centuries would be like, it’s certain they would not have seen the world as we see and experience it now. The world has changed a lot.
In many ways, it can be argued that it hasn’t changed for the better. We have a much better standard of living. Our every day conveniences are hard to imagine not being available to us. There’s certain changes that haven’t come about. Mankind is still cruel to fellow man. Governments rise and fall, some by the ballot box and some by the sword. There’s still war and droughts and floods and famine. 
But the true Christian message is constant. God created the world and he sent his son to be our saviour. It doesn’t matter in which of the last 20 centuries a person lived, the message is the same. The message is so simple that it confounds the wise. Jesus was born, lived and died for our sins. If we accept his sacrifice, we go to Heaven. If we choose not to accept his sacrifice, we go to Hell.
People can be angry at that statement. They can be angry at me for making the statement. They can be angry at any and everything they choose, but it doesn’t change it. People who wish to argue the point need to argue with God. Don’t worry, He can handle anger. Get really angry if you like. If it will make you feel better, curse, swear, rant, rave, pound the ground. God has seen it all. He won’t laugh at you, he will just patiently wait until you are done and then be ready to pick you up and hold you close.
Picture God today, wanting to hold you close, like a good father. For those who have had a good dad it’s an easy picture to bring to mind. For those who didn’t have a great dad or perhaps never knew their dad, it’s a tougher picture to accept. Regardless, good dad, bad dad, no dad, God wants to hold us close and to show us his love.
This Christmas, let’s not have anything stand between us and Jesus. Not our own failings, not our own successes, not the great failings of other people, even leaders in the Christian church past and present. Let nothing come between us and Jesus. We need to honour the baby in the manger, the ministering Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus on the cross, the whole package. 
This Christmas we are reminded that each day is a gift from God, the giver of life. Remember, yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never come, today is a gift, that is why we call it the present. 

Of Christmases past

Friday, December 17th, 2010

It’s been said that celebrating Christmas nearly died out in mid 1800s England. People were so busy at their work, possibly seven days a week, that there was little time or money for Christmas celebrations. It may also have had something to do with a Puritan influence that seemed to stomp out anything that was fun. At any rate, the famous writer Charles Dickens is credited with reviving celebrating Christmas with his play, A Christmas Carol. Familiar to most is the character Scrooge who has a severe shake-up in his life view by being taken to see various scenes of poverty and want, capped by a preview of his own miserable demise if he doesn’t repent. It is a review of his own life.
Strangely today, we remember Scrooge for being, well ‘Scrooge”, miserly and miserable. What isn’t celebrated is that Scrooge did repent and became a very generous and caring man. The theological basis for the possibility of a transformation in a person is somewhat muted in the modern day renditions of Scrooge. You see Scrooge saw his end, the very real possibility of a miserable death. He had a foretaste of death and hell. 
But Scrooge did repent and that  is the message of Christmas. While we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time, we also honour the death and resurrection of Christ at Easter time. It’s both a complicated story and a very simple one. In a nutshell, God created the world and mankind and everything else in this world. God made mankind with a free choice and sin came into the world by way of that free choice. We can smugly blame Adam and Eve, but there’s blame enough to go around to us all. All have sinned. But there is a solution. We can recognize that we have sinned, we can ask God, through his Son Jesus, to forgive us our sin and we will experience two things. One, we will receive a ticket to heaven. That ticket has been called a lot of things, salvation, eternal life, among the most commonly used terms. But we receive a bonus. After we repent, we receive an empowerment to live an abundant life. That word abundant can throw people off a bit as there are Christians who have a worldly abundance and there are those who live in poverty. This new found abundance has nothing to do with possessions. Just ask Mother Teresa or the Christians in third world countries or Christians in our own country who have little to their name in terms of worldly goods. This abundance is measured in peace and joy and contentment. 
To illustrate what this abundance is like, I once was in the hospital room of a woman who was dying. In fact she did die of cancer a few days later. She was radiant, happy to see us and inquiring about our well-being. She knew her days on earth were nearly done, she couldn’t have been more frail, but she had abundance. I experienced the same thing at the death bed of an old man. Both these people were well known to many in the area, they had an abundant life but neither were rich in worldly goods.
The key to heaven when we die, and to abundant life now, is the baby in the manger. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus was laid in a manger. What is a manger for but a place to lay feed (food) for livestock? Jesus is our Bread of Life so there is a powerful symbolism there, Jesus was laid in a manger, a place for sustenance or food.
Today, the re-enactment of that manger scene, the Nativity, the Christmas story, is not nearly as common as it was in our childhood days or even just a generation ago. This is a challenge to our communities. As churches may have dwindling numbers of children and because the school system basically forbids us to tell the story of Jesus in school concerts, perhaps it’s time for the community to come together to tell the old, old story. We have a whole generation of children who don’t know the Christmas story, how to sing Away in a Manger or any of the other songs of Christmas.
We, like the England of Dickens era, have become too occupied with other stuff and allowed our government to help snuff out the story. It’s time to come together and re-tell the story of Jesus. It’s worth it. The key to heaven and the key to abundant life are too valuable to let them rust on an old hook behind some dusty door.

Farmers and Indians don’t count anyway

Friday, December 10th, 2010

When it comes to inventing a crisis, governments are masters. There hasn’t been time this morning to read the whole report of Manitoba’s Auditor that was released on Monday of this week. The main thrust of the report is that Manitoba won’t meet it’s goal of greenhouse gas emission reduction. It will no doubt be the crisis of the week but the report shouldn’t surprise anyone as governments rarely meet their goals in anything.
A first glance at the audit report shows that it claims that Manitoba is responsible for three per cent of the GHG production in Canada. Canada is only responsible for 1.5 per cent of GHG production in the world. The fact that Manitoba even worries about GHG is a bit of a joke. After all, three percent of 1.5 per cent is almost immeasurable.
What’s even more interesting is that farmers (agriculture) get blamed for 35 per cent of the GHG production in Manitoba and transportation is stated to be responsible for 33 per cent. Isn’t it handy that we get to beat up on farmers and cars one more time. The calls for restraint will be trumpeted again. Down with hog barns and cows. No more cars. Must have rapid transit in Winnipeg. Do away with parking lots. Get all the old cars off the road. Make sure the cows don’t fart (oops, sorry, flatulate ).
If Canada, or Manitoba, were really serious about reduction of GHG, they might want to look elsewhere. Perhaps we need to look at less importation of goods from China, one of the world’s worst polluters. Perhaps we might try reducing the payroll tax in Manitoba so people might be slightly interested in manufacturing goods in Manitoba. Perhaps we might tell the Wheat Board to get real and allow people to actually make food with their own wheat rather than truck bread across the province or across the nation. The same might hold true for cheese, butter, margarine and production of many other foods. If farming and transportation are the big polluters, perhaps we need to take a long look at what we are transporting and why we have to transport so much stuff when local production could do the trick.
Certainly we need to do the common sense things to reduce GHG production but we needn’t steer our whole policy towards GHG reduction. Go ahead and fine people who drive cars and trucks that belch black smoke or reduce the use of natural gas fired electricity generators. Ironically, two of our biggest polluters, namely the smoke stacks at Flin Flon and Thompson are going to be shut down it seems anyway. 
As rural people, we should take personal offense at the the direction of the report. That farming gets blamed for 35 per cent is a stretch. It will be interesting to see where that figure comes from. Transportation may well be at 33 per cent, but let’s face the facts here. Most of that figure has to be in the City of Winnipeg or as a result of the fact that transport trucks go through Manitoba on the way to every other place. It’s hardly our fault that we are at the crossroads of the continent.
What we can take away from the report is that GHG isn’t a huge problem in Manitoba. What is a huge problem in Manitoba is the lack of clean water. It would have been much better if the auditor had released a report on the lack of clean water. Many communities don’t have clean water. Many more communities are in danger. The City of Winnipeg still flushes its toilets straight into the Red River. No amount of denial will cover that stench and disgrace. As the City of Winnipeg and the two senior levels of government fall all over themselves to build a Human Rights Museum and a football stadium, the water crisis builds.
But why should urban people care? The crisis is only affecting a bunch of farmers and Indians. Those two groups have never counted for much in the halls of power so why should anything change? This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247