Archive for November, 2011

Leadership by default

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

On a recent road trip across western Canada, my son and I had “chance” encounters with three different university students in Alberta. One was a hotel desk receptionist, two were restaurant servers. They work from two to five nights a week to support themselves going through university. One is in education, one in business administration, one in law. Interestingly enough, they are all working, they said, to avoid having a student loan. I suspect there are hundreds more like them with the same goal.
These young people contrast severely with the students we have seen across Canada involved with the “Occupy” movement. The “Occupy” movement involves a few students, but many seem to be part of a pack of professional protesters, perennial victims, making the most of their victimhood. As one commentator said, they are protesting that they don’t have all the privileges of the rich and famous. One particularly poignant comment was that some of the protesters who have been to university are upset that their $100,000 student loans that paid for their degree in bitterness studies was not generating them much income. Another commentator told them to “have a bath and get a job”. 
There is no doubt that universities have gotten off track in some cases. The sad thing is that most students are hard working and on track and want to stay that way. One of the students that we met said that they didn’t want to stay in university as what was being taught wasn’t relevant to a business career. That may have been a naive comment, but there’s plenty of evidence to show that some university courses and some university professors are way off track.
Brandon University gives us at least one case in point and that is the case of professor Joe Dolecki. Dolecki, and his life partner, are professional complainers and protesters. Call a demonstration or a public hearing and they will be there. They both participated heavily in defending the NDP government’s hog barn ban bill. They have been well known for years in many battles for left wing causes, often without much merit. As one person said upon hearing Dolecki’s testimony at a government committee meeting, “That, ladies and gentlemen, is who teaches your children economics. May God help them.”
That Dolecki is a professor who deals with economics issues seems to be lost in his role of head of the Brandon University Faculty Association (BUFA). The demands that have been put forward seem way out of line. Ironically, the president of Brandon University, Dr. Poff, comes from an NDP, left wing background as well so we have two old socialists dueling over money. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad for the students who have now lost 40 days of studies.
So how does a prairie university, with a fairly conservative student base and a very conservative surrounding community, end up with a socialist as president and a socialist as head of BUFA. Poff may have been chosen by a left-leaning Board of Governors or she may have been brought in as a person with a labour friendly background. But Dolecki was chosen because he was willing. Thus it is, in unions and even other organizations. The reluctant are lead by the willing. Dolecki was willing and with a huge majority of faculty not wanting to take the the time to attend meetings or even vote, an ambitious unionist can get into positions of leadership quite easily.
As it has been said, if you don’t get involved in politics, then you are doomed to be governed by those who do. Such is the case at BU and the rest of the faculty and all of the students are suffering for it.
A larger question is why has BU been on strike twice the past few years? Why are all the mouthpieces and leaders at BU, socialists? See the paragraph above for that answer; they were willing and they take extreme positions that only a few are willing to be associated with but, by default, they get into the leadership roles.
This strike will cripple BU in the short and the long term. Students who get squeezed out of this semester will transfer out. Future students, considering BU will steer away to places like Lethbridge or Saskatoon or others. Any talk of a pre-med school for Brandon is now sheer fantasy. And the prospect of there being 3,000 students again next year is severely diminished.
The students we met, and ones like them, will not only work for a living and for their degrees, however, it may not be in Brandon. Hopefully some people will begin the long hard task of restoring BU’s reputation. Don’t hold your breath for the socialists to do it.

AMM to debate re-shaping Manitoba

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

It’s interesting that the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) is debating a resolution next week to ask for more funding for rural veterinary boards. The resolution says that funding has stayed the same since 1989 and of course costs have gone up. The resolution states the obvious. What the resolution doesn’t  state is that funding for rural vet boards started in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was obvious at that time there was a shortage of large animal vets around. Many vets of that era had trained after WWII and were getting a bit long in the tooth. Others had gone on to work in small animal practices or had taken up working for the government, both federal and provincial. There was undoubtedly a shortage of vets at that time. So the program was well-intentioned and clinics were built in Gladstone, Alonsa, Minnedosa and later in Neepawa and Ste. Rose. There are today many more veterinarians than there were back in the 1960s. So it could be concluded the program achieved its goal. Unfortunately, like many government programs, there never was an end date or sunset clause. It has just gone on forever. Perhaps it’s time to end the program of subsidizing vet clinics. Perhaps not. It does need to be debated though.

This may not be popular

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

A letter to the editor that is on these pages lays out clearly the point that this editor has, at least of late, been pretty quiet about the Canadian Wheat Board. Before you read this column you should read Art Gagnon’s letter that challenges me to come out in support of the farmers who wish to maintain the monopoly for the Canadian Wheat Board. Gagnon raises, as always, many good points.
The CWB was first formed in the 1930s as a voluntary board. It had mixed success. In the early 1940s, the CWB was given mandatory selling authority over Canadian Wheat. Some say it had more to do with keeping the price of wheat low enough so that Britain could afford it during the huge war efforts of WWII. Some say it was to maximize the income over the long haul for western Canadian farmers.
Some want the monopoly to stay, some want it gone. Both sides are passionate in their views. The federal Conservative government has run three elections with elimination of the wheat board monopoly as part of their platform. Now comes the interesting part. The CWB only has control of wheat sold in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and parts of B.C. It doesn’t control wheat sales anywhere else in Canada, albeit most of the wheat grown in Canada is in those four provinces. Every constituency that grows wheat in the CWB area returned a Conservative MP to parliament and some areas by overwhelming votes. The government says it now has a mandate to make the change. Monopoly supporters say the CWB legislation requires a plebiscite to take away the monopoly. The government says the plebiscite is only required to add or take away a grain from the CWB.
There are people who figure the wheat board control of their grain is wrong and besides that they claim the CWB is not getting the best returns available on wheat. In short, they say, the CWB has cost them opportunity dollars. The CWB monopoly supporters say that without the wheat board, they will not be able to market their grain properly.
So back to Gagnon’s challenge. I am a free trader. If I had my way the CWB would not have a monopoly. I have consistently said that for years. The CWB has years of world-wide grain marketing experience and they should be able to sell wheat. I said that 20 and 30 years ago. It’s unfortunate that recently the CWB has spent so much energy creating uncertainty in the market place by fighting a battle they won’t win and at the same time appearing to give up on pursuing markets. The CWB should contract with farmers and sell the wheat they have access to.  
That said, the government  has a huge problem on their hands. Half  of the farmers want out of the monopoly, half or so want to keep it. Even when a vote is held, it’s almost impossible to determine who should have a vote as the voter’s lists are in pretty bad shape. 
I believe there are far bigger problems in farming than whether the CWB has monopoly or not. The CWB is a marketing board but, unlike the other boards, it wasn’t voted in by farmers, it was imposed by the federal government. However, the CWB and all the other marketing boards have a strangle hold on farming that severely limits innovation, seeking of markets and entry into farming. Its almost impossible to start up farming in the traditional pathways of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Today, the financial threshold of land, inflated by quota value and the actual quotas themselves, keep any sane person away from farming. On the pretense of supporting farmers, we have built barriers to entry into farming.
Another big thing that drove farmers off the land was the lack of facilities on the farm and in the farmhouse, a lack of opportunity and communication. Today, all those obstacles have been beaten back as our towns have all the social amenities, our transportation system, while needing improvement, is much better than the 1960s or 50s and we have instant communication in every farmhouse. Many of the old obstacles are gone but the marketing board obstacle remains
I can’t predict how the CWB debate will end up. I can predict that some farmers will be very happy with what I have said and some will not. 
I will continue to defend the little guy as Mr. Gagnon suggests, it just doesn’t seem to me that the CWB, or the largely defunct grain co-ops did a great job of defending the little guy either. 
And as soon as the monopoly is gone, I will be willing to invest in and promote a flour mill and wheat products factory in the area. That’s something we can’t easily do now. While we are at it, how about a cheese plant so we can have some local cheese on our bread? Oops, sorry, that’s still virtually illegal due to the milk board monopoly.

Hazing always hazardous, time to stop it!

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

It was very tempting this past two weeks to simply re-run  editorials from Sept. 20 and 27, 2000. The topic then was a Neepawa Natives hockey team rookie party (or hazing) that went totally out of control. Back in 2000, a player was injured and hospitalized overnight. Then, as now, the hazing was not sanctioned. The team reacted quickly and traded a number of players. No one involved with the team in 2000 officially sanctioned the hazing. Certainly no one involved with the team today sanctioned the 2011 version of the hazing either.
What hasn’t changed though is that some people in the hockey world seem to think that hazing is still OK, at least to some degree. It’s not. It wasn’t in 2000, it isn’t acceptable today. A lot of phrases have been heard such as, “It happens all the time” and, “Worse happened to me.” Or one will hear, “What happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room.” None of these phrases reflects acceptable activities in the sports world.
To the credit of the Neepawa Natives organization, they have tried very hard over the years to eliminate not only hazing but a lot of other unacceptable activities that have lingered in the world of hockey. Most of the players have conducted themselves in a very good fashion over the years and it has been in part due to high standards set by the local team.
But stating standards and enforcing standards are two different things. It’s nigh unto impossible to always have a person in a supervisory role with a team but it seems that’s what may be required to avoid a future situation of this nature.
It’s good that in this case, a young man and his family chose to come forward. Similar incidents have been covered up in the past. How much psychological or other damage has been done over the years is impossible to measure but it’s certain it’s been significant. In this case, the hazing details have been brought out in excruciating detail. More may yet come out as the league, after conducting an inquiry of their own, appointed a special investigator.
Hopefully the stupidity, the lunacy, the ugliness of hazing will be eliminated in our society. I’m not holding my breath but we can always hope. It certainly won’t be eliminated, or even reduced, if people stay silent or are bullied into silence.
As for Neepawa’s reputation, there’s some goods news as well. While Neepawa’s reputation took a hit, the majority of the negative comments came from anonymous bloggers. And there’s been dozens of anonymous blog comments. Anonymous bloggers are no better than hazers. It’s all bullying. However, some of the actual calls that we have been getting have been  encouraging because people who know Neepawa and know how we do things here also know that we do our best to operate a good, clean and reputable community. Neepawa has been a pretty good place, overall, even for hockey players to come and play. That there’s lots of work to do goes without saying but to listen to the anonymous naysayers is a waste of time.
Hopefully the Neepawa Natives hockey team can survive and thrive. If not, then the community will move on. To survive, the team needs to accept more community input, attract more fans and make more money. Some wins would be nice too. There’s lots more the team and the board could and should do to improve the team’s position. We’ll see if all that happens.
In the intervening time, it’s important to remember that speaking up against injustice is always a good thing This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247