Archive for October, 2013

What’s on the plate?

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

In a week when the best news the province could give Manitobans was that the debt was climbing at a slower pace than expected, a strange press release came out. 
Restaurants are going to be asked to voluntarily list the ingredients of the food on their menus. Apparently, Manitobans are too dumb to know that food equals calories and too many calories means weight gain. The province figures restaurant owners have nothing better to do than to pay a staff person, whose wages may have just gone up this week by way of the Manitoba Minimum Wage act, to sit down and figure out how much fat or sodium is in a plate full of food. There are many things that government seemingly has to do to satisfy the endless demands of people that one would think that setting up new annoying bureaucracies wouldn’t make the government wish list. Manitoba’s deficit, per year, is still running at over $500 million. That means we are adding a half billion a year to the provincial debt. 
This past year or so, the province has spent a fortune on bossing municipalities around and demanding that they amalgamate. Most don’t want to, many should, but several don’t want to to join up. This battle, which has been headed up by Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux, has been vigorously fought but it has a strange twist to it. No one can figure out what’s in it for the government? If a municipality wants to stay small, or stay the same as they have been, what does it matter to the province or to Minister Lemieux? 
Even Lemieux says it won’t save money, so why would he plunge ahead?
The answer is indeed elusive. Perhaps the government wants to see larger municipal groupings so that there’s fewer municipalities to deal with. However, the savings would be minimal. Maybe they could get by with one less local government department staff person. Experienced politicians think that it’s actually driven not by cost savings, but by future potential downloads. The biggest suspect is policing costs which are climbing constantly. The RCMP need new facilities in several communities and the province may be looking to download costs of both facilities and operations more onto the municipalities. That was a direct after-effect of municipal amalgamation in Ontario.
Ironically, at the local level, there are several places that amalgamation should take place. Again, it’s not so much to save money as it is to save time and to move municipalities ahead more quickly. In many communities, if a local decision is needed, it goes to as many as five councils. If one council has questions, it goes back to all the other councils and there may be lengthy delays on relatively small decisions. 
When looking at municipal jurisdictions, one has to ask why the RM of McCreary and Town of McCreary isn’t all one unit? The same can be asked at Ste. Rose or Rivers or Hamiota. At Neepawa, my position has always been that Glenella, Lansdowne, Langford, Rosedale and Neepawa should all be one unit.
The planning district includes four of the five, the vet district all five, the care home agreement includes all five, so does the medical clinic. Then there’s agreements on fire protection and water lines that include two or more of the municipal units. A majority of councillors and maybe a majority of residents may not agree with amalgamation, but a lot of time and frustration could be saved if amalgamation took place.
There’s another advantage to amalgamation and that is when addressing either the provincial or the federal governments on issues of policy or grants, a larger group would carry a lot more weight. Some would argue that the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM), is there to carry that load. While AMM, and the much larger FCM, have lobbied for some significant changes such as infrastructure funding, it’s left up to individual municipalities to fight their own battles with governments.
Amalgamation is a bit like that plate of food at the restaurant. We shouldn’t need the government to tell us what’s good for us. We should know on our own and be prepared to act in our own best interests. 

A New Command

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

I have been doing a lot of thinking about this Bible verse lately. I have been reading a section of the Old Testament just about every night and when you are plodding your way through books like 1 Kings, you find a lot of blood, gore and treachery, mixed in with a lot of naked ambition. Critics of the Bible and Christianity will say, if that’s how Christianity is, then I want no part of it. If the Old Testament were what Christianity is, then nobody should want any part of it. As one former Neepawa pastor said, “The Old Testament is like a schoolmaster, leading us to the New Testament.”
What many people forget, ignore or simply don’t realize is the Old Testament is largely historic. Much of it’s not intended as template for life, it’s to show what not to do. It’s to show what happens when we don’t follow God or the teachings of Jesus.
On the other hand, the verse above aptly summarizes Jesus’ teachings and the New Testament or “new command” or as some call it the new covenant. Instead of hating, killing and striving, we are to love one another.
Apparently it’s a lot easier to hate one another than to love one another. The mall massacre in Nairobi, Kenya and the church bombing in Pakistan are vivid and horrible evidence that hate is still running rampant in our society.
And critics of the Christian faith will be quick to point out that from the Old Testament to the Crusades, to numerous wars and skirmishes in between then and now, Christians have been very cruel to both their own and others. That’s true. The Muslim extremists seem to have cornered the modern market on cruelty.
The point is that while wars were rampant in the OT times and have been in modern times, it is Jesus’ way of living (or more correctly loving). While I don’t pretend for a moment to have everything figured out, this much I feel I know. There is section in the Old Testament that lists the Ten Commandments, not the ten suggestions but the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 20, New International Version (NIV)
The Ten Commandments
20 And God spoke all these words: 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Perhaps the most controversial of the commandments is the one about murder. I take it very seriously. One should not kill another person, not by murder, not by bombing or rioting, not by capital punishment and not by abortion. It also applies to war but with a hard to determine exception. Most wars are avoidable. One could debate that for days but I do believe that there have also been unavoidable wars. I leave it to God to sort that one out except to say that war needs to be avoided if at all possible.
When in doubt, refer to the first paragraph of this column. This is a Sunrize Group internet solution (204)226-2247