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Dog park master plan. Only a bureaucrat would string together those words in earnest, which is precisely what one did when recently asked by Councillor Brian Mayes (St. Vital) about the feasibility of Mayor Brian Bowman’s campaign pledge to create just such a park within Winnipeg’s inner city.

Brad Sacher, director of Public Works, cautioned councillors at a recent meeting of the Downtown Development Committee that the City could not designate an off-leash dog park situated downtown without first having a dog park master plan in place. “I recognize the importance of locating a dog park downtown,” said Sacher. “But obviously it’s a very complex issue.” So complex, apparently, it requires additional funding to undertake a yearlong study to determine whether or not to even proceed with creating one.

Not that Winnipeg is without dog parks. On the contrary, the City of Winnipeg currently lists 11 off-leash parks. Each and every one of those parks was designated or created without a master plan in place. Of course, it is one thing to designate wide swaths of pre-existing parkland in the City’s suburbs as areas where it is acceptable to unleash dogs, but it is another to do so within the confines of the denser, more urban downtown area, in which parkland is typically smaller and abuts already-built residential and commercial developments.

Nevertheless, the question remains: what about a downtown dog park is so complicated it requires the City to spend at least a year studying the idea, let alone actually designating one? Sure, there are the issues of distances from curbs and heights of fences. The noise. The poop. And of course the children! Still, it should be noted the Great War was fought and won in four years, and it took America less than a decade to put Neil Armstrong on the moon.

Winnipeg, we have a problem.

Some context: to those who might dismiss dog parks as a boutique policy issue only applicable to a minority of residents, think again. A 2013 survey by Ipsos found 57 per cent of Canadians own a pet, and nearly a third of households own a dog. Moreover, it is not as if dogs are some new trend like, say, bicycles or rapid transit, the popularity of which seem to have taken our city planners by surprise; dogs have been at the side of humans, living as companions, partners and friends, since, well, before we were humans. Indeed, humans’ near-symbiotic relationship with dogs is so ancient, many evolutionary biologists now believe that relationship has become a part of dogs’ DNA. In short, the dogs aren’t going anywhere, so cities ought to adapt and accommodate.

While it ought to go without saying, despite already having eleven off-leash parks the reason there remains a need for a twelfth one situated in downtown Winnipeg has everything to do with serving people less able to take their dogs to the suburbs to run off-leash and with making the downtown a more attractive place for people to live (with their dogs) car-free.

As if the reluctance of City bureaucrats to take seriously this need were problem enough, the speed with which they are proposing to address it is especially problematic. Simply put, governments—of the municipal sort in particular, which are so directly connected to the people they serve because of the nature of the services they provide—ought to be able to respond more nimbly and adapt more quickly to challenges and needs as they arise. It is simply unacceptable something as, frankly, inconsequential as a dog park would require so much time, effort and money. Just get it done, already.

Arms flapping, shrieks of horror, legal opinions overwhelming departmental inboxes.

Yes, to a certain extent the risk aversion that has become endemic of bureaucracies is necessary: the work of government is often complex, the stakes that much higher than any sort of private sector equivalent, the metrics used to measure success much less tangible than, say, mere profit margins. Due diligence is important. So too is establishing sensible principles to guide developments and projects. But dog parks? Come on. Besides, it is not as if the City of Winnipeg has a sterling record when it comes to following procedures and adhering to guidelines when planning and development are concerned. (See: fire halls, police stations, transit corridors.)

Even more worrying, however, than the City bureaucracy’s reluctance to acknowledge the need for a dog park downtown and the leisurely pace at which they intend to respond to it is the fact creating such an off-leash park was a part of Mayor Bowman’s campaign platform. Given all the other issues swirling about City Hall, including the abrupt and unusual suspension of the City’s acting CAO, there would seem to be some evidence, albeit anecdotal, of a power struggle waging between the bureaucracy and the council. This has to stop. Council must reassert its control (ahem, perhaps by meeting more than once a month) and the City’s public administration must be less obstinate and resentful of that control.

The public service after all, be it federal provincial or municipal, by its nature takes its marching orders from the public through our elected representatives. They work for us. And our dogs.

***

Originally published on Spectator Tribune.

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As you might recall, I had a very bad day in May. What should have been a straightforward process — applying for an enhanced identity card to speed cross-border travel — became a bureaucratic nightmare.

I survived and managed to set things straight: my passport and my driver’s license now both contain my full, legal name.

Case closed? Not quite.

When my NEXUS card finally arrived in the mail, my jaw dropped in disbelief.

Kristopher Ade.

I kid you not. After all the fuss about “Kristopher” not being my legal name because it’s my middle one, the US government issued me a card without my first and “legal” name.

What are the odds? I mean, really.

For what it’s worth — after my third trip to the Immigration office at the Winnipeg airport — I was assured by my new best friend, Canadian Customs Lady, I would not need a new card: my name as it appears in the US government’s system has my first, middle and last names.

“Kristopher,” incidentally, is also listed as my nickname. A small consolation, I guess.

Ever have one of those days? You know the ones: the kind that starts well enough, but by mid-afternoon has you asking yourself why you ever got out of bed? Well, I hadn’t had one of those days in a while. Until yesterday.

To make a long story short, I’m in the process of applying for an enhanced passport; the kind that offers you quick entry into both Canada and the United States, via a self-serve kiosk with an iris scanner.

Unfortunately, this process, which had until yesterday ticked along quite smoothly, came to a sudden and immediate stop. Why? Because I learned yesterday morning my passport — the one I’ve used to criss-cross the bloody globe — is invalid. It doesn’t contain my full legal name, just the name I’ve used since birth, which so happens to be my middle name.

And so, after being lectured, politely, about my fraudulent passport by the border sercurity officers at the Winnipeg airport, I made my way to the Passport Office, conveniently located downtown, miles from the place where you’d most often actually use a passport, to get a new passport with my full legal name. Simple enough.

Wrong.

In order to get a new passport, I’d need to show them two pieces of government ID with my full legal name. Problem is, the only legal document I posses with my full name is my birth certificate. Literally every other document I possess simply lists me by my middle name. And so, the kind lady at the Passport Office suggested I get my driver’s license changed. Only then, she told me, could I change my passport since I’d then have two pieces of ID attesting to my actual identity.

Which, may I remind you, has not changed. I’m still the same person. I’m not even trying to change my name. Nope. My name has not changed one bit. All I want to do is add my first name, which has always been the same, to my second name, which I’ve always used, which would together appear before my surname, which has most certainly been the same since birth, according to me, my parents and various branches and levels of the Canadian government.

But, as I quickly remembered, bureaucracies are expressly designed to thwart common-sense people from applying common-sense solutions to simple problems.

And so it was off to yet another office — at a different level of government no less! — only to be told I couldn’t change my driver’s licence because that would require them to dial into Manitoba Public Insurance’s central computer system, which, quelle surprise, was down and had been down for four days. Better still, they had no idea when it would again be operational.

And so, I left. Miserable. Tired. In an apparent legal grey zone, as far as the folks at Customs and Immigration are concerned.

Oh, and on my way home, some asshole backed into my car.

FML.