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There is no better weekend than this one, the weekend of Pride, to remember those trans-phobic Members of Parliament from Manitoba who have consistently attempted to thwart the advancement and extension of rights for trans Canadians.

Since 2012, British Columbia NDP MP Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca) has been championing Bill C-279, his effort to extend legal protections for the trans community. Specifically, his bill would do two things: amend the Human Rights Act to include gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination; and, amend the Criminal Code Criminal Code to include gender identity as a distinguishing characteristic protected under section 318 (Hate Propaganda) and as an aggravating circumstance to be taken into consideration under section 718.2 (Principles of Sentencing).

These are, legislatively, minor amendments. And they’re long overdue. Yet, at every step of this bill’s circuitous route through Parliament, it has been the majority of Canada’s Conservative MPs and Senators who have who have steadfastly voted against it. With the exception of Shelly Glover, outgoing Conservative MP for St. Boniface, every Conservative MP from Manitoba voted against Garrison’s bill at every opportunity they were afforded, including former school trustee and Winnipeg South Centre MP Joyce Bateman and now former MP and current Queens’ Bench Justice Vic Toews. Despite overwhelming opposition from the likes of then-Justice Minister Toews, enough Conservative MPs joined their New Democratic, Liberal, Bloc and Green colleagues to send the bill to the Senate in October 2013. It has languished there ever since–thanks in no small measure to Manitoba Conservative Senator Don Plett.

Garrison’s bill has been dubbed “the bathroom bill” by Canada’s worst MP, Rob Anders (Calgary West). (Anders, of course, is most famous for preventing the House of Commons from unanimously conferring honourary citizenship upon Nelson Mandela.) Anders’ efforts to distort the legislation notwithstanding, Manitoba MPs Bateman, Bergen, Bruinooge et alia thought it best to let him be their moral compass on the matter. Telling.

Since it was sent to the Senate in 2013 by a vote of 149 yeas to 137 nays, Manitoba’s Don Plett has taken up where Anders left off: invoking the fear his five-year old granddaughter would feel being in the same washroom as a person who is, as Plett so callously put it, “biologically male.” (Hate, it should be noted, is a learned behaviour.) But Plett didn’t stop there. No, he has also repeatedly suggested Garrison’s bill would empower pedophiles and sexual predators.

In a speech on the floor of the Senate, Plett, speaking of what progress meant to him, said, “it does not include jeopardizing women’s rights to privacy or feelings of safety. It does not include granting men access to women’s bathrooms, change rooms, shelters and sports teams.” He especially went on at length about children’s change rooms, high school locker rooms, and women’s bathrooms, “used by little girls as young as 6.”

Even if Senator Plett genuinely believed Bill C-279 was about public toilets (it isn’t), what he is doing is no less shameful: inferring trans people are sexual offenders and pedophiles. Not unlike previous attempts by the Evangelical set to infer same-sex marriage would lead to bestiality, or that gay men were mentally ill. It’s a shameful tactic by a hateful set.

And on this day, this weekend, Manitobans ought to remember what Don Plett has said and done—and the names of his Conservative colleagues from Manitoba who have aided and abetted his ignorance:

Joyce Bateman
Candice Bergen
James Bezan
Rod Bruinooge
Steven Fletcher
Joy Smith
Robert Sopuck
Lawrence Toet
Vic Toews
Merv Tweed

Senator Plett talks about progress. Real progress includes ridding our Parilament of trans-phobia, tossing these bums out at the next election.

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Originally published on Spectator Tribune.

 

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Ireland overwhelmingly approved the legalization of same-sex marriage in a popular referendum last week. The initiative, while strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, was endorsed by every political party and party leader and received a plurality of votes in all but one of Ireland’s forty-three constituencies. There is no way to overstate the significance of this event for the Irish Republic, or indeed for the gay rights movement globally.

Just twenty years ago, divorce was illegal in Ireland, as was homosexuality until 1993. That a country can move so quickly from there to here — bringing the entire democratic political establishment with it — is nothing short of extraordinary.

Of course, Ireland isn’t the first country to legalize same-sex marriage: nineteen countries had already done so, including Canada in 2005. Ireland is, however, the first country in the world to legalize it by way of a popular vote. And of all the countries to do so by way of a referendum, Catholic Ireland. Again, extraordinary.

Not to dampen this historic leap forward for the Irish people, but abortion remains illegal in that country and blasphemy laws are still on the books. Hopefully, the people of Ireland will see fit to do away with both in future referenda. Because both, also byproducts of Ireland’s religious past, are incompatible with the Ireland of today — and of any enlightened society.

Unfortunately, Ireland’s decision to join the twenty-first century also serves as a chilling reminder that too many countries remain firmly in the Dark Ages, and countless LGBT people worldwide remain at risk of persecution, even death, for living openly as their authentic selves. With the exception of South Africa and Lesotho, sexual activity between two men is illegal throughout the continent of Africa, parts of the Caribbean and many countries in the Middle East and Asia; men face stiff prison sentences, even corporal punishment if they are found to have engaged in sexual activity with other men; in Sudan, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yeman, Afghanistan and Brunei the penalty is death. Fifty-seven UN member states actually signed a 2008 statement opposing rights for LGBT peoples, in case there were any doubts about their commitment to bigotry and homophobia amongst the diplomatic set.

So, even after the Irish people’s momentous decision, Ireland, Canada and those other progressive countries remain outliers; the Canadians and the Irish amongst a fortunate few.

It has been ten years since Canada’s Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act, received Royal Assent. A decade with gay marriage and Canada still stands. Lightning has not struck down our leaders; plagues have not ravaged our people. Any day now, surely?

Surely not. The fear mongering peddled by politicians and priests alike from pulpits and parliaments ten years ago were nothing more than bigotry draped in the defence of religious freedom. A fundamental freedom some seem to think ought to trump other, more human freedoms like the right to life, liberty, security of person and equality before the law. How wrong those people were; how wrong they remain.

In those instances where religious rights conflict with other protected human rights, you would think there would be little room for debate: after all, those things that cannot be controlled — sex, gender, ethnicity and age for example — must surely supercede those things that can be, like religious belief. And yet, too often these conflicts remain contentious ones, and room actually afforded to the side that favours rabid religiosity over basic human decency. Lest we offend!

Of late, religious rights have again been invoked in defence of dogmatic ignorance about human sexuality. In Ontario, where a revised sex-ed curriculum is set to encourage rampant, unprotected, premarital sex amongst that province’s teenagers; in Canada’s Senate, to prevent trans people from using restrooms that do not conform to their sex organs. Heaven forfend! Think of the children!

Of course. It is always about the children. About the family. About the sanctity of life (not to be confused with the livelihoods of those already living, mind you). Jesus says. The Bible ordains. It is the word of god. Allah commands it. Mohamed would do the same. Yadda, yadda, yadda. It must be so exhausting to spend so much time deciding who to hate and just how much to hate them; just enough to deny them equal rights and protections under the law, or so much you jostle for a prime spot from which to watch them stoned to death.

In too few parts of the world, Ireland’s decision is rightly being heralded as a victory; in too many it remains a “mortal sin.”

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Originally published on Spectator Tribune.

The world broke a record recently, one for which Canadians ought to be proud given our contribution to the effort: the monthly global average concentration of carbon dioxide surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time since record keeping started. No doubt keenly aware of this momentous occasion, the Harper Government finally unveiled its long-promised plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

At a press conference in Winnipeg, Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced a “fair and ambitious” emissions reduction target of 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Yup, sounds ambitious — if you ignore the fact this pledge is even more pathetic than the Harper Government’s previous pledge to cut emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and well below the International Panel on Climate Change’s recommended cut of between 25 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. In short, Canada’s plan is the weakest among the G7 (a.k.a., the wealthiest countries in the world, the ones most able to shoulder the financial costs of shifting to a greener, more sustainable economy) and lightyears behind our European friends whose reductions targets are almost three times greater than Canada’s. Even worse, Aglukkaq’s plan avoids regulations for Alberta’s tar sands.

On the environment, Prime Minister Harper is akin to Nero, fiddling while Rome burns. The planet is in crisis. The climate is already changing, perhaps irrevocably so. And yet, Canada, already late to the table, has arrived with what amounts to a back-of-the-napkin plan that does little to curb the runaway emissions from Alberta’s tar sands, or seriously confront the unacceptably high per capita carbon emissions we produce.

At her announcement, the Environment Minister invoked Canada’s cold, northern climate — no doubt some sort of Pavlovian ploy to shush those who say Canada is emitting too much carbon. Of course! CANADA COLD! FURNACES WARM! Except it doesn’t have to be this way, and our winters are no excuse.

In the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse, countries, Canada included, rushed to stimulate the economy and create jobs. Most of the monies spent here and abroad were on infrastructure projects, a quick a dirty way to inject cash into the fledgling economy. Imagine, however, if our government had shown just the teeniest bit of ingenuity, creativity, vision: by all means, repair our aging infrastructure, but tie it to improved sustainability and efficiency metrics. Better insulating homes to lessen the energy losses during those — ding, ding — cold winters; more active and rapid transit options to encourage people to get out of cars and into buses or onto bicycles. Heck, make Canada a leader in wind power by investing in our small, but successful aerospace industry to pursue the research and development of made-in-Canada windmills.

Crazy. Crazy like James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the world’s best known climate scientist, who first testified to the US Congress in 1988 about the dangers of global warming. Hansen has been an outspoken critic of Canada’s abysmal record combating climate change, and has issued dire warnings for the entire planet should global temperatures rise above one degree celsius.

Many Canadians, however, may know Hansen best as the subject of then-Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver’s ridicule after Hansen argued the continued exploitation of Alberta’s tar sands would mean “game over” for the climate. Oliver, wary of those radicals and their science, accused Hansen of using exaggerated rhetoric. Something, of course, Harper and his band of ministerial cronies never do.

Science, of course, is on Hansen’s side: tar sands oil is even dirtier than other forms of oil, requiring three to four times more carbon emissions per barrel than conventional oil. Furthermore, it requires more chemical processing to meet acceptable fuel standards, and the open-pit mining methods used to collect the tar sands destroy forests and soil that naturally act as carbon sinks.

But by all means, burn baby burn. Why bother even trying if other countries, like China aren’t doing their part? Except, they are. Other countries are rapidly moving to transition their economies to more sustainable footings. Not simply out of necessity, but because it also makes good business sense. If indeed the climate is changing, the countries best able to adapt and prosper will be those who have harnessed their peoples’ ingenuity and innovation and see sustainability not as an impediment to growth, but an essential element of it. And yet Canada remains the laggard, the insolent child unwilling to give up his favourite toy.

It’s easy to imagine Harper himself uttering those famous words from that New Yorker cartoon: “Yes, the planet got destroyed, but for a beautiful moment in time we created a lot of value for shareholders.” Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the Earth, Antarctica’s Larsen B ice shelf, which has existed for at least 10,000 years, will likely disintegrate completely within the next few years. Another world record, shattered.

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Originally published on Spectator Tribune.

While it was overshadowed by the provincial budget tabled the following day, the Premier’s decision to shuffle his cabinet on April 29th ought to have raised more eyebrows. After all, this was Greg Selinger’s first major ministerial re-org since ekeing out a pyrrhic victory as party leader.

Unsurprisingly, most attention was paid to who among the “gang of five” would be welcomed back into the fold and what he would do with his leadership opponents. For the record, Selinger readmitted Steve Ashton, offered to do the same for Theresa Oswald but was rebuffed and otherwise ignored Jennifer Howard, Erin Selby, Stan Struthers and Andrew Swan. Perhaps the gang should have sworn that Pledge of Solidarity, after all. Though it is doubtful any of them would have wanted to rejoin the fold. Something about rearranging metaphorical deck chairs on the proverbial ship comes to mind.

However, it was Selinger’s decision to promote Kerri Irvin-Ross, embattled Minister of Family Services, to Deputy Premier that truly surprised. Why assign her additional duties when she can barely handle her existing ones? Of all the portfolios requiring razor-sharp attention and complete focus, surely it is the one that includes the province’s Child and Family Services agency.

Irvin-Ross’ iron-clad loyalty to the Premier during last fall’s internecine brouhaha likely factored into his decision to reward her with such a prestigious post. Deputy Premiers, like Deputy Prime Ministers, are not necessary positions in our Westminster system. They are instead doled out for political or partisan purposes; rarely do they come with any sort of operational responsibility. It remains unclear whether or not it does with Irvin-Ross’ appointment.

Still, even if the post is entirely ceremonial, which would allow Irvin-Ross to to dedicate 100 percent of her time to underperforming as Family Services Minister, it is bizarre the Premier would choose to fete such a failure.

Yes, Kerri Irvin-Ross inherited a toxic portfolio. The problems plaguing her ministry and its related agencies weren’t created overnight and won’t be solved tomorrow. They will, however, require a degree of skill she has yet to demonstrate.

By now everyone is familiar with the raft of tragedies that have befallen children in CFS care. The drugs. The prostitution. The sexual assaults. The murder. Heartbreaking stories at the confluence of poverty, addiction, abuse, exploitation and structural racism. There is little doubt Ms. Irvin-Ross hasn’t been touched by these stories — who hasn’t been? — but her compassion hasn’t translated into action.

Indeed, the number of children in care has skyrocketed. Despite promises to end the practice, the use of motels to house vulnerable children and teens continues apace. The foster care system is woefully inadequate and its bed registry well behind schedule. One of the key recommendations from the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry to require all those involved in social work to register with the province has been ignored. And the Minister responsible for this mess has yet to set foot in even one of these hotels housing kids.

But it isn’t just Irvin-Ross’ inability to affect positive momentum; she has also demonstrated a serious lack of knowledge about her own portfolio. Despite having been on the job for over a year, when asked in the wake of Tina Fontaine’s death about her department’s $8 million contract with private company, Complete Care, to supervise children in hotels, she remained uninformed. She had no idea the company even existed, despite it receiving the lion’s share of her department’s $13.4 million worth of contracts to just three private care providers.

Even if Ms. Irvin-Ross had been ignorant about the specifics, that she did not think to inform herself about such details before speaking publicly about the matter suggests she simply isn’t up to the job. And nothing she has done since would suggest otherwise. And yet, in Greg Selinger’s government that kind of performance nets a promotion. Hashtag head-shake.

Ministerial accountability used to be a thing. A big deal. An integral element of Cabinet government. It meant minsters were ultimately responsible for the performance of their respective departments. And indeed, there was a time when ministers would actually resign on principle if their department was found to have failed in some fashion. Or they were fired. Today, in Manitoba at least, those ministers are promoted.

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Originally published on Spectator Tribune.

Kerri Irvin-Ross should be fired. Manitoba’s Family Services Minister has had two years to overhaul and improve the province’s abysmal emergency child-welfare system, which shamefully relies all too heavily on low-rent hotels to warehouse children in its care. With little sign of progress, it is time the Premier appoints someone new to the role who might bring the kind of leadership, drive and direction needed to set about cleaning up this wretched mess of a system.

Of course the challenges facing Manitoba’s child-welfare system are many and complex. Manitoba has some of the highest rates of children in state care, from infants to young adults. Of the nearly 10,000, 90 per cent are aboriginal, which speaks to an even greater tragedy. However, placing children in hotels isn’t a common approach across Canada: BC doesn’t even keep statistics of its hotel use because it is so infrequent; Alberta doesn’t even allow it in the first place. In Manitoba, it happens all the time, and it’s not a new phenomenon: Manitoba’s Children’s Advocate first raised concerns about placing children-in-care in hotels FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. Quite simply, hotels are no place for these children: they’re ill-equipped, unsafe and entirely inappropriate.

And yet here we are: fifteen years later, still being told the situation is complex and will take time to solve.

Of course, Ms. Irvin-Ross has not held the Family Services portfolio for that entire time. Others have come and failed before her. However, her appalling lack of knowledge about or apparent sense of urgency in solving the situation suggests she is especially ill-suited to the position.

Ms. Irvin-Ross was appointed Family Services Minister in 2013. A full year later, when news broke about Tina Fontaine’s tragic death last summer and her having been housed in just such a hotel supervised by staff from Complete Care, a private company contracted by Child and Family Services (CFS), Ms. Irvin-Ross admitted she wasn’t even familiar with the company, let alone their $8 million contract with her department. Stunning when you consider only three companies received contracts totalling $13.4 million from CFS to supervise children in hotels and shelters last year.

“Are you familiar with Complete Care?”

“No.”

In the wake of that tragedy and her embarrassing response, the Minister promised action last fall: a foster-bed registry, less children placed in hotels, ending the practice of contracting out the supervision of children in hotels to private companies.

Four months later, little progress has been made. There is still no foster-bed registry, or even a timeline of when one might be instituted. “It’s going to take a while,” she said. Worse, there has actually been a spike in the number of children in hotels. “I have to have patience,” she said.

Was it her patience that prevented the Minister from actually visiting the Best Western Charter House hotel where many CFS children have been housed? And was it her patience that prevented her from speaking with any of the Complete Care workers who were contracted by her department to supervise those children? It’s complicated, she said.

What about Manitobans’ patience with the Minister? There is nothing complicated about that: it has run out. Promising to take action. Commissioning reviews. Invoking the complex nature of the challenge. Bafflegab.

The party of Tommy Douglas has had over fifteen years to bring about meaningful changes to Manitoba’s emergency child-welfare system. In that time, countless children have been removed from their families because of “neglect issues” (Irvin-Ross’ words). Ironically, the same could be said of dumping children in slummy downtown hotels where they are exposed to prostitution and drugs. Or the government’s own torpid response to this provincial disgrace: neglect issues.

It has to end. And while that won’t happen immediately, it clearly can’t happen with Kerri Irvin-Ross at the helm of the beleaguered Family Services Ministry.

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Originally published on Spectator Tribune.

“For nearly a decade I have advocated for small business because I believe they are the backbone of the Winnipeg economy,” said Brian Bowman during the municipal election. “Anything that I can do to turn Winnipeg into one of the most inviting communities in Canada to start or run a small business is good for all of Winnipeg.”

To that end, Bowman promised to increase the small business tax credit, reduce the business tax rate and hold an annual small-business summit. Unfortunately, at the time he said nothing about a thousand-dollar patio license.

So it was no doubt a surprise to the city’s many restaurants, bar and coffee shop operators when the Mayor — champion of small business that he purports to be — tabled the 2015 budget. In it, buried midway through page 56 of the SECOND VOLUME of the budget was a $1160 patio license fee, which in conjunction with other new and increased fees are supposed to generate $45.3 million in revenue (4.6 per cent of the estimated $994.1 million). No doubt every dollar counts when you’ve pledged to complete every leg of the city’s bus rapid transit project by 2030. But still.

What is especially problematic about this seemingly innocuous fee is its regressive nature. The fee would appear to be flat: no matter the size of the patio, type of service available on it or amount of money it generates, every business wishing to install one must fork over $1160. In what way does such a licensing scheme help small businesses? If anything, like all forms of regressive taxation, it unfairly penalizes those at the lower end of the income-generating spectrum.

No doubt $1160 is chump change to the multi-million dollar national restaurant chains that dominate suburban shopping mall parking lots (the views are stunning!) or those with expansive patios with plenty of income-generating seats. How though does such a pricing scheme help the truly small businesses — the independent coffee shops and cafes wishing to install a table or two — that have chosen to operate in denser, urban areas where the only space available for patios is the sidewalk in front of their shops? It doesn’t.

Don’t forget: businesses wishing to operate a patio already pay one-time application fees plus additional monthly fees when their patios are in operation. The proposed patio license contained within Bowman’s 2015 budget is an additional fee on top of those existing charges—and it is not yet clear whether or not this additional fee is an annual one.

More galling still, Bowman also pledged during his campaign to “stand up for downtown Winnipeg.” Among other feel-good promises, the Mayor said at the time that he would develop a seasonal pedestrian mall in the Exchange District. Presumably the intent of such a move, as with Ottawa’s Sparks or Montreal’s Prince Arthur, was to create a bustling strip of sidewalk cafes and patios. All of which would now be required to purchase a patio license. No wonder Bowman promised to stand up: there won’t be anywhere for him to sit down.

To his credit (?), Bowman’s first budget does indeed reduce the business tax rate — by a tenth of a percentage point, from 5.7 to 5.6 per cent. And he did increase the small business tax credit to the promised $30,000. But the patio license fee, if passed, undermines those meager efforts. It’s also plainly hypocritical.

Yes, the City is in dire financial straits. Like all major metropolitan areas in this country, Winnipeg is struggling to support itself through the antiquated means the Province has legislated it can do so. Property taxes, frontage levies, fees and licenses are regressive, stop-gap measures that will never adequately fund the rising costs of sustaining our expanding and aging urban communities. Nevertheless, doubling down on these measures instead of holding the Province to account; looking for more progressive, means-tested solutions; sparking a meaningful conversation about the powers afforded to our municipalities would surely do more to create that friendly environment for small businesses than the tinkering we see in Bowman’s 2015 budget.

Sure, such pie-in-the-sky stuff does little to balance today’s budget. Talk is cheap after all. Which is why, at the very least, such a patio license fee, if it must be levied at all, ought to be tied to something that in some way corresponds with the value of operating that patio. It may still be a fee, true, but at least it would be a fairer one — and one that just might help those genuinely small businesses Brian Bowman has apparently been going on about for over a decade.

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Originally published on Spectator Tribune.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Depending on your vantage point, it might also cost you $4.4 million. That is, of course, if Councillor Matt Allard and his ilk get their way and you’re interested in taking a postcard-ish shot of The Forks, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Bridge-with-a-Toilet.

Admittedly, details about the project are scarce. (Not scarce enough, however, for the Winnipeg Foundation to verbally commit to contributing $1 million to the project. More on that later.) What we know for sure is first-term Councillor Matt Allard (St. Boniface) is championing a project for his ward, the Tache Promenade, that would see built a look-out tower from which individuals would be encouraged to take photographs of the city’s skyline. Dubbed a Selfie Spot — though for $4.4 million, selfie “red carpet” is surely more appropriate — proponents argue the space will spark economic development and become a prime tourist destination. Isn’t that what they always say about expensive gimmicks?

Nothing is more synonymous with the crippling narcissism of contemporary Western culture than the “selfie.” And here we are encouraging people to take them! Pictures wherein the taker is always the subject; the background at best irrelevant, at worst an ironic hashtag. Selfies are a scourge, supplanting critical observation with unadulterated vanity. Yes, City of Winnipeg, let’s encourage more of this destructive behaviour that actively discourages individuals from taking a critical eye to their surroundings; replace it with smug, self-indulgent filler for personal social media feeds.

LIKE! TWEET! SHARE!

Even if Allard’s so named photo tower has been nicknamed simply to “go viral,” the very fact it could exist is still problematic. Surely, now more than ever, Winnipeg needs its citizens to view the city with critical eyes and from various vantage points. And yet this ill-conceived tourist trap would encourage everyone to see the city from the same perspective and, by extension, deem a particular vantage point the only one worth capturing.

Where’s the selfie spot across the street from the Siloam Mission? Or the one alongside the newly-opened Kenaston Boulevard extension? Instead of the Inn at the Forks and the Hotel Fort Garry, why not encourage people to take pictures of the Sutherland and Yale Hotels? Will those who ascend Allard’s tower even have the opportunity to cast their camera’s gaze in the opposite direction toward the Alexander Docks, where Tina Fontaine’s lifeless body was discovered last summer wrapped in a plastic bag? Doubtful the Winnipeg Foundation would kick in a cool million for that endeavour.

After all, the Winnipeg Foundation requires social service agencies (like women’s shelters and youth drop-in centers) that are actually making a difference in the lives of actual people to jump through veritable hoops to receive a fraction of that kind of cash. Like the United Way and other government and non-government funders, the Winnipeg Foundation typically requires reams of paperwork and demonstrable outcomes before ponying up much-needed funding for civic-minded causes. Except, apparently, when there’s a gimmick to be built and ribbons to be cut, then a million bucks can be breathlessly kicked in, no big deal. In the same parlance as the selfie itself, WTF?

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with promoting Winnipeg. (Or, for that matter, shoring up eroding riverbanks.) Why not, though, invite heritage groups and the burgeoning architectural community, activists and academics to contribute to a project that designates various spots throughout the city for folks to snap a pic? Spots, for example, that inform, engage and encourage residents to learn more about their city, warts and all. To see Winnipeg not as a postcard would have you see it, but as it actually is. A selfie spot may be worth $4.4 million, but such pictures would be priceless.

No doubt Councillor Allard means well. He’s too new to City Council and to elected politics to be so jaded. Nevertheless, perhaps the pause the property and planning committee has put on his pet project will give him and the Winnipeg Foundation time to rethink their project’s merits and purpose. After all, at a time when Winnipeggers are finally starting to grapple with the serious, structural racism infecting their city, and when rates of poverty and income inequality have never been higher, surely we need people not to close, contract or narrow them, but to open their eyes, expand their vantage points, and widen the lenses through which they see this once great city.

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Originally published on Spectator Tribune.