The Winnipeg RAG Review

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A blog to take on the real RAG (Rightwing, Absolute Garbage) pieces that are printed in Winnipeg's press. This blog will house analysis and commentary on relevant social, political, and economic issues distorted by the RAG machine.
Updated: 2 min 35 sec ago

The Great Divide in voting

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 08:30



Upscale neighbourhoods like Wellington Crescent
have higher turnout and more say in city politics than
low income areas like Lord Selkirk Park.

Top: Wellington Crescent House
Bottom: Lord Selkirk Park Apartments

Image Source: NOW Winnipeg

[2]Writing a special piece for UK newspaper The Guardian, local columnist Barley Kives had a terrific article on the "great indigenous divide" that defines Winnipeg:

“Aboriginal Winnipeggers are the fastest-growing segment of the middle class,” trumpted Kevin Chief, the provincial minister for Winnipeg, in a sunny editorial for the Winnipeg Free Press. “All the evidence shows a big part of that success is education. This is an incredible emerging story, and Winnipeggers are recognising it and responding.”

Much of the city’s aboriginal community, however, remains underemployed, undereducated and relegated to relatively impoverished neighbourhoods in Winnipeg’s inner city and North End. Two of the three poorest postal codes in Canada are in Winnipeg. Both are predominantly indigenous neighbourhoods. They are plagued by substandard housing, inadequate financial and retail services and higher-than-average levels of violent crime, mostly because of the domestic violence associated with poverty but also because of the presence of indigenous gangs.

In an exit interview in September, outgoing mayor Sam Katz portrayed aboriginals as refugees in their own country. “I know that there’s a lot of First Nations people leaving the reserves and coming to the big city of Winnipeg. They have no training. They have no education. They have no hope,” he said. “I’m sorry, you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out what’s going to happen. They’re going to end up in gangs. They’re going to end up in drugs. They’re going to end up in prostitution. And from there, it only gets worse.”

In this divided city, those are often the only indigenous people whom some suburbanites like Lorrie Steeves see: the panhandlers, solvent abusers and mentally ill. Steeves’ rant which may have precipitated the subsequent decline of popular support for her husband, but it also garnered some praise – adding insult to injury for many indigenous Winnipeggers.

("The 'great indigenous divide': Winnipeg stares into an ethnic chasm". Bartley Kives, The Guardian (Oct. 21, 2014.))
There has been some speculation over whether the Metis Brian Bowman, as Winnipeg's first indigenous mayor, can bridge the divide. I'll personally adopt a wait and see approach, as while the mayor-elect promised the moon we still have yet to see what he'll actually spend his political capital on. Closing the great divide will also take a lot more than one person, even someone as mighty as the (soon to be) mayor.

The election which generated a landslide win for Bowman itself demonstrated a great socioeconomic divide. Poorer neighbourhoods, with high indigenous and other racialized populations, in the North End and the parts of the downtown did not go heavily for Brian Bowman like the middle class and upscale suburbs did.

A great illustration of this is a map in the Freep article about Ouellette and his ability to attract unlikely voters.Judy swept the North End and Robert Falcon-Ouellette did well in eastern downtown and eastern inner city subdivisions. A map of voter turnout, however, reveals that the areas won by Judy and Robert were lightweights in turnout, with some subdivisions boasting less than 19% turnout. Bowman leaning Tuxedo subdivision CT03, by contrast, had 58.2% of eligible voters at the polls.

The Great Divide in voting may help explain why a solid left progressive hasn't sat in our mayor's chair since the early 1940s. While lower turnout doesn't matter as much in provincial elections, where poor areas are cut off into ridings (in which case, it doesn't matter for a party whether you win the riding with 20% turnout or 70% turnout) it does matter for city-wide elections. It also probably matters somewhat for council ward races, as our council wards are much larger than provincial city ridings (15 wards vs 31 provincial ridings in Winnipeg) so that a richer neighbourhood outvoting poorer neighbourhood dynamic probably shapes the vote within wards. This is certainly the case with federal Winnipeg ridings (of which there are only 8).

This Great Divide in voting is a cause for concern. The poor have less platforms than middle and upper middle class Winnipeggers to let their grievances and issues known. A working poor single parent may have less time to prepare a brief for City forum or a letter to the editor. Given the elite social circles politicians often frequent, our fellow citizen may be uncomfortable interacting with them. Giving campaign donations is also harder when you have less money to spend.

If poor Winnipeggers are giving up on the ballot box come civic election time, they're giving up on one of their few  feasible options they have for participating in the political system. A class, both by circumstance and by choices shaped by circumstance, locked out of the electoral system should concern all Winnipeggers.

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Verdict on the Bowman Victory

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 08:30
Outcomes of a Bowman mayoralty remain
uncertain.

Image Source: DraemsTime
Brian Bowman, in many ways an old school Chamber of Commerce conservative, won a landslide victory in the Winnipeg Mayoral Election. Winnipeg City Council has taken a less conservative turn, with quite a few wildcards and unknowns, on the new council.
One of Bowman's major campaign planks was to create, in effect, a two-tiered pension system to the detriment of new (generally young) city workers. This is a troubling development when it comes to fairness and seeing how council responds to any Bowman pension plans will be important.

The new mayor, however, ran a Tory platform much redder than Steeve's with many bold urbanist promises, such as completing all legs of the Bus Rapid Transit system by 2030. These are important initiatives for the future of our city and I hope the mayor can work together with city council to bring these much needed public investments forward.

Overall, however, I am cautiously pessimistic about the prospects for Winnipeg over the next 4 years. Only time will tell whether the urbanist or the Chamber conservative side dominates Bowman's term as he faces our city's big challenges.

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Oh Pallister ...

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 14:05
Brian Pallister, leader of the Official
Opposition in Manitoba.

Image Source: Screen capture/Youtube/Natalie Pollock
Reading through the Freep website I found this interesting nugget:

Opposition Leader Brian Pallister said Wednesday night's outcome was a message of how dissatisfied voters are of the ruling NDP government, in light of the collapse of support for former NDP MP and MLA Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

Pallister said Bowman's successful campaign signalled Manitobans want positive change and for politicians to work together at all levels.

"This election campaign was about many things, but it did send a message that the same old ways are not acceptable to Winnipeggers or Manitobans anymore," Pallister said.

("Selinger says he and Bowman share several priorities". Winnipeg Free Press. Oct. 23, 2014)
So in this statement provincial Conservative leader "Positive" Pallister attacks the NDP while lauding the need for politicians to work together. Bit of a mixed message, eh?

Also somewhat ironic is a man with last century's values talking about how unacceptable the "old ways" are to Winnipeg. This is doubly so as Pallister's CONs acclaimed as a candidate for Kirkfield Park Scott Fielding, who stands for the old sprawling ways urbanist Bowman rejected.

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Brian Bowman: Old School Chamber of Commerce conservative

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 12:19
Brian Bowman (far right), with Tracy Bowman,
"honoured" to have the endorsement of old school
Conservative politician Gary Filmon (second from the left, with
wife Janice Filmon).

Image Source: Twitter

Way back in May 14 of this year I was at the launch of Brian Bowman's campaign. It was held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which the mayoral hopeful once chaired. A crowd of 300 packed into the Gallery, many young urban professionals, members of the local twittersphere, and folks from the marketing industry. Perhaps the "next generation leadership" lawyer Bowman keeps talking about, which is also a fairly privileged subset of said generation.

This well attired set gave heavy cheers to Brian Bowman. The first round, while intense, was not great enough for the gentleman introducing him - Dave Angus, President and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce - who demanded an even louder round of applause (which the audience more than complied with).

Entering the stage with cheers and coloured light beams flashing, Bowman went on to give his speech. In it, he delivered lame zingers like "Is City Hall ready for Winnipeg at one million people? It's not even ready for winter!" (approximation of quote based on memory) which the crowd more than ate up, with one person seated behind me particularly lapping up Bowman's punchlines. The rock star treatment Bowman was given at the launch, both in terms of stage management and the way the crowd lapped him up, was very unnerving. It revealed, however, that the mayoral contender's candidacy would be slickly marketed.

A similar unnerving glibness has remained throughout his campaign. Bowman would attack Judy Wasylycia-Leis as a "career politician" while later praising her public service. Later the lawyer would bemoan the awfulness of "old school politics" and lament negativity, while running a campaign with it's fair share of punches and attacks.

Brian Bowman campaigning for a provincial
Conservative.

Image Source: Twitter
As part of his glib marketing campaign Bowman has styled himself as providing the "next generation of leadership", talked about city politics not being about right or left" and generally portrayed himself as a big tent candidate. The lawyer, however, has criticized Judy Wasylycia-Leis for sitting in opposition benches as an MP and for having ties to the NDP. This critique of partiality is despite Bowman's own ties to the provincial Conservatives - having campaigned for a Conservative MLA and receiving endorsements from many prominent current and retired CON pols - including ex-Premier Gary Filmon. There as event interest in having Brian run for PC leader in the past.

Bowman has made ambitious proposals, such as building all Bus Rapid Transit lines by 2031, shifting from property taxes to a four percent municipal sales tax, and building a fenced in dog park in downtown Winnipeg. Many of the big picture and even urbanist ideas the lawyer is running on parallels the BOLD campaign of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. This should not be surprising, The mayoral contender has deep ties to the Chamber.

Brian Bowman was chair of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce when it launched its BOLD initiative. While the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce opposed the PST increase they did support granting municipalities the power to raise infrastructure levies - something the 4% Bowman Sales Tax would do (if he could get the province to okay it).

Within the closing period of this campaign "next generation of leadership" politician Bowman revealed what he really is: an old school Chamber of Commerce conservative, quite like the other supposed political "outsider" Sam Katz who was first elected in 2004. The Chamber conservative is committed to cutting public city worker pension benefits, but specifically for new workers - i.e. often young workers. The candidate espousing to represent the "next generation of leadership" revealed just what it'll be like: class war against the weak and powerless.

In a new, Bowman age there would be a tale of two youths in Winnipeg. The privileged set, laughing at his jokes and enjoying his fight to beautify the downtown and the underprivileged set losing their benefits and facing the consequences of his very old school, reactionary class warfare against the new public workers of Winnipeg. Given Bowman's usage of Judy's political experience as an insult perhaps it should not be too surprising that respect for public service is a quality the private sector lawyer lacks.

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