Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Inaction in action

Manitoba is, according to Prof. Allen Mills' piece in the Free Press today, under "soft despotism," and governed by bureaucracy.

I should know: I live in North Point Douglas. Here, as in the North End (where between Selkirk and Redwood, conditions are becoming so deplorable that they would make villages in the third-world blush with embarrassment), there is no representation at either the Municipal and Provincial level. This is because the Councillor and MLA for the area, Harry Lazarenko and George Hickes, are both speakers of their respective government assemblies. And also because they both happen to be disconnected dinosaurs.

Of course, Manitoba's despotism isn't so soft everywhere, as anyone would quickly learn if they chose to engage in trade of bottles of scotch, automobile insurance, or hydroelectricity, or dared to set their own price on cheese and milk. Or, if their sanctioned, more "socially responsible" activities got in the way of the plans of the Province and their subsidiary City of Winnipeg, such as owning property.

This is happening to Mike Gobiel , who last week told the Free Press he heard from PCL Construction that he was losing the building that he moved his hobby shop business into recently, to make way for a curve to the northeast in Waterfront Drive at Higgins. (This is to make way for the new span which will rise alongside the existing Disraeli, but also to prepare for the enhanced Higgins Avenue and Louise Bridge project later in the decade. Pleasant waterfront roadway to commuter artery in less than 20 years. Way to go, Winnipeg.)

Anyway, the City eventually did get around to contacting Mr. Gobiel about the expropriation of his property--by email. And this only some three months after twice saying he could could go ahead and renovate the place, go ahead and occupy it, because the building would not be affected.

As Mr. Gobiel wrote in a letter sent April 1: "We bought this building in Dec 2009 and got occupancy. When we did our due diligence in November I was told 120 Higgins [Gobiel's business] was not affected at all by this Disraeli project by city planning so we proceeded to buy and was allowed to start renovations inside. We applied for occupancy in December 09 and again asked about the bridge and was again told no worries not affected and was given occupancy on the 24th of Dec 09.

The offer the city has made in the letter we finally had emailed to us [is] peanuts to what we invested."

Well, whaddaya gonna do? Who is John Galt, right? It's not like the rest of us have businesses on Higgins Avenue or bought houses in Elmwood.

But for those who are concious enough, there are two open houses hosted by the City and Plenary Road consortium next week, one on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at Bronx Park Community Centre (131 Chelsea Pl.), 4 - 7 p.m. The second is Wednesday, April 14, 2010 at Norquay Community Centre (65 Granville St.), 4 - 7 p.m.

These "Information Open Houses" are billed as having detailed information on "one of Winnipeg's most attractive and innovative engineering projects." Representitives from the City and Plenary will be on hand to offer spin and calmly direct your concerns to computer-generated pictures of cyclists and flowers.

I've been to about five or six City open houses in my life, but that's enough to tell me they are a joke: a pointless excerise in manipulation; not a consultation, just a con.

And that's exactly why people need to go.


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