Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Streetcar 356

Back in my Central Park post I made mention of another local project that needs some attention: Streetcar 356. With her 100th anniversary coming up in 2009 there is effort underway to get her restored !

On the promotion end, if you're on Facebook there is a "Restoration of Streetcar 356" group with a lot of great historic photos and some other memorabilia. For non-Facebookers there's a site coming soon on the www with the same information and pics.

On the fundraising front, buflyer has designed some t-shits for sale via cafepress. There is also going to be a batch of them made locally that will be available for sale sale at assorted heritage fairs and other special events, the first of which will be in September (details to come) proceeds go to the restoration project. Here are some of the shirts: (from actual WERCo material):

Heritage Winnipeg, the owners of the streetcar, have a restoration committee and they will be reprinting a book published a couple of decades back (I believe for Transit's 100th anniversary), with lots of great pics of old Winnipeg and her Transit history.

Image from buflyer200
A little more info:
Car 356 Pedigree
(from Winnipeg All Time Fleet Roster)
Manufacturer: Winnipeg Electric Rwy. Co.
Model Brill 27G1
Built in a batch of 4 (356-362 even numbers)
Seats: 44
Length: 45' Width 8'
Rebuilt to 'low floor' car in 1918 by changing motors & wheels
Retired from Service: 1955

Pics of Wpg Electric Railway Co. streetcar 356 from Heritage Winnipeg Special Collection, Archives Heritage Winnipeg Collection

Though the goal now is just the restoration, some nearby cities have fun with their old streetcars like Edmonton and Minneapolis.

For t-s follow the link ( I will update as to where the local ones will be on sale). To donate or volunteer you can contact Heritage Winnipeg.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Moooving Right Along

I was happy to read about this today: Natural Prairie Beef buys former Maple Leaf hog plant in Winnipeg.

I was working with government, sort of / kind of, back in 2003 when the mad cow crisis struck. It was a long, complicated issue that I had to bone up on in a real hurry. Despite Manitoba having safe beef and there being a local consumer demand, (remember the rallies and bbq's at Portage and Main ?!) , the problem was that the beef we had was all still attached to cows.

The Ranch

Over decades Manitoba's beef processing industry had dwindled away to nothing. Other than a couple of boutique places there is no capacity and the only option is to ship them elsewhere.

The big bucks put into hog processing was not much help as you can't shove a cow into a hog-sized processing line even in an emergency. The border was closed so you couldn't ship them to the U.S., shipping to Alberta was expensive with the price of beef dropping so low and, besides, the massive feedlots out there had tens of thousands of cattle already waiting in line - enough to keep the overloaded Alberta plants busy for years.

People realized that the best solution would be a longer term one: to get a plant back in Manitoba.

Cattle !

Rancher's Choice were first out of the chute (no pun intended) in 2005 trying to establish a plant in Dauphin. They raised a couple of million, the province chipped in another $4m or so but in the end there was not enough money raised and the plan was shelved. I seem to recall that there was another group in the Interlake that wanted to get an old mothballed plant back in operation but it would have been just a boutique sized plant.

Cattle !

Today's announcement of a decent sized, 250 head per week capacity (by 2010) plant focusing on higher end and niche markets like organic, kosher, halal is good news. I look forward to digging into my first Manitoba Natural Prairie Beef steak !

UPDATE 1: Some confusion in different media reports about the capacity of the plant. I heard it from the horses' mouth that the plant is expected to handle 250 head per day with room to expand up to 500 head per day.

Company formed to run new beef plant A new company has been formed to own and operate the beef processing plant being established on the old Maple Leaf pork plant site on Marion Street (Dec 4, 08)

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Youth Peacebuilding

A little item I saw in the FreeP Breaking News section yesterday "New youth program launches today". It’s called the “Youth Peacebuilding Project” put on by Canadian Mennonite University and funded by the United Way.

Having lived downtown for a long time, youth and what they are doing with themselves, is a real issue for me, so I checked it out.

The United Way, contributing $45k for the project, describes it as:

A 12 month project intended to build positive relationships between African and Aboriginal youth in the downtown and north-end neighbourhoods. The institute, in partnership with Ka Ni Kanichihk and the YMCA-YWCA, will organize a number of relationship-building and mentoring events for youth. A summer peace camp, designed to build strong interpersonal relationships, will develop young mentors and leaders from both communities.”

The CMU goes into more detail:

The Youth Peacebuilding Project is based on an international program called Seeds of Peace whose goals include: “…educating (youth) to develop empathy, respect and confidence. It is equipping them with communication and negotiation skills. It is enabling them to see the human face of their enemies. By empowering them to emerge as tomorrow’s leaders, Seeds of Peace is working to forge the personal relationships so critical to peacemaking and reconciliation.

From the media release:

“There’s a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding between the two groups,” says Noëlle DePape, Executive Director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community of Manitoba (IRCOM), “It’s leading to problems, especially between some young people.” If they could talk, they’d find that both groups are “facing similar issues of culture shock and adjusting to life in the city,” she adds.

I think the project is a great idea. Sometimes realizing that you’re not so different after all can go a long way to eliminating the “bogeymen” that keep people apart.

I'd be interested to see how the program leaders feel that things have gone after the 12 months are up. I would really like to see a project like this go another step further – a sort of youth corps project. Kids from different races working side by side on community projects. Learning to build their neighbourhood rather than doing things to tear them apart.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Retroing My Bike !

Well, I decided to retro my bike a bit. While at the Fringe I stopped in at Antiques & Funk at Main and Bannatyne. They have a box of 1982 bicycle licence plates in great condition for $3 ! I decided my bike needed one and added it. Looks nice and I am sure will have a few people scratching their heads.
By way of history Winnipeg issued plates from 1899 to 1982 (with the exception of 1907). A full series can be found at manitoba plates.com. Some of those are pretty nifty looking. I like 1917 and 1918 especially. Winnipeg wasn't the only municipality in Manitoba to do so - municipalities from Hartney to Churchill did the same.

Canplates.com explains that the reason for plates in North American cities were that bikes initially were a form of transportation similar to a coach or a car so they were licenced like everything else using the roadway. By the 50's and 60's car was becoming king and bicycles were increasingly relegated to a recreation or past time relegated to parks and trails. Eventually the issuing of plates droped off.

It doesn't appear that any jurisdictions still require plates except in some cases for commercial uses like pedicabs. I wonder with the increased use of bicycles as transportation whether we will see the need to licence bikes again ?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Our Downtown Grocery Fare

Grocery store, grocery store, downtown Winnipeg needs a grocery store. Yes it does. There are a a few of them out there but none with that “all in one” convenience.

I have lived in and around downtown for about 15 years so I have shopped at them all many times. I thought I would do a little review ! I have also mapped them as well for your viewing pleasure.

The Bay Groceteria

Location: Basement level, The Bay, Portage and Memorial

Store Condition:
fine, considering you’re in a basement.

Extra Services (pharmacy, bakery, deli counter etc): pharmacy and, of course, there’s five levels of store above you.

Selection: Good – they carry the basics of any small grocery store except for deli meats. They have a good selection of fruit and veg and one of the best bread selections in town. If it’s baked here, you’ll probably find it there.

They had a good local “heat and eat” section of things like Alycia’s perogies etc. but that has really dwindled away over the years.

Price: Convenience store levels. Not a lot of bargains, not a lot of sales. Not a place you’re going to want to stock up on your cereal and cookies unless you’ve seriously got the munchies.

Prepared Food: No.

Oddities: It’s only open Bay hours meaning the store is closed more than it is open. Oddly enough when I worked 9 – 5-ish at Portage and Main I cut back on the amount of shopping I did there because I usually didn’t make it to The Bay on time to shop before the store closed.

Best Features:
The “wall o’ bread”. Being in the skywalk is nice. They have free delivery.

Worst Features:
7-11 style prices for dry goods, almost bankers hours and a lot of the clientele is, ummm, a little older so you might not be able to get in and out too quickly.

Overall: They could kick but if they brought in better prices or a chain like Sobey’s (see below)

Rating: out of 10

Extra Foods

Location: 600 Notre Dame Ave at Langside

Store Condition: Very nice. Modern, well lit, clean.

Extra Services: pharmacy.

Selection: Overall is pretty good – a decent small grocery store. Fruit and veg are plentiful. In the bread section they have the individual bins for buns and pastries, which is nice. Also, they have the always-suspicious-to-me bulk barrels of things like candies and baking needs if you prefer to purchase your food by the scoop.

The drawback for me is the meat. It’s pretty much all “Club Pack” meaning that you’re in luck if searching for a two-four of pork chops or a ham the size of a grown man’s head. If you’re single and don’t have a huge freezer you’re not so lucky.

You may have to settle for noname products from time to time if you want to do all of your shopping there.

Price: Good. Superstore-esque so you can fill up on basic dry goods. They have ‘everyday low prices’ so not a lot in the way of sales except that cart or two at the back with expired food and tins that look like they just got back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Prepared Food: No.

Oddities: I still shake my head at the gigantic meat packages.

Best Features: The store is well laid out. Has bike racks and car parking if you want to bring the car and load up.

Worst Features: For me personally, I am not a huge Superstore fan with their large selection of generic label foods.

Overall: Nothing fancy. It gets most of the job done.

Rating: out of 10


Location: Sargent Avenue (and Sherbrook / Maryland)

Store Condition: Fine

Extra Services: Pharmacy, deli counter.

Selection: It’s pretty much what you expect in a smaller Safeway store. The area most lacking would, again, be the meat department. Not a lot of catering to singles as they tend to flog their larger Club Packs. Also, they tend to keep the meat around a long time slapping on ‘$1 off’ stickers when it starts to turn brown.

Prices: Your standard Safeway prices. A few things are okay but a majority of it is convenience store, or worse, prices. That’s offset, though, by the fact that they have lots of items on “Club Price” at any given time. If you are a ‘member’, (or know the phone number of someone who is), and are not going in with a list of 30 specific items and brands that you must get, you should be able to cobble together your shopping for a decent price.

Prepared Food: Yes. They do chicken and have some salads and sandwiches pre-packed and a limited number of wet salads at the deli counter.

Best Feature: Selection, except for meat. Bike racks and parking out front. Sales are good.

Worst Feature: Having to pay Safeway regular prices if you need something specific.

Overall: Not sure how the priciest food store in town lasted that long in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in town. I assume the pharmacy floats the store.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Fredette’s Food Fare
Location: Donald and Broadway (main floor, Broadview Towers)

Store Condition: Good.

Extra Services (pharmacy, bakery, deli counter etc): deli counter.

Selection: Not bad. A small fruit and veg section that gets the job done. Meat section has portions that cater to couples and singles. For me, the deli counter is the draw. Their deli meats include store-roasted roast beef and turkey breast and they carry about 8 different salads.

Prices: Their regular prices are fairly high – even Safeway-ish. They do, though, have a lot of items on sale each week so as long as you're not going in with that 20 specific item / brands list you can cobble together a decent small shopping trip at a fair price and even stock up on some items from time to time.

Prepared Food: Yes. Another great feature. They do at least two entrees a day ranging from roast chicken to liver and onions to beef stew. The extra is put in a cooler so if you miss the hot stuff you can take it home and reheat.

Oddities: Some of the staff are, well, cold and unfriendly in an odd sort of way. They never speak, always have this morose look to them. I always thought that Guy Madden could do a film there: “The Saddest Grocery Store in the World” a place of solemn, sad looking, silent staff. A couple of the quiet ones also have a bugaboo about bringing your own bags – no idea why as they don't speak.

Best Feature: Prepared food and deli

Worst Feature: really skimpy bread selection.

Overall: I like the scale of the store, that it caters to small portions and the great ready to eat food. There was a bakery, I think back in the Kauffman's days. It would be nice to bring that back.

Rating: out of 10

In case you're wondering, where do I go shopping when I need to get away from the downtown stores ? I am a Sobey's guy !

Finding a right fit for Winnipeg is going to be difficult for a number of reasons. First off, Winnipeg’s downtown residents seem happy with the huge number of convenience stores ranging from 7-11 to the food areas in Giant Tiger and The Bargain Shop. Attracting something that will be able to provide the fresh food of a supermarket with non-convenience store prices will be tough as the big chains have pretty much abandoned the idea of building new community sized stores in this market.

Some of the best urban supermarkets I have seen were in London. Tesco, the supermarket giant, has turned it's focus on community sized stores. These Tesco Expresses were quite small but instead of cutting out the produce etc. in favour of processed food it was just like a shrunken down version of a full grocery store. Some, during peak times, brought in a sandwich maker or prepared food server. The prices were reasonable.

The chart below is based on the 2007/08 year end and shows the assortment of store sizes that Tesco has. Note that 92 new community "Tesco Express" stores were built and they are projecting 150 more to be built next year.



area (m²)

area (sq ft)

area (m²)

area (sq ft)

+/- Stores

Tesco Extra














Tesco Metro







Tesco Express







Okay, enough of that. Winnipeg isn't London !

When Sobey's decided to retain some IGAs in Manitoba (such as North Main, the Maples and Russell MB) I hoped that would have led to them maybe nurturing that brand to be a mini-Sobey’s. Very recently I found out that since 2005 there are now 4 “Sobey’s Express" stores in Ontario.

For Sobey's smaller stores IGAs range from 15,000 to 40,000 sq ft. while the Express stores run around 3,900. The Sobey's corporate website explains them this way: "...the company took the convenience store concept to a higher level, providing customers with a superior convenience shopping experience....these stores offer an impressive breadth of assortment and supermarket level pricing."

I would love to see those come here and not just for the downtown.

Not that I would mind a smaller chain like T&T and a number of others that are out there but you have to be realistic that a downtown Winnipeg location would likely not be the first choice for a chain with no facilities in the city.

Happy shopping !

Sunday, 20 July 2008

I Want My Airport to Run Spoof Ads

Ha ! I have seen these mixed in amongst the Fringe Festival posters:

james 2010 poster

Obviously someone spoofing the james2010 ad campaign.

Someone suggested to me it might be l’Atelier national du Manitoba

Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Great Pom-Pom Scandal of 08

When this story 'broke' I barely paid attention to it. Some ex-cheerleaders of the Bombers had some party pics of them posted on a sports website. Dumb summer news story as the pics are pretty much Facebook party shot fare. No x-rated expose, nobody clubbing seals or eating babies, or clubbing babies for that matter.

For whatever reason the story never died away and today.... hola .... today you'd think we had some 'Spitzer avec hooker' level scandal on our hands ?! The Free Press has done a "Saturday Special Feature" relating to the incident and now "The coach of the Blue Lightning cheerleading squad has resigned after the discovery of provocative photos of Winnipeg cheerleaders online raised a flap earlier this week".

Bwr-brw-brw-brw....(that's supposed to be the sound you make when you shake your head back and forth really fast !) I had to do it to see if this is really making news ?!

I feel bad for even spending time posting about this but this thing just isn't dying.


1. No laws were broken. No cocaine deals, no prostitution, no embezzlement. As I said, this is stuff you see on Facebook pages. It did break an employers code of conduct, fine. Let the company deal with it.

2. These are, well, cheerleaders. The Bombers hire these women, dress them in hotpants and short-shorts with halter tops and send them out in front of the crowd to dance around for the mostly male fans. Chances are they are going to be outgoing women that may attend bars from time to time. Similar to the fact that people wouldn't necessarily be shocked if they heard that the Bombers O-line went out for lots of beer and chicken wings and then got rowdy back at a pool party. It's good that they have a code of conduct for all staff and expect them to stick with it and, again, let them reiterate it to them.

3. These are no longer members of the squad. Why help perpetuate this story and bring negative attention to women who entertained the fans, probably spending a lot of time and money out of their own pocket to do so, and then when they've moved on in life to careers decide to paint them as villains and some sort of traitors to the club.

4. Bomber management: you're O AND FOUR pull your heads out of the tucked position and concentrate on what's on the field or you won't have many fans in the stands to entertain as the season wears on. Granted, it would have been hard toeven concieve that the FreeP would turn this into some bizarre ongoing 'sex scandal' exposé ... but, still, you're in the communications biz and you let this one get ugly.

5. Free Press: if you're going to manufacture some scandal to sell papers don't take it out on these women. Right from the first headline about all of this:
Blue ex-cheerleaders pose on sexy site it seemed you were out to overblow this (the cheerleaders' pics weren't posed shots on a site - they were personal pics that were posted) and the description "in various states of undress and sexually provocative poses" makes it sound like a spread in Hustler instead of bar party pics. This is a small town - holding them up to ridicule because there's nothing better to write about is silly and sad. You pointed the posting of the pics out, fine. The Bombers said they have a staff code of conduct and went and reiterated it to them when the pics were reported to them what's the point of the ongoing 'scandal' ?!

Okay, Bombers, Free Press all together now:
Bwr-brw-brw-brw.... there, that feels better.

PS wonder if the Free Press is maybe playing this up to create some new contest about it - choose the new head of the Blue Bombers Cheerleaders !?