My #ALSIceBucketChallenge

ALS IceBucketChallenge

Hey folks! Here is my ALS Ice Bucket challenge from this morning! Thanks to Kevin Boyd a good friend of mine for the nomination! Please as you have fun with these videos and remember to visit the ALS Society Website and donate to the cause! Together the online community can help work towards finding a cure for this horrible disease.
- Shaun


Timing key in airport announcement

Photo c. City of Brandon 2014. Brandon Municipal Airport.
Photo c. City of Brandon 2014. Brandon Municipal Airport.

It was an announcement many in the community had hoped would come for a long time.

But for a select few in the political realm — where timing is everything — the airport renovation project hit smack dab in the centre of a political target they had been aiming for, buoying their fortunes for the foreseeable future.

Few can dispute that our airport is a mere shadow of some of the other locales serviced by WestJet or other national carriers.

Aside from the installation of an ILS (instrument landing system) a couple years back, our municipal airport hadn’t seen any significant upgrades since Herman Miller chairs and shag carpet were snapped up to furnish the aging structure. It looked and felt outdated, and furthermore, with the arrival of WestJet, felt cramped, with guests shouldering into secure staging areas while waiting for the daily flight.

The time had come for the city and other levels of government to pony up the dough to renovate the complex — or officially check out on continuing the decades-old saga of trying to attract and keep an air carrier in the city.

This week’s $8.8-million announcement — split among the municipal, provincial and federal governments — is positive for the long-term feasibility of the growing business community in Westman.

Plus, as mentioned in the opening, it props up politicians who may be in need of a win such as this. This does not, in any way, detract from the work done by many to make this a reality. It just shows that timing can be so key in politics, and all three levels of government can stand to benefit from the work that went into securing the project.

First and foremost, it is something Mayor Shari Decter Hirst made a priority in her first term in office, and on this she can say leadership and a strong business case delivered the goods.

The mayor has scored two victories when it came to flying the friendly skies — first in attracting WestJet to the city and now in helping secure funding for the airport expansion and upgrade.

It likely won’t silence many of the mayor’s detractors — though little would — but being part of the team that made this happen will definitely be a proudly worn feather in Decter Hirst’s cap on the campaign trail.

Coincidentally, the airport was the first real spark we’ve seen from a quiet mayoral  campaign thus far. Decter Hirst tossed a barb back at mayoral hopeful Rick Chrest for his platform announcement on the status of air service. Here is hoping it will breathe further life into spirited debate and provide both campaigns a pulse leading up to voting day.

Second to benefit from this announcement was the provincial government of Premier Greg Selinger, who had a whirlwind tour of Westman with the airport announcement, community forums and deals struck with post-secondary institutions.

Those who doubted whether the NDP government was in full-on election mode should be silenced after this past week. One need look no further than the rolled-up sleeves, and newly minted signs popping up in the community sporting the slogan “Steady growth and good jobs,” to see that electioneering at the provincial level has begun in earnest.

The third entity into the fray may have stood to benefit the most from the announcement.

Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire has pretty much been unstoppable in his time in office thus far. He has silenced many of his detractors in this area by being practically everywhere at events and opportunities — a move that has not only been a boon for the longtime politician, but has helped solidify what once appeared to be a fractured riding association.

At the federal level, the Conservatives still have plenty of issues to deal with if they are to remain in government. But locally at least for Maguire, should he run again, it looks like a smoother journey down the campaign trail than the first go-around.

All political posturing aside, the one key that must remain in place on this airport expansion is the timeline. This cannot be a project that lingers and stumbles through re-announcements and delays.

The city has alluded to the fact it hopes the expansion will be completed 12 to 18 months after the shovels break ground. That won’t affect the civic election, but making the deadline will benefit both the province and feds — two entities that, without a doubt, will use it as evidence of investment in the region and leadership for the residents.


Tough times to be a Tory

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 9, 2014

Candace Maxymowich, the youth rep for the provincial Progressive Conservatives, stirred controversy this week when she tweeted that abstinence is the only acceptable form of sex education. Shaun Cameron writes that Maxymowich’s comments and the response by Tory Leader Brian Pallister come just as the NDP has begun to gain traction in the wake of this summer’s flood. (Winnipeg Free Press)

It would appear maintaining the post as the Progressive Conservative youth leader is a tough gig.

Mere months after former board member and youth rep Braydon Mazurkiewich was tossed from the table for his inflammatory comments on social media toward First Nations people, Tory youth leader Candace Maxymowich has firmly placed a boot in her mouth for stances on sex education in schools and abortion — coincidentally while running for trustee in the Louis Riel School Division.

For what it’s worth, the argument today is not to debate the merit, or lack thereof, of her opinions. It’s to look at the troubling self-inflicted blows the provincial Tories, via their membership, continue to rain upon themselves — just ahead of an election call that in all likelihood could come within the next year if the prime minister triggers an early federal election call.

For Maxymowich at least, she’ll likely learn a valuable lesson for her public stance on two controversial issues. Even though she wished to start a discussion, this may not be the best venue for debate — a lesson that has her losing her seat as the youth leader in Toryland on a technicality.

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister announced Wednesday afternoon that Maxymowich would no longer be the Tory youth leader because her candidacy in the school board election had precluded her from holding onto the role.

Bylaws and party rules aside, the timing of the announcement is more than a little suspect, and once again places plenty of mud on team Tory — a group that has sputtered in the wake of a somewhat rejuvenated NDP party busy dusting off their Superman capes from the flood fight.

Although sporting a few bruises financially from the recent flood, the NDP would love nothing better than to head into the next election touting its record and successes from a second flood fight in three years.

Whether right or wrong in their approach, the flood puts the NDP on the front page, and if played properly puts the names of their MLAs on the lips of the voter right before they head to the polls — something Premier Greg Selinger and the party brain trust are banking on should the election happen sooner than later.

Couple that with a somewhat anemic Progressive Conservative brand over the last year, and it plays right into the hands of the NDP gearing up in pre-election mode.

The PCs were criticized by some for remaining relatively silent while Manitobans battled the flood. The party has also been short on any semblance of an alternative for voters, thus squandering what once stood as a glowing opportunity for the party.

This is not to say they cannot turn it around — especially if a later election happens — but if it were to happen tomorrow, the NDP would have a glowing opportunity to tout its PST gamble as the catalyst that saved the province when the flood occurred.

If you had asked five months ago whether Brandon would be in play come the next provincial election, many thought the result would be a sea of blue and the defeat of a longtime MLA — but now our two constituencies are anyone’s guess.

The Tories will once again put plenty of support into Brandon West, a seat they currently hold.

There is little doubt that party minds within the NDP would love to get a hold of that seat, but it remains to be seen who they field as a candidate to try to throw Reg Helwer off his game.

In Brandon East, the flood fight served longtime NDP MLA Drew Caldwell well, as he spent plenty of time on the line and aiding residents — never a bad thing when a person is trying to garner support.

As for current city councillor Len Isleifson, should he win the party nod, it is an uphill battle if the Tories continue to sputter while drawing from a small team compared to the election juggernaut that is the NDP.

If successful in securing the nod, he will have, in the worst-case scenario, less than a year to build further rapport in the region and compile a team in an attempt to knock off Caldwell.

No matter the outcome, the old adage that timing is everything rings true here. If the NDP can get a bit of help from the feds through an early election call, what once was considered in jeopardy may again be within reach — something that would be welcomed by a party thought to be on provincial life support before the water, like their polling numbers, began to rise.


Learning lessons from skeeters!

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 26, 2014

Fogging trucks at work in the City- Photo c. The Brandon Sun.
Fogging trucks at work in the City- Photo c. The Brandon Sun.

As puddles of stagnant river water begin to pop up throughout the flood zone, the ramping up of a larvicide program and fogging applications will hopefully quash a second groundswell of the pesky bugs before they officially write off the balance of nice summer evenings in Brandon.

Undoubtedly the fogging of nuisance mosquitoes takes its toll on some in the community and the hardline approach from both those for and against malathion, as well as the buffer zone requests, potentially pit neighbour against neighbour.

Having used this column before to discuss the buffer zone debacles, I feel time would be better spent looking at the lessons we as a city can learn from our infamous “summer of mosquitoes.”

Having spent time in areas both controlled by a buffer zone and not, there does seem to be a recognizable difference in the number of mosquitoes on any given night.

Ballooning trap counts forced the city’s hand into a couple of extra unbudgeted-for rounds of fogging.

The flood obviously doesn’t help the issue, but it had come to a point where the city needed to make a concerted effort to spray multiple times to alleviate a growing, very vocal population tired of swatting mosquitoes.

Neighbours at odds over buffer zones was also becoming an ugly and divisive thorn in the community.

And while a few lessons have been learned, solutions for appeasing everyone are not readily at hand.

So, some hardlined thinking might change the way the issue is tackled — a process that may drive the very local opposition a bit … well, buggy.

Richmond Ward Coun. Stephen Montague shared on CBC and Twitter this past week that adding a medical requirement to a buffer-zone request is gaining some traction in the community. The idea would be a doctor’s note would be part of the paperwork submitted to the city requesting the machines be shut off near the resident’s house.

This is a big move and clearly draws a “line in the sand” in the buffer-zone debate.

Buffer-zone rules are still set by the provincial government and the 90-metre rule is based on chemical application guidelines, but Montague at least has residents talking on this issue again — coincidentally enough, right before a fall civic election where policy discussions should come into play.

It should be noted that Montague’s ward encompasses an area where trap counts far eclipsed the recommended fogging triggers, so there is no doubt this would be a place where the councillor’s call would gain support should he choose to seek re-election.

The second lesson encompasses a budgeting question. As I had mused in this column last year, the budget for removal of nuisance mosquitoes must eventually be tackled similar to the budgeting for snow removal.

We don’t often have a budget looking at snow removal as a singular occurrence in the winter; it is based on best guess scenarios.

Mosquito abatement must in future become more comprehensive, and be budgeted as such for multiple rounds of fogging should they become necessary — especially in times where standing water breeds the population explosions like we are currently experiencing.

While this may seem heavy-handed, we have had consecutive years of unallocated applications coming off the bottom line due to planning only for a single application. It appears to be changing times as far as mosquito abatement, and the budgeting process for this line should change, or we’ll face yearly dips into reserves to deal with the issue.

There is no answer that pleases everyone and mosquito fogging is one you can guarantee has clear divisions. But if we as a city are going to get it right, we need to build greater consensus politically, and have an enhanced strategy so we can team up with the province to find a solution.

Otherwise, the community will remain swatting mad at both bugs and neighbours for some time to come.


Water management plan good for Westman

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 19, 2014

Assiniboine River Basin Commission. c.
Assiniboine River Basin Commission. c.

For anyone who reads this column, it is not often I laud the work of the Harper government or its members. For the most part, I find the combative approach of this government over the past decade to be more than a little off-putting.

Canadians have had their doubts at times with the politicians representing them, and our local political scene has not been immune to that ingrained doubt in the actions of politicians as well.

That said, however, it was refreshing to see our Conservative MP, Larry Maguire, championing what some might call a green initiative — the restoration of wetlands for the purpose of better flood management on the Prairies.

It would appear Maguire is bang on in this case, as many in the political and scientific community believe this is just what the region and farmers need to help mitigate some of our flood headaches.

Maguire is no stranger to the plight of the agricultural industry. As a provincial MLA, he cemented his legacy in that very area for his work and experience dealing with the large Manitoba agricultural sector — a group with many concerns pertaining to the current provincial government.

As the provincial Tory critic for conservation and water stewardship, he’s honed his skills as well in seeking solutions to water management, a bread-and-butter issue for voters in this region, especially rurally.

Manitoba, Saskatchewan and, for that matter, North Dakota need a new plan for water management, something Maguire identified through various media channels this week.

Over the past few decades, many dugouts, sloughs, reservoirs and wetlands were pumped out to build on farming and housing opportunities.

The idea at the time seemed to remedy some of the struggles for farmers and developers — and in dry seasons, there seemed to be no problem with this practice.

However, in wet seasons such as this, floods that were once considered to happen decades apart might now become the new norm.

The continued removal of wetland areas across the Prairies — especially in Saskatchewan where regulations had been eased — has led to mega-flows of water through places such as the Shellmouth Dam, flows that in some cases have doubled in the last half-century.

It is astounding the level of water that is now common as a result of the reduction of a natural wetland environment.

Maguire’s call to action at a meeting of the Keystone Agricultural Producers this past week in Brandon came at the right time. It drew praise from both political friend and foe on social media as well as through regular media channels.

His hope is for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Dakota to collectively come to the table with a plan to better manage the flood situations in the three regions, and mitigate the potential loss to property and livelihoods.

His call for the establishment of an Assiniboine River Basin Commission, a think-tank concept that will include politicians and hopefully those from the scientific community, is the right one.

As Maguire put it in his speech, “the time is now.”

Manitoba is going to dig itself deeper into debt with the recent flood — something it can ill afford — while Saskatchewan and North Dakota routinely battle massive storms that wreak havoc on cities and farm land throughout the region.

Rightfully so, the time to come to the table is upon us.

Some of the numbers floating around out there point to a restoration of wetlands in the area reducing peak flows by up to 30 per cent in many cases. The science is there — now we need the political will to match.

Maguire’s party and policy may not sit well with some residents around here, but you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would be against the restoration of wetlands for the protection of properties and assets of Manitobans.

Now, as with anything else in government, the biggest hope is that Maguire will not only speak about the action but work hard to put it in place.

Residents of this region need and deserve that type of leadership from elected officials and Maguire, if he can go beyond just words, will have done plenty in providing that very leadership this region is looking for.