Signs election season is upon us

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 6, 2014

Mayoral signs Brandon
Photo courtesy of the Brandon Sun- Tim Smith.

For an election that has remained pretty silent the last couple of weeks, it appears the battle for Brandon boulevards and billboards has begun.

After an extended weekend that saw the launch of a new school year in its wake, much of the electioneering seems to have jumped a gear or two with candidates honing in on the seven weeks leading up to the municipal election.

While the official deadline to file paperwork is still a few short days away, many of the races have started to shape up, with a couple of wards sporting more than one candidate, and battlegrounds such as Rosser showing a handful of names for residents to choose from.

With the real campaigning in full swing, we also have hit the time of year when boulevards will most likely explode with campaign signage.

The Rick Chrest for Mayor camp was the first into the fray, as this past weekend saw signs for the challenger pop up on thoroughfares throughout the community.

Signs are without a doubt a costly undertaking for a candidate, and their effectiveness was hotly debated online after our current mayor, Shari Decter Hirst, stated she would not place yard or boulevard signs this go-around, deciding rather to look at billboard advertising and bus benches among other public forms of advertisement for her campaign.

To be fair, there really is no exact formula for success in this choice, and signs on public property have been a thorn for many as residents take to online forums, Sound Offs and social media to express their displeasure for the “clutter” along the major thoroughfares in the community.

That said, however, and having experienced this firsthand as a candidate in the last provincial election, signage provided an icebreaking opportunity at the door.

Often at the doorstep, if a candidate were to start a conversation with the resident, many would know the name at least, after having seen a boulevard or yard sign in their neighbourhood or elsewhere in the community.

Now this may differ a bit with an incumbent, but campaigning is all about having and continuing conversations.

And any candidate, incumbent or not, who decides not to take this opportunity for promotion may end up behind the 8-ball when meeting residents, or trying to stand out amongst the crowd.

A green approach to campaigning is all fair and good, but at the end of the day, nobility towards a green initiative in exchange for being elected and having the ability to enact a green agenda seems a small price to pay for a few yard signs leading up to an election.

City headed in right direction on hotel tax

It was welcome news this week to see the City of Brandon and council have learned that the current criteria for the hotel tax rebates just wasn’t working as it should.

The hotel tax, although controversial, was designed to prop up elements in the community that help attract visitors to pay that very same hotel tax while staying in Brandon.

It was what many would dub a success, but the focus to be event-led only as opposed to improvement-based seemed narrow in scope — something that was shared by a review committee that recently presented findings to council.

If the hotel tax is going to reach its maximum potential, it needs to be open to city-wide improvements by partnering this money with public and private funds.

It appears in the current scenario, much of the monies collected by the hotel tax were hampered by actually finding enough places to spend it as it was originally intended.

This new stream would allow for a better distribution of the funds and allow entities such as the Keystone Centre, museums and the like to come forward seeking their piece of the pie.

It is small change when tied to big projects, but as we have learned with many stalled downtown projects that have been attempted over the years, the ability to leverage money locally can be a catalyst for the bigger-picture government investment scenarios.

It is nice to see these dollars returning to the community as they were intended as opposed to falling into general coffers or further allotment elsewhere.

Improvements and event optimization through this scenario is good for the community, both to help attract people throughout the year, or even newcomers who become eventual residents one day.

The evolution of the hotel tax is a wise move for this community.

Hopefully it is something that is carried on by the next council, whoever they may be after the dust settles and the chairs are filled this fall.


Something is Brewing- Apple Wine update 2

For the original post in this series click here.

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Part 2 of Something is Brewing!

Well the first leg of a long journey is over as the apples have met their maker! Officially made the first transfer into the primary fermenter (glorified bucket). The apples had gone in a couple of days from a apple pie type smell to a much more fermented smell. I would liken it to a cheap wine! The apples as well had begun to froth a bit in the pail showing some of the wild yeast present had taken effect on the fruit. Even with the pail sealed tightly the fruit can often have residue of wild yeast from the atmosphere. Couple that with life in an enclosed space and warm, wet conditions and the opportunity to grow is quick.

As you can see in this photo the water had softened the fruit nicely and the juice left over (admittedly I sampled a bit) tasted very similar to a weak, watered down apple juice, the kind you may give a toddler. I did test it though and there was a low grade alcohol content to the wort (raw juice) so I knew it was on the right track. After straining all the apples out and any sediment that may have fell in when peeling, or came off the apples I was ready to start adding ingredients. The juice left over from my apples had filled roughly half of a five gallon pail and was a faded amber colour as you can see in the photo below.

For the ingredients the original recipe called for 9 lemons sliced and juiced, a cup of black tea (for the tannins), 8kg of sugar, 1kg of golden raisins (chopped), warm water and cold water(which I substituted with a little concentrated apple juice (available at most any supermarket) as well as the water to top up. These were all added as per the original specification except for the sugar, which I took back by a kilogram to only add 7kg as the apple juice will increase the sweetness on its own.  The supplies (including some of the chemicals and yeast) all cost in the area of $30 Canadian which is decent if this little experiment pays off.

Next up came the preparation (juicing) 9 lemons without inevitably getting it in your eyes or everywhere for that matter is trickier than you may think but we made a good go of it nonetheless.  The lemons were juiced and added to the wort, the tea was made in a 7 0z. tea cup and added, the sugar was added as well as the chopped golden raisins. Give it a good stir and then add the water (or apple juice) making sure that all the ingredients are mixed up good and the sugar is dissolved in the liquid.  This may take a couple of go arounds to make sure but it is imperative to have the sugar dissolve in the liquid as much of the fermentation process acts around reaction with the sugar and alcohol already present.
wine2e wine2fAfter all the ingredients are good and stirred comes the part where you add the store bought wine yeast. This can be purchased pretty well anywhere that you can purchase wine kits (I use Red Star in Canada) and comes in a little package about the size of a tea bag. Pour the yeast into your full pail or juice and give it a good stir as well. The yeast will naturally rise to the top along with any pulp that may have come off your lemons when juicing them.

Once you have this all nice and settled place the pail in a easily accessible place (as you will have to give it a stir twice daily) to keep the yeast active and not falling in your juice. Also ensure the lid is all snapped on tightly and let the process begin. Within a couple of hours you should see a bubbling beginning and the yeast going to work on your juice and sugar combination. If you notice the froth like the picture below(taken 8 hours after the transfer) it should be a good indicator you are on the right track with your home-made apple wine.

Hope you have enjoyed the coverage so far. To check out the orignal post in this series click the link here, or visit the top of the page and click Brewing!. Happy wine making!


Something is brewing! Apple Wine!


So I thought I would take the opportunity to build on my site by adding a bit of blogging fun! With this space it has been so laced with column work over the past couple of years I have not taken the opportunity to grow on the opportunities a blog presents. Don’t get me wrong I love the column work and really enjoy writing with the Brandon Sun. I just thought this would be a chance to grow my love for the written word by using the blog as it should be!

For those of you who do not know I have been making wine for a few years now albeit I took a bit of a hiatus for the last couple years as kids, moves, career changes and the formation of a new business have kept me away from it. I have over the years brewed a number of wines and beers and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Most of my brewing has been in the kit variety and I must admit I truly enjoy the Niagra Mist line of kits available at many brew stores.  They are quick and easy and for the most part pretty foolproof.

With my latest incarnation though I thought I would try something completely different. How does one go about making a wine completely from scratch? This would without a doubt be a challenge for me and would take some trial, error and time to get used to.

I really thought for my first go around I would try something along the lines of an apple wine. Apple wine or appfelwein as it is dubbed in Germany is a crisp, sweet tasting wine with a unique flavour and bouquet resembling apple pie! For the recipe I wanted something that would take some time and be a labour of love, so after a quick internet search I came across this organic recipe on a site called Allotment Heaven. This recipe calls for very few ingredients and plenty of time to hone a nice tasting wine. With the kits through the use of chemical agents this process is expedited but through this process I hope to take my time in crafting a nice, drinkable, from scratch wine.

I will keep you posted as the process goes along but thought for today at least I would post a couple of photos and brief introduction to a process that may, when it is all said and done be a couple of years in the making.

Below is a group of photos. All the apples were harvested locally in our yard in Brandon Manitoba Canada.

Happy wine-making! To check out the recipe click the link here. To follow the brewing as it happens I will post the articles to this link.


The political minefield of endorsements

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 29, 2014

Winnipeg Mayoral Candidate Brian Bowman. c.
Winnipeg Mayoral Candidate Brian Bowman. c. for the Brandon Sun.

Candidate endorsements for a political campaign can be dynamite or they can be an absolute minefield to navigate, depending on their source. Usually endorsements, especially high-profile ones, place more credibility in the candidate they tout and often are accompanied with tidy sums of money to help further the campaign.

For the most part those endorsements — especially the ones welcomed by the candidate — can bring to the forefront a cause supported in their campaign, enhance a platform announcement or provide more visibility and recognition for a politician.

No campaign has made that more abundantly clear this municipal go around in Winnipeg or Brandon than that of Winnipeg lawyer Brian Bowman, who this week secured an endorsement from the king of hockey in Manitoba, Mark Chipman.

Chipman, chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment and the man who brought the Jets back to Winnipeg, threw his support behind the privacy lawyer turned politician — and it could not have come at a better time for his campaign.

Bowman, although considered a strong possibility for Winnipeg’s future, was coming closer to being an also-ran in the company of heavy hitters and perennial politicians Judy Wasylycia-Leis and embattled former provincial Tory Gord Steeves. This was not for lack of trying, though, as Bowman and his team have proved masters at building a volunteer base to prop up his campaign.

Chipman’s endorsement rumours have swirled since way back in June when a private fundraiser was held at the MTS Centre for Bowman and his campaign. The now official endorsement of Bowman was a “sign of the city moving on from the Katz era” as was shared by Winnipeg Free Press reporter and columnist Bartley Kives at the time.

Chipman, like Bowman, definitely has the ear of the Chamber community in Winnipeg, cutting into the support Gord Steeves was hoping for after his campaign sputtered to a halt when his wife’s Facebook foibles came into question. The bigger question is in hockey crazy Winnipeg does Chipman actually secure votes for Bowman?

As for Brandon, it leaves us to wonder where the endorsement game stands. Our current mayor made great strides in securing many high-profile endorsements prior to her first run at the seat.

Names including many prominent CEOs, managers, residents, politicians and activists in this community stood up in a series of very well-timed ads in the Brandon Sun endorsing Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and the vision for Brandon.

Her campaign was well polished, and as the days drew closer to the election, so too were the days numbered for former mayor Dave Burgess and his time wearing the chains of office. For Decter Hirst, endorsements, pronouncements, platform and an astute, well-planned ground game won the election — something Bowman is looking to do in Winnipeg, or at least position himself for another run in four years.

As for challengers Rick Chrest and Mark Kovatch, campaign endorsements may help solidify the base they already have support from. But at the doorsteps with volunteers in tow — as opposed to online or through endorsements — is where it is crucial for either to gain the trust of the city come election day. Interestingly enough as a side note it appears Chrest is the only one to have taken up a website profile as well as social media as opposed to social media alone to share their travels.

But I digress.

On Oct. 22, as politicians always state the endorsements of the voter is the one that really matters, something Bowman may glean from Chipman’s support, although Chipman is someone who commands attention when he speaks.

Brandonites may not have the same level of buy-in when it comes to sway from the endorsement game, but all three of the mayoral camps have been relatively silent on smiling photo-op front thus far, a point that may be indicative of where their priorities should, and likely do, lie for the residents of the city.

As for the campaigns themselves, with Labour Day weekend upon us, be prepared for the full-bore electioneering to ramp up. The “silly season” is about to begin with strong competitors for mayor and a couple of wards with challengers prepped to take place.

The one thing politicians and the community must remember is most elections are a sprint to the finish line. It is the marathon after that is the true test as to whether a leader has the legs to point this city in the right direction.


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