Tenth and Rosser: Some notes and quotes

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Tenth and Rosser” is a recurring column that contains a few tidbits of thought and assorted dollops of information.

Tenth Street and Rosser Avenue is one of the city’s historic intersections: a place of banking and commerce; a place for folks to meet and chat; a place to stage protests or watch parades.

And it remains so to this day.

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My congratulations go out to Glen Parker, who won the Riverview Ward by-election and will now join Brandon City Council.

Parker, who I worked with when I was at the Brandon Sun, must have been pleased to see the top story in the paper where he is the sales and marketing director.

In all reality, putting my friendship with Parker aside, as soon as he announced, I knew he was going to win. Up until then, It was runner-up Tyson Tame’s seat to be had.

Tame had run and lost in the 2014 municipal election, so he had a leg up on challenger Delvina Kejick in terms of supporters and knowledge of the pockets of the East End ward that he needed to work on to sway voters.

In the end, Parker’s back to basics message and his deep roots in the community and volunteer work with the East End Community Centre caught the fancy of the majority of voters.

On Wednesday night, the unofficial tally was: Parker, 385 votes; Tame, 235 votes; and Kejick, 73 votes. Unofficial voter turnout saw 694 ballots cast, including one spoiled ballot. And voter turnout was very low, usual for a by-election.

Parker has also promised to keep city spending in line. Something that aligns with the majority of council members, and Mayor Rick Chrest. Parker, who claims no party affiliation (but is clearly centre-right), now helps tilt the left-right balance around the council table towards to right. Former Riverview rep Vanessa Hamilton was an NDPer turned Liberal.

That will align nicely with the new Tory mega-majority provincial government on Broadway.

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You know, I just couldn’t bring myself to attend another annual State of the City address. I’ve been to the past 11, spanning three mayors, and the amount of newsworthy items to emerge from the speech were mere morsels in some very thin gruel.

That being said, Shari Decter Hirst offered some unintentional humour at times.And the year before I returned to Brandon in 2004, Dave Burgess made an impossible promise about air service that haunted him for years.

The speeches are presented at a Brandon Chamber of Commerce luncheon. I’m a member of the chamber (James O’Connor UNLIMITED, creative writing and photography services), and support the organization’s work wholeheartedly.

But take a look at one of my few tweets from last year’s SoC address:

Yawn city. Mayor Chrest simply doesn’t take any chances.

The city issued a media release about the event, which it states took place before 425 people.

Some excerpts from the release:

In his second State of the City Address hosted by the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest issued an open invite for leaders and residents from every corner of the community to band together and help build Team Brandon.

Part of that initiative will be a trip to the provincial capital.

It will be a busload of dedicated Brandon leaders and we will invade the Legislature en masse,” Mayor Chrest told the gathered audience. We expect to pre-arrange appointments with respective Ministers and the Premier, have a promotional booth in the lobby of the Legislature, and facilitate as many opportunities as we can to engage with MLAs of every stripe as well as senior bureaucrats. We will generally put Brandon on the map and make sure they know we are committed to working positively with government and that ‘Team Brandon’ is open for business in all facets of our community.”

Interesting that this comes shortly after Brandon — the province’s second largest city — had both its MLAs excluded from Premier Brian Pallister’s pared-down cabinet. I’ve been watching Question Period this week and believe that his quest for approaching gender parity resulted in a rookie female Westman MLA, Eileen Clarke (Agassiz) beating out MLA Reg Helwer (Brandon West), entering his second term.

Brandon gets a de facto rep in the form of a nice fella from Glenboro, Cliff Cullen, whose sprawling Spruce Woods constituency encircles Brandon.

But it’s not the same as having a Brandon rep at the cabinet table. Interestingly, the term ‘Team Brandon’ has historically been used to reference the city’s two MLAs — from whichever party — trying to steer the canoe in the same direction for key city projects. Usually, one of those MLAs would be a cabinet minister.

So I applaud Mayor Chrest’s initiative to make a little noise in the echoey halls of the Legislature.

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Speaking of the Legislature, the tone of the daily circus known as Question Period is decidedly different:

•    Speaker Myrna Driedger repeatedly gets called “Mister Speaker” instead of “Madame Speaker.” The last Speaker was male.

•    Interim NDP Leader Flor Marcelino is a complete joke. It’s embarrassing to watch her slowly reading her prepared questions and really perplexing watching her when she does go off script.

•    With many members from both Opposition parties being from Winnipeg’s inner-city, a lot of questions are about the realities of living in River City’s War Zone. That is refreshing to see. And a flip from when the Tories were in Opposition and most of their MLAs were from suburban Winnipeg or rural Manitoba.

•    Cindy Lamoureux, the rookie Liberal MLA from the northwest Winnipeg constituency of Burrows is presenting herself well. She clearly has learned a lot from her father, longtime Inkster MLA and current Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux.

•    But most importantly, Premier Pallister is looking very cool, capable and confident. He’s very comfortable in his new role and has managed to be polite to Marcelino, but taking her to school when appropriate. His handlers have framed his fixed position camera angle so he is surrounded by female MLAs and one of the party’s few visible minority MLAs. Good move for a caucus that really is filled with middle-aged white guys.

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Lastly, I came across a Brandon visitors guide booklet that features a full page ad on the back for the Sand Hills Casino south of Carberry. What a bloody humiliation for the Wheat City.

We had one rigged referendum three mayors ago that turned down a casino and held another when we didn’t have to for political reasons two mayors ago. That was also full of fear-mongering and misinformation and we lost a chance again to get the money-making enterprise. A simple vote of council was all that was needed the second time — a council with some guts, knowing that once a casino was up and running, the benefits would be clear.

The Sand Hills Casino isn’t faring that well. Geez, who would’ve thought that a casino in the middle of nowhere on a poorly maintained highway without a hotel attached would work? Even staff don’t want to commute there.

So now there are rumours floating around. Such as that Sand Hills will close and a new casino will be erected on land northwest of Highway 10 and the Trans-Canada. Plenty of hotels nearby, plenty of tourist traffic, and the city quietly built a service road to nowhere in the area a couple of years ago.

Other rumblings leave the Sand Hills Casino struggling along, with Brandon appealing directly to the new provincial government for a gaming centre, much like the Shark Club beside the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. That could go into a new development at the corner of Ninth Street and Princess Avenue downtown in a vacant block the city has been anxious to sell. It would spark plenty of action downtown.

Or a gaming centre could go on the strip of land at the southwest corner of the Keystone Centre, now that the NDP’s stupid refusal to support development there was made moot on April 19.

But seeing an ad in an official Brandon visitor’s guide to coax people to leave the city to gamble 30 minutes to the east just really underscored to me how some of our city’s leaders had their heads up their asses (sure, I could have said heads in the sand, but I didn’t) on this key economic development issue.

Let’s hope next year’s State of the City address has something positive to say about a casino or gaming centre.