Winnipeg--A city full of visionaries
The contempt spewed Tuesday by the Winnipeg Free Press towards its readers is unprecedented.
The newspaper declared that the city's rich and powerful are selfless visionaries and anyone (like Free Press readers) who opposes their projects is small minded, backwards, and basically envious of the intelligence, charm and good fortune of their superiors.
Anybody who tries to build something great in this city has to suffer the attacks of the rabble, sniffed millionaire David Asper to a luncheon of Winnipeg businessmen last week. It brought tears to the eyes of Free Press editor Margo Goodhand who wrote Tuesday that she had to watch poor David savaged by FP readers for calling for a mere 2 percent hike in provincial sales tax with the money going into a pot for, ahem, "legacy projects."
Like, perhaps, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, being spearheaded by David's sister and fellow millionaire, Gail... "We don't build projects of this size and scope in Winnipeg," gloried Goodhand.
You could hear her screaming between the lines at Winnipegers: What's wrong with you people?
After trashing the opinions of readers who responded negatively to David Asper's paean to higher taxes, she lamented:
"This city was once home to some of the biggest dreamers and boldest visionaries on the continent."
Well, it still is---if only the Winnipeg Free Press would listen to the citizens and not the millionaires.
The people have a vision of Winnipeg that's radically different from the visionairies'.
They envision a city where you can drive the streets safely in the springtime without running across potholes the size of compact cars. They express this vision every year, and are ignored.
They envision a city where you can sit outside in the too-short summer months without being eaten alive by mosquitoes. But the city prefers to cater to a handful of anti-malathion lunatics who would rather expose your children to West Nile Virus.
They envision a city without ugly graffiti marring their neighbourhoods.
They envision a city where their pre-teen daughters can walk to school without running a gauntlet of men trolling for prostitutes.
They envision a city where they can get the same level of policing as Lloyd Axworthy, the friend of millionaires. When someone wrote a threat on a bathroom wall at the University of Winnipeg, he got round-the-clock police presence for a week; when Northenders complain about known crack houses, they get excuses about a lack of resources.
They envision a city where the poor get the same police protection as the rich, where break-ins to detached garages are given the same attention as break-ins to attached garages; where theft of their meagre belongings are investigated as thoroughly as thefts on Wellington Crescent.
They envision a city where their children can play outside without being bullied, where they don't run the risk of being shot in a drive-by, where they won't witness someone killed in front of them.
They envision a city where the garbage bins are emptied before they overflow into the back lanes and where abandoned mattresses, televisions, chairs, and other items are picked up promptly before they become neighbourhood eyesores.
They envision a city where people live their lives without fear and intimidation from criminals, drug dealers, and gangs.
They envision a city where their hard-earned tax dollars are spent to make their lives better, and not taken from them to give to millionaires who need hobby projects to keep themselves busy.
The Free Press attack on its readers was its official reaction to the revelation last week that the CMHR was hopelessly over-budget, $45 million already at the start of constructions with no end in sight. Gail Asper, the museum's chief fundraiser, met privately with the FP editorial board before the budget overrun was announced to get them onside.
"Asper was relatively sanguine about reports the museum will need another $45 million to get built. "We'll just have to keep on fundraising," she said."
Sanguine means cheerful and optimistic. And why not? She knows, as does everybody in Winnipeg, that any shortfall will be picked up by the taxpayers. They, in turn, will be told there's no money in the budget for their priorities.
In Tuesday's paper, the FP announced the latest news regarding another millionaires' pet project, the Upper Fort Garry park for the Manitoba Club.
Manitoba Premier Gary Doer, Gail Asper's sugar daddy, grinned as he told reporters he had just committed another million dollars to the project. Just like that.
No discussion. No debate in the Legislature. No accounting in the budget.
He just decided to give away scarce money to the millionaires.
"...even the biggest dreamers can lose faith and move on." wept Margo Goodhand in the newspaper.
Oh, boo hoo hoo. Isn't that the way of all panhandlers? If they can't get money on this corner, they take their filthy baseball cap to another corner.
What's the threat? That David Asper will leave Winnipeg? He already has! He bought the fourth most expensive house in Toronto in 2006. Then he bought a temporary stopover hideaway for his visits of Winnipeg, a 6,900 square foot house in Tuxedo.
No wonder he needs to tap into Manitoba sales tax revenue.
"These days," wrote Margo,"when the city seems full of people who think small, my money's on Gail Asper. She knows about the power of hope."
No Margo, she doesn't. She knows the power of arrogance and entitlement.
It's the citizens of Winnipeg, who pay her way, who know the power of hope.
Despite being treated like dirt by the politicians who pick their pockets whenever the millionaires cry out that their pet projects are running out of money, the small people still cling to the hope that things will change.
When they stop....watch out.