21 Jan

Inquiry Yields Surprising Results

WINNIPEG – The Royal Commission on the Accuracy of Breathalyzer Equipment has come to the shocking conclusion that there was at least one fan in attendance at a Winnipeg Blue Bomber home game last season who was not legally inebriated.

The Commission was assembled days after the last home game of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 2010 season in response to a roadside stop outside CanadInns Stadium in which the accuracy of the breathalyzer equipment used by Winnipeg police was called into question.

After the game, as part of a routine check, Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) pulled over a fan leaving the parking lot in his vehicle and asked him to submit to a breathalyzer test. The result showed that the fan’s blood alcohol level was under the legal limit.

“We couldn’t believe it,” said a spokesman for the WPS. “We had him try two other machines and he still blew under the limit. We had never seen anyone leaving a Bomber game who wasn’t drunk before.”

Under questioning by the panel appointed by the Commission, the fan, Robert McKendry, a longtime Bomber season ticket holder awaiting a liver transplant, explained that he had just ordered a couple of more beers during the second quarter when his pager went off. Though he did not have to leave the stadium, he spent approximately three quarters of an hour on the phone with his employer.

When asked for the name of the government department he worked for, McKendry stated that he did not work for the government and worked in the private sector. The Commission subpoenaed bank records and income tax forms and spoke to a number of people with the Civil Service Commission as part of the subsequent investigation to verify his unusual story and confirmed that he, in fact, had not worked for the government.

Regarding his page, McKendry told the panel, “Those (expletive) buggers kept me on the phone ’till halftime. By that time, the beer lines were twenty-deep. But first, I had to take a whizz, you know.”

After waiting in line at the washroom for approximately fifteen minutes, McKendry explained that he proceeded immediately to the beer line. By that time, the third quarter had started and the line was short, but they had run out of beer and had to bring more from the other end of the stadium. When he was finally served, he attempted to get more than the two beers allowed, but despite his explanation of being tied up for such a long time, he could only order two beers at that time.

“I’m always three sheets to the wind by the third quarter, but I was just getting started. And they wouldn’t give me more to make up for the ones I didn’t get while I was on the (expletive) phone. A man can’t get pissed very fast on two (expletive) beers at a time.”

The Commission ultimately found that the amount of time McKendry spent with his employer on the phone and the extra time spent in the washroom and beer lines could have been a contributing factor in his lower than expected blood alcohol level.

In winding up their questioning, one member of the panel asked, “Who won?”

“Damned if I know. I was way too sober,” replied McKendry.

The Commission’s focus then shifted to the breathalyzer equipment and two different sets of experts were brought in from the U.S. to verify the accuracy of the units used by WPS on that day. Both experts found the equipment to be in working order.

“As a result, we have no choice but to conclude that Mr. McKendry was, in fact, not legally impaired at the time of the roadside breathalyzer check,” said a spokesman for the Commission.

“This just proves that we’re on the right track as far as providing a family-friendly atmosphere for our games,” said a spokesman for the Bombers during a press conference announcing another tax increase to help pay for some new players. “We expect these numbers to double, or even triple, once we move into our new stadium.”

13 Jan

The Bay’s Future

If you’ve been through the Bay in downtown Winnipeg recently and wondered what will eventually become of the store after its closure that seems inevitable, here’s a potential scenario that I can envision for the structure’s future:
Hudson’s Bay Company announces the closure of their store in downtown Winnipeg. Despite recent efforts to streamline operations and attract new business with the recent conversion of the lower level to a Zellers store, the lack of profitability has forced the company to close the landmark location that has stood as a Winnipeg icon for decades. Company officials expressed deep regret over the decision, but market pressures ultimately forced their hand. The company also announced that the building would be sold and hoped that the heritage structure can be preserved.
Six months later
HKR Developments of Toronto announces an agreement in principle with Hudson’s Bay Company to purchase the heritage building in downtown Winnipeg that formerly housed the Bay and Zellers store. At the press conference, representatives of HKR unveiled plans for to convert the top four floors of the building into a housing complex that would include lofts and upscale condominiums surrounding a courtyard with an Olympic size swimming pool and adjoining hot tub. HKR would maintain the skywalk access on the second level and open the first two levels up for retail shops and services that would include a small grocery store and restaurant. HKR said that the megaproject would be funded by private investors along with grants from the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba.
One month later
CentreVenture Development Corporation, an arms-length agency of the City of Winnipeg, announced its review of the plans that HKR Developments submitted for the redevelopment of the former Bay store. In an extensive interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, CentreVenture expressed its concerns over the preservation of the historic facade that faces Portage Avenue and Memorial Boulevard as well as the nature of the housing development. “A development such as this would not fit into the character of the downtown area,” said the spokesman. In addition, CentreVenture said they would discuss further issues such as availability for low-cost and student housing and the specific nature of the retail stores that would occupy the first two floors. “We want to be sure that the mix of retail shops properly reflects the multi-cultured ethnicity that defines Winnipeg,” said the spokesman. CentreVenture also wanted assurances from the developer that women and First Nations groups would be given preference in the tendering process for the proposed construction.
Two months later
After a meeting with CentreVenture’s board, HKR Developments announced the termination of their agreement with Hudson’s Bay Company over the purchase of the former Bay store in downtown Winnipeg, citing frustration over excessive bureaucracy and interference in the plans that would have made the redevelopment project unprofitable.
One day later
In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, the president of CentreVenture angrily denied HKR’s charges and said that the developer was simply “trying to make a fast buck” at the expense of the character and heritage of the downtown. “HKR’s proposal would have created an eyesore and so many groups within our vibrant core area would have been excluded that this project could not have been viable. We look forward to working with the other groups that have expressed interest in revitalizing the building.”
Three years later
After consulting with a team of engineers, the City of Winnipeg applies for a demolition permit for the building that once housed the former Bay store. Long abandoned by Hudson’s Bay Company after efforts to find a suitable buyer for the building and property had failed, the structure had fallen into disrepair and the City, having assumed ownership of the property for non-payment of taxes, had run out of money in its operating budget to pay for the necessary repairs to keep the building structurally sound.
Six months later
With the tendering process complete and the contractor on site to begin the demolition of the former Bay store in downtown Winnipeg, an advocacy group known as the Friends of the Bay storms the chain link fence surrounding the site and joins hands in a circle around one of the machines to stop the demolition while chanting, “Hey, hey, save the Bay”. CBC Manitoba is on hand covering the Friends’ story that makes national headlines.
The next day
Friends of the Bay files an injunction with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Winnipeg to stop demolition work on the former Bay store in downtown Winnipeg, arguing “irreparable harm to the character of the city” if the demolition is allowed to proceed. A temporary halt to the demolition work is ordered by the presiding judge.
Two weeks later
Legal representatives of Friends of the Bay argue their case in favor of an injunction to stop the demolition of the former Bay store in downtown Winnipeg. The presiding judge grants the injunction pending a more extensive review of the case.
One year later
With the review process for the injunction preventing demolition of the former Bay building in downtown Winnipeg bogged down in an endless chain of bureaucracy, the northwest corner of the building collapses during the afternoon rush hour. Several people are killed, a couple of hundred are injured, and extensive damage to the exterior of One Canada Center on the north side of Portage Avenue is reported. The cloud of dust that rose from the sudden collapse could be seen as far away as Steinbach and Portage la Prairie.
The next day
After touring the ruins of the collapsed structure, the Premier of Manitoba and the Mayor of the City of Winnipeg announced at a joint press conference that a Royal Commission on the Collapse of the Bay would soon be formed to “inquire into the cause and circumstance of the collapse of the former Bay store and make recommendations as to how to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future”.
05 Jan

Ode to Downtown Winnipeg

“Hey buddy, ya gotta smoke?”
Yells one of the indigent folk
Stretched out on his home for the day
A bench in a bus shelter for him to lay
In the boulevard is a bum holding a sign
He wants what’s in your wallet and mine
On it is a catchy slogan claiming poverty
He probably makes more than you or me
Over at the bus stop, punks are roaming free
As they conduct illegal commerce to stimulate the economy
In the open they deal drugs with no fear
They’ll just be arrested and released on a promise to appear
Seeking a break in the core while mingling
There’s nowhere worse than the Public Safety Building
If you‘re in trouble on the ground
Good Samaritans are nowhere to be found
That you can get away fast it can’t be said
Every block, a traffic light turns red
We’re told how much safer downtown is by the people in power
While they look down from their ivory tower
All sorts of publicity campaigns have been tried
The cesspool on the streets is something no propaganda can hide