Housekeeper ads illustrated insecurity of pre-Sixties life

A few evenings ago, following a casual discussion at a social event, I went looking for archival newspaper articles about “Rooster Town”, a neighbourhood of shacks on the south side of Winnipeg that was cleared away in the Fifties to make way for Grant Park High School, the adjacent athletic grounds, and eventually Pan Am Pool.

As fascinating as the story was, my eye was soon caught by another story, accompanied by a picture of a young woman in hospital with a bandage around her head. Above the photo, a caption: “Why Was She Shot?” Below it, the headline: “Just Like Dream, Says Gun Victim”.

The gun victim was 23-year-old Analise Zahn, who arrived in Canada in October, 1951 after escaping from East Germany to West Berlin, and then emigrating to Canada where she found work as a housekeeper in the Averbach household on Bredin Drive in East Kildonan.

On the evening of Dec. 17, barely two months after arriving in Canada and knowing few people here, a .22-calibre bullet entered the house through a basement window and struck the side of her head while she was doing the ironing. Not knowing the source of her injury, it wasn’t until she was eventually taken to St. Boniface Hospital that she realized that she had been shot.

The only hints as to how she might have come to be shot: her own recollection of a dark sedan driving slowly past the home about 20 minutes before the incident, and unconfirmed reports that two rifle shells were found in the back lane.

After those initial reports were published, the story went dead. Neither the newspapers nor Google yield any information into Analise’s fate.

A newspaper search for the address, though, yields something a little more interesting. The Averbachs regularly advertised in the Winnipeg Free Press for a domestic: at least twice during 1950, twice more in 1951, regularly every subsequent year through 1955, and for one last time in 1957.

One of those ads was placed on Jan. 21, 1952, just a month after Analise was shot: “Reliable girl for housework in lovely new home, all electric appliances, private room and radio, no cooking, liberal free time. Ph. 501 842, 330 Bredin Dr.”

Clearly, Analise had moved on.

Looking through the same classified ads, there was obviously an active market in 1952 for domestics.

Some advertisers only needed part-time help, such as one River Heights resident who was looking for a “reliable woman to take charge of evening meal, 3 to 7 Mon. through Fri.”

Others wanted someone who would be present around the clock, such as this advertiser: “Young married couple. Both working, living in new modern home, 1 child, need preferably middle aged woman to live in.” Another ad reads, “Reliable girl for light housework, 1 child, small home, must sleep in [employer’s residence].”

To some degree, would-be employers competed with each other to make their homes seem more attractive than others, using terms like “liberal free time”, “no waxing”, “no cooking” or “top wages” to differentiate themselves.

A surprising number of advertisers also added conditions such as “must be plain cook”, which speaks volumes to Canadians’ love for flavourless food in those days. Others promoted themselves as providing “a good home”, suggesting in some cases that the employers intended to take on a semi-parental role.

By the early Fifties, addresses, where given, tended to be in the suburbs. In earlier years, however, housekeepers were common even in what would now be considered as more modest parts of town, illustrating the changes in Winnipeg neighbourhoods over the decades.

“Wanted. General Servant,” read one ad published in June 1917, directing applicants to a neighbourhood that now has a sketchy reputation. “One willing to go to Winnipeg Beach. Apply 228 Spence.”

Another, the same day, directed applicants to a thoroughly middle class St. Boniface neighbourhood: “Girl wanted. Small family. $20 month. 68 Monk [sic] Ave., Norwood.”

Even after a century of inflation, this wage would still only be equivalent to $335 per month in 2018.

Some employers had unique needs. One advertiser in April 1920 sought a “refined woman in small home as companion, and for light housekeeping” for a family of two on Rosedale Ave. in Fort Rouge, promising “Sundays and most evenings free.” A year before, another advertiser claiming to be a widower was specifically looking for a “homely housekeeper, about 34”.

Some advertisements highlighted the city’s social tensions. One blunt advertisement published in March 1917 read, “Wanted, woman to wash every Monday; no foreigners need apply. 34 Middlegate, Armstrong’s Point.”

Yet others perhaps accidentally highlighted the vulnerability of the young women who took these jobs. “Schoolgirl will give services in return for board, room and slight remuneration,” reads one published in August 1929. “Danish housekeeper with baby, wants position, home more than wages,” read another slightly desperate advertisement placed in August 1916. “Elderly widow wishes a situation as housekeeper to widower or bachelor,” reads a third ad placed in April 1922.

These advertisements reveal a truth about the past: many of the women who worked as domestics in Winnipeg did so for lack of better options.

Some were teenagers living apart from their families for the first time, and needed some way — even if a risky way — of avoiding homelessness. Others were single mothers or elderly women with little to nothing in terms of a social safety net to resort to.

Once a stronger social safety net reduced the kind of desperation that pushed women toward domestic service, cheaper household appliances rendered human servants uneconomically expensive, and Canadians became accustomed to low-density suburban living and the additional privacy it offered, the era of keeping a servant around the house came to an end for all but the wealthiest of families.

Below, you can read some of the ads that appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press in Nov. 1920. These offer rich insights into the insecurity that many women faced in the era as well as into the ethnic and religious hierarchies of the time.

Here to there and there to here

Statistics Canada has long been in the habit of releasing annual interprovincial net migration numbers, which never fails to stir up a bit of debate here in Manitoba because we — like several smaller provinces — almost annually see more people move out to other provinces than move in from them.

If we’ve long known where provinces stand in relation to one another, the same hasn’t been true for cities. Only recently did Statistics Canada release its first data on movement between the nation’s cities — this coming to my attention only after reading the Worthwhile Canadian Initiative blog’s analysis of the patterns.

What does Statistics Canada’s numbers say about Winnipeg? To no one’s surprise, the majority of Winnipeg’s domestic newcomers in 2014-15 — 57 percent — came from other parts of Manitoba. Meanwhile, 41 percent of those who left Winnipeg, but not the country, also stayed within Manitoba.

English-speaking Canada’s five big metropolitan areas — specifically, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa — were the next largest sources of both domestic newcomers and leavers, collectively accounting for 17 percent of those who moved to Winnipeg and one-third (32%) of those who moved away from the city. Rural and smaller cities and towns in the western provinces and Ontario collectively accounted for little more than one-in-ten newcomers and leavers.

The flow to and from more distant parts of Canada was distinctly thinner. Fewer than two percent of those who moved out in 2014-15 ended up in either Quebec or Nova Scotia, while the other East Coast provinces and the northern territories only drew tiny numbers of Winnipeggers.

Indeed, across Canada there was a distinct pattern whereby those who left their communities either stayed within their provinces, or moved to Alberta or B.C., or to a lesser extent moved to the closest convenient province, eschewing more distant ones.

For instance, of those who left Thunder Bay, Ont. in 2014-15 — a city facing a bleak future — 69 percent remained within Ontario, while the only other provinces to capture five percent or more of leavers were Manitoba (5%), B.C. (9%) and Alberta (11%). A similar pattern could be seen in Halifax, where there was a strong preference for Ontario (27%, identical to the percentage of Halifax-leavers who moved to other parts of N.S.), with only Alberta (18%), B.C. (7%) and New Brunswick (7%) cracking the five-percent mark. (Newfoundland and Labrador, however, came close at 4.7 percent).

The same pattern of staying as close to home as possible unless a truly compelling economic, educational or retirement opportunity beckons shows on the arrivals side. Of domestic migrants who arrived in Winnipeg in 2014-15, for example, 57 percent were moving within the province as noted above, while nearly one-half of those who arrived from another province came from either Ontario (38% of those arriving from outside of Manitoba) or Saskatchewan (11%). Almost all of the remainder came from within western Canada: 22 percent from Alberta and 16 percent from B.C.

The strong pull of the Big Five cities, compared to the inconsequential effect of the country’s secondary cities, illustrates the former’s importance in Canada’s future. But ultimately the most important markets for each of Canada’s cities, in terms of the ebb and flow of citizens, are their own hinterlands.

25 minutes with Jim Adelson

As 1967 ended and 1968 began, television in Winnipeg was limited to what little viewers could receive over-the-air: the two local CBC and CTV stations, Radio-Canada’s French-language station, and a weak signal from a U.S. border station in North Dakota.

But in the summer of 1968, Winnipeggers’ television choices expanded dramatically. A group of businessmen erected TV antennas near the Minnesota border, and relayed three new U.S. TV signals back to Winnipeg via an intercity microwave link to provide content for Winnipeg’s two new cable TV systems: Videon in the western half of the city, Greater Winnipeg Cablevision in the east.

As viewers became familiar with the new offerings — NBC affiliate WDAZ, ABC affiliate KTHI and CBS affiliate KXJB, all from North Dakota — they also became familiar with the local personalities on those stations, who soon became as well-known in Winnipeg as they were south of the border.

One of those personalities was Jim Adelson, KXJB’s affable sports director and program host, who was a familiar face to a generation of Winnipeggers who watched the station’s channel 4 signal from the introduction of cable TV in 1968 until it was dropped from the lineup in 1986, when more reliable satellite signals from Detroit came available.

Last year, Adelson — now in his late eighties and long since retired to Arizona — visited Fargo and KXJB to reminisce on the station’s 60th anniversary. In a 25-minute interview that might bring back memories for Winnipeggers who remember the days when KXJB had a large audience in this city, Adelson shows that he remains a good story-teller.


Click on image to open video in a new tab. (Might take a moment to begin.)


On dealing with controversy:

“I did the live studio wrestling, and that was a kick. I mean, people would come in and sit around the ring and the wrestlers would put on a show.”

“My favourite was . . . I can’t think of his name now, but he was the bad guy and he wore a swastika . . . So we got some boos and I was in the ring with him, and a couple of months later, my boss gets a letter . . . ‘How can you let Jim Adelson, a Jewish boy, stand in the ring with that terrible Nazi-looking guy.’ So the boss calls me in, and, I don’t know, I’ll call him.”

“I called the office and got Vern’s buddy, his assistant, and he started laughing. I said, ‘What’s so funny about this? The boss is madder than hell, you know!’ He said, ‘Do you know what the guy’s name is really? Jerry Goldberg — he’s one of your boys!’ I said, ‘Huh?!’ So, I went and talked to the boss, and he said, ‘Oh, forget it . . .'”.

On the risks of live programming:

“I did a half-hour talk show at 5:30 . . . you could call and visit. And we had a blizzard. It lasted for about three days, and I was stuck out there, and that was the one communication people had. As a matter of fact, I was doing a show and a kid called and said, ‘Say, I’m at the Westward Ho in Grand Forks. I’m single, and I’m looking for a girlfriend to get through this blizzard with me. Have them call room such-and-such!’ Live on television. I said, ‘I’ll try.'”


Too many beds, too few bums?

The former Carlton Inn, with the Winnipeg Convention Centre visible in the background. (Source: Google Maps)

The former Carlton Inn, with the Winnipeg Convention Centre visible in the background. (Source: Google Maps)

When CentreVenture Development Corp. bought out the Carlton Inn in downtown Winnipeg in 2013, it was expected that the lacklustre property would be demolished and replaced by a “signature hotel” of up to 300 rooms around the end of 2016.

As 2015 gets under way, there is little more than a vacant lot where the Carlton Inn once stood, adjacent to the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg, which is in the midst of a major expansion — and no specific plans for what should be built on that lot.

As the Winnipeg Free Press noted Saturday, construction of such a hotel would be expected to take two and a half years, meaning that the original target of a late-2016 opening will be overshot by at least a year.

Yet, as political pressure increases to “get the job done”, care must also be taken to step back and consider what the effect of adding, say, a 300-room hotel to the Winnipeg market might mean to the overall health of the local hospitality industry.

In a 2014-15 industry outlook released last September by PKF Consulting Canada, which specializes in analysis of the hospitality and tourism industries, it was noted that the Winnipeg market is expected to have the lowest average per-night guestroom revenues in 2015 among the 13 major Canadian markets examined: $76 per room-night, 20 percent lower than the Western Canada forecast of $95 per room-night.

This calculation, known in the hotel industry as revenue per available room, or RevPAR, is based on dividing the total revenues extracted from the renting out of a hotel’s rooms on a given (or average) night by the number of rooms available for rental, regardless of whether or not those rooms were occupied. It is a basic measurement of a property’s health and productivity, but it does not include revenues from out-of-room services such as restaurants.

With occupancy rates expected to average out to about 60 percent, Winnipeg is also expected to have the lowest percentage of occupied rooms over the course of 2015 among the 13 markets examined in the report.

This news sends a signal to hoteliers that, compared to other large Canadian cities, Winnipeg is not hungering for new hotel capacity.

Indeed, the expansion of the Convention Centre could be seen as justification for the hotel industry to sit on its hands instead of adding additional rooms, hoping that more visitors will push occupancy rates up five or ten percentage points, bringing fatter profits for all and putting smaller players like The Marlborough in a better position to invest in upgrades. Then, if Winnipeg’s average occupancy rates start to hit 70 percent or revenues exceed $100 per room-night, then the industry could start questioning whether there’s a shortage of rooms at peak times.

Alternately, we could go ahead and build a large hotel next to the Convention Centre, adding perhaps 100,000 annual room-nights to the Winnipeg hotel market. The construction would be good for some: for the Convention Centre certainly, as well as for the tradespeople needed to undertake such a grand project. But if new visitors don’t come to Winnipeg with the same alacrity, there is a risk that adding so many hotel rooms could cause occupancy rates and average revenues per room-night to fall even further. That could leave Winnipeg’s hotel market looking downright sickly.

No city for old men

Normally, Saturday night is this blogger’s Dinner at the Pub night, but the city’s extreme-cold warning — an air temperature of -28°C, with a northwest wind producing a wind chill of -38°C (-36°F) at 8 p.m. — and the beeping of snow-clearing vehicles in the dark outside can destroy the resolution of even the hardiest Winnipegger to venture outdoors if you’ve got all that you need indoors.

Naturally, one’s thoughts venture toward such things as “Whatever possessed humans to live in such a place?” and “If we were truly free to choose where we live — no employment considerations, no family considerations — would this be the place?”

So, with time on my hands, I decided to do a bit of sleuthing to figure out how Winnipeg compares to other cities in terms of holding on to its 55-to-69 year olds: people who are old enough to retire (or take early retirement) and move elsewhere without being hindered too much by employment, family or health limitations.

The chart below, based on Statistics Canada population data, shows the net number of 55-to-69 year old interprovincial migrants in 2012-13 for every 1,000 55-to-69 year olds living in each metropolitan area as of July 1, 2012. Indeed, the hideously cold prairie cities saw the highest rate of outmigration to other provinces: Winnipeg’s rate of -2.8 per thousand was slightly higher than Saskatoon’s -2.5 per 1,000 but somewhat lower than Regina’s -4.5 per thousand. (Saint John, New Brunswick, once ignominiously listed as one of the Top 8 worst places to move to in Canada, also had a fairly high defection rate despite its more coastal setting.)

Many Ontario and Quebec cities also finish on the negative side of the chart, with outmigration rates to other provinces of -0.1 to -1.4 per thousand. Perhaps surprisingly, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières, Que. drew in slightly more 55-to-69 year olds from other provinces than they lost. Though Moncton, Calgary and Edmonton attracted more people than they lost from this age group, Victoria and Kelowna remain the strongest draws for retirement-aged Canadians, with net inflows of +3.7 and +6.9 per thousand respectively.

No city for old men

Source: Statistics Canada CANSIM tables 051-0056 and 051-0057. Click to enlarge.


But don’t feel too bad for Winnipeg. A net outflow of Winnipeggers aged 55 to 69 years could have some perverse benefits for Manitoba’s health care system. As British prime minister David Cameron made a recent pledge to crack down on Europeans migrating to the U.K. allegedly to take advantage of British health care and social services, Spain was reported to have its own problems with British retirees, which they have some obligation to provide care for under the terms of the European Union, placing a burden on their health care system. Like those British pensioners who have traded in life in Old Blighty for one on the Costa Blanca, migrating Winnipeg retirees could also take a bit of pressure off of Manitoba’s hospitals and nursing homes — but at a cost to our western neighbours.

Winnipeg mayoral and council candidates describe their “Ideal City”

Reminder: Candidates who have not yet responded, but wish to do so, are welcome to send in comments prior to Election Day. New comments will be added at the earliest opportunity.

(Oct. 19 update: Hennessey)

(Oct. 8 update, 8:28 p.m.: Stiller)

(Oct. 6 updates to 5:05 p.m.: Churchill, Havixbeck, Hennessey, Jonasson, Borden, Wasylycia-Leis, Quaye, Metcalfe, Comstock)

On Oct. 22, Winnipeggers will elect a new mayor and city council, who will collectively set the direction our city will take for the next four years.

As a public service, I sent the following e-mail on Sept. 21 to all but two mayoral and council candidates. In one case, no e-mail address was available for the candidate, so I sent the message care of the agent as the next best option. In another case, both listed e-mails bounced, so I sent the invitation to the campaign office by post on Sept. 22.

Hi _____: 

I write a blog here in Winnipeg called The View from Seven ( It normally receives about 70 hits per day, sometimes more when there is a new post, and reaches people locally who are interested in politics and current affairs, directly and via Google. You might have also seen commentaries reprinted from time to time in the Winnipeg Free Press’s Sunday Xtra.

I am preparing to write a post which would allow all 2014 city council candidates to answer the following two questions in their own words: “Which city other than Winnipeg, anywhere in the world, comes closest to being the ideal city? Why?”

The purpose of these questions is to get a better sense of how candidates visualize “the ideal city” in their own minds — a relevant question given that the new city council will determine the direction this city takes over the next four years. Therefore, I do ask that all who respond please specify a city other than Winnipeg, and a rationale for their choice.

Responses will be published with little or no editing. Responses will be presented by electoral ward (or under the “Mayor” heading in the case of mayoral candidates), and sorted randomly. Where candidates have chosen not to respond, that will be noted as well.

Sunday, Oct. 5 is the target date for publishing this post, so I do ask that all responses be submitted by e-mail to no later than 6 p.m. on that date.

Thank you in advance, and all the best.

Kevin McDougald
Creator of “The View from Seven” blog, Winnipeg

Some candidates responded with impressively detailed and thoughtful responses, a couple didn’t really answer the question at all, and some have yet to respond. Space will be made available for late arrivals — but, like those who have already generously taken the time to respond, I ask that any further respondents please stick to answering the question at hand, and avoid taking shots at others.

I invite you to read the comments made by those mayoral and council candidates who have responded, and consider the extent to which each candidate’s view of “the ideal city” matches your own as you prepare to vote. And don’t forget to bookmark this page so that you can check again regularly for updates.

Thank you kindly to all candidates who responded.

Mayor of Winnipeg

David Sanders: No response as of Oct. 5

Paula Havixbeck: Is planning to respond as of Oct. 6.

Michel Fillion: Stockholm, Sweden Why? Like Winnipeg, this city enjoys the four seasons, visually and recreationally. It definitely shows cleanliness, respect for the past, aiming towards the future with technology. This city clearly paints itself as a city where citizens can thrive in an essence of enjoyment. ” To live, to work, to play ” is their hidden motto.

Robert-Falcon Ouellette: No response as of Oct. 5

Gord Steeves: No response as of Oct. 5

Brian Bowman: Campaign staff member wrote in response, “Thank you for providing Brian the opportunity to participate. I¹ve sent your questions on to him for response.” No further response as of Oct. 5

Judy Wasylycia-Leis: The ideal city is where poverty rates are low and quality of life high, with decent roads but also good public transit and active transportation infrastructure. The ideal city also has lots of opportunities for young people and a thriving arts scene. Lastly, it’s critical that an ideal city have an open, transparent government that uses taxpayers’ money effectively.

There are many cities in Canada and the U.S. that meet some or all of these criteria, but I decided to use Seattle as an example of a city that comes pretty close to being “ideal” based on these criteria. Poverty rates are relatively low. It has a great local arts, music and theatre scene and is highly ranked among North American cities for quality of life and business and career opportunities. Seattle is also well known for its extensive bus active transit systems and it has been working to increase cycling and active transit ridership, including overhauling its cycling master plan that calls for 474 miles of new or improved bike routes. Much of this is due to a progressive city government, which posts its data online and has been recognized for taking advantage of the internet to promote public participation along with more traditional civic participation methods.

No city is without its flaws, but I think Winnipeg could one day be a city that others aspire to emulate (even with our winters). We already have fantastic local arts, culture, and sports, and with new attractions like Journey to Churchill and the CMHR opening, we’re well positioned to increase our position as a tourist destination. What we need now is a progressive, forward-thinking, accountable city government with a vision to make Winnipeg even better. That means better infrastructure, including bike paths as well as roads; better services like public transit as well as snow removal, water and waste; and better opportunities, especially for young people. It also means a government that answers to the people of Winnipeg, rather than just to a few developers with high-placed friends. That’s why I have made these the core issues of my campaign over the past several months, as the basis of my vision for Winnipeg as A City That Works.


Evan Duncan: No response as of Oct. 5

Luc Lewandoski: No response as of Oct. 5

Marty Morantz: No response as of Oct. 5

Nadine Stiller: I think Calgary is an example of an ideal city because Mayor Nenshi is an exceptionally good Mayor and a politician who demonstrates integrity.  His leadership was outstanding during the flood crisis and was exactly what the citizens of Calgary needed to see itself through.  Also, Calgary is prosperous, has good infrastructure, public transportation and roads, and is home to and attracts industry and business.

Kevin Nichols: Cities are like cars, every one of them has their own unique issues. While some may be very luxurious, they can be expensive to repair. Some run great but look terrible, and yet others suffer from endless problems.

My ideal city, one with a low crime rate as well as opportunities for employment and growth. One that is clean with plenty of green space. A city that is easy to travel from one end to the other. A city where recreational facilities are placed to obtain the best location without infringing on others.

I can honestly say I have not travelled extensively to answer this question with first hand knowledge. So the city that comes closest to what you are looking for in an ideal city would be Sioux Falls South Dakota. This city was clean, very few infrastructure repairs being done or needing to be done. Recreational facilities were easy to get to for any visitor, and there were plenty of employment opportunities to be had. This is my ideal city.

Daniel McIntyre

Harvey Smith: No response as of Oct. 5

Dave Donaldson: No response as of Oct. 5

Keith Bellamy: No response as of Oct. 5

Godwin Smith: No response as of Oct. 5

Cindy Gilroy: No response as of Oct. 5

John Cardoso: No response as of Oct. 5

Elmwood-East Kildonan

Jason Cumming: No response as of Oct. 5

Paul Quaye: An ideal is tough to be embodied in one city and would be more of an amalgam of many good ideas, practices and policies from many cities. For instance, I could say something like New York or San Francisco for reasons of critical mass or density of people to drive efficiencies of scale in many areas of infrastructure and transit as well as cultural centres and “must visit” areas that drive tourism. I could say Calgary or Vancouver as Canadian examples of progressive development with a dash of geographical luck. Others may include Quebec City for embracing their cold weather nature, many European cities (which I have unfortunately not visited as yet) for preserving their history and integrating it into their daily lives, and even small to mid sized cities across the US Northern Midwest (Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana) and Canadian Prairies for sheer perseverance.

My thought is that we should take these examples best practices and apply them to Winnipeg. Some things are out of our control like geography, as we are not a coastal city or in proximity to the mountains, but we can be the best Winnipeg we can be in shaping things that work elsewhere and adapt them to our circumstances.

Hope this answers the question to a degree. Not the direct single city answer, but no one place is perfect even in my opinion.

Thomas Steen: No response as of Oct. 5

Jason Schreyer: No response as of Oct. 5

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry

Norm Miller: No response as of Oct. 5

Jenny Gerbasi: My choice is New York City. It is a high density, vibrant, diverse city with extensive mass transit, infrastructure for active transportation and gorgeous public spaces.

Recent efforts in enhancing “placemaking” have made their many districts/neighbourhoods even better places to enjoy with more public art, improved pedestrian environment..essentially making more space for people to enjoy the city and their lives by transforming wide streets to include seating, bike paths, microbusinesses and plantings. There is a rich cultural and creative life there which is also essential to an interesting and quality city.

Shane Nestruck: First let me say I have travelled widely in N. America and even in China, but I will have to limit my answer to the cities I am familiar with that have something in common with Winnipeg and from which we can learn. So I choose to suggest Montreal. Not for what it is but for what we can learn from it.

I grew up in Montreal and left there at the age of 30 (1978) having spent my youth playing music in every corner of that city with many of the cultures in that city.

Now it needs to be emphasized that Montreal is one of the architecturally most beautiful cities in N. America. This is partly due to the heritage provided by the Roman Catholic Church that chose to replicate many of the famous churches in Europe in the city. Also early in its modern history there was a serious respect for the historical value of ‘Old Montreal’.

Then there is the spectacular Mt Royal that is one of the greatest urban green spaces on the whole continent.

Of course there is the ATTITUDE that remains from the 350 years of competition with New York City to be the ‘Gateway to the Continent’. Yes NYC eventually had the Erie Canal that connected it to the Great Lakes but Montreal had the Lachine Canal ( named after one of the early fur trade ‘promoters’, La Salle, who suggested that the St. Lawrence would lead to China!) and then there was the St. Lawrence Seaway which (to my knowledge) was the last big attempt at outdoing NYC.

So I grew up in a particularly wonderful city but during my youth, life in cities changed, cars clogged the highways and roads and Montreal was ‘Traffic Hell’, a car-culture city that was destined to be consumed by its success and growth. For my whole youth the city was the site of construction failures as engineers and city planners tried every thing to alleviate the traffic gridlock… They even built a miles long ‘canal’, below grade, for a super highway that was projected to solve the problems but which , as happens in every such situation, only encouraged more cars…. The history of the 401 in Toronto and the subsequent failure of the 407 are common knowledge to eastern Canadians and to the populations of the eastern U.S…. But, nevertheless, Montreal tried those ‘failed’ concepts.

And here is WHY I chose Montreal: Then, at about the same time that Mayor Juba was promoting a monorail in Winnipeg, in Montreal a somewhat corrupt Mayor saw an opportunity to be seen in history as the saviour of the city. Using the ‘deadline of the 1967 Worlds Fair and Canada’s hundredth anniversary he managed to coordinate the forces in Montreal to build a subway. But not just a subway… a world class subway. Today, Montreal, a city whose existence was threatened by the automobile and ‘eternal road building’ has become the best city in N. America in which to bicycle, and the best city in N. America to live… because it has survived the threat and moved on into the future.

Since Mayor Drapeau, corruption has continued, maybe worsened, but the life of the city and the lives of the people there continue to be driven by an optimism that is reflected in the fact their city has a future, has survived the cancer that destroys N. American cities and can continue to thrive. No, not because it is the ‘Paris of N. America’, not because it has such historical, cultural and architectural beauty, not because it has such wonderful green spaces, but I chose Montreal because it somehow had the instincts, or is that political leadership, to survive the cancer of the car and again become a place to live.

Today Winnipeg is in the exact same ‘political swamp of ignorance’, ‘political bog of cronyism’, ‘political morass of corrupted values and shallow short-term thinking’ as Montreal was in the ‘60s. The only question is will Winnipeg survive this Dark Age of Political Leaderless Myopia!


Ross Eadie: No response as of Oct. 5

Trevor Mueller: Our modern working city will have:

Open and Transparent Government with recorded voting
Newsletters on what Mayor and council is doing and voting on
Roads we can drive on and don’t need continuous repair
Public transit that is safe and efficient for the entire city
24 hour drop in centers for youths
Every neighborhood that is safe
Clean water we drink and use

Dave Capar: No response as of Oct. 5

Greg Littlejohn: No response as of Oct. 5


North Kildonan

Evan Comstock: The most ideal city that I have been to is Kyoto, Japan.

Their sense of culture and community is shown in the many large festivals and multi-generation homes where neighbourhoods grow-up together.
Kyoto for tourists is known for its temples and shrines, art galleries, universities, mountains and forests.  The history is amazing from the Imperial Palace to the Budokan.
Their downtown is filled with pristine malls and world class shopping, with several department stores I can imagine the Bay being like in its conception. People dress like I image they do in Paris, and I always felt that my clothes were dated.
Kyoto has recently upgraded its water ways and created a restaurant district that places patios over looking the river.   There are other older well lit neighbourhoods where small waterways, cobblestone walkways are filled with unique shops and quaint restaurants.  Great places for a date, day or night. My favorite places serve what is called ‘Yakiniku’  where each table has a grill and you can cook your own food.
 Crime is extremely low, maybe the lowest in the world?
I think the most appealing factor is the flow between people and their relationships.  People worked extremely hard to create the best atmosphere possible.  There could never be an unhappy customer, and the people working go out of their way to help-not for tips, but for the integrity of their workplace.
I also loved the arcades!

Jeff Browaty: No response as of Oct. 5

Andrew Podolecki: No response as of Oct. 5

Old Kildonan

Donovan Martin: Responded by e-mail, “Thank you for reaching out. I would love to participate. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Looking forward to reading your blog.” No further response as of Oct. 5

Devi Sharma: No response as of Oct. 5

Suzanne Hrynyk: No response as of Oct. 5

Point Douglas

Anthony Ramos: No response as of Oct. 5

Dale White: I have not travelled too much but Saskatoon is my ideal. The road system is such that it easy to get around the city, It has beautiful trees like Winnipeg and the people are seemingly always positive and hopeful for the future. Winnipeg is very similar but still lacks the positivity and confidence. There is less negativity in Winnipeg than there was before but still too many people criticize every effort at making the City a better place. One of my campaign slogans: Imagine-a Better City!

Mike Pagtakhan: No response as of Oct. 5

Anne Thompson: Thank you for this platform. I pray you the strength to please forgive me as I am unable to answer the questions as written if I am to respond to the stated purpose.

I am one of those outside-of-the-box-still-inside-the-circle-of-Love-while-reaching-for-the-Light-of-Truth-type of person. My daughter says I need to learn to ‘talk young’, so here goes: Want truth? Talk to me. Everything else following this is just ideas with details.

I have yet to see the ‘ideal’ city although I have traveled as far East as Vatican City, as far North as Great Bear Lake, as far South as Guatemala, and as far West as Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. I am aware of physical neighbourhood features as well as other city qualities I believe would enhance our lives if added to what exists here.

The Ideal City Municipal Code keeps distance between matters of state and matters of faith to assure no extremist religious penchant. Ideal City also has in place policies and procedures based on agreed to principles and values – applicable to all Ideal City employees, including senior executives – that would ensure everyone knows what to do, why they’re to do it, and how to do it; that ensures everyone receives support to make them successful in their respective jobs; that ensures everyone follows through and is accountable for meeting their performance expectations and obligations. Much in the manner in which a successful company or corporation is financially structured, Ideal City’s financial responsibilities would focus to benefit primarily the shareholders, secondarily the customers, next the employees, then lastly, the general public.

Shareholders are defined as municipal taxpayers who are Ideal City residents (similar requirements as Manitoba Health), and the Ecosystem – both equal in whole or part; customers are the purchasers of Ideal City products and services (so a fee-payer is owed a service, just as a road toll payer is owed good condition well-kept roads on which to travel for getting to work/recreation/other after coming onto Ideal City roads from other municipal communities); employees are any person directly or through contract employed by the Ideal City; and the general public is everybody else, for example: non-resident municipal taxpayers (to discourage over-empowering absentee landowners), non-taxpaying municipal residents (such as, but not limited to students, temporary workers), the travelling public (through traffic), tourists.

Manitoba is a world leader in a technology that takes heat from frozen ground at low cost that Ideal City uses to the fullest extent of its citizens’ imagination, including having so-called ‘geothermal coil sinks’ from which neighbouring buildings – residential/commercial – draw upon for their heating and cooling needs. This renewable resource uses scant amount of electrical power that is drawn from the buildings’ own independent clean energy generators.

Food security is also more assured because geothermal-, hydroponic-, aquaculture-, and vermiculture technologies and processes are combined within a variety of urban buildings dedicated to waste reclamation and food production.

These municipally owned and operated industries, strategically situated throughout the city, offer bags and bags of worm castings and inert soil conditioning for sale in large indoor warehouse-style public markets alongside copious amounts of vegetables and fruit and fish raised there.

Ideal City actually adds to its treasury by processing its residents’ trash. The markets also offers neighbourhood meeting places, with independent restaurants and cafés dotting the area mixed in with crafters and artisans of all types and classes selling their wares. Examples of jobs from all classes of employment: from traditional, to manufacturing, to modern highly technical, to service, to entertainment can be found in their vicinity.

From reading, travel or documentary, I have learned that, for instance:

– In Manila, someone has developed a paint that mitigates the effects of pollutants emitted from motor vehicle tailpipes. This paint is supplied to artists who apply it onto surfaces (retaining walls, buildings, figures/forms) near roadways. The cityscape is beautified whilst pollution is minimized. The themes in many of the depictions are of cultural historic significance, lending a sense of ownership and of belonging to citizens.

– I wish I could accurately describe what I like about one of the good street planning examples from Brandon, Manitoba. I lived for a while in that fair city in a house at the corners of Brandon and Seventh, if memory serves me correctly. The residential streets in that area did not continue through. Rather the traffic is made to follow a curbed road curve. This has the effect of slowing and of minimizing traffic on so designed residential streets. Citizens of all ages and abilities were able to safely navigate the area. Active transportation was strongly practiced

Rebecca Chartrand: No response as of Oct. 5

River Heights-Fort Garry

John Orlikow: No response as of Oct. 5

Taz Stuart: No response as of Oct. 5

St. Boniface

Ryan Davies: The ideal city is, to me, a place that is able to strike the delicate balance between economic viability, sustainability, and overall quality of life.

I’ve had the good fortune to live in a number of different cities in Canada and other countries. I’ve spent time in downtown Tokyo, marveling at the spectacular density and frenetic pace, and I’ve lived in Saskatoon, a small city on the verge of a major boom. I’ve seen the shocking disparity between wealth and poverty in Buenos Aires, and witnessed firsthand the geographic advantages and challenges in a city like Vancouver.

Each of these cities have elements that are an important part of what makes a city ideal, but for me, the city that comes closest to being ideal is actually Ottawa.

Ottawa consistently ranks highly in liveability studies. It has a thriving cultural scene, a stable and diverse economic base, and a viable transportation plan that includes an effective mass transit system as well as expanded infrastructure for cycling and active transport. All of these contribute to the overall quality of life in the city.

Ottawa faces many of the same issues that Winnipeg does including urban sprawl issues and an infrastructure deficit that continues to grow. Despite all of this, the city continues to make infrastructure repairs and new mass transit and active transit corridors a priority in order to facilitate growth and keep the city moving in the right direction, both literally and figuratively.

The crime rate is lower in Ottawa in every major category and has seen an 11% drop year over year. While Winnipeg continues to pour more money into policing and new hires, Ottawa has the highest rated police service in terms of effectiveness in Canada according to the Fraser Institute while having the lowest numbers of officers per capita.

The City of Ottawa is accustomed to a highly transparent system in having easily accessible records showing money spent and motions at City Hall, as well as a very strong tendering process that is again made widely available for the public to see. Their cultural makeup, layout of the city, earnings per resident and many other comparison points are very close to that of Winnipeg yet Ottawa continues to outshine Winnipeg in a vast number of areas as I have pointed out.

The great news is their model is highly attainable with similar outcomes very plausible. Winnipeg is at a crossroads and is failing in a great number of areas. We have created a deficit for ourselves not only financially but in a great number of areas. This can be improved upon by viewing models that are working in municipalities that closely resemble ours and Ottawa is a shining example of what can be achieved when we pull together as a community, demand change at City Hall and have leaders with the interest of the residents at heart and not that of special interest groups or their own bank accounts.

Paul Najda: Although Winnipeg is disallowed from your questionaire, I will pick this city but not present day Winnipeg.

To clarify, the Winnipeg of 50-60 years ago was ideal because of its potential. Unfortunately, since then it has gone in a number of wrong directions and is starting to suffer from big city problems. If I have to choose a present day city it would be Fargo, N.D. because it is now at the stage where Winnipeg was as mentioned earlier.

As far as what Winnipeg should strive for, Minneapolis, MN would be the ideal because of their quality of life, the arts, transportation, etc. and because of their similarity to us as far as climate and location. Thanks for gettiing in touch with me,

Matt Allard: No response as of Oct. 5

Brad Gross: No response as of Oct. 5

St. Charles

Shawn Dobson: No response as of Oct. 5

Grant Nordman: No response as of Oct. 5

Don Woodstock: No response as of Oct. 5

Dwight Hildebrandt: There are many Ideal cities around the world and in Canada but if I was to pick one that Winnipeg could learn from it would be Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

They are building a ring road that is a true ring road with bridges and on ramps and off ramps. This speeds up travel from one part of the city to another. They celebrate their river, there is a beach area and the river is the centre of their summer lives in that city. The river is in full view and surrounded by park land.

Saskatoon expands outward only so much every few years then they stop the urban sprawl and then the city must start growing upwards. This allows the tax base to catch up to the new infrastructure needs and costs. Their roads are taken care of and maintained. The people are happy and do not feel overtaxed and are not taken to the cleaners by photo radar being used in suspect ways.

Eric Holland: No response as of Oct. 5

Geoff Borden: Response coming soon, as of Oct. 6.

St. James-Brooklands

Stefan Jonasson: I’ve had the good fortune to travel across Canada, the United States and Europe, so I’ve experienced several world-class cities firsthand and I’ve seen both their virtues and their shortcomings.  Several cities come to mind as excellent places, but the one that comes closest to being the ideal city, in my mind, is Copenhagen, Denmark.

Why?  It’s a safe and clean city, where residents take pride in their surroundings and participate robustly in public life.  Copenhagen is a city of parks and public squares, gardens and gathering places, where people come together for leisure and recreation.  It boasts a quick and convenient public transportation system, alongside bike paths that are so well developed and used that they have left-hand turn lanes — yet automobiles are able to move quickly throughout the city.

The city is dotted with distinctive neighbourhoods, each with its own charm, yet each understanding itself as part of something larger than itself.  Homes are well built and well maintained, offering a wide variety of housing choices, and even the least fashionable neighbourhoods feel safe and comfortable.  Fine architecture is seen throughout the city and public art is there for all to enjoy.  The cultural amenities of Copenhagen are remarkable — theatres, museums, amusement parks, art galleries, and live music venues abound.  A wide variety of businesses prosper in Copenhagen, while workers are well-compensated and respected.

The people come across as simultaneously industrious and relaxed, working diligently but making time for family and friends.  Offshore windmills bear witness to the city’s commitment to green energy, while a culture of recycling pervades the public consciousness.  Overall, Copenhagen seems to be a city where the public good and private responsibility, community and individuality, have found their proper balance, so that the quality of life is enriched for everyone.

Scott Gillingham: No response as of Oct. 5

Bryan Metcalfe: My answer would have been Calgary.  I lived there for a couple of years and have visited numerous times since.  I personally like the way they have developed their road ways and pedestrian/bike paths which were done with good planning well in advance of their population growth.

Fred Morris: No response as of Oct. 5

St. Norbert

Joe Chan: I am introduce my shifty hall and my dream city
[followed by web site link]

Janice Lukes: Responded by e-mail, “Kevin – this is an EXCELLENT idea – brilliant – I am on it! I have just the city – thank you for doing this!!” No further response as of Oct. 5

Sachit Mehra: I love Winnipeg. I chose to raise my family and continue to run my family business in this city.

However, if I had to choose another city as an “ideal city” to live in, I would have to say it is Montreal. Winnipeg and Montreal share many similarities; they have a diverse population and thriving cultural community. Both have strong market areas, eclectic hospitality venues and a variety of retail spaces. The economies of both cities are relatively diverse however they are challenged by rapidly expanding neighbourhoods, road congestion and the deterioration of green space.

I lived in Montreal with my wife, Caroline, and our two sons, Mohit and Givan, for three years. In that time, I observed and experienced many civic practices that I feel Winnipeg could take cues from.

The one that stands out the most is Montreal’s focus on transportation. The attitude I discovered in Montreal is that when priority is placed on making it as easy as possible for residents to move around the city, it will have a population that is more likely to spend, travel and enjoy the city’s conveniences to the fullest extent.

Although both Winnipeg and Montreal are similar in their cultural traits, Montreal excels in its approach to connecting its city centre and population through a network of transportation systems. This includes active transportation, a subway system, highways and an excellent transit system.

During my years in Montreal, I appreciated the ability to wander around downtown, rent a bike from an automated stall, travel to another area and then return the bike to another automated stall. The system was seamless and allowed me to travel without substantial cost or impact to my surroundings.

Another key piece to the transport map was the excellent subway system. It was efficient, clean and well networked with the trains running on time. What really stood out for me was that most every station had a personality of its own. Each one had a piece of public art, including sculptures and, in some cases, even stained glass. It was a joy to land at a new station and appreciate a new venue.

Montreal also enjoys a vast highway system for those that choose to travel by car. Generally efficient and congestion free, I found it easy to get from downtown Montreal to my residence off the plateau in a reasonable amount of time. The lanes were wide, traffic-light free, with good opportunities to merge off into surrounding neighbourhoods.

Finally, the metro, or transit system, is one of the easiest ways to get around Montreal. Fares are competitive and the buses operate until late hours to serve a variety of schedules. Winnipeg has an opportunity to move forward to address its transportation concerns and I feel Montreal’s model presents many ideas we can use as inspiration.

With our population increasing yearly, we will soon be a city of one million strong. With our current system of road networks, we will face a serious challenge to efficiently move our citizens around our city. With a newly elected mayor and city council, we have the momentum to transform our city’s transportation system and, in turn, and increase economic activity in our city while improving the well-being of our citizens.

I truly want to leave my kids a modern, forward-looking city that offers them a variety of choices. This is why I’ve decided to run for city council – to bring that change to City Hall.

St. Vital

Brian Mayes: I would say Paris is my favourite city to visit, but I don’t think one can compare a city that big to Winnipeg. I think of any city I have visited in recent years I was most impressed by Portland Oregon, so that will be my answer in terms of “ideal’.

There are obvious climate differences between Winnipeg and Portland, but Portland has done some thing well that Winnipeg could learn from: a downtown that is welcoming to residents and visitors through a mix of residential development, green spaces and historical preservation; a mix of bus routes, streetcars and light rail; and an environmental approach to some of the same problems (e.g. combined sewer overflows) that happen in Winnipeg.

Moreover, I found a real interest in urban issues in Portland, with public engagement in civic discussions. There were still problems that were not ideal – e.g. a large youth homeless population – but overall I thought Portland’s civic development offered some ideas for Winnipeg’s future.

Steven Hennessey: I am not a traveller so my experience in other cities is limited. Although Toronto, Dallas, Calgary and Vancouver are cities I have travelled to in the past, I want to draw on my experience in one city that I visited recently and is visited often by citizens of Winnipeg. Many people might not see Minneapolis as the mecca of ideal cities but I believe it sets some standards we can strive for as a comparable city within our climate, infrastructure needs and is also a reasonable distance to Winnipeg.

My first impression of Minneapolis is how the Highway/Freeway system flows. It is clean, continuous and easy to navigate. I believe our ring road system should be the same way. City council should develop a plan for the next 20 years to developing and designing our inner ring road and perimeter so that it flows continuously without traffic lights. The design of our traffic flow is critical to growth and prosperity.

The second most impressive part of the city was the waterfront development including current proposals to increase walkability and livability along the river. Current and new designs by the City of Winnipeg that include densification, footbridges and retail space will help rebuild our river front properties. I believe we can do this with private investment and skilled marketing. Having a vibrant riverfront creates growth, tourism and revenue.

I was also impressed with the downtown. It was active, busy and appeared safe. There were Police and security patrolling during events, mobile CCTV, city street workers on ‘segways’ cleaning and monitoring the downtown. It was also very well lit and had a good mixture of green space, architecture and entertainment. The arena and ball park attracted a great deal of business and the surrounding restaurants and pubs provided a feeling of connectedness. The LRT was also impressive and well set up and traversed the city from downtown to the Mall of America. Vehicle traffic was negligible downtown. We should be looking at future where we rely less on vehicle traffic downtown and use our existing rail lines for LRT while increasing bus transit through all downtown corridors.

Although we have some of the same amenities as Minneapolis we still lag behind in growth and vibrancy in the evening. The one current issue that faces both Winnipeg and Minneapolis is surface parking lots. Currently, Minneapolis is beautifying these parking lots as a step to increase development. Winnipeg should be looking at options to develop our surface parking lots and increase activity in the downtown area. I would advocate continued support for the Downtown Biz, Forks North Portage Partnership, Exchange District Biz and other stakeholders responsible for the continued development of our downtown. As seen recently with the proposed development of the parcel 4 at the Forks our growth as a city comes with innovation and creativity. As Minneapolis has shown, creative planning with continued investment works.

Glenn Churchill: From the cities that I visited, my “ideal” city would be New York City. NYC has many benefits and attractions that foster a great living environment.

Being a Transportation Engineer, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of NYC is the public transportation system. The ability of NYC’s Transit Authority to combine their bus, rail and subway system and move millions of people every day is incredible. It is efficient and affordable. While Winnipeg won’t ever require a transportation system that complex, getting Winnipeg to a point where our transit system is able to meet users’ needs efficiently and effectively is a goal to strive towards.
NYC also boasts one of the top arts and culture communities in the world. Museums, theatre and other attractions give the city its heart and soul. Winnipeg might not be on the same scale as NYC but we can still nurture the quality arts scene that is just as vibrant and should be a  show piece for the city.
Another aspect of NYC that I find appealing is just the way of life. There are corner grocery stores and shops within walking distance of any residence. There are many diverse and vibrant neighbourhoods, each with a sense of community. City services seem to be well planned out to reduce the amount of inconvenience for residents. Even with a city of millions of people, they still have dedicated green space. Central Park is amazing. Ensuring that Winnipeg maintains and develops it’s green space is required to help build that sense of pride that Winnipeggers feel when they go to places such as Assiniboine Park and St Vital Park.


Ray Ulasy: No response as of Oct. 5

Blessing Feschuk: No response as of Oct. 5

Russ Wyatt: No response as of Oct. 5

George Baars-Wilhelm: No response as of Oct. 5

Abstinence-only programs based more on wishful thinking than on research

School board elections are seldom paid much attention to in Manitoba; least of all in early August when many Manitobans are trying to make the most of the short summer ahead of the invariably long, dark winter. Yet one previously obscure school board candidate did the seemingly impossible by making a much-ignored suburban school board race into a hot topic of conversation on the most unlikely of days: the Tuesday after the August long weekend.

Candace Maxymowich, a 20-year-old candidate for trustee on the Louis Riel School Division board in southeast Winnipeg, pulled off this feat starting with an early morning Twitter session.

“Personally, I do not support sex education other than abstinence,” she tweeted to Winnipeg residents Zach Fleisher and Ben Brisebois, who sought further details about an earlier Maxymowich tweet in which she referred to “parental rights & the moral integrity of children” as campaign issues.

The tweets that set a sleepy school board campaign on fire.

The tweets that set a sleepy school board campaign on fire.

Less than an hour later, Maxymowich tweeted that “[t]here is research that argues abstinence education is effective.”

By the afternoon, the issue had not only drawn comments from across the Winnipeg Twitter community, but had also become a leading story in the local news, despite Maxymowich’s mid-morning claim that abstinence-only sex education was “not something I’m campaigning on.”

But what exactly does the best available research say about abstinence-only sex education, which, as described by the Guttmacher Institute, “treats abstinence as the only option outside of marriage, with discussion of contraception either prohibited entirely or limited to its ineffectiveness in preventing pregnancy and disease.”

“While sexual abstinence—at least until one is old enough and mature enough to engage in healthy sexual relationships—might be advisable, there is little evidence that the abstinence-only approach is effective,” said a 2002 article in The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, which also criticized the approach as “one of the best examples of ideology impeding sound public-health policy.”

“It is understandable why so many groups, in particular conservative religious groups, wish to promote values that they feel are under assault in modern society,” the article continued.

“But the origins of [out-of-wedlock pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.] and other problems of society are much more complex, and denying young people full and accurate information about sex, contraception, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases not only puts them at needless risk, but also threatens to undermine their trust and respect of some of society’s most important institutions: its schools, health system, and government officials.”

A report written two years later by Advocates for Youth, a U.S. not-for-profit organization that favours sex education, examined evaluations that had been done on abstinence-only programs in 11 states, and found that few of them could claim much success in producing the results their proponents had hoped for:

Evaluation of these 11 programs showed few short-term benefits and no lasting, positive impact. A few programs showed mild success at improving attitudes and intentions to abstain. No program was able to demonstrate a positive impact on sexual behavior over time. (Page 2)

A study published in 2010 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, meanwhile found some positive effects in a study of more than 600 African-American students in Grades 6 and 7, noting that those who received an abstinence-only “intervention” were less likely to report having had sex in the following three and 24 months than did those in the control group. But the study also observed that there was little knowledge about the intervention’s impact in later years, and that the results “do not mean that abstinence-only intervention is the best approach or that other approaches should be abandoned”.

A research article written by two University of Georgia academics and published in 2011 by PLoS ONE examined the track record of 48 U.S. states. They found that states that pushed abstinence more strongly tended to have higher teenage pregnancy rates, leading them to conclude that “abstinence-only education as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy and may actually be contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S.”

Finally, a study published in the Pediatrics journal in 2009 looked back at National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health data on the 289 adolescents who had taken a “virginity pledge” in 1996, and compared them to 645 who did not take the pledge. When researchers followed up five years later, “82% of pledgers denied having ever pledged”. Despite their protestations, the so-called pledgers did not differ much from non-pledgers in their reported pre-marital sexual behaviour, but were “less likely to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease before marriage”.

It’s a good thing that abstinence-only sex education is not something that Maxymowich plans to pursue strongly if she is elected to the Louis Riel School Division board in this October’s municipal elections. The findings from elsewhere suggest an abstinence-only policy would largely be a waste of time and effort, expose Winnipeg to widespread ridicule, and represent a triumph of wishful thinking over prudent research in making public policy.

Related: World Bank/United Nations data on adolescent fertility rates by country (births per 1,000 women, aged 15-19). In 2012, there were 14 births for every thousand Canadian women aged 15-19 years. Affluent countries boasting less than half the Canadian rate included Switzerland, South Korea, Germany, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Japan, France, Singapore — and the famously socially liberal Netherlands.

Among English-speaking countries, Ireland did significantly better than Canada (8 per 1,000), and Australia was roughly on par with us (12 per 1,000). New Zealand (25 per 1,000), the U.K. (26 per 1,000) and the U.S. (31 per 1,000) were significantly worse off.

Time to make Winnipeg’s walking tours more visitor-friendly

Winnipeg might not be known for being one of North America’s leading or even Top 50 mass-market holiday destinations, but this city does attract some tourism nevertheless through several narrow but lucrative feeds:

Business and convention traffic: Though busy during the day, many of these visitors are looking for something to do after 6 p.m. rather than spending the evening watching TV in their hotel rooms.

Rural and small-town visitors: If you live in small-town Manitoba or northwestern Ontario, or even parts of North Dakota and Minnesota, Winnipeg is the closest largish city to go to for the weekend for something a little more diverse than the limited small-town shopping and entertainment options. For many Manitobans, Winnipeg is also the nearest place to go to for appointments with professionals and specialists.

People in transit: Winnipeg’s position on the Trans-Canada Highway, on VIA Rail’s transcontinental rail route and as the transfer point for hunters, anglers and whale/polar bear-watchers heading north allows it to sell some of its attractions as ways to fill the time during stopovers.

People visiting friends and relatives: As the city’s immigrant communities continue to grow by leaps and bounds, this will continue to generate tourist traffic in the form of friends and relatives coming to visit.

One activity that tends to sell well to all of these groups, as well as to locals, is the urban walking tour. As those who have been on walking tours in other cities might attest, a well-done tour not only gives a city a little more character, but is also a good way for visitors to meet other travelers from around the country and the world; some can even take on a flirty edge. (“What happens in Vegas…” doesn’t necessarily have to apply to only Vegas.)

Too bad, then, that Winnipeg’s walking tour scene leaves much to be desired. While there is an array of walking tours offered, it’s a rather scattershot affair.

The West Exchange District tour sounds good if you’re interested in architecture or in hearing more about the stories behind this funky central Winnipeg neighbourhood. But when does it run? The tour’s web site notes that the “first” tour leaves 133 Albert St. at 9 a.m., and the “last” departs at 4:30 p.m. But what about the tours in between? Since it’s a 90-minute tour, do they depart at 90-minute intervals? Who knows? (And if this sounds like a good thing to do on a Sunday, sorry: the tours only run Monday to Saturday.)

I’ve heard great things about the Hermetic Code tour at the Manitoba Legislature. Sounds like an interesting weekend thing to do for locals and visitors alike. The weekend, you say? Sorry, it’s a once-a-week tour, starting on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. Weekend visitors and many locals are out of luck.

The Old St. Boniface Tour seems like a good way of exploring the history of Winnipeg’s French-speaking community. It runs twice a day, seven days a week, which is good (though it’s curious that Tourisme Riel, which runs the tour, doesn’t seem to promote it on their own web site). Instead of starting the tour from the Old St. Boniface City Hall on Provencher Boulevard, however, it might make more sense to start from The Forks: this is where one will find the city’s highest concentration of tourists, and that would make it easier to sell the tour as an “impulse purchase” to people with time to kill. Just a suggestion.

And why is the West End BIZ’s Mural Walking Tour alternately shown as departing from 581 Portage Avenue and from Bannatyne Ave., many blocks away? (And the requirement that participants in the Food Tour book “no less than two days prior to the day of the tour” would quite frankly turn me off as a tourist as being annoyingly bureaucratic.)

Aside from a listing on the Tourism Winnipeg web site, many of Winnipeg’s walking tours are otherwise organized and marketed individually. This is a tourism activity, though, which could benefit from common branding.

For example, many of New York’s best walking tours are under the Big Onion Walking Tours umbrella. In London, London Walks offers one-stop shopping for walking tours. In Berlin, the market is split between Original Berlin Walks and New Berlin Tours.

The benefit of having a city’s walking tours organized and marketed under one or two organizations as opposed to Winnipeg’s scattershot arrangement is that many of the tours end up feeding customers into one another: all of the information is in one place, and people who are satisfied with one tour are tempted to try another one of the company’s tours. Getting this aspect of the local tourism industry into better shape would go far to giving visitors a better experience in this city.

Perception of fairness will make or break next Mayor and Council

Winnipeggers would be well advised to cherish April 30, as it will be the last day until after October’s municipal elections that we won’t have the various mayoral and city council candidates in our faces. The official 2014 municipal election campaign season gets under way on Thursday, May 1.

By all rights, this should not be a great year for incumbents. After four years of hearing about cost overruns, councilor temper tantrums, land deals gone wrong, the mayor’s Arizona activities, and an absurd attempt to rush a water park deal through Council that ended badly, the best thing one can say about City Council’s term in office is that it’s almost over.

Needless to say, public trust in City Council’s management of the city’s affairs is running a bit low right now.

Public trust is vital if City Council is to do its job adequately. As noted in a paper presented at a conference on civic culture held at the London School of Economics last September:

Citizens who comprehensively mistrust their governments are unlikely to give their consent to essential policies . . . Such distrust is likely to have other effects as well, such as weakening tax compliance . . . and even undermining the norms which underpin the rule of law . . . So a reservoir of citizen trust is an important requirement for a healthy democracy. Heatherington sums this up as follows: “Low trust helps create a political environment in which it is more difficult for leaders to succeed”.

The paper, written jointly by four researchers from the University of Essex in Britain and the University of Texas at Dallas, examined a variety of factors that could conceivably influence public trust in government, ranging from age to newspaper readership to party attachment.

But the most important factor of all, aside from how people felt about individual leaders, was the matter of how much fairness and respect for the public was shown by their elected representatives. As they note in their concluding remarks:

If individuals feel that policy delivery is working well and that they are treated fairly, then they will trust the government of the day even if a decision goes against them. If policy delivery appears to fail and at the same time the process appears unfair then they are likely to view the government as both dishonest and untrustworthy.

[ . . . ]

In general the recipe for creating trust in government is relatively straightforward, and it involves treating people fairly while at the same time delivering on promises that the economy and public services will improve in the future. But it also involves members of the political class in Britain, beyond that of the immediate government, behaving in a way which is acceptable to the general public and not trying to take advantage of their privileged position.

This is where the 2010-2014 Winnipeg City Council disappointed us. The various tempests and scandals left citizens, rightly or wrongly, with the impression of a City Hall culture where ‘fairness’ was a cute idea occasionally brought up by naive people who didn’t really understand how politics works.

Yet had City Council adopted a tone of fairness from the very start, they might have found the past four years much more pleasant, and also found themselves facing much less of an anti-incumbent mood than they will be facing when the campaign season officially opens on Thursday.

The same need for fairness ought to be heeded by both the federal and provincial governments as they prepare for elections in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Even if it’s not a top-of-mind issue with the public, the federal Conservative government’s proposal — parts of which it is now retreating on — to have party loyalists assume what should be impartial electoral oversight roles creates the impression of a sneering attitude toward the idea of a level playing field, with matters not being helped by the government having airily dismissed concerns raised by political scientists and a widely respected former auditor general.

So too have a recent series of cack-handed moves by the provincial NDP government pertaining to the Melnick Affair, the Manitoba Jockey Club and the Health Minister’s disastrous comments to a legislative committee.

Within the next two years, we will have held elections at all three levels of government. How compliant or how obstinate the public is about the incoming administrations’ plans will be determined in no small part by their attitudes toward being fair-minded. If they adopt the attitudes of present administrations, they might find themselves dealing with a lot of unnecessary stress.

LRT or BRT, Rapid Transit must be Frequent Transit

My first day on Winnipeg’s Rapid Transit system back in April 2012 was memorable, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

On the northbound leg from South River Heights toward Downtown, the passengers included a young woman loudly and gleefully discussing her criminal record, as if it were something to be proud of, and a man who unceremoniously marked the occasion with a loud burp.

Later that day, I arrived at Osborne Station just in time to see the Grant Ave. bus pull away. Since that particular route ran at 24-minute intervals on a Sunday back in the old “slow transit” days, surely the arrival of Rapid Transit would mean a shorter wait, if even by just a few minutes. Or so I thought.

When I looked up at the indicator board, that was when I got a rude shock: since the bus I had just missed was slightly ahead of schedule, the next bus to my destination would be arriving . . . in half an hour!

And the next bus after that, another 29 minutes later.

The reality sunk in that the introduction of Rapid Transit would mean a service reduction, and that I might as well walk four kilometres home — thankfully, an effortless and relaxing experience in fine weather — because it would scarcely take any longer and be vastly more interesting than hanging around Osborne Station for half an hour.

That strange first day of Winnipeg’s Rapid Transit system seemed to underline the point that, even as they built the system, the city’s administrators didn’t “get” the concept of rapid transit — that you should be able to navigate the city without a timetable and without any maps, aside from those posted at the stops themselves, much as one can do in European cities.

Indeed, the people whom we hired with our ballots to oversee the city’s affairs — I’d be curious to know how many have ever used a European public transportation system, or have even been across either the Atlantic or the Pacific — still might not get it as illustrated by a new City Hall squabble over whether Rapid Transit should consist of buses or railcars.

Those who follow this debate have their own opinions. Some favour using buses because of lower construction and start-up costs; others favour the rail option because of lower per-passenger-trip costs and, as expressed by rail proponent Coun. Russ Wyatt, a higher glamour factor.

But nobody is talking about the all-important matter of frequency. This in a city where the major traffic arteries running past some of the city’s largest shopping centres still enjoy the same twice-an-hour Sunday service they enjoyed 30 years ago when the malls were closed on what is now a busy shopping day.

If you want to encourage people to use public transport as an alternative to the congestion and wear-and-tear on the roads caused by North America’s high rate of private automobile use, frequency matters, as explained (starting from PDF page 53) by Graham Currie and Alexa Delbosc of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia:

The results collectively support the case for high service levels [i.e., more buses/trains/streetcars per day, and longer hours of service at a given stop] as a driver of ridership regardless of the transit mode [i.e., light rail, bus rapid transit or streetcar] adopted . . . This is particularly interesting in this context where boardings per vehicle kilometer was used as the outcome variable, as BVK controls for service level. This suggests that routes with higher service levels are more efficient and attract more ridership than low-service routes, all other things being equal.

Thus, it is time to start talking about service levels, not just along Winnipeg’s existing and proposed rapid transit lines, but city-wide, with the goal of designing a transit system where, as in Europe, one can just “show up and go” with a minimum of advance planning. Rapid transit corridors would play a helpful role here, naturally, as might better deployment of Transit’s existing fleet. (Does Route 95 really need a nine-minute layover at each end of its 21-minute route? Why not just a five-minute layover, and squeeze in a couple of extra trips per bus, using existing resources?)

If service levels don’t become part of the discussion this year — an election year, no less — we could end up with a Rapid Transit system designed as if by image-conscious politicians who have no intention of ever using the system; and finding out the hard (and expensive) way that a Rapid Transit-branded train that runs every half-hour is as much a bad joke on Winnipeggers as a bus that does the same thing.