Living, Working, and Wasting Time in Southern Manitoba

Month: June 2014

Brandon Amusement Park?

Yesterday was our day at the Manitoba Summer Fair. The weather was beautiful and the kids had fun. I have to say though, it wasn’t cheap, and lines were long. It does make you think that perhaps early June is not the best time for a fair with a midway. Three of the five days are school days, therefore shorter, and that makes only two days that you can spend the whole day at the fair. When you pay that much for ride tickets or wrist bands, we chose bands, it makes you want to make sure you get your money’s worth.

Unfortunately everyone else has the same idea, and on a day without rain, it gets crowded. Last year was actually better because it rained halfway through and the uncommitted went home! I understand that the fair takes place when it does to secure North American Midway Entertainment’s services. I just wonder if there is an alternative, and would it be better for Brandon?

That being said, fairs do tend to be expensive, and lines long regardless of the time of year the event is held. Only occurring once a year, the Summer Fair is able to cash in on its limited time window. Believe me, I understand the market forces at work.

Every year, the midway does get me to thinking about something else. Could Brandon and Westman support an amusement park? I don’t mean a Six Flags or Disney size park, but a smaller park like Tinkertown in Winnipeg.

I think we could, if the location was right. There has for a number of years now, been repeated pushes for a Casino or a resort hotel, or both. People have also suggested a waterpark. We had a waterpark in the 1980s, however it was so far out of town that it was impossible to get to easily. I’ve also thought about a small zoo, Brandon once had one. In my brain though, it is a family amusement park that seems to have the most chance of working, and family entertainment is something that could be more available in our city.

Once a year during the summer months we take the kids in to Winnipeg and we go to Tinkertown. It is located on the east side of the city, just off the Perimeter Highway, interestingly enough, next to a waterpark. Tinkertown has both kiddie rides, 7 of them, and 13 family rides. The Tilt-a-Whirl, the Scrambler, Paratrooper, Spinning Apples (Dizzy Dragons with a different theme), miniature train ride, and bumper cars just to name a few. If Tinkertown was up on the North Hill somewhere, we would definitely go more than once a year. Heck, probably more than once a month!

The thing I like best about Tinkertown is the price. A wrist band for the day costs $15 per person. That’s $60 for a family of four, but it beats $152 plus adult admission at the fair. Personally, I think it could be a good venture, though I am not the risk taking type so I doubt that I would be the one to do it. If someone did though, I would be one of the first in line. I also think that it could be a good employment opportunity for area youth.

If you build it, we will come!

More radio choice, not less

Recently the group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting floated speculation that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was considering eliminating CBC Radio 2 as an over-the-air entity and would take it online only. FoCB routinely makes dire predictions about the CBC that seem to rarely come true, however it is good to have a group dedicated to keeping Public Broadcasting healthy and available in Canada.

CBC Radio 2 is the public broadcaster’s arts, music, and entertainment channel, while CBC Radio 1 is the news, talk, and information channel with some entertainment thrown in for good measure. Radio 2 at one time was known as the “Classical Music” service but has recently diversified into more forms of music. We often listen to Radio 2 Drive in the afternoon as an alternative to the Assiniboine College station CJ106; host Rich Terfry presents a good mix of modern rock, pop, and singer-songwriter music with much attention given to Canadian content. Great Canadian content. So the elimination of Radio 2, at least in our house, would be considered a loss.

The idea that CBC would take Radio 2 off the air and go internet only did not make sense to me. If you are still doing the programming then you are still spending the bulk of the money to reach a smaller audience. Most of our listening of Radio 2 goes on in our car, when we are away from a reliable internet connection at a reasonable price. Take away the broadcast tower, you cut significantly into the audience. Sure, you are spending less overall, but spending more per listener.

That is not efficient. It would be the wrong approach.

What should be looked at is a more effective use of the broadcasting assets and of new technology. This means adding more choice, not taking it away. This also means that the CRTC has to hurry up and approve newer technology after approving the wrong one over a decade ago.

Years ago Canada had a plan to move to digital radio, with a technology known as DAB that was and is in wide use in much of the world. Digital Audio Broadcast was an attempt to move away from the current AM/FM analog services to something with better sound quality and better use of bandwidth. It never took off. The problem? We live next to the United States and they never adopted the same system. South of the border they have opted to stay on the AM and FM analog frequencies while employing a new digital signal on top of the existing station. This hybrid means that older radios still receive the station’s regular signal, while newer HD radios receive a higher quality digital signal which can also supply extra information and even multiplex for extra audio streams.

So, what does this mean for the future of the CBC and Radio 2. It means that they should keep their current broadcast assets, the towers and the frequencies, and do the necessary upgrades for HD Radio. On AM, this means that Radio 2 could “piggy-back” on the signal for Radio 1; AM tends to propagate further than FM so it would be my assumption that it could reach more people, assuming that the signal would still carry as far. (I am not a broadcast engineer, my apologies if I’m wrong). edit: multiplexing only available on FM as far as I can see. As far as the FM signals go, Radio 2 currently has its own frequency. If you multiplexed another stream onto it, that would mean that the current online-only service CBC Radio 3 could be moved onto a broadcast platform. Radio 3 is a mix of new rock, pop, hip-hop, and alt-country. It is CBC’s new music station, available online and on satellite radio. Why not offer it on a broadcast platform?

Yes, I know that this all costs money. However, it seems that the future of radio in North America is this Digital-Analog hybrid known as HD radio. Some experts point out that the system has problems, and I would tend to agree. It has one important thing going for it though, consumers. To introduce a new system, consumers want to know that they will not lose what they currently have. If I put a new radio in my car for the new technology, I want to know that I will still receive Radio 2, Radio 1, CJ106, BobFM, Star, NCI, FARM,  and even CKLQ when and if I want to listen to them. I want more choice, not less.

And here is the wonderful thing about this move, it would possibly be good for choice across all stations. CBC Radio 1 could offer news and weather as a second stream all day long, a radio version of CBC News Network essentially. Bell could offer extra streams on its current stations. BOB’s second stream could be a rock station more akin to what CITI or Power97 are like in Winnipeg. Perhaps you could even call it KX96. The FARM could offer a classic country or oldies stream, as could CKLQ. Perhaps NCI could offer a stream aimed at Native youth. There are many possibilities here.

As our public broadcaster the CBC provides important services. They also can be the catalyst to making the Canadian radio industry have more choices, rather than less. It’s a better use of resources.

Two Governments; Two Attitudes

There were two very different laws in the news this week that concern what an adult individual can freely do with or to his or her own body and life.

The first law was actually a bill introduced on Wednesday by federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act. The act is basically a replacement for the prostitution laws struck down by the Supreme Court back in December. The Court struck down the provisions on communication, keeping a common bawdy house (brothel), and living off the avails of prostitution, as it determined that those provisions of the law made sex work more dangerous. The Tories had a year to pass a new law, and this is it. The law makes communication illegal in most locations, makes it illegal to live of the proceeds of prostitution, and makes it a crime to purchase, but not sell, sex.

The second law in the news this week was the passing of bill 52 in the Quebec National Assembly. The “dying with dignity” law is the first law of its kind in Canada. It allows a framework for terminal patients in Quebec to ask for and receive medical assistance to die.

Both laws come down to a person’s right to choose. It is firmly my belief that an adult person of sound mind should be able to determine what they want to do with their own body. As a society we should try as hard as we can to help people avoid having to make these decisions in the first place. We should make sure that terminally ill people are as comfortable as possible and try to keep their quality of life as high as possible for as long as possible so that they need not feel that an end of life decision needs to be made. If that means making available powerful pain relieving drugs, including opioids, then we should do that. However, once someone has freely made the choice to end their own life, then we should respect their right to determine what happens to their own body. Quebec has got it right.

An adult person should also be able to decide what they are going to do with their own body with other consenting adults. I concede that many people are in the sex trade and participate in sex work against their will. As a society we should be making sure that these people have a clear and easy way out of this trade, or a way to avoid it altogether. Nobody should be in sex work that doesn’t want to be there. However, if someone has determined that they want to work in the sex trade, then we should respect their right to do so. It is not my place, or the government’s, to tell consenting adults what they can or cannot do with their own body.

There is a certain smugness to the prostitution bill. The Court told the federal government exactly the kind of bill that could not be passed, and the government introduced exactly that bill. The new bill actually reintroduces at least two of the three provisions struck from the original law, just reworded. The Court said that any provisions that made sex work more dangerous for sex workers would be unconstitutional. There is no doubt that this bill will make sex work more dangerous. Making the purchase of sex illegal, something that was never the case before, means that the purchaser will want to transact in more dangerous locations for the sex worker. There is no way that this new bill, after becoming law in a Conservative dominated House, will survive a constitutional challenge, and there is no way that MacKay doesn’t know this. That is the most maddening part, he is openly demonstrating his contempt for the court, which, as John Ivison points out in his National Post article, goes against his duties as Attorney General of Canada.

I find it disheartening that the Conservatives and their base abandon their core principle that government should stay out of the way of the daily economic pursuits of the populace. Apparently, that only applies if that economic pursuit does not make them feel icky or goes against their own religious or moral beliefs. I just don’t understand how their beliefs get to run roughshod over someone else’s beliefs. To me imposing your own moral code onto someone else who does not share it is unethical.

The other part of the prostitution bill that I find disheartening is the insistence of the government to confuse the matter by making this about child prostitution and human trafficking. Child abuse and human trafficking are already illegal, as they should be. I agree that any prostitution law should be crafted in such a way to minimize these occurrences, but this bill does not do that. By making the consenting adults criminals also, it makes the child abusers and human traffickers harder to find in the now larger crowd of lawbreakers.

What would have made more sense would have been a new law based on the “New Zealand” model where brothels are legal and health requirements including mandatory use of condoms are strictly followed. Add other protections for the safety and security of the workers as needed, including strict ownership rules for brothels. Not allowing recent immigrants to work in legal brothels would also help in the prevention of human trafficking in the industry. The Conservatives had a chance to actually help sex workers with real protections for their safety, but instead chose to play politics by playing to their base. It’s politics at its worst.

In the end, it all comes down adults choosing what they want to do with their lives. The government’s only role in this is to make sure that nobody is doing something against their will. A free society means at the very least the freedom to one’s own self.

Quebec seems to understand the concept; Ottawa does not.