Living, Working, and Wasting Time in Southern Manitoba

Month: May 2015

Opportunity Missed in 2011

We need to commission a study.

The Eighth Street Bridge in Brandon is on the public’s minds this week as it is once again partially closed in its march toward the end of its usable life as a traffic bridge. The city closed it down to one lane until structural tests can be done to see where the bridge currently stands.

I have been a vocal opponent, at least online and in this blog, of the rebuilding of the structure. At $20,000,000 to $34,000,000 we just cannot afford to replace this bridge. I’m also not convinced that the Daly Overpass is actually the problem with 18th Street. The problem is too many cars that should be elsewhere. The question is, what should we do about it? I’ve discussed both these topics before.

A bridge unneeded…

Is the Daly Overpass the Problem?

Now, I don’t know what all the solutions are, but i have some ideas. I don’t seem to be the only one either. Local resident and Winnipeg Free Press columnist Deveryn Ross also has written about problems in the area. In particular the Canadian Pacific (CP) railroad main line that goes right through this area. In fact, the CP yards sit right there, hence the need for the 8th street bridge to traverse them.

Time to pull up tracks in Brandon?
(Deveryn Ross for the Free Press)

In his article, Mr. Ross talks about moving the rail lines, especially since there are currently three bridges traversing them that need to be upgraded or replaced, or in the case of 8th street, converted for other use. Moving the line might be cheaper than building the bridges. Who knows?

This is why we need a study.

Of course, this should have been done back in 2011 when we commissioned a consultant to look at the options for the 8th street bridge. Of course, the consultation was useless since it didn’t even consider not replacing the bridge. A total waste of money.

A proper study at the time would have looked at the reasons for a bridge, the need for a bridge, and what other options may be available to rectify the problems in the area. It would have considered rail lines and bridges as an entire system. It would have looked at rail line or at least rail yard relocation. Not doing this has already cost us a ton of money, and it is about to cost us at least $40,000,000 more. Forty million is the price tag quoted by premier Selinger to replace the 1st street bridge starting this fall, a number that given past experience with the Thompson bridge, will most likely balloon out of control. New CP Rail Bridge at PTH-110 (Google Earth)There was also a new bridge built on the CP main line for Provincial Highway 110, the Eastern By-pass, to pass under the tracks. Chances are CP would not be too keen to abandon a brand new bridge. As for 1st street, in the four years since 2011 it has been found to be in such a state that we must replace it immediately, no time for alternative plans.

However, there is perhaps a solution somewhere in there. Maybe the main line stays where it is but we move the yards outside of the city, either east or west. If you reduce the line to just one or two tracks inside the city, then 8th street can become a level crossing. Put another level crossing around 22nd street and perhaps you reduce traffic on 18th to the point where the Daly Overpass can handle the traffic in its current configuration. Perhaps the solution is in one of my other posts. Perhaps the solution isn’t any of those but something that the engineers haven’t looked at yet, because nobody has asked. Some people claim that some of these solutions will cost too much, but the reality is that they don’t know, because we haven’t examined the problem adequately.

We need these answers. We need someone to look into them. We need this done before we spend $60,000,000 or more, lots more, on the Daly Overpass. This doesn’t even consider the costs of replacing all this infrastructure again in 50 years, and 50 years after that. How many times are we going to keep making the same short-sighted decisions?

If the past has taught us anything, it is that not looking at options early enough can become costly in the future. We backed ourselves into a corner with 1st street. I hope we don’t repeat the same mistake.

Why are spaghetti straps not reasonable?

A number of weeks ago I did a couple of posts about the niqab debate and what is considered reasonable accommodation in Canada.

What’s Reasonable

Still contemplating what’s reasonable…

Basically, I came to the conclusion that if someone truly wants to wear an article of clothing and are not being coerced into it, then that should be their choice. My issue is whether or not someone is being coerced. I also made the point that it should not just be a right given to those with religious beliefs, but everybody. Basically, if we allow a niqab in a courtroom for religious accommodation, then we need to allow just a plain old hat in that same courtroom. If one person’s head can be covered because their religion says so, then any other person should be allowed to also irrespective of religious belief.

My main issue was with politicians making this about choices when I really felt that it was part of an effort to gain favour with a religious minority. Justin Trudeau especially made a point of it. Again, a quote from his speech that week:

“For me, this is both unconscionable and a real threat to Canadian Liberty. For me, it is basic truth that Prime Ministers of liberal democracies ought not to be in the business of telling women what they can and cannot wear on their head during public ceremonies.”

It seems to me that the quote can be expanded upon a little bit. If Prime Ministers should not be in the business of telling women (or men) what they can wear on their heads, then it seems to me that any governing body should not be able to tell women what they can wear period. Seems like a reasonable assumption, given the facts.

facebook-prom-dressThat brings us to this week.

Lauren Wiggins is a 17 year old student in Moncton, New Brunswick and she was sent home for wearing the full length halter dress that you see at the right. She was told that it was “inappropriate” and a “sexual distraction” and that it was therefore not allowed.

She wasn’t taking it either. After being told by her vice principal that she should wear something different, she penned him a letter which she also posted on Facebook. Apparently the letter went somewhat viral, at least enough for the CBC to notice and do a story on the incident. Ms Wiggins’ letter is no longer available on Facebook, but I will post the contents below:


Dear [Vice Principal] Sturgeon,

I have a concern I would like to bring to your attention. In today’s society, a woman’s body is constantly discriminated against and hypersexualized to the point where we can no longer wear the clothing that we feel comfortable in without the accusation and/or assumption that we are being provocative. This unjust mindset towards women is absolutely absurd. The fact that authority figures, especially males, can tell young women they must cover up their shoulders and their backs because it’s “inappropriate” and “a distraction” is very uncomforting.

Schools are the social building blocks in an adolescent’s life meant to teach them how to communicate and develop relationships with others and also learning about themselves and who they want to be. It’s preached upon us to be individual, to be ourselves. The double standard here is that when we try, we are then told we’re wrong. We may not truly dress, act or speak how we want because authority figures, and I use that term very loosely such as yourself, tell us we can’t. Yes, I understand there are restrictions to how much and how little of your body that shows, but that applies when people show up in their bikinis or bra and panties.

Though I do believe women should legally be allowed to publicly be shirtless considering males are, it’s mindsets like yours that keep that as something that is shamed upon. So no, Mr. Sturgeon, I will not search for something to cover up my back and shoulders because I am not showing them off with the intention to gain positive sexual feedback from the teenage boys in my school. I am especially not showing them to receive any comments, positive or negative, from anybody else besides myself because the only person who can make any sort of judgment on my body and the fabrics I place on it is me.

If you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders then he needs to be sent home and practice self control.

Thank you, have a nice day.


She nails it. She is so right. Why shame her when it is the boys with the problem? And sometimes it isn’t even boys with a problem. Sometimes, nobody is even noticing, except for hyper sensitive school administrators.

Let’s take the current rules in Brandon School Division into account. Policy 7004 was amended back in 2005 to establish dress code rules. That is very recent. In the division policy it is written as follows, highlighting is mine:

Appropriate Clothing

In establishing and providing for respectful, safe and secure school environments, the wearing of appropriate clothing by students is an important factor. Students are expected to wear appropriate clothing in the school at all times during the school day.

  • a) Definition of Appropriate Clothing
    Appropriate clothing is that which is acceptable to the established norms of the school community, staff and school administration. Appropriate clothing is free from: – inappropriate words, phrases and images; being sexually explicit or revealing in nature; – inappropriate accessories that may cause potential harm to self and others.
  • b) Headgear
    Headgear as such, includes hats, toques, bandanas and hoods. Headgear is to be removed when entering the school during the school day. Headgear, to comply with medical or program requirements, may be permitted in designated areas by permission of school administration. Headgear worn in recognized religious observations may be approved through consultation with parents and administration.
  • c) Concealing Clothing and Accessories
    Concealing clothing and accessories includes school bags. Containers, such as backpacks, large bags, gym bags, not required immediately for physical education, must remain in lockers or other designated areas. Policy 7004 Page 8 of 16 Student Conduct P Outerwear such as large, bulky jackets and trench coats will not be worn in the school building during the school day. Outerwear is to be removed and left in student lockers or other designated areas.

The handbook at my children’s school goes on to expand on it like this,

“Clothing such as strapless/spaghetti strap tops, bare midriffs or short skirts/shorts are not appropriate for school”

It is not lost on me that this language is aimed squarely at girls. Really? What kind of message are we sending here? This is a kindergarten to grade eight school, meaning that the bulk of the kids in the school have not even reached puberty yet. If an 8 year old girl wants to wear her favourite clothing to school, who in the hell is sexualizing an eight year old so much that she can’t wear something that shows her shoulders or tummy. She is 8 years old! Anyone sexually distracted by that should be having their head, and maybe their hard drive, examined! When I was that age, way back in the early 1980s, girls wore that stuff all the time. No one cared! Now, in an attempt to be “fair” to teenage girls, we stop prepubescent girls from wearing harmless little outfits, instead of doing the logical thing and letting teenagers wear what they feel comfortable in too! I don’t care if she is 8, 12, or 15; If someone is distracted enough by a choice of clothing, like Lauren Wiggins says, then perhaps they should be sent home to practice self control.

My only question now, when are politicians such as Mr. Trudeau, the defender of clothing choice, going to come to the defence of Lauren Wiggins?

What to do with an old “New” Target?

So, what’s to become of that Target location at Shopper’s Mall? Hell, what about the old Safeway?

Former Brandon Target, Zellers, Walmart, and WoolcoIt’s a big question, and like StarFM’s Tyler Glen wrote in today’s paper, many in Westman have a long list of places they would like to see in town.

I have my own ideas too. Top of my list are London Drugs and Sears. There seems to be a rumour that Sportcheck is going to move in to the old Safeway, but let’s pretend for a moment that the rumour is false. If that is the case, then that would be the best location for a London Drugs. With that in mind, my hope would be that Brandon could land both retailers.

Why London Drugs and Sears? Frankly, we need more general merchandise stores, and in particular, quality family apparel. Sears fits into a niche that Brandon has not had since Eaton’s left in 2000, a major department store with higher quality clothing for the whole family, appliances, and full service cosmetics counters. As a former Eaton’s employee, I know for a fact that those cosmetics counters were quite lucrative in this city, a fact not lost on Sears such that a few times a year they park a temporary Clinique or Estee Lauder counter right down in that same mall.

Now, the fact that Sears has been seen as a declining company the last few years has not been lost on me, however, unlike Eaton’s I do not think that they are going anywhere. Canadian’s still need places to shop, Sears is still very solvent, and I have reason to believe that their new management has a good plan to get them out of the product lines that have been dragging them down. And let’s be honest, Brandon shoppers would flock to Sears if they opened here. Sears has everything that Target promised, but has a history of actually delivering in Canada and a tried and tested distribution network.

So, what’s the problem in Brandon? My guess is that the biggest problem is renovating a store to actually be a Sears. Sears and Target look different, and spending money on what some would consider an experiment might be considered to big a gamble. Also take into account that the Target location may not be big enough for a “full line” Sears store and you may see what hold the company back. Expensive renovations and not being able to deliver the “full concept” might be what gets in the way.

I have a solution.


What? Where the hell did that come from? Actually, from Sears. Sears Canada’s parent company in the States, Sears Holdings, used to be named Kmart Corporation before it bought out Sears a number of years back and changed its name. Kmart bought Sears and now as a result, Sears own Kmart.

So what does that have to do with Brandon? Lots actually. The Kmart brand has been gone from Canada for almost 20 years now, but Canadians are familiar with it and have memories of shopping there. It is a known brand that can be refreshed. It’s colours are also closer in line with Target, in particular red. Opening up a Kmart store in Brandon would allow Sears to redefine the Kmart brand in Canada as a leaner version of Sears as opposed to what it was when it left, reduce significantly the amount of renovations needed to open the store considering the current renovations are only two years old, and give the company a way to be in smaller communities such as Brandon that are big enough for more than a catalogue store, but perhaps not the full line. I suspect that there are five or six cities in Canada at least that the concept could fit into, and it gets the company into some markets that would support it very well. I think that properly executed, they could be some of Sears Canada’s best performing stores.


As for London Drugs, my feeling is that they are a nice sized store that would work well in Brandon. It puts a pharmacy back in the mall, along with one of Canada’s major electronics and photo retailers. Every time I’m in St. Vital mall, I am impressed with how diverse London Drugs is in a relatively small footprint that would easily fit where the old Safeway was. Not to mention that they are a solid Canadian based retailer that understands the Canadian market and whose distribution network passes right through our city. In short, I’m surprised that they are not here already.