Monday, December 9, 2013

Call your councillor, but only if you like free money

Well, it appears the City is trying to take away a program that is designed to help homeowners in (predominantly) the poorer parts of town (based on property values).

As I wrote back in July 2012, the Home Renovation Tax Assistance program allows homeowners to get a credit of 15-25% of the value of the work completed on their home (up to $2250, split over 3 years) back on their property tax. Please see this post if you are unfamiliar with the HRTA program.

Although this program was not truly "free" money, because, hey, nothing is, it was a great incentive for folks to go about their major home renovations the right way by applying for all the proper permits. This of course in turn, means that the quality of work going into the housing stock should be a little higher, and more importantly, a little safer. I often summarize the program as being a very nice way to trick people into doing something (taking out permits) that they are generally supposed to do anyway.

I can attest from personal experience that property values are not automatically increased as a result of successfully going through this program; I had new energy efficient windows installed for a 25% property tax credit and my property value only went up the same percentage as that of my next door neighbour. Now, obviously, if you were finishing a basement or something like that under the program, you could expect that they would increase the assessed value of your home accordingly. Which is where this program was particularly awesome - people needing to do even boring renovations like re-shingling the roof, often at a cost of $5,000+ could at least appreciate a small amount back off their taxes ($750 in the example of a $5,000 roof - not too shabby!)

So, I find it interesting that a mere 2 1/2 years ago, demand for this program was apparently so high that they wanted to take funding from other much needed programs and now there "just isn't any interest in the program". That could be because in 2013 the HRTA program did not even end up announcing its funding and quietly disappeared off of the City website. So, what they're saying folks, is that no one took part in a program that didn't actually even exist. Weird. Part of the problem, that I touched on in my post in July of last year is that every year they were waiting longer and longer to announce the funding. With a construction season that often has major tie-ins to the weather, announcing a program in mid summer, when most people have already lined up their construction work for the year, you are not going to generate a lot of interest.

Winnipeggers are known for their cheapness frugality practicality, and I think that if this program was advertised anywhere besides my blog, you can bet that many more people would be taking the City up on it. With the Manitoba Hydro Home Insulation Program, there isn't a contractor in town who doesn't write the well publicized rebate available to the customer down on their estimate. Heck, years ago when there were also grants/rebates available from the Federal EcoEnergy program a person insulating their attic and installing a new furnace could have quite likely walked away with both those things costing almost nothing between the HRTA, MB Hyrdo and EcoEnergy money.

So what's the benefit to the City to keep this funding in place when we have crumbling roads, cost overruns on everything, police shortages blah blah blah? Well to the best of my knowledge* there isn't data available as to the exact dollar amounts of work completed under the program, or the combined value of the increases to property values, but I feel reasonably confident that with up $500,000 invested in the HRTA program they are getting all that money back and then some. Add in that as one person starts to do work, and then another and then another that the property values in the entire neighbourhood increase, which mean property taxes go up (and boy oh boy, under Sam "no property tax increase" Katz do our property taxes ever go up).

I obviously can't argue that the current, non-advertised, HRTA program creates incentive for people to do work, since supposedly no one is/was using it. However, keep in mind that if this program gets maxed out, then based on the 2012 program that is 2-3.3 MILLION DOLLARS (minimum) that went into the local economy. If the program doesn't get used, that money doesn't just disappear, the City gets it back; it can always go to the inevitable shortage in the snow clearing budget.

My realistic suggestion on how they City could be sure to see the full value of their investment into the HRTA program? Create a tiered approach to the program - instead of limiting the assessed value of the home to $218,000 (as per 2012 program) offer it to homes with higher values but perhaps offer smaller tax credits. It's not just people in poorer neighbourhoods that renovate without permits.

So, if you would like your chance at free money next time you renovate, call your City Councillor and tell them you would like to see the HRTA program reinstated.

*My knowledge on this is loosely defined as a quick google search, a frustrating word search on the City webpage and the realization that the information is likely out there but that I do not possess the ability to find it without losing this post to my draft folder, never to see the light of day.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Horrible blogger returns... with Pancakes!

That's right, I am a dreadful blogger as of late. I have a head full of posts however getting them here is my downfall. However, I would be remiss to not mention the annual Wild Blueberry Pancake Breakfast being held next week (Friday November 22, 2013) at the Indian and Metis Family Centre (soon to be renamed the Indigenous Family Centre I believe) on Robinson at Dufferin from 7-10am.

This is always a great event, and I enjoy the focus they always have placed on being environmentally responsible with a big focus on composting and recycling. I dare say it is one of the best events I attend annually (and maybe one day I'll win one of those great prizes!)

Here is a schedule of events:

And the performer bios:

Alexander McCowan:  Alexander McCowan is a singer/songwriter from Winnipeg, MB. Musically, Alexander borrows from numerous genres to achieve an over-all deep, laid back, country/folk groove which he has brought to audiences across Canada.  His current album “Present Times” was released in 2012 and is now available for purchase.
Dustin Harder: Dustin Harder is a singer/songwriter from Winnipeg, MB. Best known for his work with The Dusty Roads Band, Dustin has performed on several stages across Canada and built a following through grassroots promotion and hard work ethic. In 2009, Dustin released his album, “Searching for a River” that went on to sell over 1700 copies independently and was nominated for a 2009 Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Award.
Al Simmons: Al is a man dedicated to the all but lost art of combining comedy with song, dance, magic, and sight-gags. The end result is a one-man multi-prop, music-filled, off the wall variety show which has elevated audiences world-wide to collective giggles and all-out guffaws.
The Norman Chief Memorial Dancers: The Norman Chief Memorial Dancers were founded in 2004 in memory of the late Norman Chief, a Metis musician, singer, and entertainer. The Norman Chief Dancers’ primary purpose is to promote and develop community spirit through traditional style Metis music and dance. The team dances at fundraising events in Aboriginal communities throughout Manitoba to further promote Metis culture and heritage.
The Treble: Since 2010, The Treble has carved out a reputation for crafting impressively bold and unique folk-infused pop music that has enough of the integral rock vibe to appeal to a phenomenal cross-section of music lovers. The band’s recently released second EP “Northern Lights” is now their main focus as they criss-cross the country, charming music lovers from coast to coast.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's been a while...

I have turned into a horrible blogger. I blame my lack of home computer/laptop. I have very good intentions of getting a new one however I am still struggling with the Mac/PC debate. Mac has way more votes from my friends/family however still on the PC side is the ~$1000 savings and the fact that I have never used a Mac and suck with technology (you will notice that my little blog is still blogspot and never really changes...)


I was sent a very nice email by someone asking if I would plug their event and still high on the free swag from when IKEA thought that I was popular enough to invite to their media event, I thought I should do my blogger duty of promoting Winnipeg things, lest I never be on another invite list.

The Dance Downtown event also seems to be free and we all know I'm a touch cheap frugal. So this Sunday if you're looking for something to do, why not check it out?

Hoping to blog more soon,
Winnipeg Girl

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Okay, that's it, I'm outing the restaurant from my post the other day. Why, because since that post, I have received FOUR FIVE* (*edit) MORE EMAILS (with these subject lines):

(Time Sensitive) Did You SEE This Yet?‏

 I Need Your Help (email about different promotion)
 Broken Link fixed! Get Your BOGO card Now‏
 Only 2 Days Left....‏
Fude, I love your food (and your cocktails) but you send an absurd amount of emails. I'm guessing you don't end up having the response you anticipate for many of your promotions? Maybe you just need to try something new (the $49 vip card really just being a ramped up version of other promos you run).

You have to be kidding me. I wrote this post this morning but didn't publish it.
I literally JUST got another email from them!
This was the subject:

Are You as Frustrated as I am About....‏

Yes. Yes I am frustrated.

For the love of all things good in this world, please learn how to format your emails, send them out once and presume that people got them (this was the second email referencing how their links didn't work and they were really sorry, here try again). I think the links probably did work but they wanted an excuse to send out the email again, but I didn't click the links, so maybe this is legit, but how unprofessional - they are meant to be a finer dining restaurant and this just seems so Mickey Mouse.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How much is too much?

I am one of "those" people. I like Groupons and the like - what Winnipegger isn't out for a good deal? It does get me to try new places (helllllo Modern Taco! Yummy!) and saves me some dough at the same time. But how much promotion is too much?

One of my favourite restaurants here in the city (which shall remain nameless) first got me in the door years ago because of the amazing things I heard about their food. In fact I dare say, it became my favourite restaurant. Sadly though, it was out of my budget save but special splurges. Then a great thing happened! They had a promotion - one of those "sell us your soul (ok, provide email address) and we will send you special invites and deals sorts of things. Great! Now I can perhaps afford to go there a little more often I thought.

The problem has become that now, after years of "free" appetizer emails, countless BOGHO (seriously, HALF off, c'mon now) and signing up for their THIRD v.i.p. program (what ever happened to my "points" from the first two anyway? Why can't they ever find me in the computer?) it no longer seems all that special. Add to that that I swear their prices have crept up more than inflation to help cover all these "free" things.

I just got yet another email today encouraging me to buy their extra special v.i.p card for $49 - it would allow me all sorts of bonuses up to $1400 value it proclaimed! The problem is, to me, they have already devalued their product long ago and the idea of paying full price there seems about as ridiculous as buying a full price mattress at The Brick or Leon's - just wait a minute and they will be on "sale". Of course almost all of these deals come with some sort of fine print that at least in part limits how you can use them. This same restaurant also did various Groupon-y type things offering two appetizers for $15 - up to $32 value! (or something like that) of course, if you didn't pick the most expensive one and get two of them the value was much less; this isn't wrong of course, this sort of promotion happens a lot, it's just a little misleading.

With all these constant basically fake promotions I am now actually incredibly hesitant to even make plans to go there - they seem to me like an establishment on the verge of closing down and doing whatever they can to get people in the door, or in the case of buying this $49 card - trying to raise some $$.  I think perhaps what adds to my disappointment is that the promotional emails are often poorly formatted/designed and that I get cheezy "in case you missed out on the first email we sent" follow up emails. It's just turned into noise.

Am I wrong here? Is there no such thing as too much promotion? Are they really rewarding loyalty or just begging for people to come in?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I can't help it

Yup, I'm feeling a little under appreciated today, clearly the first time ever that a blogger has felt this way. Last Friday, I wrote a blog post about some of the things I've seen lately here in the North End. Part of what finally brought me out of my blogging drought was spotting signs around Burrows and Charles that had been put up by a local resident clearly trying to deter johns from looking for "dates" near his or her house. I knew this was a good North End piece of news to bring to my readership masses (it's my blog, I can define masses however I want!)
Apparently I had no idea how juicy this story really was.

Yesterday at least 4 local media outlets ran with their version of the story (CBC, CTV, Sun, Freep). Now, I know that reporters from all 4 of these outlets read my blog because over the years I have been writing I have been contacted by most of them and am also followed on twitter by their staff. To be fair, they did track down the creator of those signs and I did not - but y'know THEY'RE PAID TO ADD THAT KIND OF DEPTH TO A STORY. And besides other than adding his name they didn't really add much more than my post (*at first, they did seem to expand on their stories later in the day) - I on the other hand provided my readers with a first hand account of hugging a street worker and being approached by johns.

Now, I'm not a total idiot, I know they aren't going to mention in their story how they came to be writing about it, but an email or a DM on Twitter to say, "hey, we're going to look into what the deal is with those signs, thanks for the heads up" would have been nice. As a positive side note, since although my readership is international, it doesn't cast quite as wide of a net as those 4 big players so at least the topic is getting more attention.

As a thank you for providing the topic I ask of the traditional media (especially you CBC) to go back and read my posts about neighbourhood boundaries, since now I know for sure you read the blog.

Friday, July 5, 2013

As seen around the North End...

Okay, I've apparently gone a month without posting and I have a million ideas for posts in my head (like every other blogger) but my computer at home bit the dust and the idea of trying to post on my ipad doesn't really appeal.

So first up...
SOFA KING many broken windows! Yes. I took this picture a long time ago. It still looks the same though.
Why SOFA KING many broken windows?

What font would you call that?

 I'm not sure if I should find this sign from the Robin's Donuts at Selkirk and Salter charming or depressing in its simplicity. To be fair, they did eventually get a proper one made - when I went to take a photo of it however it was gone. I made the investigate effort of going inside and asking about it. I'm told it's a winter only service. My sources tell me that someone is trying to put a Timmies in the old Riedigers spot so with no drive-thru I wonder if this is their answer to keeping one step ahead of the game?
Looking for h00kers in the North End? Be prepared to get famous!
...and lastly, what I saw today that made me write a post without further delay. These lovely signs can be found at Burrows and Charles. Good on whoever did this! Living on a corner not far from here I also see my fair share of prostitutes and have also been approached myself by johns. It is basically one of the reasons I feel that prostitution needs to be legalized - let people have one spot to go for that sort of thing so that there is no mistaking women (and even worse, girls) out walking near their homes. And yes, I'm well aware that it wouldn't stop it entirely and that obviously that wouldn't address the child prostitution issue etc. etc. but I think it would be a start.

I will try and get around to posting more often! Have a great summer weekend folks :)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How about a REAL change to the policy?

So Sammy is trying to make it look like he wants to do something about the arson problem in this city. That's cute. I say trying because although part of the problem is that there is only pickup once a week, it is certainly not the whole problem, or even the biggest.

According to this article in the Metro residents will still have to report the garbage under this "new" system. See, that's the biggest part of the problem - it's purely a complaint driven system.Call it a hunch, but I don't think the people doing the dumping are going to call it in, and if they happen to live in a cluster of other like minded people then it could take quite a while before it gets called in. The problem as well is these piles grow quickly once they get established. What starts out as a mattress and a chair quickly turns into giant piles.
 Now, most of the North/West End is not filled with people who don't care about their community, quite the opposite in fact. There is always talk from suburbanites who don't quite "get it" that it's not a simple matter of charging the house where the garbage is. Often, garbage ends up behind neat and tidy houses with caring owners, that's why it's called DUMPING. Is it really fair to charge the homeowner when they didn't do it? By that logic, suburbanites beware, there will no longer be such a thing as a hit and run or vandalism claim for your car - I mean, honestly, you shouldn't have had your car parked where someone could harm it.

So, for any of my readers who aren't lucky enough to know the ins and outs of the system, let me break it down for you.
  1. Email 311 (having a nice tidy paper trail makes it easier to hold them accountable later with times/dates)
  2. Wait up to 48 hours for a response. Hope no one lights the mattress someone put up against your fence/garage on fire
  3. Get email back from 311 asking you to clarify if it's actually in the lane or on private property.
Thank you for contacting Winnipeg 311.  Due to a new process set up by the City we would need you to clarify if the items included are in the lane or on private property before we would be able to a request to have these items removed.

Private property includes:

1) The 1 to 1.5 foot section of property adjacent to the lane behind or beside a person's fence or garage is considered their property and not part of the lane.
2) If the items are on the person's driveway (or part on their driveway, part on the lane)
3) If the items are in the yard.
4) If the items are beside a garbage bin as The City of Winnipeg no longer owns any bins and these are all considered private property.

Once we have this information we can forward these issues to the correct department.
    1. Get frustrated because blogger started the count again at one even though this is number four and you can't figure out how to change it.
    2. Email back 311 clarify that it's not on private property (you must say this even if it's leaning on your fence, which by their definition IS private property - otherwise your complaint ends there and you still have the problem).
    3. Wait up to 48 hours for a response. Hope that the couch that has joined the mattress also doesn't get set on fire.
    4. Hurray! A response. Oh crap, it says that it will be investigated within 3 business days. It's now Friday. And it's cheque day*. Cross your fingers and toes that the mattress, couch, and their new friend, Mr. entertainment unit don't get lit on fire over the weekend.
    5. Mythical inspector comes by on Wednesday, verifies that it's abandoned, and that you don't secretly store your extra furniture in the lane.
    6. Oh crap, if today is Wednesday that means by the time he puts in his request for the pick up it is too late to be 48 hours from the next pick up, which at least here in a lot of the North End is Friday. So it gets scheduled for the next Friday.
    7. The inspector then drives by all of the other garbage in the lane and doesn't schedule it for pick up because it hasn't been reported. Even though they see all of it and could add it to the pick up sheet. It's just not how it works people, someone has to call that in or it's invisible to inspectors. That's my favourite step.
    8. It's next Friday! Yay! Wait, why didn't it get picked up? Oh, Emterra sucks doesn't have enough trucks/their truck is broken/who the hell knows...
    9. Seriously start praying, even though you're not religious, that the mattress, couch, loveseat, entertainment unit, bags of dirty diapers, chair and broken kitchen table don't get lit on fire.
    10. Sometime Saturday it hopefully all gets picked up. It might not though because the original ticket didn't list all of those items.

    I bet you think I'm exaggerating. I wish I was.

    So, sure, adding another pick up day will help a little, but if they want real change this is what needs to happen:
    1. No more of this complaint driven b.s. - if they are serious about wanting to prevent arson they need to just send trucks up and down the lanes picking up stuff
    2. If that can't happen because of some b.s. clause in the contract that was cooked up, then the by-law inspectors who spend all of their time driving to specific addresses to write down only the problems at that address need to be dispatched to just drive around generating the request for pick up tickets. Then that garbage MUST be picked up within 24 hours and ideally must never be out over the weekend (when crime really does seem to spike).
    Saying that an extra pick up day will be added is merely putting a band-aid on something that needs stitches. As well, if the by-law folk were actively spending time looking for the garbage they might also be more likely to catch people in the act. I won't even bother to get into how ridiculous the process of getting people fined for that is - lets just say hopefully you have a smartphone set permanently on video and you get close enough to videotape clear pictures of people/license plates/and the garbage they dump - all without getting your face bashed in.

    *Cheque day for those who are fortunate enough not to experience it, is the day when various government cheques come out (welfare, child tax, etc) and some (and I'm certainly not saying ALL, because lots of people have just fallen on hard times but are good people) of those recipients choose to spend that money on drugs/alcohol instead of using it for its intended purpose. This means that people who are clearly a bad judge of things are out and about making bad decisions because they are heavily under the influence. It's sort of like how even some people with jobs who get their paycheck on a Friday and blow it all by Sunday morning and spend the next two weeks bumming cash and smokes from you; except that instead of it being your one friend with bad judgement, it's him, all of his friends and some of their friends and they are more predisposed to lighting things on fire and stabbing each other. It's really fun, you should come see sometime. <--- i="">sarcasm font required.

    Tuesday, June 4, 2013

    Winnipeg is the smallest big city on Earth

    I know, the title of this post isn't exactly news to anyone, but I just had another one of those extremely crazy moments. Now, this one doesn't involve me stalking houses on the MLS (that's a first!) but it is pretty wild anyway. For more of my weird small world stories go back to this post (it also links to another) and this one.

    Okay, so when I'm not busy planting flowers in my boulevard for hooligans to destroy and buying arborite tables, god how I love arborite tables, I hold down a job, well, two actually, but that's not the point here. So one of the things I do at my job is I help people find programs that might be able to help them fix up their houses. Now some of the programs I know about are city-wide, however, I specifically work with residents in the North End.

    So today, I popped out for lunch and came back to a voicemail. She was good enough to leave her address as I request of people (makes it much easier to know what info to call them back with) which happened to be in Wolseley. Which more specifically happened to be in my BFF-since-I-was-6-years-old's old house!
    Seriously, what on earth are the odds of this? Now, I tried calling her back, but no luck reaching her so far; I am absolutely desperate to know how she got my number (since I work with a North End organization). Did one of my business cards get wedged in a baseboard? To give a little extra perspective, I get maybe 3-4 calls a year tops from people who live outside the North End. Mind blown.

    *Update: she got my number from a friend who does live in the North End, but it's still crazy*

    Another quick what are the odds sort of story. There is a house on Home St., near Sargent that was once occupied by a girl I worked with at Grapes, I used to drive her home sometimes. Then one day in the early days of facebook I joined a group that talked about home renovations and things and they organized a house tour of some houses in the West End. That house was part of it (then owned by different people). Fast forward another year or two. Since I stalk the MLS, I noticed it come up for sale, and then when I noticed a friend congratulating another friend on the house purchase on Home St., I felt compelled to check to see which one. Yup. Same house. So I now know 3 people that have owned the same house, in a neighbourhood that I am not a part of, and those 3 people are not remotely connected to one another in any other way.

    Do these sorts of things happen to you? We are a city of about 750,000 - it just seems insane to me to have things like this happen this often.

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013

    I've become THAT person

    You know, the one that ties up City resources with self-serving complaints to 311 about neighbours who have long grass. Don't get me wrong, I also send in dozens of complaints about "real" problems, but I've had enough of my neighbours and their untidy ways.

    From the City of Winnipeg website regarding the Neighbourhood Liveability By-law (in nice simple language, compared to they by-law itself) in regards to boulevards:
    Is there a minimum level of boulevard maintenance that property owners are responsible for?
    Yes, the property owner is responsible for the following boulevard maintenance:

    • ensuring grass is no more than 15 cm (6 inches) high
    • ensuring other vegetation, other than turf, is no more than 1.0 m (39 inches) high
    • controlling noxious weeds
    • keeping the boulevard free of garbage
    Are there exceptions? Of course there are!
     What boulevards are maintained by the City?
    • boulevards beside a regional street
    • boulevards flanking properties beside a regional street
    • ditches where grass has never been planted
    • boulevards at the rear of a property
    • extended boulevards – meaning a boulevard that is at least 20 feet wide as measured from the roadway to the sidewalk or property line
    Does the City easily link to what the regional streets are? Of course they don't! But you can find it here. (To be fair that's from 2012 but I imagine it to be similar for 2013). Needless to say, none of my neighbours live near regional streets.

    I live on a corner, the other 3 corner properties are all rental properties, which as we know is no excuse to have them look like crap. However, being a nice understanding neighbour who realizes that yard work might not be super exciting to a tenant, I have offered on numerous occasions to mow these boulevards. The one condition? Make sure they are free of garbage, it's not good for my lawnmower. Even as tenants they should want to live in a nice clean community, so it's win win - no yard work for them, nice clean "yard".

    Do any of them pick up trash? Nope. Are their boulevards full of garbage and noxious weeds? Yup. Do I painstakingly remove weeds from my boulevard and yard? Yup. Oddly this not-giving-a-shit attitude also extends down to the next block where the corner houses also sit amongst tall grasses. The weirdest is the one that I know is owner occupied and that I also know paid a pretty penny for their house. Who buys a house for like $170k IN THE NORTH END (this was almost two years ago already!) and isn't the type to mow their lawn? I've also extended my offer to these people, but not been taken up on it.

    It's interesting to reflect back on our youth and see how we are shaped into adults. Growing up in suburbia my family home was the horrible one. Generally in poor repair with grass that rivaled any open field, we would get orders to mow the lawn. Weirdly, the next door neighbour wasn't thrilled with the goat that got brought over to do the job (I wish I was kidding).

    Teenage me didn't really understand what was going on; I knew that we were different but I didn't entirely understand why the neighbours cared so much what our yard looked like. I also had zero interest in doing any of that sort of yard work. Fast forward to buying my house. I don't know where it came from, but from day 1 I felt it was important to demonstrate that I valued myself and my neighbours and to keep a tidy yard. I certainly, not in a million years would have guessed that I would turn into that person who gets down on all fours to clip the grass along the chain link fence.

    Now, for a fun little experiment, let's see how long it takes for those 9 properties to get mowed. I was patient, I waited until the majority of the grass reached the 6" in height to report it (lest I seem over zealous and not be taken seriously in the future to the 311 gods).

    Flowers for my boulevard, and only $23.50!
    311, in their auto-response emailing ways has told me that I can expect an initial response within 48 hours. Last year the official standby response was that a by-law officer would inspect within business 10 days, so, two weeks. I happen to know that there is a good chance that all 9 requests will not go to the same officer (how efficient). I also know that it is unlikely that they will be told to do anything about the noxious weeds - I will be lucky just to have them cut down. I also know that at least one of those property owners lives in like East St. Paul or something which means that they will allow extra time for the order to reach him. If I recall correctly I think they will be given something ridiculous like 7 days to fix the problems.

    So, potentially (and highly likely) it will take until at least June 20th for any of these lawns to get mowed. Good thing the grass and weeds will have magically stopped growing until then.

    Now, on a far less bitchy note, check out those flowers! Those are only part of what is going to make up Wolseley Project 3.0. This year my next door neighbours have stepped up their game - their yard is teeming with flowers so I'm going to have to really do a good job if I want to stay the prettiest house on the block!

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    Completely unrelated to anything

    I have a fear of single toilet handicap-accessible bathrooms. Like the ones at Subway and the Timmies "downtown" in Portage La Prairie. Yes, I know this is a departure from my regular complaining about everyone blaming the North End for everything and other such Winnipeg things but I needed to get it out there.

    My office renovated a few months ago and now we have a nice big wheelchair friendly bathroom. Now, obviously I'm not actually against toilets being functional for those with mobility issues but why oh why must they be designed in such a way that if the door doesn't lock properly that someone could very easily catch you doing your business??? They are purposely designed to have the toilet far away from the door - there is no way to thrust your arm out and stop the door from opening!

    I think it should be mandatory for these bathrooms to have a secondary lock system like one of those little slidey thingies, basically something that goes into a slot that I can visually verify that the door is indeed secure. Why don't I just double check when I go into these types of bathrooms you ask? Well, first of all, they all have the simple push button type lock rather than a twisty one (I hope I'm not losing you readers with all my technical terms like slidey and twisty...) and this is so that folks who don't have good dexterity can easily use them. Which means that if you try to check it, you are basically going to unlock it.

    The other problem is, and the Timmies in Portage referenced earlier has this problem, is that if for some reason the door doesn't close completely (even though it seems like it's closed, I mean, I know how to use a door!) then "locking" the door by pushing in the little button doesn't do a lick of good because the catch isn't engaged properly. Thankfully, my paranoia caused me to discover this flaw before someone discovered me.

    So, I therefore call for a secondary lock system, completely optional to use, for those who want that extra bit of security. Or if someone can at least put one in on my work bathroom that would be appreciated :)


    A quick note related to my usual rants...Today a Winnipeg family has lost their home in a fire. I'm not sure yet what they might need but I hope Winnipeggers reach out to them once we find out. The CBC, like most of the media outlets in town covered this story.  I appreciate that they left "North End" out of the headline, because for those that get their news by only reading the headlines I'm sure the reaction would have been a typical one along the lines of "must be arson", "it's the North End, it's always on fire anyway, who cares" and so on. Now, of course, it did technically happen in the North End, so I couldn't have faulted them even if they had chosen to use the neighbourhood name in the headline, but I truly believe little things like this make a difference to how the rest of Winnipeg perceives us.

    Monday, May 20, 2013

    If this post seems familiar...

    Update 21/5/13: Since CBC hasn't bothered to change their misleading headline I was still able to get a screenshot today and add it to this post. I know they have received several emails (mine included) alerting them to the confusing use of "north end".

    It would be because I wrote virtually the same one the other day. Is there someone new over at the CBC? Someone who has no idea how Winnipeg refers to its neighbourhoods? CBC has a story about a dog poisoning on their website that they seem to have had trouble figuring out where exactly it happened and instead resorted to a not-so-generic neighbourhood section of the city  Global knew that it was West Kildonan.

    Screen shot of the CBC story
    Winnipeg has a neighbourhood that goes by the name "North End". Which means that if you would like to talk about something that happened in the north part of the city you either need to mention the specific neighbourhood (either one of the 236 unique neighbourhoods or one of the two dozen or so more commonly used names) or say something like "on the north side of Winnipeg". Not capitalizing "north end" although technically from what I recall about writing does make it not about the North End, the neighbourhood, no one is going to make that differentiation. Especially if you opt to only use it when you mention something negative.

    The Winnipeg Free Press published a great piece by Kevin Chief over the weekend that was an excellent summation of how many of us choose to see the North End. Of course, most of the city doesn't see our potential and our triumphs. Many Winnipeggers, and even Canadians, associate the North End with only things that are negative, like poverty, crime, and despair. I would be foolish to try to pretend that these things don't exist here, perhaps even in slightly higher doses than other parts of the city, but it shouldn't define us.

    So, in Winnipeg, whether you say north end or North End, people think of the same place. A quick glance of the CBC website shows me that they haven't adopted some new policy of simply breaking the city into 4 - north, south, east and west - other articles mention specific neighbourhoods. So why, whenenver (okay, current whenever is based on the sinkhole story and this one - I don't have the time to go back and search for more errors - one is too many!) it's a negative story are they just skipping the step of finding out where it actually happened and blaming it on the north end?

    With the recent murders in Charleswood (notice the CBC didn't call it the south end) I read many articles and saw mentions on social media that found neighbours to talk about how "things like this shouldn't happen in a nice neighbourhood like Charleswood" and so on. Newsflash: murder shouldn't happen in ANY neighbourhood. People in inner-city neighbourhoods are still mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends. No one deserves to be killed, so stop acting so superior people.

    As an aside, thank you to the many media folks who have taken the time to watch what you write by knowing your neighbourhoods and mentioning street names and addresses rather than SCREAMING NORTH END and in an indirect way, helping to tone down the hate for the North End.

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    Officially, it doesn't really exist

    The North End that is. Today the City released their new "Neighbourhoods of Winnipeg" section of their website (ok, for all I know it's always been there, but I saw people talking about it on Twitter today so I think it's new). Did you know that Winnipeg has 236 neighbourhoods? I sure didn't.

    Interesting, because as we all know, whenever anything bad happens it is generally blamed on one of 3 areas: the North End, the West End and Downtown. According to the interactive map, none of these "neighbourhoods" actually exist. Their map is drawn on top of a Google map and even though Google (and the rest of us) calls it Downtown, it's actually South Portage.

    Now, of course, I don't necessarily expect anyone (read: media) to always be super specific when detailing where an event happened, but maybe that's the way it should be, for accuracy. That way we avoid the many slip ups that erroneously blame one neighbourhood for another one's troubles. Because it's pretty much always related to troubles. Take for example the sinkhole that happened in Garden City, which for the record actually does exist as a neighbourhood called Garden City.

    Now, the CBC reported the story saying it was in the North End. I believe they originally had it in the body of the story as well as the caption of the photo, but I'm not 100% sure because when I saw it, it was just the caption. But the comments section makes me think it was probably the body at first as well. One comment, by GoodN1GHT stood out to me in particular (after another commenter pointed out that this intersection was not in fact in the North End):
    "If there is a shooting in Tuxedo, Tuxedo temporarily becomes part of the North End. It helps to keep outsiders thinking that Winnipeg's problems are in one small area."
    I agree with this statement, but would also add that it keeps locals thinking the same thing.

    I've been harping about this for literally years. Now, CBC did change their story/caption, but the internet, like an elephant, never forgets. This screenshot shows all the various other agencies, websites and so on that picked up their story - their stories never got changed. Also notice that I didn't bother to capitalize "North End" in my search - neither did the CBC in their original caption... I realized technically someone could refer to any part of the city by its direction, yes, Garden City is in the the north end of Winnipeg. However, in a city that has two neighbourhoods that already unofficially go by North End and West End, the way to state this without confusion would be to say "on the north side of the city" or something like that. I'm also about 99% certain that this story (like every other) didn't mean to inform people that it happened somewhere in the the northern part of the city. Obviously, when talking about a sinkhole it's not horrible to "accuse" the wrong neighbourhood, but the same can't be said for crime.

    Winnipeg, especially in the core areas, has a huge PR problem already. Our media needs to realize that they are the ones who can help change that. People who choose to remain uniformed about what is really going on around them will keep reading headlines and making snap decisions based on that information. It's very easy to hate the North End or West Broadway (okay, well it was easy to hate it back in like, the 90s) when that's all you hear before or after the words stabbing and murder.

    Challenge people and their perceptions. Maybe we do need to utilize the boundaries of the 236 neighbourhoods. In which case, I really don't like Eric Coy and all of its ditches. Or Elmhurst for that matter. If this isn't the way we go (because it would be very tedious to figure out every time, that's why we already have the broader neighbourhood terms), then we need to have the media adapt a standard format such as the ### block of Any St. (kudos does go to the Winnipeg Sun for often doing exactly this). This will slowly help retrain the brains of those that make their decisions based on media headlines.

    As for defining those broader neighbourhood labels, I think asking organizations that have those labels in the name what their boundaries are - like the West End Biz, or the North End Community Renewal Corporation and so on would be a good start. If there are differences then maybe everyone just needs to sit down and hammer it out, once and for all.

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013

    2013 Winnipeg Police Bike Auction

    That's right - it's that time already again - this weekend in fact! The 2013 Winnipeg bike auction will be held this Saturday April 27th and Sunday April 28th out in the boonies Charleswood. It is a new Auctioneer this year. I have no idea how that might be relevant but I thought I would share. There will be over 750 bikes available. That means the police are recovering approximately 2 bikes a day. How are there that many unclaimed bikes per year?? Probably because people like me don't take my own advice (as given in the post in 2011 about the auction) and register their bikes for the $6.10. Seriously, someone please make sure I do that this year. Call 311 for more information on that if you need. Also, this year apparently they have again partnered with WRENCH to provide some of the bikes - take a minute to check out their website an learn a bit more about this great non-profit.

    If this post looks familiar it's because I basically just copied it from last year in a mad rush to post this on time. I was on track to have written this post a month ago, except when I emailed 311 on March 19th they had no idea when it might be. Seems weird to me that an event like this wasn't planned more than a couple weeks in advance. But hey, what do I know?

    Also, because last year I included the video for "Bicycle Race" by Queen, this year I shall include another Queen video. This is not remotely related to bicycles, rather I have very late in life discovered that I  REALLY LIKE QUEEN (late bloomer apparently).

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    Cadillac Escalade

    This isn't a real post, it's just too long for twitter.

    In 2006 I bought my house. 2006 was also the peak year for the Cadillac Escalade (based on US sales) with just over 62,200 units sold. At the time, base models were selling for just over $57,000 US. Based on other figures in the wikipedia article, I think it's safe to say that many people purchased a model for in and around $65,000.

    Which is how much I paid for MY HOUSE.

    That was literally a factor when I decided to purchase my house, the fact that I could compare its purchase price to that of a vehicle. Although the Escalade is obnoxiously big, you would still be hard pressed to live in one. I sort of thought to myself, "how wrong could I go?"

    Fast forward 7 years. The average price today for a 2006 Escalade is now $22,182. My house on the other hand? Well the City assessment pegs it at a cool $134,000.

    Of course I realize that it's not entirely fair to compare real estate to a car, it just really was a comparison at the time. I could buy a tacky SUV (spinning hubcaps optional) or A HOUSE for the same price! How bad could the North End be?? Answer? It isn't, and I'm sure glad I chose the house (not that I was actually considering an Escalade)


    Monday, April 8, 2013

    (sorta) Famous North End houses for sale!

    Well, we all know that I spend an excessive amount of time looking at the MLS, especially at houses here in the North End. Well, there are two houses of interest (ok, I'm stretching it here, but I need to share my discoveries with someone).

    The first house may or may not have had Samuel L. Jackson inside. I don't know if he brought any of the motherfu$kin' snakes from the plane. I also can't say for sure if he was in the house because all the ad states is that his upcoming film "Reasonable Doubt" was filmed in the home, no guarantee he was in the scene.

    See the listing for 255 Burrows here. $134,900 for a house that may or may not have been graced by the presence by Mr. Jackson seems like a bargain. Heck, I'm sure the sentence Go the F**k to Sleep has been uttered in this neighbourhood before, although probably shouted from one neighbour to another...

    Next is a fun one.

    495 Dufferin doesn't mention its brush with fame in the ad, but that's why you have me around, to make sure you're up on the media attention that this house has gotten in the past!

    You may remember this house from such media showings such as the Evening News! Now this supposedly formerly dilapidated home can be yours for only $83,900!


    Of course the ad claims that the house has been totally re-done, but ever the cynic I am I figure that if I was trying to sell a super nice house that had just been gutted to the studs and redone I would include pictures in my listing. But that might just be me. Oh, and the fact that this house has been for sale almost constantly since the media firestorm last May also makes me a little skeptical. I'm going to suggest that this house is best bought as a tear down and that you build a shiny new house in its place - it would help to repair a black mark here in the North End.

    There you have it; your chance to own some vaguely famous houses in the North End.

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    Esther is good people

    As my regular readers will know, in addition to working a full time day job, I also bust my butt a couple nights a week as a server at a local restaurant. I have been at this particular place over 7 1/2 years. I am not the best server in the whole wide world, but as a general rule I'm pretty darn competent.

    Except last night.

    Seriously, it was one of those nights where it is really good that I'm not a brain surgeon, or the person on the assembly line who was supposed to install brakes on a car. It might as well have been my first day. Heck, I was probably more put together on my first day. I started things off by ringing in the wrong entree for someone (caught it before anyone notices, whew!), forgot to ring in a table's entrees (they were too engrossed in their smartphones to notice) and then I shortchanged myself over $55.

    How on earth does someone do that? Damned if I know. Basically it involves a dimwitted server misreading the printout from a gift card and telling the (surprised) patron that not only did their gift card cover their bill but they still had some left on it to boot! It was a random amount left on the gift card and I know from personal gift card use that I often have no idea exactly how much is left on a card, so obviously if my cashier told me it covered my bill, I would presume that it, oh I don't know, covered my bill.

    So, not wanting to look like a greedy server I didn't take back the black billfold with the gift card slip inside (it is possible for people to tip using a gift card balance) until after the mother and daughter had left the table. It was when I went to close their bill out in the computer that I realized what a complete and utter bonehead I was. Yup, shorted myself $55. At that point it was almost funny that that was the next blunder in my comedy of errors sort of night. Like, crying funny, but funny nonetheless.

    Well, bless that woman's cotton socks if she didn't call back about an hour later wanting to double check that her bill had been fully paid. Obviously the more she thought about it she was able to recall that there was no way that the gift card had covered her entire dinner and left change. So a confused hostess who had answered the phone came up to me wanting to know if there had been some sort of gift card problem at one of my tables earlier (because what kind of idiot server would let someone leave without paying their bill?)

    So, thanks to Esther's good conscience (I caught her name when she called) I did not end up short $55; as she had correctly realized it would likely have come out of my pocket. Esther, wherever you are, you're good people. Thank you again.

    Hopefully I should be good for a while now, since I committed about an entire year's worth of mistakes in one night!

    Monday, March 18, 2013

    Median Market Rent

    Today the Progressive Conservative leader, Brian Pallister says if HE were premier he would increase the rental allowance of welfare recipeints to 75% of median market rent (MMR). He says that this would be an increase of about $100/month, up to about $385.

    First of all, can we have that etched in stone and force him to wear that around his neck? I have a feeling that if he were elected as premier that it wouldn't happen. Secondly, according to the Province, the MMR for a bachelor apartment is $528, meaning that 75% would be $396 (although that is splitting hairs a bit vs. his statement of $385).

    I think an important question is why is there this presumption that a single person will be living in a bachelor apartment? According to this report published by CMHC there are 3,612 bachelor apartments in Winnipeg as of fall 2012. There are however 26,401 one bedroom units (page 5, amusingly in a chart called " Number of Private Apartment Units in the Universe") The MMR for a 1 bedroom unit? A whopping $748! Meaning that 75% of that would be a far more reasonable $561. The problem with median rents is that they are exactly that, median. I won't even bother to touch on how many 1 bedroom units must be renting for more than $748.... So while there may well be bachelors out there for less than $528 there are also many that are more. It also means that of the 30,013 suitable-for-single-people units (bachelor/one-bedroom) in Winnipeg only 12% of those are bachelor units.

    According to a piece complied by Sarah Cooper for the CCPA, there is a vacancy rate of 1.7% for bachelor units in the Winnipeg area (page 4). That said, according to her chart there are bachelor units renting for up to $799! Can you imagine not even having a door on your bedroom for almost $800 a month?

    Now, obviously the amount given to EIA recipients for their housing allowance needs to increase, and it should be a worthwhile increase (since whomever does it is going to pat themselves on the back for it until the end of time) but I also think it's important that someone bring up the fact that there is certainly no way to make sure that bachelor apartments are only rented to people on EIA. I also don't know exactly how many single people on EIA there are in the city of Winnipeg (I took a quick look but couldn't find it, I'm sure it's out there somewhere) but I would hazard a guess that it might be enough to fill all 3,612 units. Of course, not sure how their new $396 is going to help them rent a $799 bachelor apartment (or a $699 one, or a $599 one...)

    One last thought to put this in a little bit more perspective. According to the CCPA piece (page 11) a person would need to earn $10.50 an hour, which is more than minimum wage, to be able to afford that same bachelor apartment that someone on EIA is trying to live in. This is using the same formula that the bank used when deciding if you could buy a house - meaning a person shouldn't be spending more than 30% of their income on housing. You want that same single person to rent a 1 bedroom unit instead? Great, they now need to earn $13.94 an hour.

    Now, thankfully, I don't have the same trolls here that the papers do, but I can hear them now... "if they don't like it they should get more education and get higher paying jobs" Ah yes, but in that perfect world where everyone attends university, eventually we would have university grads scrubbing toilets and asking if we want fries with that. Is it really fair to say that a person who gets up and goes to work full time shouldn't get to go home to their own place at the end of the day just like everyone else?

    I realize I am now comparing people who have jobs to people who don't (those on EIA) but contrary to popular belief (of the trolls) not everyone on EIA wants to be; and if the minimum wage earners can't even techinically afford to be living in one of the 3,612 bachelor apartments without being in core housing need, but they do, where are those with even less supposed to try and live???

    *My head just exploded*

    Monday, March 11, 2013

    Luda's Deli

    It's ok to instagram if blogging too right?
    I was craving a Reuben sandwich like no tomorrow. As I considered the greasy spoons and burger joints that surround my workplace none were making me salivate. So I did what anyone would do, I googled "Winnipeg Reuben sandwich".

    Top amongst the suggested sites was reviews for Luda's Deli here in the North End (at the corner of Aberdeen and Salter). Of course! I literally drive by Luda's every day; funny how we forget about what is right under our noses.

    For anyone feeling nostalgic and mourning the loss of Kelekis (which interestingly was just two blocks up, also bordering on Aberdeen Ave) Luda's might help fill that void. While it has not been around as long as Kelekis, although their 25 years is nothing to sneeze at, is sure does have an equally loyal clientele. And Luda's has fantastically pleasant staff (unlike Kelekis where only regulars were treated to a pleasant attitude).

    I've been to Luda's before, in my pre-blogging days, so this is my first chance to put pen to paper to really tell people about it. The decor isn't quite as snazzy as some other Winnipeg places but it has a certain homey feeling; it's a little bit like if word got out about your country aunt's cooking and she turned her dining room into a restaurant without ever changing the pine paneling and ivy wallpaper.

    Ludas Deli on Urbanspoon
    As many of the other Urban Spoon reviewers and bloggers have pointed out, it's the type of place where they really seem to get to know you; heck, even name menu items after you - whoever Wally is he must eat a TON of fries - I only had a half order for $1.75 so I don't dare think of what $4.95 would get! This is also a chance for a North End twofer - Luda's gets their bread from Gunn's Bakery, another North End institution.

    Coffee and water are self-serve, which, as someone who has served for years I happen to think it is a huge blessing! Coffee drinkers in particular are a strange breed and trying to figure out when someone might be ready for a refill is akin to predicting winning lottery numbers some days. Two important things to note are that Luda's is cash only and extremely important, they use peanut oil for deep frying. Best not to kill our friends with nut allergies, mental note, not a place to take my friend Joel, or at least make sure he skips the fries...

    If you try to come in the morning be prepared to sit with what seems like most of the City of Winnipeg roadworks/maintenance type staff - the logo'd trucks line Salter after 9am. This is a breakfast/early lunch (closed at 1:30pm) sort of place and closed on Sunday. If you come for lunch and they're full (and they might be - I came at 1:00 on a Monday and snagged the last only-just-vacated table) maybe pop down a few blocks south to Salter and Manitoba and head to another North End favourite of mine, White Top.

    Oh, and the Reuben? Freaking fantastic. Don't tell my diet about this.

    Friday, March 8, 2013

    Where to lay your head?

    With the closure of the largest (and best located) hostel in Winnipeg last year, I’m left wondering where budget travellers are going to stay this summer.  The loss of the 120 bed facility is nothing to be taken lightly. We are constantly being told how things like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights are going to draw people to our city, but what good is it if we can’t offer them a place to stay? Not everyone can afford to (or wants to) stay in a hotel. Hostels are especially perfect for solo travellers, and I personally have stayed in them all over the world. They offer socializing opportunities not found in most hotels, the chance to pay for a bed instead of a whole room and usually have kitchen facilities where you can make a meal or two, saving yourself even a few more dollars.

    Right now Winnipeg has only one other "real" hostel, Guest House International, on Maryland St. The Hostelling International (HI) was also located on Maryland before it moved to its now defunct digs downtown. Part of the reason for the move to the larger location is that for years prior to the move both hostels found themselves needing to turn business away in the summer due to lack of space. Now, while it is true that you can generally make reservations for a hostel, what happens for those folks who are on less of a strict itinerary? 

    It appears that there is another place that is billing itself as a hostel, the UWinnipeg Downtown Hostel however it has limited availability during the winter months. Now, to be fair, the demand for dorm bed space in Winnipeg is mostly limited to our summer, which is why I think the HI hostel had trouble making ends meet - 120 beds would have been jammed in July and desolate in December. The problem with this UWinnipeg hostel is that the prices for anything less than a month are quite high - $58/night, $37/night if you book for a week and then a very reasonable $20 or so a night if you book for the month.

    I'm not quite comparing apples to apples as the UWinnipeg facility offers private rooms but I think the average young (or young-at-heart) traveller is going to much prefer the $29/night dorm bed at Guest House International.

    So what are the other options?

    Well, potential visitors to Winnipeg could try Couchsurfing ( there are currently 819 Winnipeggers on that site who might be willing to let one or more folks stay with them. If you're unfamiliar with Couchsurfing, it's this in a nutshell: People create a profile telling the world a little about who they are, where they live, what languages they speak and if they have a spare "couch" for a visitor. This couch could be an actual couch, an air mattress on the floor, a tent in the backyard or even a spare bedroom with ensuite! Users set the levels of who/when they might be willing to entertain visitors, for example a female could specify that she's only willing to have female guests, or a person could say they could only host one guest at a time. Users can also set their status to things like "yes, have couch available" or "travelling" and even "not right now (but can hang out)". 

    This is my bed. This post was an excellent excuse to show it off
    I've not personally used Couchsurfing when visiting somewhere yet, but I have had people come an stay in my spare bedroom. It's a really interesting way to meet new people. Generally, with Couchsurfing the idea is that it's free, although you may want to buy your host a coffee or dinner as the situation warrants.

    Another option is AirBnB, which currently has 32 listings available in Winnipeg. AirBnB is a little like turning your spare bedroom into a hotel room. Or even renting out your entire house or apartment. It also might just be an airmattress in the living room. Again, users set the parameters and even their rates. Currently in Winnipeg rates range from $35 to $150 a night. I checked out a few of the cheaper options and it seemed common that the $35 was for one person with an additional $10 charge for extra people (depending on how many sleeping spaces were available).

    AirBnB really intrigues me as a concept, and they even offer up to $1,000,000 insurance policy for theft/damage done to the home. My biggest concern when considering to be a host is how it might impact my current homeowner policy? I just haven't found the time to look into it properly yet as a homeowner - but as a potential guest it seems like a great idea!

    Both the Couchsurfing and AirBnB have a review system so you can really get a sense before you book for what sort of experience you might be in for. They also offer something a hostel generally doesn't - a chance to interact with a local on a one on one basis.

    All I know is Winnipeg is likely to be extremely short on budget accommodation this summer and in a city that is desperate to attract visitors we can't afford to turn people away.