An aerial view of the Red River just south of Winnipeg's city limits during the 1997 flood
In my hometown of Winnipeg this week, the City went on high alert as they prepared for what could be some serious flooding again this year. Having lived a stone's throw from the Red River for a number of years myself, I know firsthand how powerful this body of water can be.
The Province of Manitoba and Federal Government recently expanded the floodway as a measure to help reduce flood risks within the City of Winnipeg. The floodway acts as a lifeline for Winnipegers, but is no help to those residents who live just outside the City limits.
Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz told the CBC:
"I mean, the price you pay for living on the river and having that quality of life, is about to happen right now. So we're definitely geared up at this stage of the game and we will be able to respond to '97 level."
Let's keep our fingers crossed that the river levels are low, and that the good citizens of Winnipeg and beyond are spared any significant damage.
On a more controversial note, Mayor Katz appears to be taking on his civic unions. He plans to hire 24 new student ambassadors (oh..oh...there's that word again) to replace park police staff.
CUPE is furious saying that the move is nothing more than a cost cutting measure. It is estimated that the move toward the ambassadors will save the City about $100,000 per year. Mike Davidson, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500 told the Winnipeg Free Press:
"Taking trained park police out of the mix without a real plan is the wrong move to take."
According to the Free Press:
"None of the existing park police officers will lose their jobs, as the city has already begun the process of redeploying them to other positions within the public service."
This is going before Winnipeg Council on March 25, and you can expect a heated debate. From our perspective this sounds like a lot of squawking about nothing. We say Kudos to Katz for keeping his eye on the ball and placing taxpayers ahead of the needs of special interests.
Lastly, an 'exasperated' Mayor Gerard Tremblay vowed to ensure that the annual protest against Montreal police will be better managed in years to come. The protests first started 13 years ago in 1997.
According to the National Post, the shadowy group that protested the police also oppose:
"fast food, pharmacies, comfortable hotels and symphony-going suburbanites."
In what sounded like mayhem on the streets of one of my favourite Canadian cities, the Post reports:
"In what has become an annual embarrassment for the city, a few hundred protesters turned the city streets into a battleground, throwing rocks and other projectiles at police who tried to contain the roving band. Along their way, the thugs smashed shop windows, including those of a Burger King, a drugstore and a couple of upscale hotels. At least one police van was destroyed. People who parked in the wrong place found their vehicles in a combat zone."
Mayor Tremblay told the post vowed to find a way of reducing the impacts of future protests:
"We do not want to prohibit the right to protest and we do not want to prohibit free expression either. But should it be better controlled? The answer is yes,"
No word yet on what "better controlled" means. Stay tuned.
That folks was the week that was in Canadian cities...overall, fairly quiet I might say. Tune back here next week for our weekly roundup of the issues, people and stories impacting some of Canada's major urban centres.