Thursday, February 18, 2010
"MILLIONS" FOR CHRIST:
Ah Winnipeg. As the dreary grey winter drags on and on our beloved city administration does its level best to keep the temperature of the citizens up with one zany proposal after another. First it was the little police helicopter that could. Or maybe it couldn't because the Province seemed to duck out of the deal when this latest of glad-hand-Sam's dreams was reported to be likely to cost a bit more than was originally projected. But then it seemed to be on again as the Province said it would indeed cover the extra cost. The future will tell as, like all government schemes, the final cost will be more than a little more than originally estimated. I suppose that such a "dream machine" whereby Winnipeg tries once again to imitate a real city might be of some use in chasing down car thieves. The trouble is that, in the end you have to have real police cars with real police in them to actually arrest the thieves. You can't take the bastards out with Hellfire Missiles whatever the fantasies associated with the chopper. Some might say that this would be a good idea, but it's a no-go. MPI would have a fit.
Then there's the great rolling garbage bin debate. Winnipeg's northwest corner has been supplied with giant "rolling garbage bins". The homeowner is supposed to load their garbage into it for several days on their own property and then roll it out only on the evening before garbage day. These bins are a smaller version of the much bigger, and non-rolling, bins that have been placed in much of Winnipeg's North End. Which is whole different subject. The larger bins require the ability to give the old heave-ho to send your garbage high enough to clear the top. That's fine. More than a few people respond by just leaving the damn garbage on the ground anyways for the stray dogs to deal with.
The push-it-yourself bins require the physical stamina to push said bin out into the alley. Very good...unless it's the middle of winter and you have to push the bin through a blanket of snow and try to find a place to park it that doesn't obstruct the alleyway. Not everyone has a backyard driveway. The city also provides the extra "help" of sending the plows down the alleys and pushing the snow to the side, gradually making the roadway narrower and narrower and narrower as the winter drags on. In my own alley the city-made drifts take off three feet on my side and two feet on the other side. I guess it'll be great exercise for some people, assuming such a thing can be done at all. Not so great, however, if you're in your 70s, with bad arthritis and a heart condition. Really "great" ie impossible if you walk with a cane or walker. the intent is obvious...to fire as many garbagemen as possible and spend the money (an unknown amount, maybe less, maybe the same or maybe more) paying for high tech garbage trucks. With the added bonus of being able to add a tidy profit to this cost if the work is contracted out. All very good for contractors who have political friends but not very good for old folks.
These two items, however, weren't enough amusement for one winter season. Behind closed doors the City of Winnipeg Entertainment and Corporate Giveaway Committee (also known as the Mayor's Executive Policy Committee) plotted to give away $3.4 million dollars to the evangelical group 'Youth For Christ' (YFC) for them to build a "youth centre" at the northwest corner of Higgins and Main. The basic story, from the CBC, can be read here. Winnipeg MP Pat Martin soon raised objections to the idea of public money being used to fund a youth centre run by proselytizing evangelicals. Apparently, there had been some longer term plotting behind the move. The project was originally floated as a collaboration between YFC and the University of Winnipeg (U of W), but the U. of W. wanted the centre built on their campus. This, of course, would have meant at least joint control over the centre and possibly even ultimate U of W control. to say nothing of real estate equity.
The back rooms got smokier, and the federal government became involved, anteing up $3.2 million to the project given City of Winnipeg agreement to co-finance. this sort of thing is right up their alley, shucking off social services to evangelical groups. Not to be outdone in the secrecy department the Mayor began his own canvassing, lining up Centre Venture a quango which it intended to promote downtown development ie give away money to the usual suspects as the "front group" for the "loan" that is a gift to YFC. The scheme is for Centre Venture to give an upfront loan to YFC of $2.6 million which the City will pay back over 15 years (at $225,000/year) equalling a final cost of $3.4 million. Nice "loan" if you have friends in high places. The provincial government has written a "letter of support" for the project but has declined to offer any funding.
If you look at the website of the Winnipeg branch of YFC you will find it has quite the corporate support on its board of directors. That may be neither here nor there, but it is interesting. It might also be interesting to note that the original location at the U of W was actually in an area where people really do live. The new proposed location is perhaps within walking distance of Point Douglas and a very small part of the North End, but it's not an easy distance even from them. YFC itself has been somewhat "no comment" on Martin's complaint, but the Mayor and federal public safety minister Vic Toews (one of whose campaign donors was- you guessed it-Youth For Christ) shot back denying that the proposed centre would be "evangelical" because not only Christians would be allowed to participate in its programs. Toews, in particular, stooped to the lowest form of political smear so typical of Conservative politicians by saying that "Pat Martin doesn't have a problem with allowing gangs to recruit in his riding".
The Mayor's tone was a bit more elevated, but he also echoed the "not only Christians will be allowed in the door" refrain. The way in which the City's involvement, however, came about seems to say that our Mayor could give the federal Conservatives lessons in government secrecy. No mean feat indeed ! After the behind closed doors meeting of the EPC where the give away was decided on (with no input from the City bureaucrats who usually vet numerous far smaller community projects) a one page notice was presented to City Council. The vote was scheduled for one week later, on February 24. Not much time for debate for a matter that will divert a huge amount of money away from present smaller neighbourhood projects into a controversial megaproject of dubious value. I can only hope that Council Chambers will be packed on the 24th.
What I find most notable about the attacks that have been levelled against Martin is the masterful way that his critics manage to divert the whole issue by confusing "evangelical" with its precise opposite ie a group that only wants to associate with its own kind rather than to convert "the other". The other actually has to be present before you can work on converting him, and, of course, groups like YFC want to have the "non-churchy" present so that they can work on them. It only stands to reason, and I'm sure that both the Mayor and Toews know exactly what they are doing and how they are lying by misdirection when they misrepresent what proselytizing actually is. For those who are interested here is the Mission Statement of Youth For Christ from their national website.
Youth for Christ, Canada exists to impact every young person in Canada with the person, work and teachings of Jesus Christ and discipling them into the Church.
Our ministry is involved in responsible, effective and culturally sensitive evangelism of youth, communicating and caring in ways that are relevant to this generation.
The ministry in Canada is committed to acting as a resource in the helping to further the worldwide vision and mission of YFC International.
We are committed to a journey of faith fully trusting our Lord to supply the resources and strategies to impact the youth of Canada.
This says pretty plainly that they intend to do exactly what Pat Martin says they want to do. They also happen to be damn proud of it, and they'd never deny it. That they leave to their political friends.