The Reality of Donald Trump

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Jeopardy of Northern Manitoba Rail and Port Service

by Norm Richards

There was a powerful reason to have a third major sea port in Canada as long as it made economic sense to have one. Churchill, Manitoba made just as much sense as Vancouver, the lakehead and the east coast for foreign market shipments.  Maybe it still does. We are a resource based country and bulk shipments need access to world markets. Two things need to be in place to reach these markets. Demand has to exist and transportation has to be in place to reach the markets. This was all well and good when western grain was shipped to port by rail to Churchill. Governments took part to support price and protect farmers through subsidies. Through the past two decades government has taken a less active part in certain parts of the economy namely rail transportation and grain subsidies. This reduced the responsibility of the federal government to be active in this part of the economy. However, if it made sense elsewhere to sell public enterprise off to private interests, it certainly doesn’t prove wise here in Manitoba.

In the case of the rail service to Churchill, the Hudson Bay Railway (HBR) was sold to OmniTrax. Contracts were put in place to assure service continued to the north and the rails would be improved and maintained. The Manitoba government and federal government paid cash up front to assure the rail line is improved and maintained. It appears the track improvements were never carried out. Reports show maintainance equipment was even removed from the company’s base at The Pas, Manitoba. It seems to me that if a contract exists, the courts will order the terms of the contract be fulfilled.

 The most recent media report shows OmniTrax are ignoring the existence of the original contract by arguing publicly they are not libel for various reasons including they would rather sell the problem they now find themselves stuck with. I ask, how can you expect to sell a pig in a poke without making the item for sale attractive? The governments involved should stop making threats immediately and take action. Seek remedy in the courts for the public’s money invested in which right now appears one of the worst deals they could have ever made with a private company on what appears to have been a high risk venture to begin with, all moral considerations aside. This is not about delivering groceries cheaper to Churchill. There is more at stake. Northern rail transportation and port resumption deserves a second chance even if it appears to be an impossible task at the moment. After all, national pride and jurisprudence deserves better treatment as far as I can tell.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

To Netflix or not to flix

By Norm Richards

On Thursday September 28, 2017, Canada's Heritage Minister Melanie Joly held a press conference to announce that juggernaut internet streaming service Netflix have agreed to invest $500 - million over five years on production and distribution of Canadian movies and television programs. The trade  off appears that the government will not tax Netflix on their subscriptions. Netflix will agree to install a production office in Canada more likely in Toronto and not in Regina or Winnipeg. The fifteen hundred dollar cup of coffee remains. This means if you wish to pitch your story ideas to Netflix you will have to travel to do it.

Nevertheless, there are many other concerns. The question remains how the money they put in up to $100 - million per year is handled and who gets to administer it. It appears Quebec is already demanding they get a split off equal to what they usually get when CBC gets their allocation for French program funding and the rest of Canada gets what's left. This envelope split is more Ottawa's politically understood way of doing things over demonstrated merit. The point I'm willing to make on this subject is that Netflix will prefer English language programs for distribution since that's the norm for them. I'm sure they will buy Quebec produced programs regardless but not because Quebec says they must.

My biggest concern is that story development and writers need a window to develop their talent and advance their skills. It's simply not enough to graduate from a writing program and go up against a wall of gatekeepers who have no concern for what it takes to create story and all the associated costs of time, research costs and consultation it takes to make a finished product. Writing on spec is risky, terribly time consuming, misleading and most often ends in rejection. If you pitch a story idea with a limited outline or treatment, you shouldn't be forced to write a full script out of your own pocket. An
investment in the process of developing good story is badly needed in Canada.

for now, I think the Minister understands that. The problems of being a politician is she needs to develop policy and firm agreements with interested players before anything can happen. It's my hope Netflix wants the same thing. That they respects the process rather than just buying ready made productions trusting Canada's producers are in good enough financial shape as they are. Putting together workable budgets is also a science and almost always falls short trying to finish a film. Good story needs the investment it deserves at the early stage of creation. I'm very interested in seeing what happens in the coming weeks and months while Canada's government and Netflix assume responsibility for content improvement.
Will it be done?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Culture, My Heritage and the North American Free Trade Agreement

My Culture, My Heritage and the North American Free Trade Agreement

By Norm Richards

I had the pleasure of reading the Globe and Mail feature story on Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Saturday August 12, 2017. I'm sure it's a very exciting time in her life charged with facing up to American President Donald Trump on the NAFTA file. A major steering point in the negotiations is Trump's insistance on his "America First" policy. The approach there is for American's to buy in America first. We ought to remind him that by virtue of location, Canada is part of "North" America as he is. Doesn't mean he's obligated to be contrite and play along but he can't ignore what has gone before, which is all of the positive trade that has taken place between our two countries since the beginning of Free Trade twenty seven years ago. Now, I personally believe in fair trade so I agree, we should sit down at the table and discuss with America how we can improve the trade agreement we now have between us.

My biggest concern is keeping our cultural life and interests of our own country safe from predatory ideas. I don't want to see it creep into these talks either. I'm concerned that the Trump side of the table wishes to include Telecommunications and E-commerce which is the business of the internet and the exchange of digital product between our two countries. Telecom is the wires to carry it. In film for example, there was a day when multiple metal cases containing feature films were shipped across the border to movie houses across Canada. That's how you got to see your favourite Hollywood movie. Today, you turn on your TV and it's right there, projected electronically and processed and originally recorded in digital format. Very little of this activity originates in Hollywood anymore. In fact, most major world class feature films are shot on location in Canada, in Canadian studios and post produced here, prepared for transfer to theaters and TV screens in digital transfer format and sent to where the story is shown to audiences. Big metal boxes never see the light of day. Hollywood does have input. They still buy stories earmarked for production. They invest in production and distribution. They control the markets around the world. Although it's changing, first window remains a theatrical release before it gets to television screens. That fact affords Hollywood control on releases including rights and ultimately who gets paid and when. This system is trusted as the best working model meanwhile even though we crew and even the lead stars and talent are Canadian in the big American films, most Canadian filmmakers have limited access to the whole thing. We should have better access.

I don't mean we should start making big American films for American audiences first, no, we need to make stories we like about ourselves as Canadians. We need to take pride in our own stories, no matter what the roadblocks are. For most, it's not possible. You have to spend too much money chasing people around the world who have the means to invest in your story and film you dream about making. We simply get starved out. I don't know if NAFTA is even the place to open such discussions on a more open and fair distribution exchange between our two states. Industry to industry talks in the past got little result. The big guy on the block is also the bully. American films dominate the world and they want to keep it that way. It doesn't make their product better than what originates elsewhere. Not at all. In fact more often the big box office movies are poorly written and rushed to market. The investment in the slate of films released from year to year depends on one big hit to pay for all the other films they released in that year. The risk is high and studios have gone broke trying. Let me let you in on a little secret. Studios have also been saved by small films they never thought would be a hit in the first place. I think there is a place in the market for a more diverse filmmaker and his ideas. We need screen time and investment to make our films in Canada and soon. Telefilm Canada  and the National Film Board will tell you we have already proved ourselves. Anyone who's ever worked on films in Canada knows the joy of doing it and the excitement for the results. I do. Gets in the blood. I graduate film school to write story and work in Canada's film and television industry.

I wish Chrystia Freeland well in keeping the train rolling, so to speak on what works well for agreements between our two counties and what doesn't;  these important subjects, if not included in NAFTA, get placed into separate equally important negotiations at another time. I fear our homeland of Canada get damaged further by corruption of one kind or another. We suffer now by American domination in the media. They have a way of ignoring what goes on in Canada. Yet, the story coverage of what goes on in the American streets is alarming. Music from America has it's way of encroaching on our way of life as well. I think we can have a world view without swallowing it whole and end up facing corruption we don't even understand we were hit by. Talk about Big Brother and the Marshall McLuhan view of the medium is the message all over again.                  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Morning Pages

By Norm Richards

I had a dream last night. Words from a song. Most dreams are held during the early morning and I know that was true for me. I awoke feeling good and thinking positive. I had a small drink of juice and laid back down. The memory of the dream began coming back to me. What brought this on, I have no idea. But here goes.
I saw i was walking across a big green grassed field. I looked off in the distance and I saw a street, one I was familiar with, it came from my hometown. It looked a little different than it really is today, older perhaps. Regardless, I saw this group of young people spilling out of a building in a playful way. Everyone had smiles and good time ways. Someone kicked a soccer ball across the street from the doorways of this building. It was like recess at school except none of these folks were young enough anymore. Nevertheless, a gathering of delighted people gathered with me in the field. I wasn't part of their group but I soon got included. The ball was kicked out into the field from the street as if to engage and include. I hesitated. I looked at people. When I moved toward the ball no one objected. Quite the contrary, they encouraged me to play. I ran after the ball and it seems to come to me without much effort. A number of the other guys gave it a good kick and the ball really travelled. Once I retrieved it I tried to kick it back into the crowd. It didn't go very far. I noticed most of the crowd were pairing up and there was suddenly less interest in the ball activity.

I went into the crowd. A young woman engaged me. It's as if she was always there, waiting. I was familiar and at ease with her as she was with me. She was wearing clean modest clothing and a nice beige warm wool coat. The crowd was breaking up and going their own way in pairs. My companion and I got on a low flying vehicle, can't say what it was, a hovercraft of some sort. We proceeded down the street together. Just as we turned, I saw another woman around the corner as we passed. She looked at me and I knew her. She said hi and I noticed she meant it, really meant it. If I had stopped to talk at that moment, the girl I was with would have de-solved from me. But she remained holding onto me. I felt her embrace like we'd always been together, knowing each other and feeling good together. Her scent was part of me.

We arrived at the doorway of a restaurant. We discussed going in. She loved the idea of a warm drink and maybe something to eat. We went in. Everyone in the place was having a good time. Music had everyone elevated and in a great mood. Smiles all around. It's like going into a crowded bar and the place is lit. She down beside someone she seemed to know. I didn't feel right letting go of her since we were so comfortable together. But I had to place our order at the counter. While I was there I knew the people next to me and we talked. I looked across the room at my partner and she smiled back. She continued chatting with the other guy. I was standing at the kitchen counter pouring my morning juice when I awoke to the memory of this dream. I wanted it back. You know how that goes.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Taking Stock

By Norm Richards

I don't know if it's tax time or the anticipation of season changing, I'm feeling pressure. Last week, I scrambled to figure out if I need to buy registered retirement coverage for another year or I'm a free range chicken. No such luck. I still have to keep putting feed in my mouth without choking on it. What disappoints me is, I'm not wealthy. I'm not in a position to just get my people to deal with it. Hey, I'm it. Should I be surprised? Or, should it be a warning something else is going on?

There's a big storm coming in today. The radio reports speak of roads and highways closed. Yet, there is a bit of wind and sprinkles of nice white fluffy coming down, at least at this hour. Should this be an omen for something bigger coming on? Don't you get some weeks where there is so much weight on your shoulders you just have to talk about it, as if it'll all go away by talking about it? Well, that's my week.

Last week I received a set of documents that outlines my ancestry. I'm still debriefing the contents and what direction to take with the details. It's nice to know who you are and or were you originate from. How about 1500 AD and beyond in France and the 1700's in Scotland? There were pieces of me moving on the land way back then. If those guys didn't dream of a better life somewhere else and come to this country, I wouldn't exist, at least not in the same DNA as I exist now.

I've gone my whole life knowing I'm a mixed blood person but lived to now with no documented proof of that. My parents and even grandparents did not speak much about who they were but for the language and love they showed me as a child, although we celebrated our culture and heritage in certain inspired ways. There was pride instilled in my heart and soul of who we are. The things they did share, lead to this day. I'm at an age now, where I'm close to the age they gave me such positive vibes. In turn, I wish I was living closer to my own children to pass on more. Now, the ancestry report has my imagination doing cartwheels fow what's possible.

This is my week. What's yours?                    

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Reality of Donald Trump

By Norm Richards

Welcome to reality TV everyone! Donald Trump is President elect of the United States of America as of November 8, 2016. In case you haven't noticed, reality's viewership has dominated screens everywhere. It has got so popular that audiences reject most other kinds of daily programming on television today. Donald Trump comes from that reality. No, he didn't come from there originally. But his family's wealth and ultimately his own, made it possible for him to find a platform to spring from. Viewers became believers when they heard him say, "You're Fired." Most people were shocked he said it. They were secretly delighted. That secret came to life in the way America voted. The Apprentice program is a model for a performance never seen before. Going forward, once Trump began his campaign for president, he had his ticket. He would be let into the big show with his campaign for the presidency. We went on with our lives believing the reality program was simple amusing television. It was more. It created a new reality that would creep up on those who would never believe in Trump. The program became Trump's formula for success.

I went to bed last evening before Trump was declared the winner. I settled into my pillow knowing it was done. The numbers totally favoured him. I witnessed people weeping at the Clinton headquarters. It was done. I awoke and rose fast this morning to check results. Sure enough, Clinton is Trumped! Hillary Clinton was to not give her speech at so late an hour. Made sense. How does she and her electorate come to grips with the Donald's win? People want change. Many chewed off a limb on the way to the poles last night. It feels like the walking dead voted but were never deplorable. Hope being all they had left. They voted. Can Trump now deliver? I hope Americans find themselves eating a tasty bird at Thanksgiving and not crow. They deserve better.  

As for my own country, I'm concerned Prime Minister Trudeau in relation to President Trump does not become a Chester & Spike act. Everything Mr. Trump has shown so far is that he's likely to be the bulldog who swats away the needy terrier's begging. We'll see. I noted Hillary encouraged young women and girls to pursue their dreams no matter what. It made me think of TV's Dynasty. I'm sure many people would have liked to see a Kennedy woman run for president. It didn't happen, at least not yet. The Bush family showed that a dynasty was possible when George Bush become president after his father had been. I watched Donald Trump on stage with his family. Could you see Ivanka or Tiffany taking power in the future? Just the fact that Donald will be president gives Ivanka sway in Washington right now. While wishing girls well with the glass ceiling yet unbroken, I'm sure Hillary does not dream the dream of a Trump dynasty. Nobody thought Donald would make it to the white house except to drive by it. Could his children succeed him?        


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Northern Manitoba Rail Transportation Under threat

By Norm Richards

I heard a report today on CBC radio of a major layoff at the Port of Churchill. OmniTRAX, a USA company owns the shipping port and long established rail route for shipping Canadian grain to world markets. I spoke about this not so long ago on social media since I know my hometown would be impacted greatly and in fact the province of Manitoba's economy will feel this action by OmniTRAX. If it's temporary, then there may still be a chance to recover. If it's a permanent layoff, it's only the beginning of a crash of the northern economy and my hometown, to say little of what's left in Churchill as well as excursions to observe Polar bears in the wild.  

What can be done about this? I sure hope the new provincial government are clued in enough to take immediate action and intervene. So far OmniTRAX has said nothing publicly. In the last month I visited my hometown of The Pas which is the hub of the Hudson Bay Railway and the town is the centre of all north bound trade marked for export. I saw a very active rail service in play in my hometown of The Pas. Take away this rail service and the whole economy will be impacted. Trust me!