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! 


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fort McMurray, Alberta Forest Fire Emergency!

By Norm Richards

I'm currently following the reports on the expanding Forrest fire that brought devastation to home owners and residents of the northern city of Fort McMurray, Alberta. The city of eighty thousand have had to be evacuated in a very fast order this week. The escape from the city put enormous stress on officials to manage a safe flow out of vast numbers of people in a moments notice. How do you get people out with only one road in and out? It has to be done.

Aircraft, buses and vehicles moved all at the same time to leave the danger zone. Of course, this is perfect television programming. People wanna know. People wanna see, right now, first hand and keep the stories coming! I know. I helped get those kind of stories on the air back in 1997, during the threat of flood on the city of Winnipeg including southern Manitoba's communities. The rushing flow of the Red River was headed north straight into the largest populated areas then. Our television broadcast team was assembled ahead of time since we knew the waters were rising fast. We covered it. Afterwards, a kind of post apocalyptic sensitivity has remained in my heart and soul since that time.  

This experience is mirrored by a major Forrest fire event today in northern Alberta. The difference is, I'm not directly involved in a broadcast team covering this emergency. But, I see the relationship of this disaster in terms of producing stories on a broadcast team. I can't believe it! It's happened again. A big story, massive numbers of people involved and affected. I'm glued to the reports despite the tension it creates on my brain. Early this week and even before the federal government announced matching dollars to the Canadian Red Cross, I donated a fair sum for my humble means. This, rather than feeling helpless. It's heart warming to hear of people donating money and goods to the displaced.

To ad to the potential stress, I have asthma. I've suffered attacks like never before this season. It's been bad and I think it's part of the quality or lack of, the weather condition this spring. I don't know broadly how others are affected but I've spoken to some. Now, I'm concerned about the flow of smoke toward us from northern Alberta. I don't think I will be able to tolerate much of the smoke's encroachment. We'll have to see. Meanwhile, here I am, watching the television reports, torn between being unable to help and the need to protect my own health and well being. The challenges we faced in 1997, keeps me engaged with the people of Fort McMurray and the neighbouring indigenous communities threatened by fire.                  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Gets a Boost!

By Norm Richards

Some think CBC should get the boot rather than a boost in the current Liberal government's first budget in 2016. Here's what I think - The CBC has been cut down to helpless levels over three maybe four decades now. When it started, there was good intention. Today, in it's present state, it needs major structural change to adapt to modern attention spans and the limitations of reaching an audience, if they still have one. I think we still love radio in this country. It works. But it also represents the whole when it identifies itself as CBC.

Public Radio is a better ID perhaps. On the TV side, funding and buying is all the network should do. They have no place being the makers of program and doing production. It's the job of the independent producers to do that.

So, building new buildings for themselves and buying new equipment to employ increased union scale workers does not guarantee and make certain a future beyond the current federal governments mandate.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Norm's Word on the American Primary Race

By Norm Richards

I'm Canadian but I don't mind observing the US primary race. Hillary Clinton has had two runs at power already. She didn't move mountains. Is there more? Really? Electing a president because they are female is not enough, sorry. On the other hand, Donald Trump knows land development, buildings, golf courses and aces self promotion better than most. But I'm concerned when a potential new leader shows promise of ignoring everyone's views in favour of his own.

I don't know, but I think the religious right candidates fall a bit short with substance and know how. I belief in a power greater than ourselves and it is not a politician. Running states can't come close to assuming a post where the whole world wants something from you and you need to be smart, honest and kind at the same time. I'd want a leader of my own country to display humility first. He doesn't have to make his own shirts with monogrammed sleeves. No, I'd be pleased if he dropped in and bought his shirts from a small retailer in his community.

Things seem to favour Bernie Sanders since he appears smarter than the other candidates. His ambitions may run into roadblocks if he makes it past the primaries. Other presidents have been relegated to lame duck status before. I'm sure that's no fun. I have a feeling Bernie's a good negotiator though. Would he be the best candidate? There is too much uniformed or political energy against him I fear. Remember, a president comes with a party and many well founded wishes. Turning those wishes into solid legislation is a sound goal. Now, who will lead the most powerful country in the free world I ask? You decide, citizens of the United States.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Ready, Steady, Go.

Ready Steady Go!

By Norm Richards

Can you ever be ready for retirement? thought about it a lot. I'm back to running on my own clock, day job gone. Now I'm trying to keep pace with it. I thought I left the daily stress behind. Now, it's about meeting my own schedules and running my own shift. You do have to be organized, still. You wake, shower and plan your day knowing it's up to you, just you.

I've got a library of films to view and scripts to read. That's my focus. I got some new equipment for writing. Love it. Fast and portable. I'm trying to ween myself off the desktop. I still throw it on as soon I wake up. By the time coffee is ready I've said hello to the world and given birthday wishes on social network. Oh what a day! No rush, I tell myself.

To be continued

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Nation Building or Bust!

Story by Norm Richards

I've wondered and felt concern like many others in Canada since the newly elected government has committed to accept twenty five thousand Syrian war refugees into Canada before the end of the year just forty days from now. I want to know more. I didn't think I'd find many answers. Meanwhile, I could end up with militant neighbours if you belief what you see and read on the Internet. I've seen the pictures of hundreds of thousands of young men moving across Europe in search of safety and freedom. At the same time disturbed by the countries rejecting them and putting up barbed wire fences to keep them out. What is wrong with people for doing that? Our national newspaper are running stories which beg reading to better understand the issues. Mark MacKinnon, Doug Saunders and Joanna Slater are some of the authors.  

The men running across Europe today are men with hopes and dreams. They want safety for themselves and for their families too. Don't they? I see actions against them that demonstrate indifference and intolerance. Yes, I know some of the those counties have their own problems. But their actions speak loudly. They may as well say, "We don't want extremist groups coming into our country!" Well, who does? But have you taken a look at who they really are? I just hope, however, that the newly elected government here knows what they are doing and are smart about it. People seeking asylum from oppression is what I believe these people are. What I've been asking USA governors through Facebook comments is; have they considered that? I'm not sure they read my comments. I spoke with a landed immigrant USA citizen to Canada the other day what he thought. He said the US governors who are against Syrians coming into their state are right wing politicians who appose President Barack Obama and his call for accepting refugees. Kind of says it right there. Where do they go from here? We have our own challenges in Canada as well. It's to find a way to get 25,000 refugees into Canada in 40 days. I read today, some have arrived.

What can we expect when more get here? If other people who come here are any example of integration into our society, things are possible. China sends their children for education while buying houses on the west coast to house them while these kids get an education. Historically, when the west needed tilling, migration from Europe expanded farming and land occupation in a rapid and permanent way. When Jewish owned clothing factories needed workers, Filipinos were hired to take those jobs. They discovered these folks were friendly and caring. Hospitals are large employers for immigrants from the Philippines. Now, even decades later and generations in, those immigrants are successful and prosperous. The taxi services are dominated by another ethnic culture. These people contribute to the economy in a substantial way. I'm pretty close to the street, so to speak. I hear many different languages daily in my city. Among themselves they speak there mother tongue but function well in English as needed. We are a mosaic from other lands here in Canada. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I worked in the aerospace industry where many UK workers were recruited and settled in this country before and after the war. People from all over the world have come to Canada to find prosperity. Can refugees make it? Why not. Governments just have to welcome them, facilitate their arrival and makes things possible for them. The rest is up to them and us to know and understand them. Integration is not impossible, it's necessary. How do you build workable nations without it? Not by force that is for sure.                


Monday, June 22, 2015

Adventures of Jim Richards

by Norm Richards


Born in 1904 at Winnipegosis, Manitoba, Canada, Jim Richards at twenty six years of age is fluent in four languages. He's self sufficient on how to live in the woods and how to live off the land around him. His early life is driven by energy and will power. He becomes a champion boxer and can run faster than any man around. Not a large fellow, trim and slim, he is as strong as any man. On the lake at the west shore he spends his time building his skills and sharing a confident manner and sense of humour. After his family, originally from Saint-Laurent, Manitoba, moved north to prosper, they relocate to the largest trading community of The Pas, Manitoba where Jim gains a reputation for his natural skills in the fish and fur trade including transportation logistics for mining companies north of The Pas.  

One day, he is visited by the man who runs the mine at Flin Flon, Manitoba. The fellow tells him about a letter received from Chicago inviting a search for an experienced northern guide and team leader. The letter is from a man wishing to create an expedition to reach the Arctic Ocean and turn east across rivers, lakes and vast territory on the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The trip will take a great deal of planning and preparation. Jim is charged with the job of gathering a team of hands to make this trip. He is told that visitors from Europe will make this journey with him. In time, he will learn who the adventure seekers from Europe are. 

In late spring of 1932, the train arrives at The Pas Station. In the clouds of steam wafting through the air on a cool day, fine leather boots appear down the steps and onto the platform of the station. The conductor dressed in a dark blue uniform with bright gold buttons reaches up to hold the hands of two young women disembarking the train. The first woman waves away the need for any help in sharp dismissal. The other woman, lays out her hand in expectation of assistance off the train steps. A man in a three piece wool worsted suit descends the stairs behind them beaming with a friendly smile in search of acknowledgement from someone in the crowd awaiting the trains arrival.

"Hello." says a voice in the crowd.

"Are you the miner from Flin Flon." The American asks.

"Yes, I am."

"I'd like you to meet Jim Richards." 

" Oh yes, we've heard a lot about you, Richards. We only hope you're up to the task."

Everyone laughs and the entourage is guided through the crowd on the platform, through the station and exists the front doors. 

"This is Madame Edw Guyot de Mishaegen of Belgium. She is accompanied by her Royal Highness Baroness de Buffin from Belgium." 

Each of the men bow, while Richards stands erect and reaches out to shake hands. No one responds except the American in the three piece suit. Otherwise, warm smiles are in evidence by all.

 "Madame de Mishaegen will keep record of this trip and write about it later for the French press. We intend to help publish the stories."  


"Tomorrow, after you have all had a good nights sleep, Jim here, will take you down to the river and show you the team and plans he's worked on for a successful expedition."

"That sounds wonderful." 

"Bon, Merci." says a deep female voice. 

Jim examines these two exotic creatures before him. 

Jim responds in the French language " I bid you a fine evening. I look forward to our rondi vous." 

The two women turn to him warmly with smiles of recognition and familiarity as all the other English speaking men seem to be left out of this part of the conversation. 

As the party arrives at the hotel, Jim turns and waves so long for the evening and walks off.  

More story to follow ............ 


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