Another winter of discontent

Well, shit. Winter is back, kicking ass and taking names. Outside, it is wet and cold as fuck. There was snow last night, and the weather is already taking its toll on drivers across southern Manitoba. I’m heading out onto the cold highways myself here in a week’s time for some bizarre reason, and sometimes the fear creeps over me as I sit, staring at this computer screen.

But winter is not something to be feared. It is a beast best embraced, and pummeled on a frozen lake, on a cold, moonless night.

Without winter, there would be no hockey. No downhill skiing, or snowmobiling or biathlon. No snowballs or demented snow people. Without the long, dark months, the long hot days of summer wouldn’t seem half as sweet.

However, winter has a lot of haters. People love bitching and moaning, and there is no lack of whinging when the snow starts to fly. But I have never been one to complain about the winter. Rather, as a child, as soon as school started, the snow couldn’t fly early enough for me. If I couldn’t be outside swimming or burning my flesh in the sun, I wanted to be skiing, making snow forts or playing hockey. Detractors from winter’s beauty can get fucked in my books.

When the snow flies, you have to become a positive thinker, or else you’re fated to become a wimp who flees the country when the real cold hits. The dark nights of winter are perfect for getting creative — sing songs, draw pictures, write a book. If you’re not into that sort of shit, start hitting the gym and pumping iron. Winter hours are the longest, the coldest, and hence freest from the distractions that an endless summer day is chock full of.

While the winter is only four or five months long, the political groundhog saw it’s shadow this past Wednesday, heralding another four years for the winter of many Winnipeggers discontent. Many people heralded Sam Katz’ reelection with moans of despair and pledges to “move to Montreal” or Calgary, where a truly progressive mayor has finally been elected. While I am certainly not pleased with the results, there is nothing that will be accomplished by fleeing the perimeter for some “brighter” center.

For Winnipeggers who are truly disappointed with the mayoral results, we should begin working immediately to create a city where we want to live, and not rely on some half-bright left of center saviour to do it for us. What would Judy Wasylycia-Leis really have done for us anyhow, beyond (potentially) actualizing the rapid-transit plan that Katz initially approved and has now waffled on? I believe that the election results show clearly that while many Winnipeggers wanted a change, that Judy did not offer that change in any meaningful way. Her platform and talking points were far too similar to Katz’ for me to stomach.

If Winnipeggers really want to see change, then we have to make that change ourselves. One cannot sit back for four years, grumbling as the city falls apart, and then expect someone to fix it for us when election time rolls around again. We must hound our elected councilors incessantly to do their jobs. Publicly protesting Main Street’s shady decisions is certainly one thing that should be encouraged, but there are other ways to effect change at the municipal level.

Start at your neighbourhood level. Volunteer your local community centre, which is likely underfunded thanks to years of Katz running the city. Keep on top of development plans in your area — though that certainly didn’t help residents around Assiniboine Avenue. Get involved in community and lobby groups around your interests, such as community gardening or bicycle advocacy.

Write letters to your elected representatives at all levels of government. Write letters to the editor, or write for your campus and community papers (we love volunteers!). When the next election comes around — be it municipal, provincial or federal — run for office. Even if you are beaten like a gong, at least you participated in the process and offered your voice and your ideas to the community, as well as gaining a key insight into the workings of the political machine. By getting at the guts of the beast, you’ll be more aware of how to affect change from the outside.

And so we are here, at the beginning of winter and another four years of Sam Katz riding high at city hall. If you are one to lament these facts, and believe that moving out of “Negativipeg” is a feasible way to solve the city’s problems, then by all means, get the fuck out of here. For those who stay, but still hope to see the city rise to its full potential — with or without the naysayers — I’ll see you on the frontlines. Game on!

Sheldon Birnie is a big fan of hockey, skiing and Burton Cummings — whether he still lives in Negativipeg or not.