A business trip sparks a grim epiphany

What Just Happened? | Stephen Whitworth

The What Just Happened desk recently travelled to tropical Winnipeg, Manitoba to meet with our Belgium bureau (one of WJH’s many globe-spanning satellites). A fruitful exchange of ideas ensued, as did a tour of the town. We saw landmarks and historic districts, tree-filled neighbourhoods and highly alarming streets that looked like something out of The Wire’s Baltimore.

We visited IKEA and a couple of local shops with more undisturbed dust than an Indiana Jones tomb. We saw deer, rabbits, squirrels and geese. We saw 500,000 caterpillars eat a parked car.

It was a lot to take in.

There was also an epiphany.

Winnipeg is far from perfect and its struggles with social issues, including staggering poverty and crime, are well known (this is a place where people get murdered in libraries, after all). That said, our visit also showed us a dynamic city with life and culture bursting all around us.

Maybe it’s the over-familiarity talking, but while Winnipeg battles on urban Saskatchewan feels like it’s choking under a dusty shroud of hopelessness. The indefatigable optimism we caught glimpses of in Manitoba is rare here. From crowded emergency rooms to homelessness and a spiraling addictions crisis; from never-ending budget cuts, privatization and defunding to emboldened religious zealots attacking public education with provincial government backing; Saskatchewan seems like a less and less welcoming place by the day.

A travelling companion said it’s like Saskatchewan is dying.

The What Just Happened desk feels this grim perception has validity. Maybe you feel the same. Something to think about.

In a development so predictable it could be the plot of a Marvel movie, former U.S. president Donald J. Trump was charged today with illegally keeping classified documents. “Blah blah blah, witch hunt, Biden Hillary,” the tangerine-toned nincompoop said in a press release. The What Just Happened desk highly recommends going onto YouTube and watching Randy Rainbow’s latest parody song about all this.

Telecom and media titan Bell Canada nuked 1,300 jobs today, further gutting Canadian journalism (which is already in deep crisis). The company simpered over $40 million in losses in its media division in 2022, despite making $725 million in first-quarter 2023 profits (and $6.05 billion in revenue). The company also applied to the CRTC for permission to cut spending on local news in “major and smaller markets,” according to a Canadian Press story on Bell-owned CTV’s website. While layoffs include (names here).

ALSO: LAWSUIT REDUX Writer E Jean Carroll got the go-ahead to sue Donald Trump for $10 million in defamation after the mad mango responded to an earlier legal loss to Carroll, who has accused him of raping her, by trashing Carroll on a CNN town hall program. Some pumpkins never learn.

A horrific bus crash on the Trans-Canada Highway near Carberry, Manitoba left 16 seniors dead today. The victims’ ages ranged from 68 to 88. Awful.

Here’s some Queen City news with provincial implications.After a loose coalition of activists was ordered out of a Regina city park for setting up a tent shelter for homeless residents, the peeved group relocated to City Hall. Thus was founded an unlikely sanctuary for dozens of people who have been utterly failed by multiple levels of government — in particular the Province, which supercharged Saskatchewan’s poverty crisis with reckless and deranged changes to social assistance programs in September 2021. While homelessness can’t be fully solved at the municipal level, Regina’s city government arguably brought this on itself after spending a year annoying Reginans with plans for a publicly funded downtown arena while breaking its own commitment to address homelessness. Making things more interesting, newly retired police chief Evan Bray slammed activists for “exploiting” the homeless, who, again, are people with nothing and nowhere else to go. The What Just Happens desk is of the belief that conservative accusations are usually confessions. It will therefore remember Bray’s politically charged comments should the ex-chief ever consider running for the Saskatchewan Party.

ALSO: PRIDE SLIDE For several years the National Hockey League fought bigotry in the sport with diversity initiatives. Unfortunately, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman nuked those noble efforts today with the announcement the league won’t let players wear theme-night jerseys for the 2023-2024 season after several players sparked outrage for refusing to wear Pride jerseys this past year. Calling the warm-up jerseys a “distraction”, Bettman said theme nights and diversity efforts would continue. It’s a shame that the commissioner of a league that has exactly zero out LGBTQ players chooses to blame a jersey for controversy rather than the bigots who cheered his decision. It’s also a shame this is now the league’s third consecutive off-season of scandal, following last year’s Hockey Canada sexual assault case and the previous year’s Chicago Blackhawks scandal. ■