Reporters and storytellers like me have a number of time-honoured rituals that are generally guaranteed to raise the anxiety level of all of us. It happens often when we report the latest figures on violent crime in Canada.
This month, the story took on even greater intensity, against the backdrop of senseless gun violence on the streets of Toronto, and inside that movie theatre in Colorado.
Here on the prairies, the picture has not changed a great deal. Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon are still at the top of the list when it comes to violent crime in Canada, although the rates are continuing to drop slowly.
Police and politicians are on the hot seat when the figures are released.
Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McKaskill is among those who say, “The glass is half full and we should not be unduly frightened.”
The politicians engage in endless photo ops, and some of them call for more legal restrictions on guns and knives.
One or two of the folks involved even say “it’s time to address the root causes of violent crime”. They’re usually in opposition and don’t have to sign any of the cheques.
What then are the root causes in our prairie cities? All three communities have neighbourhoods with a lot of poor people, including aboriginals who have moved to the city with few marketable skills. Affordable housing is getting harder and harder to find.
When we dare to dig a little deeper, we find that things are getting better in some of those core neighbourhoods in Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon. It’s a difficult struggle, but there are lots of stories of people working endless hours to make a difference, one street and one block at a time.
But every few months we have to endure the ritual of those crime stats, and the media asking us to answer that inevitable question yet again “Do you feel safe?”
Is there not a better way of telling the story? Just asking.
There was a time, not so long ago, that both Manitoba and Saskatchewan were hosting a lot of movie and TV companies. It provided lots of local jobs for creative people and many spinoffs for local suppliers.
Producers were attracted to the Canadian prairie by the weak loonie and generous tax credits offered by provincial governments. But the cameras have just about stopped rolling in Saskatchewan since Brad Wall and company pulled the plug on the $8 million Employment Tax Credit.
That money will be used instead to help build the new stadium for the Roughriders. One by one the companies who had set up shop in Saskatchewan to work in film and TV started to pack up and leave.
Kevin DeWalt of Mind’s Eye Entertainment is just wrapping on a sci-fi thriller called Stranded starring Christian Slater. Coincidentally, the budget on that one is $8 million.
DeWalt says he will be leaving Saskatchewan at some point, after Stranded is put to bed. It was expected that more than a few producers would relocate to Winnipeg. But so far it hasn’t exactly been a rush of refugees that you would notice.
Production levels in Winnipeg this summer have been well below the peaks of a few years ago.
Still to shoot this summer are a biography of Jack Layton which will be produced for CBC, and a cheapie horror flick. It’s a far cry from Oscar winners like Capote which put Winnipeg on Hollywood’s map.
Back in Saskatchewan, it appears more and more as though Brad Wall knew he would take heat for killing the industry that was famous in many countries for Corner Gas, but he also knew that there were relatively few votes to be lost in the long run.
The victims most affected are the young creative people who were proud to be doing their thing in a place where it didn’t used to happen.
They will now have to live with those memories somewhere else, or find a new career path. Such is the world of political choices.
Roger Currie is a writer, blogger and broadcaster.
He lives in Winnipeg, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org