Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Movie Review: Bad Moms

I'm not a movie reviewer in that I never attended journalism school or had classes in film history. Like the majority of people out there, I just love films. In the past, I wrote screenplays and even sold some but have had a career elsewhere for some time. What I continue to do though is write and blog. In recent years, Access Winnipeg has published on their website my writing. This has resulted in movie passes and other media invites that I've tried to attend.

Once again, I'm not so much a media person. I don't get paid for my opinion nor do I have an editor who checks for my many typos. Please let me know when I make an error. What I will try do from here on in is is provide either a preview or review of the movie I've seen. I'll try not to spoil any movies but give some background where I can and my honest opinion of what I saw.

I'd like to thank Access Winnipeg and all of you for reading even when it looks like I've been over tired. In recent months, the overall reads has come in at around 40,000 a month. Access Winnipeg is likely even higher than that.

The first review is for Bad Moms written by John Lucas and Scott Moore who cut their teeth on the screenplay for the Hangover.  In this movie, they also share co-director roles. To say these two men have a certain comedy style is an understatement. They have come to define vulgar, profane, ridiculous and outrageous comedy with few limits. What the writer/director team have not done to this point is a female drive storyline.

So how do they do after so many bad men, bad dads and funny movies making the switch to bad moms? They do very well. The storyline follows Amy (Mila Kunis) as a mom who is stressed to the max with two children in middle school, a job asking lots given that it is part-time and a husband who is less than helpful at home. The result of all this is an inevitable meltdown. She finds support from two other overworked moms Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn).

The break from conformity earns the scorn of the Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), head of the PTA. She does not approve of Amy saying no to overachieving at school events such as the bake sale. Gwendolyn, assisted by her mean team of Stacy (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and Vicky (Amy Mumolo) try and stop Amy. The result is a hilarious battle for the PTA presidency.

The audience reaction to moms behaving badly was one of delight. The escalation of raunchiness rips a page from The Hangover and few men escape ridicule, scorn or contempt from the women unless you're a widowed, hunky man raising a child on your own.

The end of the movie is a case of wish fulfillment for the women in the the story. They all achieve some sort of peace in not being perfect but that this in itself brings happiness. Perhaps the male writer/director team has in fact captured what women want. It is hard to imagine The Hangover having such life lessons.

One feature worth staying through the credits if watching the actresses with their real life mothers taking about their childhoods and also about bad mom moments. A very nice touch.

No Oscars will be awarded this kind of movie but in a summer of re-makes, superheros, horror and the like, this movie may end up being a breakout hit.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Altona Mall Lands New Stores

Altona is south of Winnipeg near the U.S. border and one of the successful rural communities that dot the Manitoba Prairies. Like other growing places, it also has local requirements plus a bucket list of stores and restaurants it would like in their town. In 2013, new ownership took over the mall in the center of town. Since then they have renovated and tried to bring new retailers in.

Home Hardware has just opened in the mall which leaves just 12,000 square feet of available space left to fill. A Tim Horton's was not in the cards because the available space won't accommodate a drive-thru. Unlike other rural malls, the central location doesn't make it as easy to simply expand out. Altona is already a town spread out so the mall with a grocer, drug store and a variety of services inside has become a magnet for the people living there.

Many Winnipeggers see the ads for Home Hardware stores on TV but likely have no idea the reach the store has in Manitoba with at least a dozen locations in the province. Friesen's, the big printing company remains a powerful force in the town and churches are in every section of the community. The hard working people in Altona are likely to see additional growth in the coming years.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Shoppers Mall Brandon Gets $30 Million Upgrade

Shoppers Mall before and after
Shoppers Mall in Brandon is the biggest retail center in Manitoba's second largest city. The chaos of the last few years which has seen stores like Safeway, Zellers, Target and others merge or close has left many malls scrambling to replace vacant spots. At 367,000 square feet the Shoppers Mall is sizeable enough to attract major retailers. However, Morguard Real Estate had decided the mall needs a freshen up and a few new stores and will pay $30 million to improve front entrance and common areas.

As reported here, GoodLife Fitness is moving into the mall in the old Safeway location. Also coming to the mall in the old Target will be a Sobey's Extra which will be a strong anchor. It will occupy 62,000 square feet so it has some size. Inside the mall Thai Express will join others in the food court.

Outside the mall and occupying the parking lot will be Brandon's first Swiss Chalet and Harvey's locations.

Also joining and sharing space with Fionn Macool's restaurant will be Brandon's first East Side Mario's.

Other retailers inside the mall are to be announced closer to the 2017 completion of renovations.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Charleswood Medical Centre Closed

After 35 years, the Charleswood Centre closed their second floor clinic in what is old downtown Charleswood at 3660 Roblin. The last official day was June 30 and the 10 plus doctors with a variety of specialist have scattered to other clinics in the city.

It is unknown why this large clinic closed which included X-ray and other services onsite. The entire second floor is now up for lease but given the size of the place it is  going to be a substantial space to fill.

There are substantial changes taking place in Charleswood but this particular building was the largest medical facility in the district. Will keep monitoring the building for updates.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mountain Warehouse Coming to Kildonan Place

Kildonan Place has announced that British retailer Mountain Warehouse will be opening in August in the mall with 15 employees. It will be the first Manitoba location for the company that has over 200 stores around the world primarily in Britain.

Mountrain Warehouse was founded in 1997 and specializes in outdoor stuff for camping, hiking and the like. The company designs its own products.

There is a fair amount of competition for outfitters in Canada but the company may have found their niche with specialized product of their own. It is a coup for Kildonan Place as it was though this store was going to go into the Outlet Collection Mall.

Innovation Centre for Richardson International to Build New Downtown Building

Closing of Public Lane
Building on parking lots
It was talked about last year and many people thought that perhaps the Richardson family might put their research and development arm in one of the new towers proposed by the MTS Centre. When that didn't happen, some thought it might go into one of the empty spaces left when some law firms at Portage and Main relocated.

It is now revealed that the Richardson family had other plans altogether. At the corner of Lombard and Westbrook between the Goldeyes stadium, a parking lot and lane will be converted to to the $20 million Innovation Centre for Richardson International.

The biggest division of the Richardson family holding is in agriculture and and the 2013 acquisition of Can Oat milling has triggered a need to consolidate research and development near the James Richardson and Sons Ltd. headquarters at Portage and Main. The work is being moved from Lethbridge, Alberta and Yorkton, Saskatchewan. The Winnipeg center will develop new canola and oat products such as margarine and oils.

The Richardson family often flies below the radar even in their own hometown but it is important to remember they run one of Canada's largest private companies and they spend hundreds of millions in development and acquisitions. The family is also one of the largest for charitable donations and have been significant sustainers across a host of institutions across Manitoba.

The new Innovation Centre will take over a Richardson owned surface lot as well as a public lane owned by the city. In essence a Richardson campus is being created that encompasses several family owned properties.

Urbanists often fret about all the surface lots and they are right. They are forlorn, wasteful and inefficient uses of space. In the last year, we have seen a number of surface lots become important parts of a greater development. In this case, we might see one that relies strictly on private capital.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

White House Restaurant to move to Charleswood

For many decades the White House restaurant has been a mainstay of River Heights take out and delivery on Grant Avenue. Their byline is "World Famous Ribs and Chicken" and they have fans who have eaten their for 60 years.

There are only a select few restaurants in River Heights proper and the ones that are there often last a very long time. This is why the closed sign and removal of signs from their 1535 Grant location is a bit of a shock. The owners have said they are on the move for only the third time in their history. They have shared a building with the Grant Dental Clinic for years now.

The first incarnation of the White House was on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg in the 1940s and 50s. It was the place to hang out and colourful people met there to be secreted away to craps and card games. This was a time when men still wore suits and felt hats.

The move to River Heights coincided with a lot of their customer becoming prosperous and moving south of the Assiniboine. For many in the Jewish community, it was a point of pride to move into the south which still had rules in place for keeping certain people out based on racism.

In the recent year there has been something of a rejuvenation of Charleswood restaurants. The area has seen the arrival Boulevard taking over and expanding the old White Tower restaurant site and Capitol taking over the old Asahi and before that KFC site. Pappas restaurant inside the old Toronto Dominion bank remains a the decades long veteran.

It looks like Pappas will have a neighbour a few doors down with White Restaurant moving into one of three spots that Vi's Interiors occupies. Many years past it was a hair salon. The address is 3312 Roblin Boulevard.

The White House website mentioned a June opening but it looks like it will be July. Welcome to Charleswood! I'm sure they deliver to River Heights.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Amsterdam Tea Room To Open In Old Market Square

The space where the old Winnipeg Folk Festival music store was will soon see life as an art gallery and tea room to open in the next short while. The building at 221 Bannatyne at the comer of Letinsky Place is at the back of what was once the Crocus building.  Pita Pit is right next door.

It is directly across from Old Market Square and while it won't be open for Jazz Winnipeg Fest, it is likely to be a huge attraction for Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

Students, residents, concert goers and business people in the area are likely to be very happy with yet another option bring critical mass for food and entertainment to the district.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Jones New York Stores Close Across Canada

Jones New York on Kenaston
The company was saved just last year when Grafton Fraser in Canada, owner of Tip Top, bought the Canadian arm of classic women's wear company Jones New York.

The company continued to bleed money in a tough retail environment until this week the decision was made to pull the plug. All 37 stores in Canada will close and the stock liquidated. There will be a loss of 300 jobs.

In Winnipeg, the one and only Jones New York is on Kenaston at McGillvary and can be seen from the road. The province to take the biggest hit will be Ontario where the bulk of the stores are.

The Kenaston big box location has seen some closures recently. Some of those are likely in anticipation of the opening of Outlets of Seasons factory mall. There should be some interest in the vacant spots but things will be in flux till next year for sure.

Retailing has never been more fickle and the market so difficult to read. This won't be the last store group to close. Sears continues to struggle and that is one everyone is waiting for to sink or swim.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Jollibee and Save-On Foods Revitalize Northgate Shopping Center McPhillips

A drive along McPhillips will quickly reveal some opportunities that have come up as a result of grocery store and department store closures. The Northgate Shopping Centre in 2010 had a 98% occupancy rate but the shut down of Zellers a few years back had the place looking a little forlorn.

The 230,000 square foot mall was constructed in 1962 and renovated in 1998 and 2004. In 2010 it was put up for sale for $20 million. It has the last discount movie theatre in Winnipeg with Cinema City.

The arrival of Target initiated the ending of Zellers at Northgate and the big American retailer looked at the site and simply said no. And there it sat empty for the longest time until Jimmy Pattison in Vancouver saw an opportunity to bring his B.C. based grocery business Save-On Foods to Manitoba.

The Save-On Foods sign in now up even while the grocery is still being spruced up with the green colouring of the company. When Pattison announced the store was coming, the neighbourhood turned up in droves and triumphant. While not a grocery desert, recent closures of a Safeway as well as the Zellers hurt competitiveness on the street.

The new construction in front of the Save On Foods will be the home to Winnipeg's second Jollibee's location. The first will be on Ellice north of Polo Park.

The combination of a Save on Foods and Jollibee's at Northgate vaults the down at its heels mall to top attraction on McPhillips. No word on when the grocer opens but it is a good bet sometime in the next several weeks. As for Jollibee's, probably mid-summer.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Izakaya Edokko Sushi & Bar Coming to Place Louis Riel

Located across from Library
Thanks to a tip from a sharp eyed reader.

The empty Ground Floor Urban Diner will see a new restaurant emerge soon. Izakaya Edokko Sushi & Bar has opening soon signs in the window.

The Japanese gastropub is situated of St. Marys Avenue although the address reads 190 Smith Street. If you type in 190 Smith Street Izakaya though you might get Melbourne, Australia's Pabu resturant instead. Winnipeg Eddoku is across the street from Centennial Library and kitty corner to the new Winnipeg Police Services headquarters. 

La Rocha just down the street has opened their Mexican themed location in the old spot occupied by Gio's and the Lobby on York modern steakhouse is in the same block. All in all parking in this one area for a convention or hockey game and you have critical mass for street level food for all tastes.

Izakaya style is tavern style bar and restaurant. It is successfully done in downtown At Samurai across from the MTS Centre on Portage Avenue. A few other places scattered around the city have shown that the Japanese pub style if well suited to the city. In the past year Ichiban on Carlton across from the RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre made a portion of their long time restaurant into a faster service pub.

Izakaya Edokko Sushi & Bar is likely going to be discovered this summer during work and festival season but I'm sure Jets and Moose fans are going to love having it nearby as well.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Silver City Polo Park to Become Scotiabank Theatre Polo Park

Winnipeg's largest movie complex will be getting a name change this summer. Silver City Polo Park will become Scotiabank Theatre Polo Park to reflect the new 10 year agreement between the bank and theatre company in regards to the Scene card.

Winnipeg movie audience are familiar with the ad at the beginning of movies showing unsuspecting guests receiving a free movie at Scotiabank Theatres for using their Scene Card.

Cineplex, Silver City's owner recently announced monster profits for last part of 2015 and this is in part to updating the movie experience and renovating theatres.

Fit4Less Joining Goodlife Fitness at Grand Park Shopping Centre

It was a bit of a mystery what was going to go in the remaining space of the old Target at Grant Park Shopping Centre. Canadian Tire has just one month till its opening July 1st and takes up the majority of the space. What was left was 35,000 or so of leaseable space.

Then along came Goodlife Fitness to announce they were going to build a 25,000 square foot Co-Ed location in part of the space. That left 12,000 square feet of leasable space.

Today, Grant Park announced that Goodlife Fitnesss's sister company will be opening in Manitoba for the first time and occupying all that remains of the 12,000 square foot space. Fit4Less by GoodLife is a low cost fitness option with lowest prices in the country. This will only be the third time in Canada that it has operated side by side with a full Goodlife Fitness.

From the press release:

 “This is going to be one of the most beautiful and unique fitness clubs in Manitoba,” says David ‘Patch’ Patchell-Evans, Founder and CEO of GoodLife Fitness. “Winnipeg is such a diverse city, so it makes sense to acknowledge that by offering a variety of fitness options too. We believe that by offering these clubs side-by-side we will give even more residents in the city the opportunity to live a fit and healthy life.”

“GoodLife and Fit4Less by GoodLife will be fantastic additions to our shopping centre,” said Sandra Hagenaars, General Manager of Grant Park Shopping Centre. “Not only will these clubs encourage multiple visits per week to the mall, they will further enhance Grant Park’s unique mix of service and retail tenants.”

 The new combined Goodlife should be open sometime in the new year.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Jollibee Coming to Winnipeg Polo Park Area

It has been a race in Canada to see who will get the Philippine-based Jollibee restaurant's first location in Canada. Toronto and Winnipeg have been at the forefront of that battle.

Now it is confirmed that Jollibee's is coming and will be located north of Polo Park at 1400 Ellice near the McDonald's and next to the building with Pita Pit and Starbucks..

The plans would seem to indicate that the most popular restaurant in the Philippines will located in a new building with a drive-thru in the re-developed 1400 Ellice Avenue shopping area just north of the Polo Park Mall.

The excitement this is likely to bring for many in the community can't be understated.

It will be interesting to see if other people in the city take to the unique tastes of this restaurant as no fast food place is quite like it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Real Canadian Superstore Click and Collect

This will be the second attempt at e-commerce and groceries in the last 25 years by a major grocer. The first attempt failed on poor technology and delivery services were just not at a level that inspired confidence or popularity. It took this long to try it again.

Loblaw's, owner of Real Canadian Superstore, makes Manitoba their 4th province to adopt the Click and Collect program of shopping. The service starts Superstore Portage Avenue location and Superstore Bison Drive location this week. They will the 60th and 61st locations across Canada to offer online shopping and pick-up. Superstore Sargent Avenue and Superstore McPhillips Street location next week.

To use the program, as customer will access the 20,000 item website and fill out their grocery order and then send in. They will have access to all the specials, discounts and other offers of the day. Once the order was sent, 10-12 personal shoppers who fill the order which includes being very picky over produce. They have a scanner that tracks their time since they have to have it all available for a pick-up with an estimated price and two hour window.

The customer arrives to a reserved parking area out front of the store. Sadly, you have to go inside to pay at this stage and a average of $3 to $5 service charge on top of your total grocery purchase is added. After that, the items can be taken to your car by yourself or by staff.

There will be unlikely any delivery service since it would require vehicles capable of keeping food cold and fresh.

Superstore is not the only company out there offering online shopping but with their participation, competition will be strong across the city. For many people, this could be a real time saver for a minimum charge. The bricks and mortar stores face huge competition from Amazon and this seems to be their answer in challenging that.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Main Street Co-Op Closing

The Co-op 1441 Main Street didn't last long. Two years. It isn't closing as a result of poor business. No, Co-op was interested in upgrades, a new lease or outright ownership of the former Safeway on Main.

Instead what has happened is that the landlord has found a new tenant and needs Co-Op out by end of June. The company hasn't taken this lying down. The ran a full page ad in the Free Press expressing their view and indicated that they would be keeping their Co-Op pharmacy in the area in a closed Scotiabank across the street.

Co-Op remains with three grocery stores in Winnipeg. The Red River Co-Op itself has plans for a few more gas stations, convenience stores and car washes in the city.

The former Extra Foods nearby is now a No Frills store run under one of the Loblaw's banners so the new tenant seems to unlikely be from that company. This raises the question of just exactly ranks has a better long term occupant on this section of Main Street. If it is indeed another food store, this is a very bold move on their part.

There continues to be a lot of jockeying around in the Winnipeg grocery business. Sobey's takeover of Safeway continues to have its challenges not the least of which is what to do about redundant stores. Save On Foods or Co-Op seem ready to grab space and there is new news that Walmart may set up a strictly grocery business across Canada.

There likely will more afoot in the coming months and it will continue to alter what was once a fairly static business in the city.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Goodlife Fitness Coming to Grant Park Shopping Center

In 2015, Goodlife Fitness indicated an interest in all of the Targets that were closing in Canada. Some scoffed at this without realizing how many former Eaton's locations had been taken over by the national gym many years back. Still, at least in Manitoba, the pursuit of four fair sized locations seemed a longshot for a variety of reasons due to size or location.

Grant Park just north of future transit station. High traffic area coming soon
There has been no official announcement but it has been confirmed by sources in the real estate world that Goodlife is about to occupy one of the old Targets. That location is the Grant Parking Shopping Center.

At first it was thought that Canadian Tire would occupy the whole location. However, the renovations underway reveal that the retailer has taken 86,000 square feet of the old space. The part that is left is still a massive 34,000 square feet section immediately behind Pony Coral.

The map included shows how Canadian Tire will share the space with Goodlife. At 34,000 square feet, it will easily be the biggest location in the city surpassing Kenaston

Canadian Tire opens July 1st and Goodlife Fitness, if all the rumours are true, looks to be in the next several months.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Rady Family Donates $30 million to University of Manitoba

Ernest Rady
So who is Ernest Rady and how is it that he has donated $30 million to a university faculty that he didn't even attend?

To understand that, one should know something about the family. In this case, Ernest Rady is honouring his father Max Rady, the first Jewish university graduate of the University of Manitoba medical school. Max married Rose Bronfman, sister of Sam Bronfman who would go on to own the Seagram liquor company.
The Bronfmans have been one of the legendary families of Canadian business and it all started in Manitoba. At one point as the family moved into alcohol sales, they owned the Bell Hotel in Winnipeg. After the purchase of Seagram in 1928, Sam made his headquarters in Montreal. Other family members remained in Winnipeg including sister Rose.

Together Max and Rose had three children Ernest, Majorie (Blankstein) and Mindel (Olenick). Both sisters continue to live in Winnipeg and are well known philanthropists.

In 1951, Sam Bronfman divided assets of the booming Seagram company among his eight brothers and sisters including Rose. Sam took the greatest share which led to squabbling and lawsuits. Only Rose supported Sam by saying that he was being modest about how much the liquor company's success depended on him. Rose had $1 million shares in Seagrams in 1948 and used the money to create a company divided into three parts. Both daughters got 30% and Ernest received 40%.

Ernest seemed to inherit the drive of his father and went to the University of Manitoba himself and earned degrees in law and commerce. At 16, Ernest had to take over the company as a stroke had befallen his dad. The investments he made were successful. He struck out to the United States in 1966 where he made his home in San Diego where he bought property.

In 1967, he formed American Assets which including shareholdings from his branch of the family in Winnipeg. Later, he founded publicly traded real estate investment trust Westcorp which eventually was sold in 2006 and became part of West Fargo. All in all it was a dizzying array of assets in finance, real estate, oil and gas and media. It also included at one time a part ownership in the Major League Baseball team San Diego Padres.

The year 2007 was a sad and dramatic year for the Rady family. Shortly after the death of a beloved brother-in-law in Winnipeg, Ernest, wife Evelyn and a maid were attacked in a home invasion where they were tasered and robbed. In 2008, the world-wide recession hit him very hard and around $1 billion was erased of his wealth. At one point, he went to an ATM only to find his card was rejected.

The downward turn in the market was again caused family feuding where Ernest was sued for more money from American Assets. He eventually won but there were a lot of regrets when he called the nephews, in-laws and others "ingrates."

Ernest Rady continued to have assets and the market recovered and with his money he decided to continue his long work in charity. In San Diego, he was a legend for donations to the Children's Hospital and the University of San Diego for a business school. Nearly $200 million was donated in his adopted hometown.

Winnipeg was not forgotten in all this and Ernest Rady and his sisters donated shy of million to the University of Manitoba medical school for the Mindermar professorship in human simulation​ in 2009.

Most people in Winnipeg if they know the Rady name at all associate it with the Rady Center at the Jewish Community Campus in Winnipeg. Since 1997, the Rady Center has served as the recreation heart of the Jewish community. However, it also serves the greater Winnipeg community as well. Many donors made that campus possible including much from the Rady family together.

Although 50 plus years might have separated Ernest and Evelyn Rady from Winnipeg, they never stopped their family connections with the city. He became a legend in an already legendary family. It is not difficult to imagine the family gift to the University of Manitoba might not create some new legends.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Oh Doughnuts Open Today

It took a lot longer to open than anyone imagined but Oh Doughnuts opens Monday, May 9 AM. The conversion of the former beauty shop at 326 Broadway took a lot longer to get right but according to the company website, they are ready to go.

This is one of a number of restaurant and coffee shop openings that have occurred in the downtown in recent months.

Broadway has always been one of the grand streets of Winnipeg so this well anticipated shop is likely to be well embraced.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MTS Sold To Bell Canada

MTS began in 1908 when the government bought up Bell operations in the province due to concerns over pricing of the product. As a Crown corporation, the utility eventually bought up all remaining telephone operations in Manitoba and was named Manitoba Telephone System in 1921. The service was the first to begin the 999 (later 911) emergency number in North America

From the 1950s to 2001, the head office for MTS was located on Empress across from Polo Park. It is now the Clarion Hotel and Original Pancake House. The head office located to the former Bank of Montreal regional headquarters on 333 Main Street where 1200 employees work at MTS Place. Total employees number 2,700.

MTS was at the forefront of innovation throughout the 1970s and 1980s with Telidon and Grassroots specializing in electronic services. The international services of MTS played a negative role in the 1988 provincial election when it was reported that MTX, a Saudi Arabian subsidiary lost $27 million. The NDP lost that election on a narrative of mismanaging into deficit several Crown corporations.

In the 1980s, MTS mobility and cellular services took off but both NDP and Progressive Conservatives pushed hard to extend MTS landlines across the province. Party lines still existed into the 1980s and 1990s and many communities pushed hard to get linked up. Despite warnings of the the cost and suggestions that cellular service might be the way to go with these communities, expansion went on pellmell till debt rose to hundreds of millions. Competition in long distance rates removed one area of unfettered profit. In five years, three of chief executives passed through the company.

By 1996 MTS had $800 million in debt and a need for $500 million to replace old equipment. All Canada was in the middle of a recession and revenue was drying up. In a controversial move, the Progressive Conservative government led by Gary Filmon privatized MTS. The new company was widely held at first but four years later 20% was held by Bell Canada and this led to $300 million of new investment. The new company went from Manitoba Telephone System to Manitoba Telecom Services. Nearly 40% of the workforce lost their jobs in the search for profitability.

The fast growing Internet saw MTS buy up a number of service providers including Escape Communications to become the dominant player in Manitoba. By 2003, the company became a majority force in every part of the telecom industry. They held 98% of local phones, 77% of long distance, 70% of cell phone service and 60% of Internet services. They also had a strong hand in security alarm systems. The next area they looked to enter big in was their innovative MTS TV which slowly began to expand in Winnipeg in 2003.

In a moment of triumph, MTS was awarded the naming rights to the new downtown arena in 2004 which in 2011 became home to the Winnipeg Jets.

The much fear privatization of MTS seemed to result in a strong private, independent and local company. Still, it was assumed by many this very strength also made it a takeover target by big players like Telus, Bell and Rogers. In 2004, MTS sought to forestall that by becoming more of a national player. They bought Allstream and their fiber optic system across Canada.

It soon became apparent that turning Allstream into the strong nation player MTS wanted was not in the cards. At every turn it seemed that entry to other areas of the Canadian market west or east would be expensive and not in the interest of the company. MTS faced major cellular competition but still retained 50% of the the market. In 2015, Allstream was sold and once again MTS became a takeover target.

It was announced this week that Bell will buy MTS for $3.6 billion. The details are sketchy still but the promise thus far is that Winnipeg will become the western headquarters for Bell and that hundreds of millions will be spent to upgrade infrastructure. To assuage the federal government in regards to competition, Bell has promised to sell Telus 1/3 of the combined company's wireless customers. Bell has said that their western operations will be headquartered in Winnipeg and cover 6,900 employees over four provinces and territories. It is unclear how many jobs will be in Winnipeg as there is likely to be a few added and a few lost.

Also unclear is how prices will be affected. Most critics suggest Winnipeg could see a rise of 40% in short order. It is also unclear how MTS TV will be affected as it moves to become Fibe TV. One thing that is clear is that it is the end of an era. It would be a shame to not ensure some guarantees on competition, jobs, investment and the headquarters.

Bell is a massive company that seems to go off the rails every 10 years to try and become a conglomerate and re-trenches with tail between its leg. The telecom user seems to suffer with price increases for their efforts. It is not wrong to ask how this deal will be good for Manitoba and the Canadian consumer.