By BERNIE BELLAN (Note: This article first appeared in the June 7, 2023 issue of the JP&N, but our website was under reconstruction, so it didn’t appear here until July 5.)
In the waning days of the 2015 federal election I was one of a small group of journalists representing “ethnic media” that was invited to meet with then-PM Stephen Harper. I agreed to attend.
Frankly, I wondered though, what was I doing there? After all, Harper had a well-known disdain for journalists and I wasn’t especially keen at the notion that I would be representing an “ethnic” publication which, I thought, was so parochial. Further, the Conservatives were clearly in trouble at the time. Why else was the publisher of a small Jewish newspaper who would, under any other circumstance, not be invited to meet with the prime minister of the country now being asked to meet with him?
As a result, when I wrote about that meeting, I titled my piece “My accidental meeting with Stephen Harper.” (That piece was picked up by the CBC and posted to its website. I guess the CBC couldn’t resist taking one final poke at a PM who had long held them in disdain – by publishing my somewhat sarcastic piece.)
And so, on Wednesday, May 31, when I received an invitation to conduct a one-on-one interview with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre on Friday, June 2 (over the phone) – well, again, I was somewhat skeptical. We’re in the midst of a byelelection in which the Jewish vote in Winnipeg South Centre might be pivotal though, which would help to explain the logic in reaching out to a journalist who normally wouldn’t get the time of day from the Leader of the Opposition.
I was asked in advance what kinds of questions I might like to ask, but I was very general in my response, saying that I’d like to ask about climate change, Pierre Poilievre’s support for the convoy that laid siege to Ottawa in 2022, and abortion. The person who had contacted me didn’t say that I couldn’t ask about any of those subjects, which didn’t really surprise me, since Poilievre is an excellent debater and would surely be able to handle himself easily with the likes of me.
As it was, I did manage to get in all the questions that I had in mind – along with one more relating to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Here is the interview:
JP&N: I’ve got to tell you before we begin to chat – you were on my street with Joyce Bateman in 2015 when she was running for re-election and you were helping her run. I met you. I remember you were wearing a black suit and a white shirt and it was a Saturday and I was thinking “You’re overdressed for this.”
Poilievre: Oh my goodness. Was it summer?
JP&N: Well, the election was in October, so it might’ve been in September, but it was a warm day. I wonder – are you dressed for the weather we’re having today (over 30 degrees when we spoke), or are you still wearing a suit?
Poilievre: I’m wearing a dress shirt and luluemons. They’re comfortable but not quite light enough for a day like this.
JP&N: Anyway, I was told I can ask you any questions I’d like, but I know you’re pretty fast on your feet so I don’t think I can corner you. Let me ask you this: Given the weather we’re experiencing and the conditions across the country, what would you say in answer to the question: “Do you believe in climate change, first of all? Do you believe it’s a reality?”
JP&N: Okay, but what about lessening the use of fossil fuels and drilling for oil? Does this change your thinking in any way – what we’re experiencing now?
Poilievre: I think we have to reduce emissions, which is different, so we will continue using hydrocarbons for everything from asphalt to plastics to medical equipment to components in electric cars for at least generations, and possibly centuries to come. The challenge is how to reduce the emissions into the atmosphere and the answer to that is you produce energy with less emissions, so that for instance in Alberta and Saskatchewan they’re investing in carbon capture and storage, which puts industrial emissions back in the ground where they came from.
You know, so power in the oil sands sustains emissions-free nuclear power instead of coal-fired electricity. We can speed up nuclear power production. It doesn’t take 15 years to get a big plant built; it can be done in five.
Fast- tracking hydroelectric dams in places like Manitoba, Quebec, and British Columbia to allow us more affordable, green emissions-free electricity.
We can incentivize large industrial corporations to reduce their emissions with a carb tax on their emissions so that they’re forced to reinvest in technology if they don’t bring their emissions down. The key here is investing in technologies to bring down the cost of carbon free alternatives rather than bringing up the cost of traditional energy that we still require.
JP&N: I’ll admit, the readership of our newspaper skews older, but a lot of our readers are as concerned about global warming as younger generations, but for younger generations – they’re so engrossed with what’s going on now, what can you say to them about the future because, quite frankly, the Conservative Party has aligned itself with the forces that would continue drilling for oil and continue building pipelines. What would you say to the younger generation – and the older generations that are also very concerned about that?
Poilievre: I would ask: “What is their alternative?” The world is going to continue to consume between 60 and 100 million barrels of oil a day for at least the next two decades, according to the International Energy Agency, so where do you want that oil to come from? Canada, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Saudi Arabia? I want it to come from Canada and why not incentivize to grow greener, to reinvest in lowering emissions so that we have the lowest emitting barrel of oil on planet Earth? That’s the common sense solution. You can shut down our energy sector tomorrow. It’ll just mean more oil will come from Russia – where they have no climate change standards.
JP&N: Except that the oil sands are one of the dirtiest sources of oil on Earth.
Poilievre: No, not at all. Actually the oil sands have dramatically reduced their emissions from each barrel of oil. Alberta has had some of the most aggressive emission reductions policies for two decades that have worked through the “tier” program – the technology in a program that requires them to meet targets and, if they don’t, they have to contribute to a technology fund that all businesses can draw from to reduce emissions.
They also have an alliance of the five biggest oil companies that have drawn up a plan to get to net zero in the next several decades that is well advanced of almost all the oil producing countries in the world.
JP&N: Okay, the time is limited and we’ve been dwelling on this issue, so I want to switch gears and talk about what is undoubtedly going to be a wedge issue between you and the Liberals, which is the issue of abortion. I know the Liberals are looking forward to trying to trap the Conservatives in some way – I don’t know if that’s the right word, but does the Conservative Party have a unilateral position on abortion or is it left to each member to vote their conscience on that?
Poilievre: A Poilievre-led government will not have any laws restricting abortion, period.
JP&N: So if an individual member wants to bring it up as a private member’s motion, would you allow it?
Poilievre: No such bill would pass and no such bill has come from a Conservative MP – to ban abortion – in the 17 years that I’ve been a Member of Parliament, I’ve never seen that happen.
You know, a lot of people fear monger about it, but I’ve never seen it happen, so no such bill would pass.
JP&N: Another issue – perhaps it’s yesterday’s issue, but it still relates to the tone you adopted when you came out to greet the members of the (truckers’) convoy in Ottawa. Do you have any misgivings about having done that?
Poilievre: I think we had a group of people that had lost their jobs because the Prime Minister brought in unscientific and unnecessary mandates on the people who are least likely to spread a virus. A person sitting in a truck all day – we called these people heroes for two years while they brought us our goods and services across the border.
All of us were comfortable in our homes. These people were on icy highways bringing the essentials that kept us alive and suddenly, and inexplicably, Trudeau broke his own promise that the vaccines would be voluntary. He hit them with a mandate and took away their jobs, so they came to the nation’s capital to try to get their jobs back and I supported them in that.
I do regret the nasty, divisive approach the Prime Minister took. It was a political opportunity to divide people. What he really wanted to do is make you afraid of your trucker, forget about the fact you can’t pay your rent, you can’t pay your mortgage, you can’t afford groceries, the streets are more dangerous. Forget about all that and focus on the scary guy who delivers your food and your medicine in a truck. Maybe it was a successful political strategy but it was a terrible way to divide our people.
I’ll be a prime minister who unites our people, brings everyone together. That includes hard working truckers and others. What we need right now is less division and more unity.
JP&N: If you have a little bit more time, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you a question that’s close to the hearts and minds of a lot of Jews, especially in Winnipeg South Centre, which has one of the highest proportion of Jewish voters in the country.
Stephen Harper was here two weeks ago speaking at our Jewish National Fund Negev Gala and came out, as expected, four score in support of Israel. I wouldn’t expect anything different from you, but I’m wondering, what would you say to Jews who would like to see Israelis and Palestinians brought together in a way that maybe hasn’t been done? Do you have any ideas on how to do that?
Poilievre: Yes, I do. In fact, it’s a big priority of mine. I think there’s a lot of common ground between Israelis and Palestinians and one area in which Conservatives can help is by encouraging more trade and commerce between Palestinians and Israelis.
The Israeli economy is probably the most entrepreneurial in the entire world. If not – a close second to Singapore. And Palestinians are desperate for an opportunity to feed their families and to build a better future. I think if we – Canada – can assist in bringing together Palestinians and Israelis that share a common economic purpose to reduce poverty and desperation and division, I think it could create the foundation for a lasting peace. That’s how I’d like to proceed.
Ron Telpner: the adman and his music
By GERRY POSNER Now this is a story. Talk about someone who has had the full package in life and you are talking about Ron Telpner. For those readers too young to remember the Telpner name, Google Gene and Fritzi Telpner (née Shuckett). Gene was a featured columnist for the the Winnipeg Tribune, the Winnipeg Free Press, and The Jewish Post & News. Anyone over 60 would likely have been aware of that.Ron is one of three Telpner offspring, a former resident of the north end, and a graduate of United College and the University of Manitoba, where he acquired degrees in English Literature and Psychology. In 1973 Ron earned a journalism degree from Carleton University in Ottawa. This was but the beginning of a long career followed by challenges far more daunting than his work.
Upon graduating, Ron took his first real job as an information officer with the Province of Manitoba. At the age of only 26 he became the Director of Promotion and Information for the Province of Manitoba. That job proved frustrating for Ron as a result of the slowness of bureaucratic goverment decision making and he soon joined the prestigious McKim Advertising firm in Winnipeg, in 1978.
One year later, he was the manager of McKim. During that time the firm was dominant in the Winnipeg adverting world. Ron created campaigns for the then Premier of Manitoba, as well as Canada’s Finance Minister, during their respective election battles. In 1989, Ron, still with McKim, by then the largest ad agency in Canada, made the big move to Toronto. The direction was clearly set for Ron Telpner.
In 1992, Telpner boldly started his own advertising agency in Toronto, known as the BrainStorm Group. Ron even brought into the partnership his senior creative director and senior account director from Winnipeg. The agency was successful to such a degree that offices were opened up in Denver – in 2003, and Dubai, in 2007. Telpner and his company worked with such leading brands as Canon, Calvin Klein, Polo Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole, Molson USA, Baxter’s of Scotland, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and ADP, in various countries. BrainStorm had as its main objective to be focused on inspired, integrated thinking.
All went very well until 2010 when Ron, then 60, was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which changed his life dramatically. The energy which Ron had so expended on his career was now channelled into dealing with cancer. Of course, he had the total support of his wife Patsy (Katz), also a former Winnipegger, along with his two children.
Ron decided to sell his ad agency. In the same way that he brought the best talent he could get find into his BrainStorm team, he made a plan and enlisted a team of support to deal with his cancer. He spoke with many doctors, Googled many sites, listened to different opinions and, as he puts it, “was almost overwhelmed by the information.”
That effort, together with his work in charitable areas, as well as taking an active role in men’s heath issues, combined to bring him a measure of success in his fight to deal and live with cancer. He ultimately made a major decision to have a prostatectomy. That big step seemed to have helped him.
Ron has been on many television programs , has written for various magazines and has been an MC for a variety of fund raising events. Significantly, when Ron learned that his lungs had also been adversely affected, he was told that what would help him was singing.
Now, Ron had some definite talents, but singing was a whole new challenge. Not to be deterred, he bought his very first ukulele, a Kala Travel Tenor, and taught himself to play. For several years now, Ron Telpner has both been playing the ukulele and singing along – and not just to himself. He has his own account on Instagram and anyone can both see and hear him. He is passionate about Rock & Roll, Blues, and Country and Western, so you do get a mix when you tune into Telpner. He has a large following and he says that the ukulele and singing have added years to his life. He also continues to give back every “Movember” and the 4 Doane School of Music. He is as well the co-founder of the Annual Flashmob for Peace.
Of course with all of this, you would be hard pressed to miss Ron Telpner in a crowd, as he is an admitted fashion plate with a penchant for vivid colours. So, here is my best suggestion for you to lift up your day: Search out Ron Telpner on Instagram, watch him perform in what is sure to be an outfit resplendent in multi colours. As he has done all his life, Telpner is charting a new path – and with enthusiasm.
Jerry Seinfeld may be one of the world’s most famous comedians now, but in 1987 he didn’t win over an audience at the Rosh Pina
By BERNIE BELLAN Jerry Seinfeld played at the Canada Life Centre to a large crowd on Friday evening, September 22 – and was generally well received, although I noted that there was no mention of his being here in the Free Press – either before or after his appearance.
By now we’re all quite familiar with Seinfeld’s style of “observational humour,” in which he talks about everyday matters, but notes the actual weirdness in so much of what passes for normal.
His delivery was flawless – never once stumbling over a line even as he was on stage for almost a full hour.
And, as a stand-up comic who refuses to resort to using the “f” word, which seems almost mandatory among so many comics these days, Seinfeld relies upon his ability to articulate rather than punctuate.
Still, as much as Jerry Seinfeld may be a “bit shot” these days, as Frank Costanza would have referred to him, in 1987 Seinfeld received a decidedly cool reception when he played to a mostly older audience at a Hadassah event held at the Rosh Pina.
Following is my late brother Matt’s account of Jerry Seinfeld’s appearance at a May 1987 event:
Comedian Gets Cool Response at Hadassah Event
May 14, 1987
By MATT BELLAN
Winnipeg Hadassah-WIZO raised more money for its network of Israeli children’s villages through the 46th annual Men’s Youth Aliyah Dinner at Rosh Pina Synagogue May 6.
But comedian Jerry Seinfeld, the featured entertainer, got a generally cool reception from the several hundred dinnergoers.
Seinfeld, 33, has appeared on the Johnny Carson and David Letterman shows, and has a gift for a certain kind of off-the-wall humor.
“Weird” material about cows running away so they won’t be turned into hamburgers for McDonald’s Restaurants, or clothes twisting together in a kinky way in the washing machine might go over with a college age audience watching a late-night TV talk show. But they didn’t work for Seinfeld at the Rosh Pina where many in the audience were decades older than 20.
He tried to tune in to the Rosh Pina crowd with a few jokes about elderly people: “My parents moved to Florida this year. They didn’t want to, but they’re in their 60s, and that’s the law.”
Seinfeld cracked another joke about his parents feeling “the thermostat is their area. I didn’t dare to touch a thermostat until I was 28 years old. “
HEAVY NEW YORK ACCENT
But some in the audience muttered that they couldn’t understand his stage patter because of his heavy New York accent, and the way he slurred his words and talked quickly.
The most laughs came when somebody backstage dimmed the auditorium lights.
“Oh, we’re going show business,” Seinfeld said, sarcastically.
But the room grew dimmer and dimmer, leaving even the comedian in shadow. And he impatiently shouted offstage:
“Just leave the lights alone.”
Remembrance of Rupertsland Avenue – 1950 to 1975
By BRIAN M. GILFIX Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec September 18, 2023 I have read with interest in various past issues of the JP&N (Sept. 16 and 20, 2019, Sept. 30, 2020, and Nov. 10, 2021) descriptions of streets or blocks where all or most of the houses were occupied by Jewish families. (Ed. note: All those stories – about McAdam Avenue and Bredin Drive, can be found on this website. Simply go to “Search archive” and enter the name of either street. The entire issue in which the story about that street appeared will show in the search results.)
This was not all that unique in the 1950s and 60s, especially with the Jewish population of Winnipeg peaking close to 20,000 individuals during that time. During the immediate post-war years, individuals and families were leaving the Magnus and Flora Avenues with their wooden shuls and moving more northward to the then developing West Kildonan and later developing Garden City areas. This was reflected in the establishment of shuls (Rosh Pina, 1952; Bnay Abraham, 1958; Chevra Mishnayes, 1965) and schools (Talmud Torah, 1952) in the area.
Rupertsland Avenue was a new street developed in 1950 by Edward Rosenblatt. The street name obviously echoes the name given to the territory draining into Hudson’s Bay , which was called Rupert’s Land. Looking at the actual mortgage documents, houses cost about $8450 for a bungalow (1 storey) while a cottage (2 storey) cost about $2000 more. By the mid-2010s the value of a bungalow style house had increased thirty-fold in value. The street changed appearance somewhat over the years with some upgrades – paving of the back lane (1950s) and planting trees on the front boulevards (1960s).
I grew up on Rupertsland Avenue in the 1950s and 60s. Then, in the block stretching from McGregor St. to Parr St. and comprising about 50 houses, over a third of the houses were occupied by Jewish families. Most were tradespeople or small business owners. None of that generation were professionals. Then, your neighbours were also your friends with whom you socialized. For example, my parents belonged to a bridge club on the street, comprising amongst others the Stollers, Brasses, Bogaches, and Jacobsons. As few trees were planted, we, the neighbourhood children, played across the front lawns of neighbouring houses, effectively making one long field.
The children (including myself) walked to the local schools regardless of the weather: Victory, what was then known as Jefferson Junior High School, Garden City Collegiate, and Talmud Torah – affecting the school demographics such that on major Jewish holidays the public schools “shut down.”
We had deliveries from the milkman and bread man. The street was visited by vendors selling eggs and, on one occasion early on, vegetables from a horse drawn wagon.
From my memory, I have provided a list of the Jewish families that lived on the street during this period. I have also given a few short vignettes of some families as I remember it from my then youthful perspective aided by information gleaned from the JP&N and Google. I apologize for any errors in advance. I should note that of the families listed here, with rare exception, the parents have passed away. In some instances, I have noted the year of passing.
565 Rupertsland – Stoller. He was an accountant or bookkeeper. He and his wife had a son & daughter, Elaine (?).
517 Rupertsland – Name unknown.
513 Rupertsland – Kesten. Their son Cyril currently resides in Vancouver.
509 Rupertsland – Tennenhouse – Sam (d.2001) and Gertie (d.2014).
They had four children: Karen, Ronnie, Marsha, and Kenny. He farmed with his brothers during the summer and had a small machine shop in the basement in winter where he made house numbers. They were long time friends of my parents. They had a “bogey man” is their basement, actually an old coal style furnace. The oldest daughter would bang on it to make the “monster” noise to frighten the kids. They were perhaps the first family to leave Ruperstland for the then new Garden City. I believe some family members still live in Winnipeg, but the son Ronnie lives in Toronto.
505 Rupertsland – Gilfix (us) – We were Joseph (d.2014), Betty (d.2021), Debbie (Edmonton) and myself (Montreal). My parents moved to a new home on Rupertsland in 1950 from the Carmen Apartments on Burrows, which is still standing, leaving behind a walk up and ice boxes. The years saw a transition for heating the house with coal to oil to gas. My sister left for Edmonton to attend university, later married there, and has lived there since. My journey was more peripatetic, moving in 1975 to London, Ontario to pursue my PhD, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, and finally returning to Canada and McGill University to pursue my MD degree and specialty training. I married in Montreal and have been on staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal since 1993. Due to age and infirmity, my parents finally left Rupertsland in 2014. I believe my parents were the last Jewish family on the block and street when they finally left.
501 Rupertsland – Dutkevich – Ann Dutkevich (d.2000), husband Nick, daughter Sally and son Joe. She was affectionately known to us as “Mrs. D”. She was very kindly. Once, when my sister decided to “run away,” she packed her bags to move to Mrs. D. next door.
I believe the children still live in Winnipeg. Their house was later purchased by another Jewish family, the Greenholtzes (daughter Faye & son Joey). He was a tailor and both he and his wife worked in the garment factories. The parents later relocated to Toronto to be closer to their children.
493 Rupertsland – Gabor. They had a son, Brian.
489 Rupertsland – Name unknown.
485 Rupertsland – Bogach – Frank and Ann, her mother, and son Howard. Frank with his brothers ran Tasty Seeds located on Alfred that they had inherited from their father. Howard was recently profiled in the JP&N (August 16, 2023).
469 Rupertsland – Bogach – Maurice & Goldie Bogach and their daughters, Mindy and Evy. The parents played bridge with my parents and he owned Tasty Seeds with his brothers. I believed their children still reside in Winnipeg.
465 Rupertsland – Rodin. One of their two sons, Greg, is a lawyer in Calgary.
461 Rupertsland – Brass – Abe and Rose Brass and their children. Following his passing she moved to Vancouver to be closer to her children, where she later passed away.
516 Rupertsland – Plosker – Max and Bertha Plosker, daughter, and son Erron. The family owned Direct Home Furniture
512 Rupertslsand – Spiller – Jack and Ailenne and their children, Harley, Susan, Sari, and Deborah. I believe some of the children still reside in Winnipeg.
508 Rupertsland – Terhoch – Kurt & Pearl. He was an electrician. They had two sons, Leonard and Marvin, and a daughter, Cheryl. The oldest son, Marvin, was at one time a producer at CBC Winnipeg.
504 Rupertsland – Jacobson – Anne, Nat (d.2002), son Gary and daughter Arlene. Nat had a part job running the projector in movie theatres. At 106 (!), Ann is probably the last living individual of the generation that first moved onto Rupertsland Avenue. She currently resides at the Simkin Centre. Gary still lives in Winnipeg.
496 Rupertsland – Chodiker. One son, William (Bill), is an allergist, now retired, who lives in London, Ontario.
476 Rupertlsmand – Golubchuk – Samuel (d.2008) and Dora and children, Percy and Miriam. I believe they were the last Jewish family to move on to Rupertsland. Samuel was at the centre of a controversial legal battle dealing with the question of who has the right to make end-of-life decisions. This case was widely written about.
468 Rupertsland – Beloffs
Lastly, at the end of the street, there was a corner store (700 McGregor) run successively by Jewish owners, Mandel and later Slutsky.
Interestingly according to my late mother, Paul Snider of Dorothy Stratton murder fame, apparently lived on Rupertsland Avenue for a period of time.
Rupertsland was not a Jewish island in West Kildonan. Immediately behind my parents’ house across the back lane on Enniskillen Avenue, there were the:
Bokauts with sons, Barrie and Brad. I remember walking back home with Barrie and his father from the Bnay Abraham synagogue on Shabbat mornings. Barrie went on to work for Foreign Affairs Canada. I believe Brad still lives in Winnipeg,
Lezacks whose son, Jack, is a hematologist in Winnipeg, and
Este and Morris Katz. Their sons, David and Philip, tragically past away at early ages.
On Smithfield, there were other Jewish families such as the Senenskys and Gorewiches (my father’s brother-in law and sister).
Over the decades the ethnic and religious composition of Rupertsland Avenue changed as the original inhabitants aged and they and their children moved to other areas. Many of the children left Winnipeg – often to Calgary, Edmonton, or Toronto. Consequently, the demographics and character not only of the street but also of the local schools, institutions, and West Kildonan have changed. On Rupertsland at its peak, probably a third as many Jews lived there alone as compared the number of Jews now living in the entire West Kildonan area (205) according to the latest census. Consequently, many of the local Jewish institutions have moved, closed, or amalgamated. When my parents, being the last Jewish family on that block of Rupertsland Avenue, finally left in 2014, it marked the end of an era for the street.