Do you remember the day before Y2K? Here's how Manitoba ended the last 4 decades

As the 2010s head into the dustbin of history, here's what transpired in Manitoba when the previous four decades came to a close.

As the 2010s come to an end, a look back at how we closed out the 2000s, the '90s, the '80s and the '70s

The Forks Market, seen here following its most recent renovation, opened 30 years ago, in 1989. (John Einarson/CBC)

Decades from now, when Manitobans shut down their cortical Wi-Fi implants long enough to think some of their own thoughts, they might remember the dwindling days of this decade for the wicked snowstorm that took out 10 per cent of Winnipeg's trees.

They might recall RCMP hunt for two fugitives up along the Nelson River

They most definitely will remember the end of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' long Grey Cup drought and the celebration after — although quarterback Chris Streveler may not recall the latter.

Memory tends be fleeting and subjective. Many people can't remember what they ate for breakfast on any given day, let alone what happened at end of any specific decade.

As the 2010s head into the dustbin of history, here's what transpired in Manitoba when the previous four decades came to a close:

On the cusp of 2010

As the 2000s were winding down, newly sworn-in Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger — who had just entered office after winning an NDP leadership campaign that fall — was beaming with optimism about what he described as a green future for the province.

Ten days before Christmas 2009, Selinger announced legislation that would usher in a cap-and-trade system for Manitoba and limit greenhouse-gas emissions.

"Manitoba is playing a constructive role in focusing on commitments, goals and targets that we and other leading sub-national governments can take," Selinger said.

The commitment was never fulfilled. The goal was not accomplished. The target was never met. 

Former premier Greg Selinger ended 2009 with a promise to meet greenhouse gas emission targets. That pledge wound up being hot air. (CBC)

Selinger's government never brought in a cap-and-trade system, although he did promise one again in 2015, shortly before his party was defeated by Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservatives.

Meanwhile at city hall, Mayor Sam Katz was looking forward to the construction of a new city amenity: the conversion of Canada Post's old downtown warehouse complex into a new Winnipeg police headquarters.

"I am confident that redeveloping the Canada Post location to consolidate our core [Winnipeg police] services under one roof allows us to continue providing the best tools and resources for our officers in the Winnipeg Police Service to ensure Winnipeggers receive more reliable and more efficient service," Katz said late in 2009, after the city approved a $135-million project that was supposed to be completed in 2013.

The project was finished in 2016 at a cost of $214 million. It was the subject of two city audits and a five-year RCMP investigation that concluded, without charges, earlier this month.

There was little of this optimism to be had on Maroons Road, near Polo Park, where the Winnipeg Football Club still had its offices. 

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had just missed the playoffs when coach Mike Kelly was charged with assault, eight days before Christmas. The Bombers fired Kelly the same day.

Charges against Kelly were dropped after he agreed to take anger-management counselling. The Bombers had to hire three more head coaches before the club would win another Grey Cup.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world: Governments continued to deal with the aftermath of the worldwide economic crisis that began in 2008 and still rattled investors.

No. 1 single at the time: Empire State of Mind, which found Jay-Z and Alicia Keys extolling the virtues of the epicentre of that worldwide financial collapse.

Top movie at the box office: Avatar, a movie about a speculative future where humanity gets into trouble exploiting resources to excess.

As the clock wound down to Y2K

During the final days of the last millennium, Manitobans were transfixed by the story of a Winnipeg woman who had the enormous misfortune of boarding the same flight as Al Qaeda-connected terrorists.

On Chistmas Eve 1999, Shirley Macklin, then 60, boarded an Indian Airlines flight in Kathmandu, Nepal, with the intention of flying to Delhi. Pakistan-based militants seized control of the plane and forced it to land in Kandahar, Afghanistan, then under Taliban control.

A Winnipegger was aboard an Air India flight that was hijacked in 1999. (Amit Dave/Reuters)

There were 176 passengers aboard. The hijackers released most of them early on, but killed one passenger who refused an order to keep his eyes closed. They kept 27 others as hostages, until the Indian government negotiated an end to the hijacking.

That settlement involved the release of three militants, including the man convicted for the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The hostage-taking ended on New Year's Eve. Macklin and the other freed hostages were flown back to Delhi.

Macklin told CBC she felt compassion for the hijackers who terrorized her and her fellow passengers.

"I found that I actually feel very sorry for them, because they're missing the experience of being human on this planet."

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world: There were widespread fears of not just terrorist attacks at the turn of the millennium, but widespread computer failures, thanks to out-of-date software that used two digits instead of four to indicate years.

No. 1 single at the time: Smooth, by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. Y2K turned out smoothly, too. No airplanes dropped out of the sky, as most of the computers and other electronic gadgets on the planet continued to function.

Top movie at the box office: Toy Story 2, where the gadgets also continued to function.

On the eve of 1990

Some Winnipeggers were feeling lucky as the 1980s came to a close. On Dec. 29, 1989, the Crystal Casino opened on the top two floors of what was then known as the Hotel Fort Garry.

The downtown casino took up three rooms on the hotel's seventh floor. There was one room with slot machines, a second room with card games, and a mezzanine with blackjack and baccarat.

Manitoba Lotteries invested $5 million into the casino, which was rented out from the hotel. It then built two new casinos on McPhillips Street and Regent Avenue.

The Crystal Casino opened in what was then known as the Hotel Fort Garry three decades ago. It closed seven years later. (

Those new casinos ended up absorbing the Crystal Casino's operations in 1997, when the downtown gaming centre closed for good.

What's now the Fort Garry Hotel uses those rooms for events such as weddings.

In late 1989, another downtown attraction opened that lasted a little longer. The Forks came into existence on Oct. 4, 1989, on the site of a former railyard.

The first amenities at the reclaimed industrial brownfield included The Forks Market, amphitheatre, boat dock and the riverwalk that, in retrospect, could have been built a little higher.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world: There was boundless optimism as the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union moved toward perestroika and the Cold War limped into its final phase.

No. 1 single at the turn of the decadeWe Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel, which fit the zeitgeist rather nicely.

Top movie at the box office: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which didn't fit the zeitgeist at all.

On the verge of the 1980s

At the end of the 1970s, the Supreme Court of Canada sought to right a historic wrong by invalidating an 1890 law that declared English the sole official language in Manitoba.

The province was founded in 1870 as a result of the Red River Resistance, a movement led by Francophone Métis who were attempting to assert their cultural, language and landholding rights. A growing anglophone majority clawed back some of those rights two decades later.

The Supreme Court finally re-established both French and English as official languages in Manitoba on Dec. 13, 1979, providing the francophone population with a victory.

Also in the final months of 1979, hockey fans in Winnipeg were hoping for some victories of their own. They were thrilled to see the hometown Jets enter the National Hockey League after seven seasons in the World Hockey Association — but wins in the new league did not come easily.

The Jets had been stripped of most of their WHA talent by existing NHL clubs. They could barely compete with the established teams. It was like a reverse of the generous expansion draft that allowed the Vegas Golden Knights to become instantly competitive nearly four decades later.

The 1978-79 Winnipeg Jets won the final WHA championship, the Avco Cup. The team did not do as well in the NHL in 1979-80. (Canadian Press)

As the calendar flipped over to 1980, the first edition of the NHL Jets had only won 12 games, versus 22 losses and four ties. The club's first-round draft pick, tough guy Jimmy Mann, would only score three goals that season.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world: The U.S. and its allies  were reeling from the hostage taking at the American embassy in Tehran and the Soviet invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan.

No. 1 single at the turn of the decade: Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes. Nothing exemplified the morally ambiguous 1970s like a song about trying and failing to cheat on your spouse.

Top box-office movie: Kramer vs. Kramer. Nothing exemplified the materialist 1980s better than a tale of divorced professionals fighting over the custody of their child.


Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.