The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Friday, July 03, 2015

Lawbreaking Councillor Janice Lukes must be turfed off EPC.

Janice Lukes has to be fired from Winnipeg council's executive policy committee immediately.

She was hand-picked by Mayor Brian Bowman to sit on EPC and to chair the city's influential public works committee.  We'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't know what a mistake he was making.

Winnipeg cannot have someone who openly breaks the law sit on the city's most powerful committee. 

Especially now that we see how much of a Trojan Horse she is for the bike lobby, promoting, priorizing and spearheading major projects that benefit a tiny special interest group at the expense of the rest of taxpaying Winnipeggers.

It was that allegiance to the bike lobby that caught her up.

The Winnipeg Free Press recently published a story about a stretch of Pembina Highway leading to the University of Manitoba that bicyclists feel is unsafe.

Stretch of Pembina has already proved deadly for cyclists
By: Kristin Annable 

It’s a no man’s land for cyclists.
A 500-metre stretch of Pembina Highway where the bicycle lane ends plunges cyclists into six lanes of traffic and makes it almost impossible to safely turn left while heading south
This well-travelled overpass at Bishop Grandin Boulevard between Plaza Drive and University Crescent is the cyclist’s gateway to Investors Group Field and the University of Manitoba.
Free Press readers say it’s a death trap that has killed before — and will kill again.

The story included a comment from Lukes, as well as this set-up paragraph.

"St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes, the chairwoman of public works and a cycling advocate, admits the overpass can be daunting for cyclists and said she breaks the rules, risking a $113 ticket, and takes the sidewalk when she has to cycle on the Bishop Grandin overpass."

Did Lukes says she "breaks the rules", or was that wording the work of the reporter? Either way, it's not accurate.  

Lukes doesn't break the rules, she breaks the law.  

That's right. It's a law, the Highway Traffic Act, duly passed by the Legislature and supposed to be enforced by the police. 

Lukes publicly said she breaks the law because it suits her.

That is simply unacceptable. 

No city councillor is allowed to break the law because they choose to. The Mayor cannot allow anyone who boasts about breaking the law to sit on EPC. Its an insult to the citizens of Winnipeg.

And it's too late to say, 'Oh, I won't do it any more.' 

Lukes confessed she routinely broke the law because she wanted to, and she felt it was worth the risk. That's an attitude that permeates the bike lobby.

The Winnipeg Free Press back in 2012 published an opinion piece by Sarah Whiteford, a policy manager for the provincial government, in which she concluded "So, until this infrastructure improves, I am afraid I will likely continue my life of crime by cycling on the sidewalk." 

Ha ha. 

Mocking the laws of Manitoba, while collecting a paycheque from the provincial government, par for the course. Janice Lukes probably had a big laugh when she read that.

The article that outed Janice Lukes, contained this paragraph:

"In the interim, the advocacy group Bike Winnipeg has called for the city to allow cyclists to share the sidewalk with pedestrians."

See, the solution to the problem is simple. Let cyclists break the law with impunity, pedestrians be damned.

On Tuesday a special community committee meeting was called by Councillors Russ Wyatt, Jeff Browaty and Jason Schreyer to challenge the report being spearheaded by Janice Lukes for a $334 million, 20-year program of new and expanded cycling and pedestrian paths across the city. And who should show up? Mark Cohoe, executive director of Bike Winnipeg.

Cohoe  proceeded to insult the elected officials by claiming they hadn't read the report and didn't know what they were talking about. Lukes refused to listen to any changes to the report, which will be presented to council July 15, or to correct errors in it that were pointed out by the other councillors.

She insisted the report be passed first by council, then amended if need be.

It's just the latest tactic of the bike lobby to ram changes in city policy through under the pretense that nothing has been decided officially.  

Remember the Disraeli Bridge replacement trickery. 

The city held phony public "consultations" which even included asking attendees to chose which of three designs for a new bridge they preferred. Then city officials scrapped the public's advice and announced that after secret meetings with the bike lobby they were building two bridges -- one for cars and one for bicycles-- at a cost of $40 million more than taxpayers wanted to spend.

Lukes,with Bowman's help, is following the playbook perfectly.

Apart from objecting to any changes to a report committing Winnipeg to a 20-year plan to expand bicycle paths, she's endorsed reducing speed limits within Winnipeg to 30 kmh, and she also promoted forcing homeowners to be forced to shovel city sidewalks in front of their houses (eliminating city snowclearing would provide the money for clearing snow off bike routes).

But each time there was pushback, she's feigned innocence. Bowman, with a cheap lawyer's weasel words, has rushed to her defence.

Snowclearing? Don't get excited said Bowman.

"Winnipeggers should know it’s a recommendation – it’s not something that will be adopted with the pedestrian and cycling strategy," Bowman said. "There hasn’t been any discussion (by councillors) on it." he told the Free Press.

But when councillors wanted to discuss it this week, Janice Lukes walked out of the meeting refusing to listen to their concerns.

And she's on the record promising she wants the idea studies by city administrators and a cost-benefit analysis brought to city hall. 

That sure sounds like she's made up her mind.
City speed limits?  Lukes, on Tuesday again, published a blog post putting as much distance as she could between her and the idea.  She called it "setting the record straight."

It seems she was unfairly quoted. Blame the media. She was just tossing around ideas, not pushing an agenda, she wrote.

Except that reporters take notes. These days they usually tape their interviews. And the comments Lukes made to the reporter are anything but neutral.
"That solves all of our problems with cycling, walking, to have a limited speeding amount for vehicles," she said of the 30 kmh speed limit.

"I’d love to go back and spearhead this, even if we just pilot it and see what is does in a community," she said, putting the lie to the idea she was only brainstorming and not promoting.

"... Lukes said she would be open to investigating reducing the speeds on weekends or at certain times of the day. (...) It is absolutely something in my tenure I will be looking at," she said.

It sure sounds like she has an agenda that she's not sharing with the public.
As an elected official, it's up to the people who voted for her to decide her future.
But as a lawbreaker and an appointed councillor, it's up to the Mayor to dismiss her and restore integrity to city hall as he promised in his election campaign.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

MSM Ignores Historical Revisionism CMHR-style

Aided and abetted by the laziest and worst reporting in the mainstream media,  the long con known as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights made the news again this week.

A "jovial" Gail Asper crowed that the fundraising arm of the museum, which she heads, had surpassed its goal of $150 million in private donations thanks to four million dollars pledged by two foundations and a labour union.  The total raised was $1.5 million over the goal, the news media gushed.

The only problem with that announcement -- a problem which went unreported by a single news outlet --- is that it's a lie.

The only way the 'Friends of the CMHR' could reach its fundraising goal was to ignore almost $80 million in advances, loans, and unpaid obligations that still have to be covered. 

You read that right---Gail Asper's pet project, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights still owes almost $80 million!

Asper, with the collusion of the MSM, has to rewrite history to, as they say, put lipstick on the pig.  
The CMHR is proving to be the white elephant that every critic said it would be.  

With the urgent need to suck tens of millions of dollars more from taxpayers to keep the poisonous project afloat, Asper has to spin, spin and spin a story of good news out of dreck.

Take the so-called fundraising goal of $150 million.  Then take this story in the Globe and Mail three years ago:

"The fundraising arm of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is setting an ambitious new dollar target to ensure that the museum, now under construction in Winnipeg, opens in 2014"

"...on Tuesday evening, after a presentation in Toronto to supporters of the project, Gail Asper, national campaign chair of the Friends of the CMHR, indicated in an interview that the goal is now almost $200-million from private and corporate donors."

Even the Winnipeg Free Press, the propaganda arm of the rights museum, reported in 2012:

"Private fundraising requirements have gone from $150 million to $200 million."

Gail Asper is counting on the fact that nobody will remember that when, in 2011, she started a hate-campaign against the Ukrainian community in Canada by calling them anti-semites, private donations to the CMHR stopped cold. 

Costs, meanwhile, had risen by leaps and bounds and the museum was $60 million short of what was needed to finish the project.  A disaster of epic proportions loomed.

The federal and provincial governments had to step in with the needed cash to prevent a face plant heard around the world.  First, the feds secretly gave the rights museum $10 million with no publicity, no news releases, nothing to even hint at how the money was spent. It was done by "reconfiguring" maintenance funds to construction funds, a trick we still think was illegal and worthy of investigation by the federal auditor general.

Then they "advanced" $35 million to the museum so that it could be built.  The "advance" is supposed to start being repaid in three years (2018) by having the federal government reduce its annual $21.7 million in operating funds.

Yeah, that's going to happen.  Anyone who has read the museum's annual reports knows that they have already said they can't operate on $21.7 million a year and they will be asking for millions more from the federal government when its time to renew their annual funding,  which is sometime this year. 

When that happens, their only option is to ask the feds to forgive the advance and screw the taxpayers.

But $35 million in federal money still wasn't enough to save the museum.  The province of Manitoba had to guarantee a loan of $25 million to $30 million.  A loan from whom we still haven't learned because it, too, is a secret kept by the CMHR.

Nonetheless, they have to repay the loan, somehow.  Except they don't have any money. A million or two a year is peanuts when you're talking about paying back $60 million.  The answer?  You know. Default on the loan and let the province pay it.  And "province" is spelled Y-O-U.

Then there's the matter of taxes. The CMHR isn't paying.  They owe, by our estimate, at least $15 million in back taxes.  They've budgeted $600,000 for taxes this year when their bill is more like $7 million.  Essentially they've been paying the frontage fee, but not the property tax.

The federal government is arguing that Winnipeg has over-assessed the museum, that the building is almost worthless for any other use than a federal museum and so should pay only a bare minimum.

They tried the same gambit with a project in Halifax.  That city fought them all the way to the Supreme Court.  The federal government lost.  We've read the court decision. The feds don't have a leg to stand on.  They're just stalling the inevitable.

The taxes are supposed to be paid out of the $21.7 million in funding that the museum gets from the federal government each year. Only, as you see, they're already crying 'poor', planning to ask for more, and wondering how to wiggle out of a reduction in annual funding when it comes time to repay the $35 million "advance."

You know what's going to happen just as we do.  The CMHR is going to go to City Hall, cap in hand, and beg for taxes to be waived. 

But  there's a twist in the story.  Winnipeg needs the money to repay a secret $10 million loan from the province which made up the city's alleged contribution to the museum.  That was the deal.  No taxes, no repayment and the province has to eat that $10 million, too.

Gail Asper's fundraising group is supposed to be raising the money to pay all these expenses above and beyond what the three levels of government agreed to contribute when the project got the go-ahead.   

Instead, she's claiming she's raised more money than promised.  

The reimagined history of the CMHR is built on a litany of false and bent facts.

When announcing its triumphant fundraising, Gail Asper thanked the 8200 donors who made it possible.  That would be the same 8200 donors who were thanked when the museum officially opened its doors nine months ago.  In other words, in nine months they haven't attracted any more individual donors. How pathetic is that?

The CMHR brags that it's beating its own revenue targets, having raised $1.5 million since it opened to the end of March, 2015.  But in its financial report ending Dec. 31, 2014 there's this note:
13. Contingent Liabilities:
A statement of claim related to the base building construction has been filed by a sub-trade against the Construction Manager for an amount higher than has been accrued in the financial statements. A reasonable estimate of any additional liability cannot be made at this time.

We tracked down the lawsuit. Its for $2 million. If the museum loses, all of its earned revenue, and more, will be swallowed up in one gulp.

And about that revenue.  The financial report contains this breakdown.

Nine months ended Dec 31, 2014  

Admissions and Programs    
General Admission –                  $ 430          
Memberships -                               108  -    
Public Programs -                            18  -    
Retail Boutique Sales                     262  -    
Facility Rental                                 221  -    
Restaurant and catering -                111  -    
Total                                                $ 1,150   
In short, they only raised $350,000 in the first three months of 2015. Of that, $240,000 (16 percent) came from school tours.

CBC reported that museum spokeswoman Rhea Yates applauded the CMHR's "tremendously successful first year."

"Overall visitation and overall revenue are the key measuring sticks and the museum is doing well on both. Our 12-month visitation goal is 250,000 — we nearly reached that in seven months," she said.

That comment raised an immediate red flag.  Did she imply that the CMHR is going to claim credit here on in for attracting 250,000 visitors a year?  Because that would be the biggest rewrite of history yet.

The museum boosters have since Day One insisted that the CMHR would attract 250,000 additional tourists a year to Winnipeg to see the museum.  There was no misunderstanding about that.  The rights museum was going to be such an "iconic" attraction that a quarter of a million people from around the world were going to come to Winnipeg just to see it.

To reconfigure those 250,000 tourists into 250,000 visitors is the biggest con of all and a confession that we've just wasted $351 million.

How much of a waste?  To answer that we must credit a dedicated reader who did more research than all the professional journalists in town combined.

He spotted this statement in the Winnipeg Free Press:
" As expected the Womens' World Cup has resulted in thousands of soccer fans taking in the museum."

Having learned not to believe a word from the CMHR, he followed up with a question of the reporter.  Were these paid admissions?

The reporter, to his credit, asked the question of museum staff. 

What he got was a Page One story. Instead, you'll read it in The Black Rod.  He replied to our correspondent:

Here's the response from a spokesperson from CMHR.

"Yes. They were paid. Athletes and delegates had passes for local attractions but the uptake on that was low. Don't have the exact count for that but the last I heard, it was less than 25."

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Details of Manitoba Hydro's super-sweetheart deal with Minnesota

We appreciate the emails from concerned readers who have asked, where have we been? 
Working diligently on Project X. Thank you for your tips.

It took the train wreck known as Manitoba Hydro to get us to set things aside and get back into the arena.

Manitoba Hydro has applied to the Public Utilities Board for another hike in rates.

This year they're asking for a rates to go up 3.95 percent.

Something about that number seemed odd. But what?

It didn't take long to answer the question with a clipping from a Canadian Press story posted two-and-a-half years ago.

"Manitoba Hydro's CEO says customers can expect rate increases of about 3.5 per cent a year for the foreseeable future as the Crown-owned utility builds new generating stations while export prices are soft."  (CP, Sept. 19, 2012)

So Hydro's minimum rate hike has climbed by almost half a percent a year. 
And that's  after the plan to build Manitoba's biggest generating station, Conawapa, which was to cost billions upon billions, was scrapped. 
That means only one thing --- Manitoba Hydro's finances are deteriorating faster than ever.  Hydro is on the fast track to insolvency and hopes to hide it as long as possible.

The CP story stated:

"The Public Utilities Board, the provincial regulator, warned last year that low prices could force Manitoba consumers to subsidize exports and see domestic prices jump by 140 per cent over the next 20 years."
      Even without Conawapa, it appears the price Hydro will be charging its Manitoba customers will triple within 20 years.   
People are confused. Why does Hydro suddenly need so much more money?

They used to say it was because of the three new dams they intended to build in the coming decade, dams that would earn huge profits from sales to the United States in the years before their power was needed here at home.

But the smallest (Wuskwatim) is built and the largest (Conawapa) is on ice. And the last thing they want is to draw attention to the one remaining, which is why they've started claiming they need the extra cash to rebuild Manitoba Hydro's existing infrastructure, not the additions to it.

By now everybody knows that the first project, called Wuskwatim, was an unmitigated disaster. It cost almost twice as much to build as projected and by the time Wuskwatim went into service export electricity prices had collapsed thanks to a boom in shale gas production.  Manitoba Hydro now sells electricity to Minnesota at a third of what it costs to produce that electricity.  
We're paying higher and higher rates at home to subsidize users of our power in the U.S.

The next Hydro mega-project is called the Keeyask generating station, and it's three and a half times as big as Wuskwatim (695 megawatts compared to 200 MW). Now imagine a boondoggle ten times worse than the new Blue Bombers football stadium, and you know where this is going.

They say the devil is in the details, and we found the paved road to Hell in Keeyask.

This month regulatory authorities in Minnesota gave the go-ahead to Minnesota Power to build a 220 mile transmission line from Manitoba to carry power from the Keeyask project.

The line is estimated to cost anywhere from $558 million to $710 million, depending on the route.  In American dollars. Excluding construction inflation and financing costs. 

That estimate is already more than 150 million dollars higher on the low end than Minnesota Power projected two years ago. That should be a warning of how high construction inflation will be.

When its all said and done, Manitoba Hydro is going to pay 72 percent of the cost of the transmission line to Minnesota.  That's because they want to build it bigger than necessary to carry just the 250 megawatts of power that we're going to sell to Minnesota Power starting in 2020. Manitoba Hydro wants the bigger line so it can sell more electricity to other customers in the future.

Hydro's bill works out to between $401 million and $511 million. U.S.  Add between $80 million and $100 million for exchange. Plus financing costs. And inflation. Oh, and add the $350 million Manitoba Hydro will pay for the transmission line from Keeyask to the Manitoba-Minnesota border, and you have a bottom line of nearly $1 billion just to send the power from us to them.

Manitoba Hydro will end up owning 49 percent of the line. Which it doesn't want to own. So, Hydro intends to sell its share of the line to another power company in 2016. Or else "assign" its share to Minnesota Power.
According to regulatory filings in the U.S.:

"Regarding operations and maintenance expenses, the record  demonstrates that whether Sub (the Manitoba Hydro subsidiary that will officially pay for the power line...ed)  transfers its shares to Minnesota Power or assigns its shares to a third party, Minnesota Power will continue to be responsible for only 33.3 percent of the operations and maintenance costs associated with the Project. (Ex. 40, p. 8.)"

Given that there's going to be all that extra capacity, the Americans decided to double down on their amazing opportunity.  The original deal between Manitoba Hydro and Minnesota Power contained a unique provision that let Minnesota "store" off-peak excess power from its wind farms with Manitoba.  
 Manitoba Hydro would, in effect, serve as a giant battery for Minnesota. Wind power is often produced at times when there's no demand for electricity. Under the deal, that power would be credited to Manitoba for delivery to its customers, while Manitoba would store water behind its dams instead of using that water to create power. When Minnesota needed power, it could tap into the "stored" energy and reclaim it from Manitoba.

“With expansion, the Manitoba Hydro system is like a 4,500 MW battery that you can draw on in the day during the day and recharge at night,” says Manitoba Hydro Division Manager of Power Sales and Operations David Cormie. “With the new line, the potential is there to purchase up to 1,500 MW at night and return 3,000 MW during the day, so there’s a huge potential to move energy in and out of the MISO footprint .
And that’s just with what is planned now. Cormie estimates Manitoba's ultimate potential is another 50 per cent.

Over the next decades we intend to invest about $20bn in new hydro and transmission,” says Cormie. "Key to these investments is inter-utility co-operation to get the right transmission built. Without willing partners like Minnesota Power, Manitoba's storage potential would be under utilized. Together, greater things are accomplished." Manitoba Hydro Division Manager of Power Sales and Operations David Cormie. “
It sounded so good, that Minnesota signed a side-deal with Hydro known as the 133 MW Power Purchase Agreement.  This let Minnesota use the extra capacity on the Manitoba Hydro powerline to store an additional 133 megawatts of wind energy.  All told, Minnesota can now use all the power created by wind farms that its bought in North Dakota.

But here's the fun part. It's now understood that Manitoba Hydro will buy Minnesota Power's wind power (which they call 'pumped energy'). If the wind power is part of the 133 MW Power Purchase, Minnesota will charge Manitoba a "must take fee" to cover the transmission delivery costs. Then, when Minnesota wants, it can reclaim its wind power energy to either use or resell on the open market. 

The price Manitoba pays for Minnesota's wind energy is a "trade secret." The price Manitoba Hydro gets for "selling" this power back to Minnesota Power is a "trade secret. 
What isn't a trade secret is logic. 
Power created when nobody wants it is worth nothing
How do you buy and sell something worth nothing, unless you're paying something for nothing.

Let us clarify this gobbeldy-gook.

* We're paying the lion's share of a powerline so that we can eventually use the extra capacity to sell hydro-electric power to American customers.

* Minnesota will use that over-capacity to send wind power to Manitoba --- while charging us "transmission delivery costs" for the privilege of using the line we're paying for to buy power they can't sell anywhere else. 
*Manitoba will then buy power it doesn't need. At a price that's a secret. And when that power is worthless on the open market.

* And we'll sell that power back, also at a secret price, to Minnesota whenever they want it, so they don't have to buy more power from Manitoba. Or, so they can sell that power in competition with power from Manitoba Hydro.

Still not sweet enough?

The agreements between Minnesota and Manitoba include an annual "wind storage credit", all of which will go to Minnesota Power regardless of whether the wind energy is coming or going.

Regulatory filings stated: "... the total wind storage credit benefit between the
 250 MW agreements and the Renewable Optimization agreement is 1 million
 MWh each year, equivalent to approximately the anticipated annual off-peak
 production of our Bison wind generating facilities. Minnesota Power projects the
economic benefits for customers of the wind storage provision from the 133 MW
 Renewable Optimization Agreement to be approximately $1.7 million annually
 and could rise to $4 million annually should certain market conditions develop
 under terms of the agreement."

In  other words, they would get no green credits for producing power in the night when its not needed, but if they sell it to Manitoba, they do. So we're buying power we don't need and they're scarfing up enviro credits.  
This is a deal that covers 15 years. At $1.7 million a year, Manitoba Hydro gave up $25 million.

We'll give the final word to Dave McMillan, executive vice-president of Minnesota Power. 
Actually, he spoke to the Pioneer Press in January, 2012, when the Minnesota Power agreement was first announced with great fanfare, which paraphrased him revealing vital information that's never been reported in Manitoba:
The agreement has no cost estimate yet because the hydroelectric purchase is tied to the price of natural gas in 2020, McMillan said.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Winnipeg Police issue false news release on the Tina Fontaine case

Winnipeg Police issued a false news release Wednesday that was designed to mislead the public while simultaneously making two serving officers into scapegoats for Chief Devon Clunis.

Here's how most relevant portion of the news release read:

Winnipeg Police Professional Standards Investigation
The Winnipeg Police Homicide Unit has been actively investigating the murder of Tina Fontaine since August, 2014. This investigation is on-going. Numerous people have been interviewed, and a number of forensic tests have been conducted.
During the course of the investigation, Homicide investigators discovered that Tina Fontaine was reported as a missing person on July 31st, 2014. Investigators also discovered that two members of the Winnipeg Police Service had contact with Ms. Fontaine on August 8th, 2014, approximately 24 hours before her disappearance.
Chief Clunis was informed of these events on September 3rd, 2014, and immediately directed the Professional Standards Unit to commence an investigation. The officers were removed from active duty in October and placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of that investigation.

The release implies that the two police officers had "contact" with Tina Fontaine on Aug. 8 while she was "reported as a missing person." That's false and the police service knows it.

While Tina Fontaine was, indeed, reported as a missing person on July 31st, 2014, she was NOT MISSING when the paths of her and the police crossed. 

She had been located Aug. 5th and had been in CFS care from that date until she was again apparently reported missing 18 hours AFTER the "contact" with the unnamed officers.

We reported these facts exclusively five months ago.

That report is being reposted today (with updates). But in the meantime we unearthed further confirmation from contemporary news reports that Tina Fontaine was NOT MISSING when the police spoke with her in the early morning of Aug. 8, 2014.

*  The strongest evidence comes from an acquaintance of Tina Fontaine who was interviewed by CBC.

She was only identified by the pseudonym Katrina. 

Katrina later contacted The Black Rod and helped fill in some of the blanks regarding Tina's movements before she disappeared.  In her CBC interview she said:

"We were just hanging out and then some guy flagged her from a truck," Katrina recalled. "I thought she knew him or something, I don't know. But she went to go get in.
"The cops happened to be driving by, so I pointed right away," she added. "Then they went and chased the truck down and they told her to, like, walk away."

Katrina said she lost track of Fontaine for some time after the police incident but ran into her again at around 8 p.m. on Aug. 8.
"She just told me that, like, she ended up in the hospital, she was supposed to be at the Best Western placement, and she said that they were going to report her missing if she wasn't back at a certain time," Katrina said.
"I looked at my phone. I was like, 'Oh shit, you're going to be missing in, like, two hours.'"

*  Tina Fontaine said she "they were going to report her missing" if she missed curfew.

*  And curfew, according to Katrina, was "in...two hours", 10 p.m.

* This conversation took place 16 hours AFTER 2 police officers spoke with Tina. 

* Further confirmation comes from none other than Thelma Favel, Tina's great-aunt, in this story from CBC:

"Paramedics had picked the teen up from an alley, where she was passed out. Fontaine was transported to the Winnipeg Children's Hospital and then released to a CFS worker.
The worker didn't know where to take her, Favel said.
The worker stopped at an office and went in to get the address and left Fontaine in the car. She was later taken to a hotel and went missing from there."

The known sequence of events is: 

1) Police saw her about 3 a.m. Aug. 8th,
2) Then she met up with friends and got drunk,
3) She was found in an alley and she was taken to hospital where she sobered up,
4) Tina was turned over to CFS and she was lodged in a hotel. 
5) She "went missing from there."

The police spokesmen have never acknowledged these facts. 
Instead, they falsely imply that the two officers did something wrong by not apprehending Tina Fontaine when she was "reported missing."

Why are they vilifying these two police officers? 

Especially since, by all appearances, they were only following the directives of the chief.

Throughout  2014 the police were very vocal about their new policy on handling public prostitution.

Take this story from CBC one year ago (emphasis ours, the officer's name has been redacted):

Winnipeg police unit talks to sex-trade workers, targets johns
CBC News Posted: Mar 26, 2014
Police in Winnipeg are changing the way they deal with the city's sex trade — building the trust of women who are selling sex, while going after their customers.

Since it was launched in November, the Winnipeg Police Service's Counter-Exploitation Unit has been reaching out to sex-trade workers and identifying cases of exploitation and human trafficking.

"We knew these women were being victimized to begin with. With us arresting them, we were just re-victimizing them and it … made it difficult for them to talk to the police and actually get the help that they need," says  D, who heads up the unit.

Rather than arresting the sex-trade workers, D said officers are talking to them and finding out more about their situations.

"They'll ask, like, 'Are you out here on your own? Is anybody forcing you to be here?'" he told CBC News during an exclusive ride-along.
The officer on the ride-along was then the Supervisor of the Counter Exploitation Unit. Late last year police identified the two officers under investigation as a supervisor and a trainee, but it's unknown if the supervisor is the same person, so we've redacted his name from the CBC story.
Either way, the police who spoke with Tina Fontaine were following Clunis' new orders -- talk to hookers, don't arrest them.

The fact that police announced publicly that they were investigating whether to lay criminal charges against the officers shows that Clunis had politicized the case, allowing public pressure to influence his judgement.  It came as no surprise that the Crown rejected any charges.
The announcement that the police department has "commenced disciplinary proceedings" is disturbing. Given the secrecy adopted by the police force, there is always the possibility that the internal proceedings stem from an attempt to hide the contact with Tina Fontaine, with the destruction or altering of notes or records. Tina Fontaine's body wasn't discovered until Aug. 17 and Clunis announced he didn't know police had spoken to her until Sept. 3.
But other than that, it appears that the two officers are being made the scapegoats for following the policy set down by Chief Clunis with, ultimately, disastrous results for Tina Fontaine. They are being served up as sacrificial lambs to placate the mob sentiment that somebody has to be blamed for not saving the young girl.
WPD Chief Clunis knows the REAL reason police failed to detain Tina Fontaine

Winnipeg Police Chief Devon "Mack Daddy" Clunis is a big believer in prayer, and right now he's praying you don't find out that he might have been responsible for why teen runaway Tina Fontaine wasn't picked up by police the day before she was last seen alive.
By now everyone knows that two officers spoke with 15-year-old Tina Fontaine in the wee hours of August 8 after stopping a vehicle in which she was a passenger. They took down her name, we're told, then sent her on her way. But at the time, so the story goes, she had been reported to police as missing, and should have been apprehended.
The police department revealed the contact with Tina last month and announced an internal investigation of the circumstances. Friday, Clunis said the resulting report would be sent to the Crown Attorney's office for review, implying that charges could be laid against the two police officers.
What he failed to say is that Tina Fontaine was probably released by the officers because they were following the policy introduced by none other than Clunis himself on dealing with street prostitutes.
Clunis, you see, wants police to be more social worker than law enforcer. Nine months before Fontaine was killed, Clunis announced the creation of an anti-exploitation unit to build relationships with prostitutes rather than arrest them. Police would, henceforth, harass the johns but not the hookers, who were to be treated with kid gloves. They were, after all, victims in their own right.
The incident where police spoke with Fontaine has all the elements of a roust. Police just happened to be around when Fontaine, who was known to prostitute herself in the area, got into a truck with an unknown male driver in the middle of the night. They stopped the truck and questioned the two occupants. The latest information is that there were four occupants. The identities, indeed the sex of the others has neve been made public. Fontaine was released to go on her way; the driver, who was, allegedly, intoxicated, was taken to the drunk tank.
If he was drunk, why wasn't he charged with drunk driving? Because the officers didn't want to spend time waiting for a breathalyzer test. They wanted to get back on their "beat" asap. It's also possible that the allegations of intoxication were part of a harassment policy against alleged johns.
Why wasn't Fontaine held in custody and returned to CFS care? Here's where the story goes off the rails.
Tina Fontaine was a chronic runaway. After running away from her aunt's care in Sagkeeng in November and being returned, she went missing again in July.
RCMP in Powerview reported on July 11 that they had received a missing persons report regarding Tina Fontaine on July 10. She was last seen, they said, on July 1 in Winnipeg. Then, on July 17, they issued a news release saying she had been found safe and sound.
Her great-aunt Thelma Favel, who lives on Sagkeeng, had been unable to reach Tina in Winnipeg for over a week and had therefore reported her missing July 10. Tina's mother Tina Duck later (after Tina's body was discovered) told reporters that she had spent "the better part of the week" with Tina, obviously unbeknownst to Favel.
Follow, so far?
Media reports say she was missing again on July 31, only two weeks later. Thelma Favel says Tina had been gone since about July 26, according to what she learned from a child care worker.
Tina's aunt, Lana Fontaine, told CBC that the girl stayed with her over the August long weekend, Aug. 1 to 5. She added that Tina phoned CFS on Aug. 5 and was taken back into their care.
Neither Winnipeg police nor Powerview RCMP issued a missing persons alert regarding the July 31 disappearance of Tina Fontaine.
According to the best evidence, she was back under CFS care as of Aug.5.
That means that when she was questioned by two Winnipeg police officers, in the early hours of Aug. 8, SHE WAS NOT MISSING.
Again ... if what Tina's aunt Lana Fontaine told CBC is the truth, then 15-year-old Tina Fontaine WAS NOT A MISSING PERSON when she came into contact with two policemen on Aug. 8, contrary to everything you have been told or have read since the revelation that police spoke to her and failed to take her into custody 24 hours before her final disappearance!

She was reported missing Aug. 9, police issued a news release Aug. 13 "requesting the publics assistance" in locating her, and her body was found in the Red River Aug. 17.
When the officers spoke with her that night she was NOT a missing person; she was a hooker with a john. The officers were just following the policy laid down by Mack Daddy Clunis when they questioned Tina and let her go.
Mack Daddy Clunis prefers his hookers to stay on the street rather than in jail or on bail.
But why he's letting false information stand without contradiction to let it poison relations between police and the native community is a question the Winnipeg police commission needs to answer -- and fast. Amen.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The ugly lessons of the Bowman budget

Winnipeg's new mayor Brian Bowman knew where to find the money for the off-leash dog park he promised his friends  in the suburbs---take it from inner city children using city pools.

Bowman and his handpicked chairman of the city's finance committee, Charleswood councillor Marty Marantz,  brought a budget to city council cutting $300,000 from the aquatics recreation programs used by the children and spending $300,000 on a park where dogs can run around.

They whined a lot about how tough it was to balance the budget and how they had to make tough decisions. But all along they had no intention of saving money by reducing spending on recreation services. They just raided the kids for cash for dogs.

"I'd like to see it as a destination for Winnipeggers in the suburbs, to have a reason to come downtown..." was the way Bowman put it.

This act alone will define Bowman's term in office. 

Brian Bowman  started breaking his campaign promises almost from the first day he was elected.  His lies are piling up daily.

Bowman made a big issue about raising property taxes only at the rate of inflation. He didn't define which rate of inflation---the consumer price index, the federal, provincial or city rate of inflation.  He claimed when presenting his budget that  the  tax increase was only 2.3 percent.

As is usual with Bowman, he was cheating.  If the property tax hike of $37 on an average home translates to a 2.3 percent increase, then the $112 total annual boost in city taxes, rates and fees imposed by Bowman on homeowners is equal to a tax hike of 7 percent. 

You read that right.  Brian Bowman has raised taxes 7 percent in his first budget.  That's triple what he promised voters during the mayoral election campaign.

And he still intended on robbing money from children's aquatics.

Oh, but didn't he restore the aquatics funding when the budget came to council?

Don't forget what Bowman and I'M-MARTY-MORANTZ-AND-I'M-A-LAWYER said less than one week before the budget meeting, starting with the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Finance chairman says budget cuts to Winnipeg's indoor pools will remain in place.

By: Aldo Santin. Posted: 03/17/2015 12:53 PM

...Community groups hoping to see cuts to indoor pool programming rolled back received a wake-up call Tuesday.

Finance chairman Coun. Marty Morantz said he and his fellow councillors on executive policy committee will not restore $100,000 to indoor pools, as outlined in last week’s preliminary budget.

Morantz said despite the recommendations from the protection and community services committee, he expects the cuts will remain in the budget.

...Bowman later agreed with Morantz, saying he didn’t see EPC reversing its position on the pool cuts.

So Bowman and Morantz flip-flopped in less than a week. They didn't have a change of heart. They just couldn't stand the public heat.

What's important, to remind all the lawyers (ptui) on council, is the mens rea---their true intention.

Which was to screw the kids and spend on dogs.

It took more than six years for former Mayor Sam Katz to reveal his true self to voters. And that was only after he spit in the electorate's face by promising to hold the line on property taxes, only to hike frontage fees, then claim he kept his word. (Sound familiar?) He must have thought he was being so clever, just as Bowman and Morantz do.  But this cabal need only see where Katz's cleverness brought him to see their own future.

By the way, do you know what the rate of inflation is?  It was one percent in February. We're already hearing that Bowman intends to abandon his pledge to hold tax increases to the rate of inflation, and say he only meant to do that the first year in office. 

And did you notice what was missing in the Bowman budget?  Any mention that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was finally paying its taxes. 

Here's what the Winnipeg Free Press wrote March 4:

"On Tuesday, Brian Bowman tabled a city budget that calls for a 2.3 per cent hike in the total pool of taxes collected from city properties in 2015. This move will generate $11.7 million worth of revenue for the cash-strapped city."

That is less than the $12 million or so owed by the CMHR in current and back taxes.  If they paid their fair share, then Winnipeg would be spared any tax hike.

That is, except for the fact that Bowman is all in favour of higher taxes on homeowners.  He forgot to mention that when running for office.

 "Shifting the tax burden from the business community to homeowners is part of Brian Bowman’s long-term strategy to spur growth in Winnipeg."  (Winnipeg Free Press, March 3)

Oh, and Bowman is on the record via Twitter as saying that raising taxes proportionally on the poorest residents of Winnipeg is the best way to go.

 Wpg Mayor's Office @Bowman4Wpg Frontage levies are a flat rate per foot & are more progressive than property taxes. #wpgcouncil

Summing up Brian Bowman's short term of office you have him:

* in favour of taking money from inner city children to spend on dogs

* shifting taxes from businesses to struggling homeowners

* raising taxes the most on the poorest citizens while refusing to fight to collect taxes from the pet projects of millionaires.

Four more years, eh.

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