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:

Monday, February 16, 2015

An eyewitness account of Riel's execution

                                    The Huron Expositor, Nov. 20, 1885

                                                RIEL HANGED

The execution of Louis David Riel took place at Regina on Monday morning last.  He met his fate bravely and never winced even to the last moment. Riel never slept after receiving intelligence that the execution would take place Monday morning, and thoughout the night was constant in his devotions.  At seven o'clock he had a light supper, and at five in the morning mass was celebrated, following two hours later by the administration of the last sacrament.  Riel towards the last almost entirely dropped his new religious idiosyncracies and decided to die a devout Catholic.
                                               His Last Devotions
The hour fixed for the execution was eight o'clock, but it was fifteen minutes past that hour before those who had passes from the sheriff were admitted to the guard-room.  Here was found the prisoner kneeling on the floor of an upper room, from which he was to step to the gallows. It was a sad scene. Around him were gathered members of mounted police, Sheriff Chapleau, Deputy-Sheriff Gibson and a few others. The room was illuminated by a small window covered with a rime of frost through which the sun, now risen but an hour, shot a few weak rays.  Riel now knelt beside the open window, through which the gallows could be seen, and prayed incessantly for fully half an hour. Fathers McWilliams and Andre conducted the service for the doomed man in French, Riel repeating the responses in a clear voice, which could be heard distinctly above the murmurs of the priests' whispering tones.  

Riel wore a loose woolen surtout, grey trousers and woolen shirt. On his feet were moccasins, the only feature of his dress that partook of the Indian that was in him. He received the notice to proceed to the scaffold in the same composed manner shewn the preceding  night on receiving warning of his fate. His face was full of color, and he appeared to have complete self-possession, still responding to the service in a clear tone. 

The prisoner decided only a moment before starting for the scaffold not to make a speech. This was owing to the earnest solicitation of both the priests attending him.  He displayed an inclination at the last moment to make an address, but Father Andre reminded him of his promise.
                                 The Procession to the Scaffold

Jack Henderson, the regular hangman, an old Red River pioneer, who had no cause to love Riel because of the first rebellion, commenced the work of pinioning the prisoner. Henderson himself had in former time been Riel's prisoner. The melancholy procession soon began to wend its way toward the scaffold, which had been erected for Khonnors, the Hebrew, and soon came in sight of the noose. Deputy-Sheriff Gibson went ahead, then came Father McWilliams, next Riel, then Father Andre, Dr. Jukes, and others.  As he stood on the trap-door Riel continued invoking the aid of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, during his last agonies. "Courage, pere," he said, addressing Father Andre and then he addressed Father McWilliams in the same words.  The latter priest kissed Riel, who said," I believe still in God."

"To the last?" said Father Andre.
"Yes, the very last," answered Riel; "I believe and trust in Him. Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on me."

Dr, Jukes shook hands with the prisoner who said in English: "Thank you, doctor." Then he continued: "Jesus, Mary, Joseph, assistez moi en ce dernier moment."
                                                     The Fatal Drop

Deputy-Sheriff Gibson then said, "Louis Riel, have you anything to say before death?" Riel answered, "No." He was given two minutes to pray, and he repeated the Lord's Prayer, Father McWilliams leading,  while the cap was being drawn over his face and the rope adjusted. At the words "Lead me not into temptation" the hangman sprang the bolt, at 28 minutes past eight, and Riel shot downward with a terrible crash. For a second he did not move. A slight twitching of the limbs was noticed, but instantly all was still again.  

In two minutes after the fall, Louis Riel was no more.  His neck was broken instantly. His conduct on the scaffold was very courageous.  He was pale but firm, and kept up his courage by constant prayer, thus diverting his thoughts from the terrible death before him. His neck was broken by the fall;  the doctors say he could have experienced no physical suffering. For a second or two his limbs twitched slightly, then a convulsive shudder ran through his frame, and all was over. In less than three minutes Dr. Dodds pronounced him dead. Few persons were present. The only people on the scaffold besides the condemned man and the hangman were Deputy-Sheriff Gibson, Dr. Jukes, of the Mounted Police, Father Andre, Father McWilliams, and the press representatives.  
                                                        The Inquest

The body was cut down after half an hour and the usual inquest and post mortem held. Dr.Jukes reported the execution most cleverly performed. From the moment he fell, judging from the nature of the injuries received, he must have been entirely without sensation. The neck was entirely dislocated from the bone of the two upper joints of the vertebrae, thus paralyzing all the lower portion of the body, and he could have felt no pain whatsoever. The circulation ceased in four minutes, an unusually short time. The coroner and jury then viewed the body and found the features much distorted. One juryman had to retire from the sight.                  

                                          What Father M'Williams Says
Father McWilliams, in referring to the conduct of the condemned man on the night before his execution, said that when Riel was praying with him and Father Andre he frequently interrupted them when they said "Louis Riel," interpolating "David" each time. Father McWilliams was a classmate with Riel at the college in Montreal. He says he never attended a condemned man who was so fully prepared to die, and with whose conduct he was so much edified. Father McWilliams said that until the last moment came he firmly believed something would interfere to prevent the execution. 
                                          What Father Andre Says
Father Andre, whose ministrations to the executed rebel have been constant during his confinement, says it was Riel's custom to read the Bible every day, his mother having sent him a Bible. The reverend father detailed a conversation he had with Riel in the morning a short time previous to his execution, relative to the Scott murder. 

Riel said:---"I have been reproached with the death of Scott, but at this day I think it was only a political mistake, and by bringing the half-breeds to a sense of what they were doing it saved hundreds of other lives. I think I made a mistake, but before God and my conscience I did not commit a crime. Sir John Macdonald is now committing me to death for the same reason I committed Scott, because it is necessary for the country's good. I admit Scott's shooting was mismanaged, but I commanded it because I thought it necessary. He tried to kill his guards. They came to me and said they could do nothing with him. The rebellion was on the eve of breaking out all over the country, but as soon as Scott was killed it subsided."

Being asked to divulge Scott's place of burial, Riel said, "That's not my secret. I have been pardoned once for his death, but am now going to die for it."

                                           Forced Into Rebellion By Dumont
In response to a query by Father McWilliams, Riel said:--- "I assure you that three weeks before the Duck Lake fight I had no idea of rebellion, but it was forced on me by Gabriel Dumont and others, who came and said the people would abandon me if I did not do something to bring the government to terms. I had been six months in the country and done nothing."

Riel was then asked why when the rebellion was fairly started, he did not act decisively by attacking Prince Albert and Carleton.

Riel said, "I was afraid, for if I went with the Indians there would inevitably have been a massacre." 
Being asked why he left all his papers to be captured, thereby criminating many, Riel replied:---"During the last three days at Batoche I confess I lost my head. I told Pierre Parenteay to destroy them all, but in the hurry and confusion he did not do so." 

                                          The Last Letters

At 3 a.m. Riel wrote a letter to the lawyers who defended him, saying he was thankful for all they had done. They had done everything in their power, and if they had failed it was not their fault. 

He also wrote letters to his wife, his mother, and his relatives and then kneeling prayed extempore for an hour and a half, using the most beautiful language. He asked that God give Sir John wisdom, but take him very quickly to himself. Riel laughed as he said this, and Captain White Fraser, who was watching, said that was bad. Riel replied that he couldn't do better than wish Sir John in heaven.  
Then rising, he smilingly said, in a reflective manner, "Twas very strange to see a poor man like myself with all the power of Canada arrayed against him. It is not because (unreadable) prophet for they knew that cannot help me in my present position." 

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

The murder that doomed Louis Riel

The Sarnia Observer, April 1, 1870
             NEWS FROM RED RIVER

The latest news of any importance from Red River, is the particulars of the shooting, by the usurper Riel, of a Canadian of the name Thomas Scot, for alleged faithlessness to the Provisional Government.  It appears Scott was one of the imprisoned Canadians, but had been released on condition that he would not take up arms against the insurgents, a promise to this effect having been extorted from him as the condition of his liberation.

This was during the time  the Boulton-Schultz movement was in progress, and it seems Scott, in all probability having his temper excited by the conduct of Riel towards those who had been his fellow prisoners, and anxious to secure their liberation, and the downfall of this upstart French half-breed, joined the movement referred to, on the evening of the same day on which his release took place. He was captured with others of Major Boulton's party, when the sally took place from the Fort a few days afterwards.

Being thus found in arms against Riel's usurped authority, it was determined to try him by Court-martial. The result, as might have been expected was, that he was found guilty, and sentenced to be shot; and on the 14th of March, he was actually brought out and shot in front of the Fort.

----  Since writing the above, we learn by the Globe of yesterday that four Canadians who left Fort Garry towards the end of February, had arrived in St. Paul on Tuesday last; and they report that the mass of the people have no sympathy with Riel or his revolution, and that nothing but the lack of arms and an authorized leader prevented the loyalists from putting down the insurrection.

They are on their way to Ottawa to urge upon the government the necessity of taking prompt steps to extend protection to the settlers, the bulk of whom are staunchly loyal. They state positively that Scott was not paroled, but an escaped prisoners (sic), who afterwards joined Boulton's party; and that Riel had him shot because he was an Orangeman and obnoxious to the priesthood, and that the priests favoured his execution.

(Halifax) Morning Chronicle, April 21, 1870

   Further Particulars of the Execution of Scott

The Toronto "Telegraph" which has gone wild over this Red River business, publishes the following statement of the manner of Scott's death, received from a gentleman just arrived from Red River: ----

Scott, who was a fearless, brave, manly fellow, was continually defying Riel. On one occasion he shook his fist in Riel's face , saying, "If we ever meet on equal terms I will take the worth of this imprisonment out of your hide."

One who was standing by at the time tells me that Riel's usual swagger dwindled into tremulous fear before the defiant words and gestures of young Scott.

His dispatch was shortly after decided upon, and a so-called military tribunal was convened, the members of which, with one exception, decided that Scott should be shot.  One Lepine, the adjutant, and, of course, the tool of Riel, was the presiding worthy of that tribunal. The decision was arrived at six o'clock, p.m., and it was decided to carry out the sentence at an early hour the next day.

Scott was not apprised of this until about an hour before the time fixed for his execution, and when he did hear of it he laughed at it, believing it to be but another specimen of Riel's previous unexecuted threats.

In the meantime Rev. Mr. Young had supplicated Riel, and had obtained a reprieve until noon, at which time Riel swore he must die. At noon he was brought out in front of Fort Garry blind-folded and placed in a kneeling position, his hands and knees bound together tightly, the hands being bound behind his back.

Six of Riel's half-drunken adherents were detailed to execute him. The words were given and the shots were fired intermittently, so bungling or so drunken were the murderers. This was further indicated by the fact that but four of the bullets entered his body, and none of these touched a vital part. Poor Scott fell over on his side on the snow, writhing terribly. When it was seen that life was not extinct, one of the fellows pulled out his revolver and placed the muzzle close to his right ear and discharged it, but the ball glanced through the jaw and emerged from the mouth without touching the brain; and while it probably increased the anguish, it did not hasten death. The writhing, contortionizing body was then picked up and thrown into a rough box, which was about a foot too short, and which was carried into the Fort and placed behind one of the bastions. This occupied about three-quarters of an hour.

At half-past six o'clock, nearly six hours afterwards, a file of men sent to bury him found so strong was the vital tenacity of the man that life was not yet extinct. and the intermittent workings and jerkings of the muscles denoted that his horrible pains had not ceased. One of the burying party ran away affrighted to Riel, who ordered them to blow his brains out and be d____d to him. This order was obeyed and poor Scott, who was the essence of bravery, manliness, and fearlessness paid his last reckoning and died for his country a death---which would have been considered a crime if rendered to a dog.

The unusual strength of the man was indicated by the fact the the spasmodic writhings of the nether limbs had broken the foot board of his coffin away from the nail fastenings. A more horrible death in these days of civilization is hard to conceive.

Father Richot was privy to his murder, and approved of it, if, indeed, he did not actually inspire it. I have had ample evidence of an indirect, but conclusive character that this is correct.  One word from him would have saved poor Scott's life. That word remained unuttered; and yet the Canadian government, I hear, propose to treat with Richot, who is quite as much accountable for Scott's murder as is Riel, and indeed actually and unconvincingly expresses his avowal of its necessity and its legality. He says that it was absolutely necessary for state reasons.

Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 11, 1904
                    GRAVE OF SCOTT 
   After 34 years Silence the Disposition of His Body is Confessed

Winnipeg, Jan. 19---The secret of the disposal of the remains of Thomas Scott, Riel's victim, has been revealed by a rebel lieutenant after 34 years silence.

This man is today a well-known Manitoban but there are reasons why his name should not be given.

He met Mr. McFarlane, who was a Hudson's Bay factor at the time of the Riel rebellion, at the funeral of Pierre D'Eschambault yesterday. Riel's confederate divulged to Mr. McFarlane that after the murder a grave had been dug within the fort, and a coffin supposed to contain the body lowered in the presence of a battalion of Riel's soldiers. But Scott's remains were not in that coffin, the mock interment being but a ruse on the part of Riel who did not choose to trust many of his followers with this knowledge. 

After the mock interment the body was dragged by a few trusty men to the bank of the Red River and at a point near where the Broadway bridge now stands was put through a hole in the ice and sunk by means of a weight tied about the neck. This weight was a Hudson Bay grindstone.

Mr. McFarlane believes that an investigation will reveal this grindstone and perhaps of bones of poor Scott.

It is likely an investigation will be undertaken.

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Monday, February 02, 2015

Manitoba Hydro Horror Show

Manitoba Hydro didn't ask for a rate increase last month--- they begged, they pleaded, and ... they threatened dire consequences if they didn't get their way.

And that was just for the best-case scenario.

Which is disastrous.
The reason for their desperation is in the supporting documents that were filed with their application which can be summed up in four words: Manitoba Hydro Horror Show.
Here's how the crisis shapes up:
* Manitoba Hydro won't be able to raise enough money to make its interest payments in eight of the next 13 years.
* Manitoba Hydro won't earn enough money to cover the cost of replacing aging infrastructure in nine of the next ten years, never mind paying the billions required for new dams and transmission lines.
* If the Province has to backstop Hydro, the utility will lose its credit rating and borrowing costs will go way up.
* If Hydro loses its credit rating, it will take the Province over the cliff with it. In short, Manitoba will lose its credit rating, too, and taxpayers will pay the price.
* Manitoba Hydro can't make up the difference by exporting more power. In fact, Hydro now predicts fixed export prices will be 7 percent lower on average over the next 20 years.  Why?  Fracking, which Hydro dismissed five years ago as a fad.
And that's the sunny scenario.
In the event of a drought, Manitoba Hydro would probably deplete its accumulated reserves depending on how severe it was and how many years it lasted.
"In this circumstance, there would not be sufficient reserves to mitigate the potential financial impacts of the considerable array of the risks the Corporation faces in fulfilling its mandate."
Oh, and a drought is almost inevitable. The last one was in 2004 which means we're entering the average drought cycle.
"Should a severe drought occur during the first 10-year period, net income and the equity ratio would be further challenged and higher rate increases would be necessary."
Already the debt-to-equity ration is projected "to deteriorate from the current 24% level to 11% equity by 2022/23" because of the huge borrowing that's necessary to build two new dams, Bipole III, and a new link to the United States, said Hydro.
"While Manitoba Hydro is prepared to accept deterioration of its financial ratios in order to mitigate rate increases for customers, the proposed 3.95% rate increases are the minimum that are required to maintain rate stability and manage the deterioration in the Corporation’s financial strength during the period of extensive investments."
"It is imperative for Manitoba Hydro to be granted the proposed rate increases..." declared Hydro.
The definition of "imperative":
adjective: imperative
1. of vital importance; crucial.
Here are the some of the more relevant portions of the Manitoba Hydro application:
"The 3.95% proposed and indicative rate increases are the minimum necessary to manage the significant deterioration in Manitoba Hydro’s projected financial results and ratios in the next 10 year period. Should the PUB defer the proposed rate increases, there is greater risk that future rate increases will be significantly higher than 3.95%."
"Manitoba Hydro is relaxing its adherence to financial targets over this period in order to alleviate rate increases in excess of 3.95% to the extent possible. Due to the deterioration in Manitoba Hydro’s financial ratios... any further increases to costs or reductions to revenues increases the risk of significantly higher rate increases to customers."
"The interest coverage ratio provides an indication of the ability of the Corporation to meet interest payment obligations."
"Manitoba Hydro’s interest coverage ratio is also forecast to be well below target for several years of the forecast. In eight years of the forecast, Manitoba Hydro’s interest coverage ratio is below 1.0, which indicates that the utility would experience elevated operational liquidity risk and may have difficulty generating sufficient revenues and cash flow from operations to pay its interest obligations."
"The capital coverage ratio measures the ability of current period internally generated funds to finance sustaining capital expenditures (excluding major new generation and related transmission)."
"Capital coverage is projected to be below target for nine years of the forecast, and below 1.00 for six of those nine years, due to the reduction in net income and increasing capital requirements to replace aging infrastructure..."
"Even with net extraprovincial revenues, Manitoba Hydro is projecting losses on electric operations in 2018/19 to 2023/24 totaling  approximately $0.9 billion..."  (That's $900 million, for the mathematically challenged.)
"The key financial risks associated with rate increases lower than 3.95% are:
 i. Increased risk to customers of rate instability and rate shock;
 ii. Increased borrowing requirements and associated financing costs which must be recovered from customers in the future;
 iii. Potential negative implications to the Provincial credit rating and Manitoba Hydro’s borrowing costs."
Composition of Province of Manitoba Debt
Province of Manitoba (excluding Manitoba Hydro) 65%
Manitoba Hydro (self-supporting debt) 35%
" The credit rating agencies view Manitoba Hydro to be financially self-supporting in that  the Corporation is able to meet its financial obligations based on its own revenues without being supported by the tax-base of the Province."
"Should the capital markets perceive Manitoba Hydro’s debt levels to be too high, there may be negative implications to the Province’s credit ratings, which could result in higher borrowing costs. As a result of  the significance of the size of Manitoba Hydro’s debt in relation to the Province of  Manitoba’s debt as a whole, the debt/equity ratio is a key indicator in the review of Manitoba Hydro for the Province’s credit rating."
"In Manitoba Hydro’s judgment, the projected deterioration in the equity ratio... is at the minimum acceptable financial operating level even with the proposed and indicative rate increases. Any further deterioration in the equity ratio significantly  increases the risk of large rate increases to customers in the longer term and any reduction to the rate increases proposed in this Application only intensifies this risk to customers."
Manitoba Hydro has clearly lost control of its finances. 

Even with proposed rate hikes at twice the rate of inflation, they can only promise the possibility of even greater increases at every turn.  Along with the likelihood of a loss of the utility's credit rating and the province's credit rating.
And we're still subsidizing the "sale" of power to Minnesota for the next nine years.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Sammie Award for best actor in a civic scandal goes to ... Brian Bowman

It's award season.  Step aside Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, Oscars...

...we're going to honour the best performances deserving a Sammie, the city of Winnipeg award for scandal, shame, conspiracy, cover-up, audits and police investigations.

The  nominations are in.

For the best portrayal of disgraced Mayor Sam Katz in a civic scandal:  Know Nothing Mayor Brian Bowman.

For the best portrayal of Sandy Shindleman in a civic scandal:  Mark Chipman, Bowman's biggest booster.

For the best ensemble portrayal of Shindico in a civic scandal: True North Entertainment.

For the best portrayal of disgraced CAO Phil Sheegl in a civic scandal: a tie between CentreVenture board chair Kurt Vossen and CentreVenture board member Richard Olfert.

Honorable mention:  soon-to-be-fired CAO Deepak Joshi as himself.

We've seen this movie before, haven't we?

The mayor's friend gets a secret real-estate deal worth millions. Councillors who should be watchdogs are told they have no time to get answers; the deal has to be rubber-stamped immediately or we'll get sued-slash-we'll lose federal funding. The mayor is, ahem, "unhappy", but...well, what can he do?  And anyway, it's a great deal for the city.

Yep.  Seen it.

Bowman put on his unhappy face at this week's special executive policy committee meeting and tried to act tough. Grrrr. I'm unhappy, he said.

He was unhappy that CentreVenture had made a secret deal with True North to build a fancy hotel next to the Convention Centre. By doing so they stabbed in the back a company hired by the Convention Centre to expand the facility and build a new hotel as part of their contract.

A CentreVenture spokesman said that in the past they had fed the other company leads on possible partners in building the proposed hotel.  But not this time. This time they negotiated with True North themselves and kept their deal secret.

By doing so they snookered the other company into paying them $3.7 million as a penalty for not building the hotel they promised.  They needed the money to pay down the $6.6 million they spent to buy and demolish an old hotel adjacent to the Convention Centre where the new one will rise.  Hee hee. Sucker!

Bowman said he was unhappy.  As a lawyer, what CentreVenture did didn't seem right. Or legal. But what's done is done.  And he had to look tough.  So he ordered CentreVenture -- yes, ordered --  to hold a public competition for development ideas that would include a hotel for the Convention Centre.

Now, in the week prior, Bowman had declared he would accept nothing less than a request for proposals, an RFP.

This week he flip-flopped and settled for an "expression of interest", an EOI, for the land.  That's a step or two below an RFP, not that it matters.

For, you see, it's all for show.

Bowman, wearing his I'm tough and unhappy face, wants the public to believe he's leveled the playing field, so to speak.  He's opened the competition to everyone who is interested.  Fairsey squaresy.

Except that True North has a nine month headstart on any other competing developer. 

Oh, and the judges of the EOI will be CentreVenture, which already has a deal with True North.

They are sitting at the finish line with the first-place trophy already engraved with True North's name.
So, what's the charade  of an EOI going to accomplish?

And the winner of the Sammie is ...

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cool. Boy Mayor Brian Bowman gets his own development scandal.

We're so dizzy we're bumping into walls.

Who wouldn't be after a day of scandal after scandal like we saw Wednesday.

Where should we start?  Should we start with the latest land development scandal?

Oh, you're bored with land development scandals.  All developers are crooks; all politicians are corrupt; nobody ever gets charged or fired or held accountable; and it's going to cost taxpayers millions, as usual. 

Hey, were you peeking at our notes? But this one is different, kinda. Listen:

The Winnipeg Convention Centre was looking pretty dowdy. It needed a makeover. And while they were at it, they could make it bigger, because conventions these days are really, really big and if you want to attract the best ones, you have to be big enough to host them.

So they had a contest to see who could do the job at the best price and picked a company called Stuart Olson. But there was one teeny catch. Isn't there always?

Convention goers want to stay in top-of-the-line name hotels to collect loyalty points. So part of the deal called for Stuart Olson to build a hotel right by the new Convention Centre for a high-end hotel chain.

Easier said than done. While they had the land (CentreVenture, the agency charged with jumpstarting development in downtown Winnipeg, bought the Carlton Hotel and demolished it), Stuart Olson couldn't nail down an interested hotel chain. And time was running out. The expansion project will be finished this year, and  they can't wait forever to start building an adjoining hotel.

This is the part everyone agrees on.  
The next part no one agrees on.

The Convention Centre has a contract with Stuart Olson that calls for SO to build a suitable hotel. Or not. Yesterday we were told the contract was never signed.  Or maybe it was. We don't know because they can't get their story straight.

CentreVenture said Stuart Olson went to a meeting in April and threw in the towel.  We can't find anyone who wants a hotel here, they allegedly said.  The Convention Centre  says baloney, Stuart Olson  didn't stop looking for a partner until last week.  And they may even have whipped up a suitable deal, but CentreVenture wouldn't talk to Stuart Olson about it and it died.

CentreVenture says they found their own hotel developer. Everybody at City Hall is being hush hush and pretending they don't know who it is. But outside of City Hall its an open secret. Longboat. The development arm of the Chipman family, including son Mark who owns the Winnipeg Jets.

But then it gets confusing. (What? You thought that was confusing?  Nertz.)

The Convention Centre has a binding contract (or not) with Stuart Olson to build a hotel on land owned by CentreVenture. CentreVenture says it's given an option on that land to a developer which is not Stuart Olson. The Convention Centre says they may have had a deal which was scuttled by CentreVenture because CentreVenture had their own secret deal of which, of course, they didn't tell anyone. 

Oh, and the deal is with a company connected to Mark Chipman, who as of November, 2014 was still listed on the CentreVenture board of directors ... (Sure, now you're interested) ... and who very publicly endorsed Mayor Brian Bowman. Bowman is the honorary chairman (ex officio) of the CentreVenture board of directors. The twitteratti are already calling Mark Chipman Brian Bowman's Sandy Shindleman.

Bowman, the mature statesman, said yesterday the whole stab-in-the-back thing is "not cool."

Still not enough?

Well, the chairman of the board of the Convention Centre is none other than Bob Silver, the co-owner of the Winnipeg Free Press.  You would think that the owner of the bloody newspaper would make sure his own reporters got the facts right.  But you would be wrong.  It's not that they got the facts wrong, it's just that everybody has their own facts and nobody is sorting them out.

Maybe somebody from the city could step in and be that person.  Uh, nope. CentreVenture says they kept city officials in the loop the whole time.  But by city officials they mean NOT city councillors or the mayor.

CentreVenture means they talked with the real power brokers at city council -- the administration, which would undoubtedly include acting CAO Deepak Joshi.

You know Deepak Joshi. His name pops up frequently in the audits of the firehall boondoggles.  Yet somehow he was appointed in October, 2013, as acting-Chief Administrative Officer to replace Phil Sheegl, the architect of the firehall scandals. He was told to replace himself asap. He managed to avoid that task for 15 months.

But now he's on the fast track to getting fired. Bowman suspended him for 3 days, EPC extended the suspension for 30 days during which they will recommend he get the boot and council will tell him to bend over. Bowman never said why he lost confidence in Joshi. 

In fact, at the first meeting of the new council he defended Joshi when defeated mayoral candidate David Sanders warned about the mindset of the administration.

Said Sanders. "We have just seen altogether recently too much evidence of Lord Acton's dictum that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

"Unfortunately, most senior administrators have come to believe that they are in charge at City Hall and they can ignore elected councillors with impunity."

Bowman delivered Sanders a pompous lecture about the laws of defamation. When the facts of the Convention Centre hotel fiasco trickled out, he learned that Sanders had been right all along. Bowman flip-flopped and turned on Joshi.

He still owes Sanders an apology, though.  That would be cool, dude.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Winnipeg Police -- too many and too useless, said Finance Chair Marty Morantz

Not only did new councillor and professed lawyer Marty Morantz demonstrate last week his total ignorance of the law governing council, but he doubled down to say he didn't care what the law was, he was going to bully city employees around and they had better like it.
If this is an indication of the calibre of appointees to 'Know Nothing' Brian Bowman's civic government, then Winnipeggers will soon be wishing for a return of Mayor Sam Katz and what was then known as the most dysfunctional council in memory.

Bowman, whose knowledge of how city council functions is zero, decided to start his term in office by attacking the city auditor. Two days later, Morantz decided he would attack the police department and thereby demonstrate he's even more clued out over how the city runs than Bowman. What an accomplishment.

Upon presentation of the Winnipeg Police Service Third Quarter Financial Report, Morantz lobbed questions at Deputy Police Chief Art Stannard about why the police couldn't find savings in their budget (they call it "efficiencies") and why the force was bloated by officers who should be retired.

Stannard patiently explained that the rules now required the police to report to the new Police Board and for city council to ask the Board for answers. Morantz would have none of that.

HE was MARTY MORANTZ,  and HE, MARTY MORANTZ, was chairman of the finance committee, and no underling would tell him, MARTY MORANTZ, how to do things;  HE, MARTY MORANTZ, was in charge and HE, MARTY MORANTZ, was DEMANDING--YES, DEMANDING---answers from the deputy chief, the law be damned.

The other members of the finance committee--veteran councillor and  Deputy Mayor Mike Pagtakhan and, would you believe, new councillor and chairman of the Police Board Scott Gillingham --- sat like dummies, refusing to challenge the presumptuous chairman.
There are too many police and too many are useless, railed the imperious Morantz, doing his best to intimidate and humiliate the deputy chief. See. Look at me. I'M MARTY MORANTZ, and I'm a tough guy when it comes to city finances. 
Morantz was in such a rush to throw his weight around he failed to do even the most rudimentary research.

He could have read the 347-page Operational Review of the Police Service that was commissioned by city council and received in August, 2013,  17 whole months before Morantz's grandstanding performance.
This report is mandatory reading for anybody in civic government dealing with the police service who doesn't want to sound like a fool.  For 'fool' read 'Marty Morantz'.
That report contained many examples of  "efficiencies" open to the Winnipeg police, as well as suggestions as to where police positions could be eliminated and/or filled by civilians

. The report by the Matrix Consulting Group identified more than 75 positions ranging from 18 in the Central Reading Unit, 12 in Human Resources (civilians should be doing that job), and 25 at the airport (we lost the contract) to 3 constables in the Stolen Auto Unit, one constable in the Pawn Shop Detail, and the two constables with the Mounted Patrol.

Moranz could have asked which suggestions were adopted, which weren't, which could be, which shouldn't.  But that is obviously beyond the capability of a lawyer who writes wills for a living.  In which case Morantz could have had a private discussion with the head of the Police Board,  WHO SITS RIGHT BESIDE HIM ON THE FINANCE COMMITTEE. 
Instead, Morantz chose to be an arrogant pissant.
Winnipeg has had enough of this conceit.  We had our fill from Phil Sheegl, who came highly recommended by Mayor Sam Katz as the smartest guy in the room. We're still cleaning up the rubble left behind by that duo.  Was there a hint in the fact that Marty Morantz was a financial donor to Katz's election campaign?
What we've seen so far from 'Know Nothing' Brian Bowman and his henchman I'M MARTY MORANTZ is two lawyers from Charleswood/River Heights who want to jack up taxes to fund their pet projects while hacking services to the little people (who do we need so many police anyway? what do they do all day?).
Bowman claims he wants more transparency and accountability in this council. He's certainly demonstrated the need to be extremely vigilant with him and his council appointees.

Last Friday, Bowman backed Marty Morantz's public grilling of Deputy Police Chief Art Stannard.  But by Monday he was squeaking a different tune.

Police Chief Devon Clunis was out of town on vacation last week when Morantz implied the police force should be forcing a whack of officers to retire and that "it looks to me that there are a lot of officers hanging around now.” 

Clunis got back on the weekend and made a beeline for Bowman.  By the time their, ahem, meeting ended, it was clear who the alpha male in the room was and who was his bitch.

The pair held a joint news conference Monday.

"I want to re-affirm my support and council’s support for the invaluable work the members of the Winnipeg Police Service do each and every day," mumbled Bowman with a mouthful of crow.

"I support fully what our deputy chief said and from the comments I’ve read, I would have taken the same actions." said a stone-faced Clunis.

The police department had his full support,  said Bowman, adding that it was clear "to everyone now" that police report to the police board.

'Everyone' meaning Marty Morantz who was summoned to a meeting with Clunis and the mayor before the newser.

There he was fitted with a muzzle and told to "stay".  He did, neither showing his face at the news conference nor appearing to answer questions from reporters afterward.

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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Winnipeg city councillors give the new mayor a nickname.

New Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman already has a nickname at City Hall.

Bozo Bowman.


Two thirds of the way into his first hundred days in office, his colleagues on council have decided he's a legend in his own mind.

'Know Nothing' Brian Bowman promised to do City Hall differently, to "hit the ground running", to "think big."

So on Wednesday, what did he do?  Bowman decided to pick a fight and to do it 'old style', namely to follow the footsteps of former mayor Sam Katz step for step. 

How's that for doing things differently?

Bowman adopted Katz's sleazy tactic of "walking on" a motion to executive policy committee. 
That's politico-speak for slipping a motion onto the agenda at the last minute and expecting your toadies to ram it through without debate.  So what happened?  What do you think?  Bowman's toadies on EPC rammed the motion through without debate. He "hit the ground running."

And who does Bowman want to scrap with?  Why, city auditor Brian Whiteside, the man whose audits almost single-handedly exposed the bid-rigging, the handing of untendered contracts to favorite contractors, the waste of millions of tax dollars in a raft of mismanaged (to use a polite word) projects.

Puffing up his scrawny lawyer's chest, Know Nothing Bowman demanded, yea demanded, that Whiteside produce a written report - in two weeks - telling what's been done to implement the dozens of recommendations contained in three property audits, including the construction of new firehalls disaster and the new police headquarters fiasco.

"Council asked the auditor to report on a quarterly basis, that has not happened in a year," Bowman sniffed to reporters. "So, that has to happen and it has to happen very quickly."  Ooohh, what a tough guy.

But it might be that it's Bowman who's cruisin' for a bruisin'.

In his 2013 report to council, Whiteside discussed the audits and the "quarterly report card":

Advisory Services
Quarterly Report Card

The Audit Department’s work does not end when an audit report is presented to City Council. The most important component of an audit recommendation is its implementation. The Public Service provides a response to each audit recommendation in the audit report along with an action plan.

The subsequent implementation of the audit recommendations in accordance with the action plans is the responsibility of the Public Service.

Since 2006, the Status of Audit Recommendations Quarterly Report Card is reported to Audit Committee. The Quarterly Report Card is produced at the end of March, June, September and December and is presented at the next Audit Committee. While the Audit Department facilitates the process, the Quarterly Report Card presents management’s representations as to the status of recommendations implemented, in progress, or not to be implemented.

For recommendations in progress, an implementation strategy and timeframe is provided. For recommendations not to be implemented, an explanation is provided. The Audit Department does not audit the responses but does provide an opinion on the completeness of the responses and the reasonableness of action plans proposed. The CAO and appropriate departmental staff attend Audit Committee to respond to any questions members may raise regarding the project updates.

In a nutshell, he said the quarterly reports are up to the city management to prepare. The Auditor only comments on the completeness. 

So, it seems that if there have been no quarterly reports, blame the CAO ( in this case, Deepak Joshi.)

Our city hall sources say Bowman is flailing around trying to find money to balance the budget, and generally making an ass of himself.

Perhaps he's looking ahead to the next budget --  and panicking.

Bowman promised to raise taxes only at the rate of inflation.  By the start of December, 2014, the annual inflation rate for Canada was 1.95 percent. It may have fallen even lower by the end of the year. 

If it's Manitoba inflation he's using as his standard, taxpayers are in even better luck. The Manitoba inflation rate to December, 2014 was 1.1 percent.

When it comes to tax increases, voters want councillors to think small.

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