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.

Name:
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: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

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.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/tina-fontaine-last-seen-leaving-with-man-in-west-end-says-friend-1.2778160

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:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/tina-fontaine-died-because-police-cfs-failed-her-family-says-1.2777606

"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.
 
Re-post:
 
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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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

NDP Plan B. Selinger out in the fall. A historic gamble. A snap election?


Manitoba political pundits feel hornswoggled, hookwinked and bamboozled.

For five months they've been covering the ins and outs and ups and downs of an alleged revolt of a handful of NDP cabinet ministers against Premier Greg Selinger. It was supposed to culminate Sunday in the ouster of Selinger as leader of the party when delegates to a party convention chose one or the other of two challengers for his job.

Except that he won. By a narrow margin, sure.  But he won.

The pundits gave out a collective gasp. This wasn't supposed to happen. Selinger was supposed to quit or be defeated. This was the worst outcome possible for the NDP -- a permanently split party and an invigorated Opposition.

"So what exactly was the point of all that again?... In one sense, the Manitoba NDP are back to square one, exactly where they were six months ago." said  Curtis Brown, vice-president of pollsters Probe Research Inc.

Who saw that coming?

Well, we did. Three months ago when we wrote how the "revolt" was a charade.
 
The evidence was clear.  The "Rebel Five", as the press called them, supported the NDP's policies, voted for all the NDP's bills, and never spoke of repealing any NDP legislation.  If their rebellion succeeded, nothing would change. If it lost, nothing would change.  Wow, if that's not revolution, we don't what is.

Their only beef was Greg Selinger, who, apparently, wouldn't listen to them when they spoke in caucus. About what? They didn't say.

So what, then, was the point of turning on the leader, asked Curtis Brown.

The polls show the NDP going to ignominious defeat in the next provincial election. They had to do something to reverse their collapse in popular support, and fast.

The past three months, since the leadership race was announced, have been a sort of trial election campaign. Except with the NDP running against the NDP.  

* You had the far-left hardcore socialist candidate, Theresa Oswald who went around promising millions of dollars in new spending on new social programs. 

* The populist, Steve Ashton, who would hold a non-binding referendum on raising the provincial sales tax three or more years after the tax was raised and he voted to raise (and spend) it.  

* And the steady-as-she-goes candidate, reigning Premier Greg Selinger.

Selinger is nothing if not a stalwart party soldier. He was willing to fall on the sword if either of the other two approaches were embraced by the public.  But the NDP brand is so toxic nothing moved the polls. It was time to hit the reset button.

And move to Plan B.

As the pundits quibble over the entrails of the NDP leadership farce...

"Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Manitoba, said the last five months have given Conservative Leader Brian Pallister a wealth of political ammunition for the coming campaign.
“Part of Mr. Pallister’s attack will be to say here is a premier who is not even trusted by his most senior political colleagues in cabinet and caucus,” Thomas said.?"  Globe and Mail

"University of Manitoba political science associate professor Royce Koop said, "I think it is very clear that not in his wildest dreams could (PC leader) Brian Pallister have hoped for a better result than this one."     National Post
 
"While Selinger and his caucus supporters were grinning ear to ear on stage Sunday, the ones who were probably beaming the most were the Brian Pallister-led Progressive Conservatives and Rana Bokhari-led Liberals."  Curtis Brown, Winnipeg Free Press.

... Plan B has been set in motion.

The next Manitoba election is in 13 months, April, 2016.  Greg Selinger turns 65 in February, 2016.  Does the NDP want a white-haired geezer collecting an old-age pension leading their campaign?   (Conservative Party leader Brian Pallister will be only 61 in April, 2016.)

You bet not.  Now that he's seized the reins of power again, Selinger can retire on his own terms and in his own time.  We're betting that this fall -- September, October or even November -- he will announce his resignation as Premier. It's time to turn the future over to a new generation, he'll say. 

He will still sit as an MLA until the election is called, but the caucus will elect an interim leader.  Let's call him "Kevin Chief" (who will be about 41, although he's secretive about his birthday).

Chief brings no unwanted political baggage to the job.  

He hasn't held any major portfolio, so he can't be blamed for 
- the collapse of the Manitoba medical system, 
- the bottom-of-the-country educational system, 
- the threatening bankruptcy of Manitoba Hydro, or 
- the ruinous taxation strangling the economy. 
 
He's young, smart, educated, polite, and carries the single most important attribute necessary for Plan B.

He's aboriginal.

So is Ovide Mercredi, the new President of the New Democratic Party, whose election was a shocker at the convention last weekend.  See where this is going?

The NDP will play the only card they have left---a wild card that's never before been played in a Manitoba election.  They will run on a platform of a New Deal for Aboriginals, in Manitoba and in all of Canada.

Where's Brian Pallister's advantage then?  The Conservatives will again be on the defensive.  Any criticism of the NDP and/or leader Kevin Chief will be denounced as racist. 

The NDP know that this will antagonize much of the voting public, but that's irrelevent.  They're not out to win more seats. 

The Conservatives need to win 10 seats to win the election; the NDP can lose eight seats and still win.

The big fear within the NDP is that their voters will either park their votes with the Liberals or stay at home in disgust.

By aligning themselves with a new official victim class, they hope they can recapture the social justice sentiment of these disaffected voters.
If they can keep enough voters from deserting them, they can hold their strongest seats; if they can lure enough Liberals (who know the Liberals won't form a government and won't win more than one seat at most) they might be able to fend off defeat in two crucial swing seats. That would be enough for an unprecedented fifth victory in a row.

Selinger could, of course, decide to head the party into the next election, gambling for glory with an historic win or throwing himself on the grenade and accepting the blame for an historic loss. 

A younger Selinger might have taken that gamble. A pensioner will know his time has passed.

The remaining question is when he chooses to go.  Six to nine months is plenty of time for the new, interim leader to solidify his profile with the public.

Or to call a snap election to get a mandate.

That ought to stir the pundits into a new frenzy.

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Saturday, March 07, 2015

Uncensored insider's stories of life at NDP-controlled Osborne House




Taking a page out of the Putin playbook, the Manitoba NDP government is frantically rewriting history to justify its racially-oriented takeover of the long-running women's shelter Osborne House.


Through a series of strategic leaks to reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press, the NDP has created a false narrative akin to Putin's explanation of how Russia had to --- just had to --- seize Crimea from Ukraine because of all the injustices the evil Ukrainians were imposing on Russians who lived there.



NDP deputy premier Eric Robinson's racist slurs against white Manitobans, which preceeded the takeover of Osborne House, have been carefully whitewashed to turn them into an 'unfortunate choice of words', rather than a deliberate racial bias. 

"Robinson later apologized," writes the Free Press, ignoring the fact he was forced by the Premier to issue a lawyered statement after telling APTN he meant exactly what he said and he would never apologize.



The government, which has supported and applauded Robinson's racist comments, tried to hide their existence in an official email each time a FIPPA request might reveal them - except the first attempt was 'see-thru'. 

One of the participants in the discussion that led to Robinson's email was government insider Marlene Bertrand, who was then appointed Commissar in charge of Osborne House because the government had to -- just had to -- seize control of the agency.



One of the alleged reasons, if you believe the leaks to the Free Press, was a mythological deficit being run by Osborne House. Not counting the $160-some thousand dollar surplus in the agency's bank account. But, why quibble over facts, right Bruce Owen?

The rewriting of history has continued with the assistance of the Winnipeg Free Press to the present day when the NDP secret they were dissolving Osborne House instead of returning control to its board of directors blew up on social media before the convention.  The official excuse is the board's refusal to accept co-management.
The WFP fails to report that the NDP's definition of co-management is like Soviet Russia's idea of co-management of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. 
The co-management "agreement", presented as a fait accompli to the Osborne House board, reads:

"The Manitoba co-manager, in its sole and absolute discretion, may withhold or provide its agreement and the decision of the Manitoba co-manager shall be final and binding upon the Agency."

In short, the government would run the agency and the board would do what the government said- in every case. Some co-management.

Osborne House staffers have been keeping notes of the management style of Marlene Bertrand and her cohorts. 
The details seen by The Black Rod are appalling.

"There is not enough food." wrote one staffer.

Apparently the government decided the clients of Osborne House were eating too much. So they scrubbed the agency's weekly food order from Winnipeg Harvest. 


Before accepting the donation, Osborne House got assurance from Harvest that they were not taking food away from deserving families. The food to Osborne House was being given on the same basis as food provided to other social agencies, they were told. So each week they collected 200 pounds of food. 

The government management scrapped that--- taking five tons of food annually away from Osborne House.

Then they decided that the children at Osborne House were drinking too much milk.

You read that right.  
So the government decided that instead of keeping milk in the refrigerator where mothers with thirsty kids could help themselves, they would infantalize the mothers, and make them ask a staff member if they could please have some milk for their children. 


And that was before they all but cancelled Christmas.

The board of directors had been too generous, Marlene Bertrand said. Too many Christmas decorations; nothing on the walls, went the order.

Then government decided that the children of Osborne House were being spoiled with too many presents. One gift only per child. AND NO SANTA.

"Marlene told staff that Barb's generosity would make the women feel insecure when they were no longer in shelter and didn't have money for gifts." wrote a staffer.


Staff described their jobs as "walking on eggshells": 

*  Breaches of client confidentiality,
*  Management bullying,
*  Punitive disciplinary decisions,

were among the onerous working conditions that the government says was perfect under their control. 

But staff members are "afraid to go to the Union" because they believe their CUPE rep will sooner support the government than fight for the members.

Welcome to the Brave New World of NDP women's shelter.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

City Hall gadfly David Sanders exposes Winnipeg's new Civic Weasel No. 1


Winnipeg has a new Civic Weasel No. 1!

St Vital councilor Brian Mayes' embarrassing performance at the last city council meeting was enough for him to leapfrog over this new council's frontrunner for the title, I'M-MARTY-MORANZ-AND-I'M-A -LAWYER!!!!

Brian Mayes went ballistic over a suggestion that the former city council showed favoritism when voting in favour of an amended route for the second leg of the bus rapid transit plan in south Winnipeg.

Gee, who would think that?  How about EVERYBODY IN WINNIPEG!  Why? Maybe it's because three audits of city construction projects have found BLATANT FAVORITISM IN THE AWARDING OF CONTRACTS!

Nevertheless, Mayes wants people to think this time it's different.  And he demonstrated he's willing to insult, attack, belittle, and denigrate anyone who dares to disagree with him.

But while Mayes was playing the right fool, he made the mistake of challenging someone a lot smarter than he--- David Sanders, the retired civil servant (and former mayoral candidate) who takes the time to read all the city reports and studies that are available to the public, and who knows more about what's happening at city hall than most councillors.

Sanders politely listened to Mayes' insults, then schooled him in facts, manners, decorum, and social behaviour.

Sanders opened his presentation with a statement (as recorded in the poorly kept Hansard):

David Sanders: 
NEXT WEEK IT WILL BE TWO YEARS SINCE I FIRST DISCOVERED THAT THE CITY'S LONG STANDING RAPID TRANSIT PLAN WAS BEING HIJACKED AND THAT PUBLIC LANDS AND FINANCIAL RESOURCES WERE BEING DIVERTED FOR THE BENEFIT OF A FEW FAVOURED DEVELOPERS LOCATED ALONG THE PARKER DOGLEG TO THE WEST OF THE ORIGINAL ROUTE WHICH WAS SUPPOSED TO GO STRAIGHT SOUTH  ALONG THE CN-LETELLIER RAIL LINE BESIDE PEMBINA HIGHWAY.

AS I BEGAN TO INVESTIGATE AND CRITICIZE THE CITY'S DECISION RELATED ... 
I FOUND AN ATMOSPHERE AND A CULTURE AT  THE UPPER ECHELONS OF CITY HALL WHICH WAS DEEPLY DISTURBING TO ME AS A CITIZEN AND OFFENSIVE TO ME AS A LONG-TIME PROFESSIONAL PUBLIC ADMINISTRATOR.

I SAW GROSS INCOMPETENCE, MISMANAGEMENT AND MISCONDUCT OF THE TYPES WHICH ARE DOCUMENTED FULLY IN THE AUDITS  SUBSEQUENTLY ORDERED FOR THE FIRE PARAMEDIC STATION CONSTRUCTION PROJECT, THE NEW POLICE HEADQUARTERS REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT AND THE REAL ESTATE MANAGEMENT REVIEW, AND WHICH HAVE BEEN REFERRED TO THE R.C.M.P. BY THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE.

I FOUND A CITY COUNCIL WHOSE MEMBERS WERE GENERALLY UNWILLING TO QUESTION THE SENIOR ADMINISTRATORS OR TO DEMAND COMPLIANCE WITH COUNCIL DIRECTIVES AND WHO WERE THEREFORE UNFORTUNATELY COMPLICIT IN THE FINAL RESULTS.

UNDERSTANDABLY, MOST OF THE FORMER COUNCILLORS SEEMED HAPPY TO SWEEP EVERY FIASCO UNDER THE VERY LUMPY RUG ON THIS COUNCIL FLOOR.

A very defensive Mayes blew a gasket:

COUNCILLOR MAYES:
HIJACKING THE ORIGINAL PLAN FOR THE BENEFIT OF A FEW DEVELOPERS BY MOVING THE PROPOSED RAPID TRANSIT WAY TO THE WEST WAS A REPORT ENDORSED BOTH BY THE PROVINCE AND THE UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA, SO JUST FOR THE RECORD, DID WE HIJACK AND BAMBOOZLE THE UNIVERSITY AND THE PROVINCE IN OUR PLOT TO BENEFIT A FEW DEVELOPERS OR WOULD THEY -- DID THEY COME TO THAT CONCLUSION THEMSELVES THAT THEY WANTED TO BENEFIT THE DEVELOPERS SINCE YOU ARE ACCUSING US OF HIJACKING A PLAN TO BENEFIT DEVELOPERS. BASICALLY PROFOUND CORRUPTION. PLEASE ANSWER THAT QUESTION.

SANDERS: 
FIRST OF ALL I HAVE HAVE SEEN NOTHING IN WRITING FROM THE ... UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA. SECONDLY, WHEN I INQUIRED OF THE PROVINCE, THEY ADVISED ME THEY WERE SIMPLY GOING ALONG WITH THE CITY'S REQUEST.

Oh.

COUNCILLOR MAYES: 
2ND QUESTION IS YOU HAVE BEEN PRETTY CLEAR ON THE ELECTION PROMISES AND JUST FOR THE RECORD YOU RAN OBVIOUSLY, YOU WERE NIPPED BY 43 PERCENT ON THE ELECTION RESULTS FOR MAYOR. DO YOU THINK THERE WAS ANY CONFUSION IN THE PUBLIC WHEN THE MAYOR WHO DID WIN SAID THERE WAS NO OPTION, THAT HE WAS PROCEEDING WITH THE DOG LEG ROUTE? YOU SEEM TO HAVE A LOT OF ELECTION QUOTES HERE. DO YOU THINK THE PUBLIC WAS CLEAR ON ENDORSING THE DOG LEG ROUTE? IT WAS CLEAR IN HIS PLATFORM AS WAS THE 2ND PLACE FINISHER. YOU DIDN'T SUCCEED, THAT DOESN'T SEEM TO ENTER INTO YOUR DISCUSSION HERE OF WHAT WAS SAID DURING THE ELECTION. DO YOU THINK THE PUBLIC WAS BAMBOOZLED IN THE RECENT ELECTION CAMPAIGN AND FOOLED OR HIJACKED IN THEIR SUPPORT.

SANDERS:
I CAN FIND NO REFERENCE TO THE PARKER DOG LEG IN THE MAYOR'S 40 PAGE PLATFORM. I CAN'T FIND REFERENCE TO COMPLETING ALL SIX AND IN THE VERY ANNOUNCEMENT PUT OUT BY THE FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL AND CITY GOVERNMENTS THE OTHER DAY, THE MAPS AND THE ATTACHMENTS AND BACKGROUND PROVIDED BY THE CITY AND THE OTHER GOVERNMENTS, SHOWS THE ROUTE DIRECTORY DOWN THE PEMBINA ROUTE AS PLANNED AND DOESN'T SHOW THE PARKER DOG LEG.

Oh.

COUNCILLOR MAYES:
YOU ARE ACCUSING US OF HIJACKING $490 MILLION TO BENEFIT GEM AND SHINDICO. DO YOU HAVE ANY DOCUMENTATION OR REFERENCE, ANY E-MAILS OR CORRESPONDENCE THAT WOULD SUPPORT WHAT'S REALLY A SERIOUS, CRIMINAL ALLEGATION ON YOUR PART THAT YOU ARE MAKING HERE IN PUBLIC, THAT WE ARE HIJACKING A ROUTE TO BENEFIT SHINDICO AND GEM EQUITIES. DO YOU HAVE ANY CORRESPONDENCE TO SUPPORT THAT ALLEGATION?

SANDERS:
FIRST OF ALL, I HAVE NOT MADE A CRIMINAL ALLEGATION. I REFERRED TO THE CITY HIJACKING IT AND IN PARTICULAR TO THE FORMER CITY ADMINISTRATORS.

 COUNCILLOR MAYES:
YOU ARE MAKING A CRIMINAL ALLEGATION THAT THE FORMER CITY ADMINISTRATORS HIJACKED A $490 MILLION PROJECT.

SANDERS:
I AM NOT MAKING A CRIMINAL ALLEGATION BUT I LOOK FORWARD TO THE R.C.M.P. REPORT ON THE PARKER LAND SWAP.

It's no secret why Brian Mayes might be sensitive to Sanders' pointed references to city hall bungling, or worse.  Mayes eagerly joined the Katz-Sheegl-Swandel cabal that was doing its best to cover-up the mismanagement, or worse, of city projects costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Mayes voted against any audit of the new police headquarters project, going so far as to throw out some bizarre arithmetic to justify how irrelevant the cost overruns on the project were. 

He only flip-flopped and supported the audit after running into a buzzsaw of public opinion. But his haste to scuttle any examination of the police HQ demonstrates his judgement and his character---both found lacking.

Of course, once the audit showed the usual single-sourcing of contracts and connections to Shindico and Sheegl,  the public outrage was so great that the province sent the file to the RCMP --- and Mayes was left wishing people would forget his opposition.

Sanders also cited statements made by Mayor Brian Bowman during the mayoral election campaign to address the issue of welcoming public input in council debates:

"WE HAVE A CITY HALL WHERE IT SEEMS AS IF DECISIONS ARE MADE AND PRESENTED TO THE COUNCIL AS DONE DEALS. THERE IS LITTLE OPPORTUNITY FOR THE COUNCIL LET ALONE THE PUBLIC TO VOICE THEIR CONCERNS OR PARTICIPATE IN DEBATE. THIS HAS TO CHANGE." 

"WINNIPEGERS ARE NOT AS ENGAGED AS THEY COULD BE AND RIGHT NOW, MANY ROADBLOCKS EXIST IN SIMPLY  ACCESSING PUBLIC INFORMATION FROM CITY HALL. AND CITY HALL LACKS CONSISTENCY IN ALLOWING THE PUBLIC TO BE HEARD WITH RESPECT TO POLICY DEVELOPMENT OR DECISION MAKING THAT AFFECTS HOW WE LIVE, WORK AND PLAY."

Bowman sat like a dummy and said nothing while Mayes, Bowman's appointment to executive policy committee, demonstrated what citizens can expect if they try to speak at council during the Bowman term in office. 

Long gone were his bold words about engaging the public and listening to their voices at city hall. 


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