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 since 2005, 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, April 15, 2005

Canada's Greatest Superhero; Adscam heads West

The Black Rod

A giant wave of names, dates, numbers, truths and lies is sweeping across the blogosphere and the mainstream media. It's threatening to overwhelm readers and reporters alike. But amidst all this turmoil, The Black Rod has managed to uncover the greatest secret of the entire scandal.

Read on. But keep this information from the prying eyes of American bloggers. They can't keep a secret.

Today's topic: Adscam's Greatest Secret Revealed
The true identity of Canada's Greatest Superhero

By day, he's meek, mild-mannered Mr. Dithers, a politician in a bad suit droning endlessly about health care.

But by night, he's transformed---into Capt. Wire Brush, foe of the foes of the Liberal Party, sworn to scrub clean every stain on Canadian politics.

Where once he dedicated his powers to fighting the horrors of unchecked carbon dioxide and the imminent threat of missile defence, he's now facing the battle of his life against the evils unleashed by his arch-nemisis - Auditor General Woman.

With his boy companion Scotty at his back, Capt. Wire Brush is determined to win. But the odds are immense.

He must root out a gang of invisible invaders who have infiltrated the Liberal Party while posing as staunch card-carrying members. And they might be, but that's not important.

What's important is that this mystery band (don't forget they're invisible) has engaged in a criminal conspiracy of kickbacks, extortion, money laundering and general law-breaking (all of which is merely innuendo and allegations and has not been proven) to smear the good reputations of real Liberals everywhere.

What a task. But Capt. Wire Brush and his pal Scotty are undaunted. Well, maybe a little daunted.

They haven't decided if they want to go after Shawiniganman, the aging superhero who may have gone rogue. He's weak, but still dangerous.

And how much longer can they ignore the threat from Scary, the evil Westerner? Not long at all, my friends. They must gear up to fight he who threatens all the values the Liberal Party holds dear - the right to spend taxpayers' money as they please, the right to call anything that clears the Party an "audit", the right to use the RCMP to intimidate whistleblowers whoever they may be, and the right to rule in perpetuity.

But what can Capt. Wire Brush do? Already his powers have been diminished by blog-o-nite, a weapon so terrible not even the League of the CRTC can diminish it.

Truth leaks out.
Names are named.
Oh, the horror, the horror.

If only he had been able to capture that wily American, Captain Ed, drag him from his Quarters, and bring him to Liberal justice here in Canada. Things would have been different then, eh, Captain Ed?

But Capt. Wire Brush knows he needs time. Time will let spirits heal. Voters will forget, the news media will get tired. And then Capt. Wire Brush will pounce.

Until then, he may need to go to his Fortress of Bolly-tude on the West Coast, as far from Ottawa as possible. There he can learn from the legendary crime-fighter Turncoat, who only last year revealed his secret identity as Ujal Dosanjh, the former NDP premier of British Columbia.

Turncoat abandoned his brethren to join the Liberal gang of thieves, extortionists and money launderers because ---they better reflected his personal values? Or maybe it was destiny. After all, Turncoat had lots of experience dealing with people in his own party who, shall we say, have attracted the attention of the RCMP. And we're not talking about the marijuana grow-operation found in a Surrey home belonging to Ujjal when he was Attorney-General. (The home, not the pot, silly.)

We're referring to the marijuana grow-operation found in the home owned by David Basi, the assistant to B.C.'s finance minister, and a member of the Young Liberals who campaigned for Mr. Dithers during his bid for party leadership.That home was located on Shawnigan Lake.

Holy Shawiniganman, Scotty! Quelle coincidence!

In the meantime, Mr. Dithers, aka Paul Martin to his close friends and co-conspirators, said Tuesday that he has a moral authority -- nay, a moral obligation -- to stay in power and govern.

We hope he's using something other than the low bar of Liberal Party morality, here, because more and more this scandal is beginning to resemble ... Watergate.

We know it's been said before. And it's not just that Martin's "moral obligation" delusion of grandeur could have come right from Richard Nixon's mouth.

- Richard Nixon said,"I'm not a crook."
- Paul Martin's spokesman said, "A crook is a crook is a crook." (Hey, close enough for government work.)

- The Nixon White House called the Watergate break-in a "third rate burglary." - The then-leader of the Liberal Party, Jean Chretien, called Adscam a "problem of accounting." Paul Martin concurred.

Last week the Martin camp declared that the Liberal party had itself been a victim of a small, it's always small, group that used party credentials to do bad things. This is what's known in 'Gatespeak as a "modified, limited hangout," a term used by John Ehrlichman, one of Nixon's most trusted aides.

It means admit to what is already known and let some lower level Party People take the blame, so that the coverup can continue successfully. Paul Martin is confident he can keep the lid on, even in the face of widespread outrage. Because he has the major news media on side.The CBC interviewed Donna Dasko of Environics Research when the first reports of Jean Brault's testimony began leaking onto the blogosphere. She didn't have a poll, she had an opinion.
Nobody cared about the Gomery inquiry evidence, she said. An election was pointless. The Liberals would win again, so why bother?After the ban on publication of Brault's evidence was lifted, CBC Newsworld interviewed two political scientists - Heather McIvor of University of Windsor and Henry Jacek of McMaster University. Their conclusion: none of Brault's evidence is corroborated, nobody cares anyway, it's not important outside of Quebec, the Liberals are not losing support and voters don't want to go to the polls.

The CBC's overarching message is clear. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. There's no need for an election.

Meanwhile the country's private broadcasters were doing no better in reflecting the nations outrage. Witness Sunday afternoon's episode of CTV's snorefest Question Period, where Chief Political Correspondent Craig Oliver managed to keep a straight face while Susan Delacourt read from the same script as Donna Dasko. No one cares, the misdeeds were by the "old" Liberal party, no one wants an election, do I get the home version of the show as a parting gift ...

On Tuesday, her mouth still twisted by the bitter aftertaste of crow, Susan’s byline swung from a Toronto Star story headlined: " Conservatives surge ahead: liberals in freefall."

So it turns out that the song "Nobody Cares" is really the story of frightened reporters without a clue what real people think. Imagine how Susan must have been dragged to her keyboard, kicking and screaming the chorus, "No no, the numbers are LIES !!"

We will not hold our breath waiting for her to come back onto our television screens to explain how she was right and Canadians were somehow wrong in having strong opinions about Adscam after all.

Thirty three years ago, it was the newspapers that broke the Watergate story and kept it alive, month after month.

Martin knows this is Canada, and he can count on the papers and the CBC to ultimately save him. Despite some aggressive reporting into Shawinigate and the sponsorship scandal a few years ago, there haven't been any real damaging original stories since the last election. They may stray into Gomery territory for awhile, but they'll be back when it counts, at election time.

There are no ink-stained Woodward-and-Bernstein's in the Adscam scandal.
That role is being played by the blogosphere. But the blogging community in Canada is still learning how to communicate and cooperate and time is short. It only took the Liberals a month to shake the stench of corruption in Sheila Fraser’s last Adscam report before the last election.

In Tuesday's Toronto Star, columnist James Travers wrote:
"If paying back workers with taxpayers dollars worked in Quebec, then why not elsewhere? In fact, way back in 2002 The Toronto Star reported that similar tactics were allegedly used coast-to-coast. In Atlantic Canada, a fantasy federal contract is said to have paid a provincial Liberal campaign organizer. Out West, a prospective candidate's salary was allegedly reimbursed through inflated advertising payments."

We hope someone will dig out the details of these incidents.
The Black Rod has been collecting Manitoba-based stories that were never followed up on.

Canada's National Ukrainian Festival was given $30,000 in 2001. However an access-to-information request showed that the festival had actually been awarded $34,500 by Public Works Canada. Festival organizers were told that the other $4,500 was a commission to Compass Communications in Halifax.

They were told to send a bill to Compass, but to make the bill out to Media/IDA in Montreal. The letter to the Ukrainian Festival was written by Pierre Tremblay, a very familiar name in the Adscam investigation.

Conservative MP Bill Casey asked the obvious question in the House of Commons:
"Does the minister have any idea at all why Public Works would tell a Manitoba organization to send this bill through one Liberal advertising agency in Nova Scotia and have it funnelled through another one in Montreal for an event in Manitoba to be paid for by Ottawa?Did the government pay commissions to Media/IDA Vision in Montreal or did it pay commissions to Compass Communications in Halifax, or did it pay commissions to both of these Liberal advertising firms?"

He never got a straight answer. Nor has anyone.

Compass is owned by Tony Blom, a Liberal strategist who is also related to former Nova Scotia Liberal party president Gerald Blom.

Government records show it received $463,365 in commissions and more than $4.6 million for production costs related to events between 1998 and 2001. The names Compass and Tremblay showed up again in documents surrounding sponsorship of the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg in 1999.
Compass Communications billed $1.6 million in fees and commissions.

Objections were raised as to whether the sponsorship project met the government's own rules. "Pay it," said Tremblay, who overruled the naysayers.

NDP MP Pat Martin has invoices showing the Pan Am Games Society received $634,000. A letter dated May 1, 1999, from Games president Don MacKenzie to Blom indicates the group was expecting another $300,000 from Compass. He’s still wondering where that money went.

"I believe this sponsorship program blew way out of control," said Pat Martin. "It appears to have turned into a cash cow. The abuse began immediately and the abuse extended it seems beyond Quebec's borders at least to Halifax and now to Winnipeg."

Paul Martin wants credit for cancelling the sponsorship program when he became Prime Minister, for firing the heads of Crown corporations involved in the scandal, and for recalling Alfonso Gagliano as ambassador to Denmark.

Here's a few things he should take credit for, but doesn't.

  • Despite two audits raising red flags, Treasury Board, with him as vice-chairman, reduced its oversight of the sponsorship program. In 2001 it cancelled the requirement for quarterly reports on the advertising and sponsorship activity of the government.
  • The Liberal Party's policy chairman wrote Paul Martin in February, 2002, pleading with him to look into rumours that taxpayer's money was going into the pockets of Liberal-friendly ad agencies in Quebec. Martin ignored the letter.
  • When the Liberal Party moved in March, 2002, to get Alfonso Gagliano out of the country ahead of the auditor general's report into the sponsorship program, Martin said nothing.
  • When the foreign affairs committee looking into Gagliano's qualifications for the post of ambassador to Denmark met, Liberal MPs ruled that members couldn't ask a single question about his 25 years in politics.
  • "This is not a trial, and this is not a prosecution," said Liberal MP John Harvard. Harvard has since received his reward for helping get Gagliano off the hook, Paul Martin appointed him Lt. Governor of Manitoba.
  • In May, 2002, Auditor General Sheila Fraser released the first of her reports into the sponsorship program, confirming the rumours that Martin ignored in February. The Liberals responded by launched a smear campaign. Paul Martin said nothing. He later appointed MP Dan McTeague, one of the smear campaign's major voices, as Paliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • Paul Martin left cabinet shortly after Fraser's report, but he stood shoulder to shoulder with his Liberal caucus while they brayed and hooted their support for Jean Chretien in the face of Opposition questioning over Fraser's report.
  • He said nothing when Veterans Affairs Minister Rey Paghtakan told veterans' widows he was going to cut their benefits because there wasn't enough money to go around.
  • Rey Paghtakan is being considered for appointment to the Senate by Paul Martin.
  • After he became Prime Minister, Martin called an election before the Public Accounts Committee that was holding hearings into the Sponsorship scandal could finish its work and submit a final report.
Winning the election sent the Liberals under Paul Martin a message----they could get away with anything. They became even more blatant.

This year Manitoba MP Reg Alcock didn't even have to look for an advertising agency to give one of his advisors a shadow job. He just put him on the public payroll.

City Councillor John Angus announced he would be working for Alcock even as he got paid by the city. If there was ever a conflict between the people he was pledged to represent and Reg Alcock, he said, then he would stand aside (and refuse to represent his constituents). The news media reported this fact, without criticism.

Only The Black Rod called him on it and shortly afterward Alcock announced he had found money in the public purse to pay Angus who then resigned from council.

The Winnipeg Free Press wrote a glowing tribute to Angus when he left.

To conclude we return to the Watergate analogy:

Jean Brault is like CIA spook James McCord, the first of the Watergate burglars to break ranks.

The country is now waiting for the Canadian equivalent to Nixon counsel John Dean, the insider who knew chapter and verse about Watergate break-in and coverup, and told all.

- Perhaps the worst news for the Martin government (apart from the polls) came Monday in the form of an editorial of support in the National Post from Chairman David Asper.

Asper wrote that people shouldn't judge Paul Martin on the basis of Jean Brault's unsupported testimony. He compared Paul Martin to his former client, David Milgaard, someone everybody thought was guilty but who turned out to be innocent.

- The last time David Asper wrote such a missive for the paper was in 2001 in a public letter supporting Jean Chretien.

"Put up or shut up" Asper said at the time, defending Chretien from the accusations of Shawinigate. He said the Prime Minister had been cleared of wrongdoing by the RCMP and Ethics Counsellor Howard Wilson and the news media should either put up convincing evidence against him or SHUT UP and let the P.M. govern in the national interest.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately for David Asper (and Mr. Chretien), one year ago a judge of the Quebec Superior Court ruled Shawinigate was ten times worse than anything suggested by the news media at the time of the Asper letter.

Where was Capt. Wire Brush when we needed him?

We got Mr. Dithers instead.