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:

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A new brand for Ed Schreyer and one for Manitoba

There was a full moon this week which is why, we conclude, people are acting so crazy.

Case in point:

Ed Schreyer, the socialist premier of Manitoba from 1969 to 1977, came out foursquare against the NDP plan to freeze natural gas rates this winter, the most socialist program in the NDP's term of office since coming to power in 1999.

" the most retrograde step the government could possibly take. It's so wrong it's perverse."

Peter Holle, president of the Frontier Centre, a private think tank most people would assume promotes free enterprise, opposes the NDP's natural gas program because it's not socialist enough.

And Heather Stefanson, Progressive Conservative Health Critic, starts talking like her socialist counterpart when she declares the government has to do more to fight creeping Americanization of the health care system.

The NDP wants to prevent home heating costs going sky high this winter. It's promised to pass a law that would freeze natural gas rates, with any losses to Centra Gas to be made up by Manitoba Hydro, which is making obscene profits from selling electricity to the Americans thanks to the heavy spring and summer rains that filled our lakes to the brim. It's classic socialism, the profits of a publicly owned utility going to help citizens at a time of need.

But here's Ed Schreyer saying its the worst thing the Doer NDP have ever done. Triple-dipping Ed has come a long way from his days as defender of the little guy. Now he's arguing that the environment (the new god of the new socialists) comes first and the little guy better cough up if he wants to keep warm this winter.

Schreyer has joined the Chicken Little's of the world. Here's what he told the Toronto Star a year ago:

"We are 10 minutes to midnight... Almost anytime soon, perhaps in this decade ... supply and demand will be out of balance and so will price - and so will almost everything else that makes for a stable society and civilization...There's no let-up in fossil dependency, nor supply, nor CO2 escalation.This is courting disaster - a form of irrational behaviour or collective madness."
In that, he's supported by Peter Holle. The website of the Frontier Centre carries essays with this message:
*make the rich pay
*subsidize the poor----and middle class voters
*put more taxpayers' money into the hands of government
*let government change private behaviour for your own good

Hmmm. Does that sound familiar, Ed?

Holle feels gas prices should be allowed to go through the roof to encourage people to use less gas. If the government is to subsidize anyone, it should be the poor and the middle class, so Hydro would save money be not giving any subsidy to the rich. In the longer term, the governnment can force people to use renewable energy, like electricity to heat their homes.

(Note to the Frontier Centre. The last time the world "ran out of oil", in 1980, lots of Manitobans switched to electric heat. They then watched the price of the non-existent oil go lower, and lower, and lower, and lower, and lower --for 25 years-- while the cost of electricity held steady, except for those years when it went up to pay for new a Hydro dam. It's not like we're about to build a new Hydro dam, are we?)

Holle says if we can use less energy, Manitoba Hydro can export more and make oodles more money. Which, of course, will then be spent by the government while we shiver in our homes.

Some of it might even be spent on health care. And everyone knows how the government spends on health care.

We're now spending a billion dollars more than when the NDP came into office in 1999 but the nursing shortage has tripled, hospitals are closing emergency wards, and waiting lists have blossomed. That's government efficiency, which Heather Stefanson prefers to good-ole American-style efficiency.

The NDP is huffing and puffing about a private MRI in Winnipeg, proving that to them ideology trumps any effort to reduce pain and suffering. As long as the rich suffer, too, then suffering is good, is the NDP motto.

The NDP will never subsidize the rich, except perhaps forking over $30 million to the Aspers to build a human-rights museum instead of using it to cut waiting lists by buying medical services from private clinics.

That, of course, would be bad. That would reward enterprise by giving a profit. And profit is bad. Maybe that will be Heather Stefanson's slogan if she runs for the leadership of the Tory party.

That would certainly make her stand out from the crowd of contenders. And speaking of standing out, that's something else the NDP is for. That's why they hired Interbrand, a New York company to develop a branding image for the province.

The project was supposed to be completed this summer, but has been delayed. The Opposition tried to make hay out of the delay. The Black Rod, however, used the extra time to look at Interbrand's track record with other places.

We found that Interbrand designed image makeovers for smaller places, cities like Johannesburg, London, and Norwich (England), and for entire countries, like Estonia. We tried to understand how they do their work, and to guess at what their brand for Manitoba might be like.

Johannesburg needed a change of image. The old ( home of apartheid) and the current (rape capital of the world) just weren't doing it anymore. Interbrand stepped up with a new logo.

The new logo features a tower, the city's best-known landmark. transformed into an exclamation point. The designers explained that "the dot represents the City of Gold; the exclamation mark expresses the city's identity as a "lively, vibrant and dynamic place" and the tower at the top shows its unique variety. The whole "projects the name of the city as the 'hero' and no longer concentrates on an architectural skyline as a symbol".

And with the new logo, came a new name...Joburg. Interbrand called it "the familiar, affectionate name for the city". Johannesburg had been called Jo'burg, but Interbrand decided to drop the apostrophe, which apparently was enough to project the values of Johannesburg, "creativity, fun, leadership and determination; they speak of entrepreneurial impetus and dynamism."

Sure, some people didn't like it. But there will always be critics of any new idea.. The Black Rod will therefore concentrate on the positives of Interbrand's logos, and leave the carping out.

But there was a lot of carping in Norwich when Interbrand proposed a new slogan for the city: Norwich, England's Other City. What blithering nonsense, people cried. Okay, we know that sounds a lot like what you would expect from right here in Negativeapeg (note to Interbrand: Negativeapeg ( TM) The Black Rod). But we're concentrating on the positives, remember.

London was positive about Interbrand's logo for it, London Unlimited.

In fact, some Canadians liked it so much they "adopted" it for themselves, hence Toronto Unlimited.

Interbrand doesn't limit itself to cities, and tackled the challenge of promoting Estonia abroad, in a way that would attract potential tourists and even more importantly, potential investors. After a lengthy process, the company unveilled its brilliant idea---wait for it---
Welcome to Estonia.

Oh, sure, the boo-birds were outraged at the simplicity of the idea.

But, said Interbrand, the ingenious things are usually simple. And the brand for Estonia was more than met the eye.

Imagine a box. At the top of the box is WEL. Below it is COME. Below that TOEST. And below that ONIA. Cool, eh? The brand sellers called it "a 70s retro-chic logo with rounded edges and letters with shadows." See for yourself here

Which brings us back to Manitoba. Are there enough clues from these examples to give a hint as to what Interbrand will propose for our new image? Something old but new (Joburg), something simple (Welcome), something true (unlimited).

We managed to infiltrate one of the focus groups, and we can tell you the slogan that's currently the frontrunner.

Fuck It's Cold

Remember, think positive.

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