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Gang Invasion footprints lead to "the new inner city" - River Heights

Once upon a time, newspaper reporters considered themselves representatives of their readers when they attended public meetings.

Their stories were expected to put you in the front row. As you read, you could see, hear and smell everything that happened in the room without having been there. That style of reporting can still be found outside the big city, especially at election time. In Brandon, Portage, Dauphin, a story about an election meeting is meaty; in Winnipeg, it's thin gruel.

Nature hates a vacuum. And it won't be long before bloggers step up to fill the void. Citizen journalists will do the job that those currently paid fail to do. The Black Rod was recently introduced to this future by one citizen journalist who went to the nomination meeting in Winnipeg South where Rod Bruinooge and Sandy Mackenzie faced off over who would carry the Conservative Party banner against Liberal incumbent Reg Alcock.

And the story he tells should have the so-called professionals hanging their heads in shame.

He started off by telling The Black Rod he was not pleased with our stories about Hurricane Hugh McFadyen. Regular readers have followed our coverage of Hugh as he ran against Bruinooge for the Winnipeg South nomination and won, then abandoned Winnipeg South after six months to run for nomination in turncoat John Loewen's provincial riding of Fort Whyte against---Rod Bruinooge.

His fan club isn't happy with criticism of his political judgement or his propensity to quit a tough fight the moment an easier race opens up, regardless of how much damage he does to either campaign.

Our correspondent said the McFadyen fans were peeved at Bruinooge for standing in Hugh's way in both of the earlier nomination races, and for turning each contest into a closer finish than they liked. This time they were going for the knock-out, by supporting Sandy Mackenzie.

"It was payback time," he said. "The last thing we wanted was to see Bruinooge signs up along with McFadyen signs in Fort Whyte."

And Hugh was taking no chances. He even had his Fort Whyte campaign manager handling Mackenzie's campaign. With a strong organization and a meeting peppered with Hugh McFadyen supporters, they were ready to win regardless of Bruinooge's party endorsements.

Until they heard Sandy Mackenzie's speech.

He came out raging at Reg Alcock, his fighting spirit front and centre. But his performance can only be compared to Howard Dean's infamous scream speeech during the U.S. Democratic primaries. YEE-AHHH.

"He looked like Charlie Chaplin in "The Great Dictator. Hugh turned white, Bruinooge's mouth fell open in shock, and we all wanted to crawl out of there."

Even the McFadyen contingent voted for Bruinooge.

"In the end we, including Hugh, were relieved Bruinooge had won." he said.

But the battle caused unintended collateral damage. McFadyen supporters are now rethinking his leadership abilities as a result of it, and for someone The Winnipeg Free Press said was being touted as the front-runner for Stuart Murray's job as party leader, that ain't good.

And that ain't a story you're likely to read in the Free Press, because they've forgotten how to cover an election meeting.

*****************

Former Tory John Loewen, meanwhile, is trying to rewrite history as he runs for election in the federal riding of Winnipeg South. His campaign literature mentions his service in the Manitoba Legislature, but conveniently fails to say he was elected and sat as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Loewen does have his own fans, though. Such as Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair Jr.

* Loewen uses a quote from one of Sinclair's columns as the only endorsement in his campaign brochure.
* It is prominently featured in a banner running across the top of both inside pages.
* The attribution to the newspaper without giving the date of the column, makes it look like Sinclair, on behalf of the Free Press, is backing Loewen against Conservative incumbent Stephen Fletcher.

******

The Winnipeg South riding was in the news this weekend when a gang pepper sprayed some students outside Tuxedo Shaftesbury School. One boy was pistol-whipped when he resisted gang members who wanted to steal his cap. The gang reportedly said they would come back on Monday.

The intruders, supposedly members of the Mad Cowz, obviously haven't been intimidated by Justice Minister Huff 'N Puff Gord Mackintosh's high profile gang strategy. But seeing students from a ritzy school taken to hospital by ambulance, even for observation, might intimidate the NDP.

As one NDP supporter said after the incident, its different when a gang goes into a school "full of spoiled rich white kids." In the core, kids have street sense. In Tuxedo, " if somebody walks in there from a gang, they're all going like lambs to the slaughter because they've never been confronted with that before. They wouldn't know what to do."

Here's a tip: Reporters who stake out Shaftesbury School hoping to catch the return of the Cowz would be better off at Kelvin High School. They might catch some Winnipeg police coming to investigate the word among Shaftesbury students that the gang was from Kelvin.

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