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:

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Holiday 12-Pack of Election News You Haven't Read in the Papers

Turncoat MP Belinda Stronach features in two election stories that ran in the local dailies Thursday.

In the story that appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, she was the centrepiece.

In the story that appeared in the Winnipeg Sun, she was not mentioned. Only readers who knew the entire story from the blogosphere knew of her role in it.

Yet these two stories speak volumes to readers about the newspaper election coverage they're getting.

The coveted Page One spot above the fold went to Free Press reporter Paul Samyn for his national exclusive about the trouble Belinda Stronach was in. He reported that the Elections Canada is "reviewing" her 2004 campaign for breaking the law on spending limits.

For a Liberal cabinet minister responsible for her party's democratic renewal policy, this is more than embarassing, especially during another election campaign. She denies she's being "investigated or probed" (her word, not ours, honest.)

Samyn, the Free Press correspondent in Ottawa, said he's sticking with his account.
"We stand by the story and we're continuing to follow it. "

Unfortunately, we're betting the Winnipeg Sun won't be following their story. They only managed to squeeze in three paragraphs for a story that was smaller than the picture of Paul Martin on the same page.

Yet their story is a bigger scandal than what appeared on the Front Page of the Free Press.

It's a story about the major election themes: the Liberal Party's sense of entitlement, the co-mingling of Liberal Party interests with public interests, the use of taxpayers money to fund Liberal election campaigns.

You would hardly know it from the truncated version of the story that showed up in the Sun, "Grit Staffers Back on Public Payroll for the Holidays, PM Says."

Read the story and you get the impression that some of the people working on the Liberal campaign will have to go back to their jobs over the Christmas holidays and Paul Martin is going to make sure they do some work on public business and not goof around.

Uhh. ..sort of, but not quite.

The actual story is that

* the Liberal Party plans to "lay off" campaign staff who have taken a leave of absence from the civil service to work on the election campaign.

* The layoff will last a week, during which the staffers will be paid by the taxpayer.

* This results in the Liberal campaign saving the cost of their salaries.

* The staffers will, by law, get paid for five days even though they will be at their offices for only three.

You can guess how busy they will be on government business in the week between Christmas and New Year's.

And how does Belinda Stronach fit into this? As the Human Resources Minister, she defended the plan while a guest on an election broadcast, saying -surprise!- it met with Treasury Board rules.

How do we know this? We read it on the blogosphere.

In fact, we read many important stories on the Net which never make the daily newspapers.

The Free Press has room for election stories about Kreskin the Mentallist and why a columnist can't find a candidate to talk to, but no room for a story about scamming the taxpayer for Liberal party salaries.

That's the story the papers have been missing. They don't understand the internet's role in news dissemination.

Find a good site and its a one-stop shop for the day's election news. And the ability of blogs to cross-reference sources and do research means that stories not only break immediately, but if facts are missing or misinterpreted they are corrected in short order, and not in an "Our mistake" entry hidden on page 2 the next day.

In half an hour on the Web, The Black Rod found a dozen stories that should have been reported in the daily papers:

1. The Liberal Party is having the public pay civil servants working on the Liberal campaign for a week while the campaign gears down before New Year's. This was revealed first on CTV's Countdown with Mike Duffy, but it was reported first and extensively by bloggers. It took a couple of days before the story got widespread coverage, and even then the MSM version hardly made sense. See

2. The Liberal riding association president in Oakville resigned after sending a contemptuous email to a constituent who objected to Paul Martin's pledge to ban all handguns.

Mr. Elie Betito e-mailed back: "take your NRA , GUN LOVING ASS BACK TO THE U.S. WHERE YOU BELONG, E. BETITO." It sounds a lot like the beer and popcorn comment by Liberal strategist Scott Reid, which revealed what the Liberals really think when they're not reading from the script.

The post that started it all is here

3. The Liberal insider trading scandal is all but ignored by the mainstream press, but bloggers continue to dig up suspicious trading activity that preceeded the government announcement on taxing income trusts.

4. One blog reports that the Ontario Securities Commission is planning an investigation of the allegations, which will put pressure on Finance Minister Ralph Goodale to step aside until the investigation is complete.

5. Was Paul Martin's spat with the U.S. over Kyoto a set-up? It appears the Liberals had ads of "ordinary voters" applauding Paul Martin's defence of Canada shot and ready to go well before the leaked stories about Canada's ambassador to the US, Frank McKenna, being summoned to Washington to receive a "dressing down" from the Bush administration over Martin's comments on December 7th.

It turns out McKenna himself requested the meeting---with the head of the Council on Environmental Quality, who had no authority to deliver any kind of rebuke.

6. A blogger has posted the storyboards for the Liberal attack ads that the Liberals plan to launch in the new year.

7. The Liberal Party is faring so poorly in Quebec that Paul Martin may well lose his own seat.

8. Liberal insiders aren't hiding the fact that if the party doesn't win a majority in the election, Paul Martin will be replaced as leader.

9. The CBC is forced to remove a "Nazi" image of Stephen Harper from its website.

See also our related story:

10. Bloggers get to the bottom of a report that a Liberal candidate in Ontario made a victory speech in which he allegedly exhorted his audience, "This is a victory for Islam! Islam won! Islam Won! ... Islamic power is extending into Canadian politics". Digging shows the candidate was telling the truth when he denied making those statements.

11. The Abotech Affair: An employee of Public Works used a technicality to claim his computer company was "aboriginally owned". He then got uncontested contracts from the department.

Even though he claimed to have divested himself by selling the company to his wife and 2 (minor) children, he continued signing documents as a director. The company ran from his kitchen table the whole time, even after his election as a Liberal MP in Ontario in 2004.

Now in the middle of the election ethics czar Bernard Shapiro has cleared him, seemingly not knowing that a key bureaucrat that Shapiro interviewed - is also the MP's cousin.

"Why was he a director at a company for almost a year after he was supposed to cut ties?"

12. The press in Quebec is going gaga over the support being given to Stephen Harper by Liberal Premier Jean Charest and ADQ party leader Mario Dumont. Outside of Quebec, there's hardly been a mention. Zander is furious.

( And just to show how this all fits together, just missing our dirty dozen is a story about good ol' Belinda and her brother, whose company is recruiting scantally clad girls for his internet... aw, here it is. )

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