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Showing posts from January, 2006

What a small --and dangerous-- City

The Winnipeg Sun did a good job Saturday of tying together the threads of a series of seemingly unrelated crimes throughout the city.

We planned to do the same thing, but they left us only crumbs to work with.

But they're good crumbs, and worth sharing with you. We'll try to keep any overlap in stories to a minimum.

* Police say some men had a scrap at the Charleswood Motor Hotel early Thursday morning. They took it outside and one of them came up with a World War Two sten gun (where do you even get ammo for one these days?) and fired a few shots. A stray bullet flew into the Roblin Bakery and Pastry Shop and almost hit a night baker.

Twenty-year-old Garrett Gamble, of Ste. Anne, was arrested and charged with firing the gun.

* Just by coincidence, two days earlier, police arrested a good friend of Gamble's, Sandro Rocha, 26, of St. Andrews, in a parking lot near Simon's Niteclub at Logan and McPhillips. He was in a car along with 20 neatly packaged one-ounce bags of crack c…

Will Manitoba Tories make Betrayal a party virtue

Manitoba Progressive Conservatives obviously need to make it clear that they are looking for a new party leader and not the Village Idiot.

Brian Pallister, fresh from asking voters in Portage-Lisgar to send him back to Parliament as their representative, has announced he's not really interested in the job. He wants to abandon a minority Conservative government so he can run to be provincial party leader.

The government of Stephen Harper hasn't even been sworn in, and Pallister wants to reduce their slim hold on power.

Is this what passes for leadership material in the Manitoba party?

Someone who tricked voters into giving him their trust?

Someone who conned 25,158 supporters to cast their ballots for him as a representative of the Conservative Party in Ottawa, only to have him say "Fooled Ya."

The Manitoba's Tories think they have the NDP on the run for their mismanagement of the Crocus Fund and Workers Compensation Board files. They should think again.

The NDP are snic…

All is Well in Local Biker Gang World

Imagine a hastily called summit conference convened to deal with a rogue member who threatens to upset a truce between two natural enemies.

No. We're not talking about Hamas.

And no. We're not talking about the Liberal Party caucus, either.

We're talking Winnipeg, which is not the Centre of the Universe East or the Centre of the Universe West.

The meeting was at an undisclosed location. Present were three Hell's Angels and three Bandidos. Upper echelon. Deadly serious.

In the past year the two gangs have been observing an international ceasefire between their respective organizations, to the benefit of both.

The Bandidos installed themselves in Winnipeg without the expected fireworks. To the relief of their West End neighbours they've eschewed the usual trappings of a clubhouse to stay under the radar.

They've even set up a puppet club of their own. We hear it's called Los Montaneros (pardon us if its misspelled). It sounds cool, though, and leaves the Hell's …

Liberal Values Rejected

Well, we waited three days and the country's news outlets are still avoiding the obvious.

From the first day the election was called, to that day in Winnipeg when he famously launched Phase Two of the campaign, to the final day of his Bonkers Tour of Canada, Liberal leader Paul Martin was clear there was one and only one dominant issue in the campaign: values.

On debate night the Liberal Party restated the battle lines:

Tonight's debate made it perfectly clear that there is a vast difference in values between Prime Minister Paul Martin and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. On January 23rd, it will be up to Canadians to decide whose values reflect their own.

"If you want to stop Stephen Harper, if you don't agree with Mr. Harper's values... there's only one choice you can make and that's the Liberal party," Martin said in speech after speech.
"Choose your Canada," he bellowed over and over.

Well, Canadians chose.

Liberal values were rejected.

An…

The Eric Alterman Challenge by Proxy

During the recent election campaign, a political reporter in Brandon took umbrage at our conducting The Peter Kent Challenge. Kent, you will recall, challenged journalism schools to monitor the press for an alleged anti-Conservative bias during the campaign.

We couldn't find any schools that took him up, so we decided to conduct the challenge in Manitoba ourselves.

The reporter blustered that he would start the Eric Alterman Challenge. Eric Alterman is the author of the book What Liberal Media? in which he argues the political right controls the news.

We enthusiastically encouraged him to do it.
Well, we waited and waited, and nothing happened.
We concluded that maybe he's just shy and needs a little push to get started.

So, today, we're doing the first Eric Alterman Challenge... with our own twist. Our subject is:
William Neville, Winnipeg Free Press columnist and head of political studies at the University of Manitoba.

Neville restrained himself during the election campaign, tak…

Post-Election Musings

It was funny to watch Winnipeg's four television stations fall over themselves doing stories on new MP Rod Bruinooge, aka the man who gelded Reg Alcock.

Two days ago they couldn't pick him out of a line-up.

Even funnier was that none of the stories had any comment from Hugh McFadyen, the man who did more than Alcock to keep Bruinooge out of the House of Commons.

CTV's Stacey Ashley gets the nod for telling viewers how Bruinooge's background in movies and advertising helped him win. CBC can count coup for having Bruinooge's concession speech when he thought he had lost an hour before the final tally showed he won.

But coverage of Tina Keeper's victory in Churchill was downright surreal. Every reporter gushed at how she brought out aboriginal voters who put her over the top. Whaaat?

Simple math shows that the only reason she won was because voters split their support between NDP candidate Niki Ashton and Independent Bev Desjarlais, who was the MP for the riding in the…

A Tale of Two Tories - The Giant and The Mouse

We're sure Rod Bruinooge is too polite to say it himself, so we'll say it for him.

WHO'S THE MAN?!!!!!

The entire Tory caucus in Manitoba watched in awe as their favorite punching bag turned into a political Muhammed Ali as he roped-a-dope in the general election last night.

In the blue corner...the WINNAGHHH----ROOOODDDDD BRUUUUUUUINOOGE.
In the red corner...the LOOOSERRR ----REG ALLL-CAAAWWWCK.

Reg Alcock?Lost? Impossible.

He's the Manitoba sugar daddy. Old Grit Macdonald, himself. Here a cheque, there a cheque, everywhere a cheque cheque. He can be weakened, challenged, harassed---but not defeated. Not Reg.

And by who? The guy the Manitoba Tories treated like dirt all year long?

He ran for the nomination to go against Alcock in Winnipeg South and lost to Tory pretty boy Hugh McFadyen. He shook off the loss and, when Tory turncoat John Loewen quit to join the Liberals, Rod announced he would run for the empty provincial seat.

But Hurricane Hugh had decided Reg was too tough,

Bjornson fails test, NDP still facing final exam

Education Minister Peter Bjornson was a popular man yesterday---for all the wrong reasons.

He was sought out by CJOB, the Winnipeg Sun, CTV, and Global News who were all following the prior day's story in The Black Rod where we revealed the name and story of the second whistleblower mentioned (obscurely) in the Auditor General's review of the Workers Compensation Board.

Bjornson toed the party line---bla bla did the right thing, blah blah personnel matter, bhlah bhlah nothing wrong---until Global's Mike Brown commented that some people ask if Bjornson can even recognize a whistleblower.

People can say what they want, sniffed the minister.

Well, we want to say that all the ministers in the NDP cabinet can recognize whistleblowers. They've had so much experience.

* Bernie Bellan warned them about overvaluations of shares of the Crocus Fund.

* Pat Jacobsen warned them about conflicts of interest at WCB.

* Tom Ulrich warned them about investment practices at the Teachers Retireme…

Auditor siccs Shamus on press as NDP drop excuses on disbelieving public

Imagine you're Nancy Allen, sitting in your comfy Labour Minister's office, when in comes a reporter from the Winnipeg Sun asking rude questions about the Auditor General's review of the Workers Compensation Board.

You panic.

The report isn't supposed to be released until tomorrow. YOU HAVE NO GUIDELINES.

You have to answer the questions as best you can, without the authorized spin. How can government function in such an atmosphere?

Politics is hell.

Manitobans got their first taste of what unrehearsed politicians are like thanks to a leak of the WCB report. We think they like it.

The report said the government could have saved a lot of time and trouble by listening to the former CEO of Workers Comp, Pat Jacobsen, when she wrote a letter in 2001 complaining about the tyrannical governing style of President Wally Fox-Decent and his board supporters.

They could have saved the workers and employers who contribute to WCB a lot of money, as well, by investigating Jacobsen's co…

Gord Sinclair ushers out the Peter Kent Challenge

The Liberals have abandoned all restraint as election polls suggest the reins of power may slip from their hands next week.

In the process they've revealed their true face. Canadians are seeing the Liberal Party with its mask torn off, revealing the unadulerated hatred of citizens who don't share their way of thinking, the blatant contempt for the West and its "Alberta values", the casual arrogance that leads them to promise anything to anyone to win at all costs.

We thought they couldn't go lower than the attack ads launched in the last week, which twisted quotes and facts to imply Stephen Harper was going to turn Canada over to George Bush, then post soldiers in cities to suppress dissent.Wednesday, nouveau-Liberal Buzz Hargrove topped that by advising Quebec voters to vote for the separatists to stop Harper from winning the election. To vote for people whose only goal is to break up the country. Apres nous, le deluge, Buzz?

But if the Liberals were bombastic, the…

NDP frantic -'who do you trust, him or us?'

Strike up the band and clear the floor.

The semi-annual NDP Scandal Dance has begun.

Traditionally, the Auditor General leads and the press follows. Then partners change and the government takes the press on a merry whirl.

This year, though, Auditor Jon Singleton was stood up as the press danced alone, and Labour Minister Nancy Allan barely got through a rendition of the government standard "We Listened and Learned" before stepping on the Auditor's toes.

And here's where we cut in.

We watched as Allan tried to deflect the press from Singleton's criticism of her predecessor in his report into mismanagement at the Workers Compensation Board. In his report Singleton noted that the government should have detected the problems plaguing WCB in 2001 after the agency's CEO, Pat Jacobsen, wrote an 8 page letter to then-Minister Becky Barrett.

Jacobsen outlined everything the auditor general's review found wrong with governance at Workers Comp.
Instead of looking in…

The ABC's of WCB's Conflicts of Interest

You'd think that in this age of instant scandale du jour, every business and every agency would work at being squeaky clean when it comes to questions of conflict of interest. You obviously don't know about the Manitoba Workers Compensation Board.

Manitoba's auditor general says that until recently the Workers Compensation Board had no clear conflict of interest policy. And the problems from that omission were never more obvious than when WCB went into the real estate development business with the Crocus Investment Fund.

Auditor Jon Singleton says the compensation board "placed their public reputation, and monies of the WCB, at risk" with the partnership because of the tangled web of interconnected relationships that created at least the appearance of a conflict of interest at almost every step.

Singleton makes clear he isn't speaking about anyone making a personal profit out of the deal, but rather about the power relationship between the major players that had…

Crocus scandal taints WCB: Auditor

What's that smell, we asked ourselves.

We knew the hog plant intended for St. Boniface was still at the planning stage, and they tell us its not supposed to stink anyway. So we kept sniffing around, and it wasn't long before we caught wind of it---the sickly scent of scandal and the stench of fear coming from government circles.

It didn't take long to confirm the tip that our digging into the Crocus-sponsored Manitoba Property Fund was on target, that the barely-remembered fund was a focal point of a new report which dismantles the veneer of competency at the Workers Compensation Board.

The NDP is holding another hot potato. Potato? Hell, it's a bombshell about to go off and singe their eyebrows away again.

Auditor General Jon Singleton is putting the final touches on a report into governance, human resources and investment management at the WCB. Ordinarily our reaction to that news would be "dull, dull and duller."

Not this time, not when people who know what'…

Exhibit F: Brandon reporter-turned-blogger makes the Peter Kent Challenge

The Liberal Party's Harper hate-ads are already having an effect on the election.

Today, with slightly more than a week still to go in the campaign, the Globe and Mail endorsed the Conservatives.

Even they couldn't stomach the Paul Martin gang's tactics any longer. The Liberal die-hards are now left to fight an increasingly desperate rear-guard battle.

At week's end we had ethics professor Arthur Schafer telling entertainer/interviewer Charles Adler that attack ads which hint that Stephen Harper is a stooge for George Bush are legitimate, and Winnipeg Free Press 'Voice of the West' columnist Bill Neville lamenting the fact Stephen Harper isn't more obviously "centrist" (read: liberal, like me) then whispering in conclusion 'he's scary.'

With the daily discussions of the Liberal attack ads blurring the lines between bias in reporting and reporting on bias, The Black Rod was getting ready to shelve our Peter Kent Challenge, in which we accep…

Election Madness Pandemic

We tried to warn people, but we were obviously too late.

Stop the insanity, we cried. Little did we know that the election campaign had already descended into full-fledged madness.

We, like you, have been overwhelmed with the barrage of lunacy in the past couple of days. We don't know whether to laugh or cry. Or just cringe at examples like these:

* Winnipeg Free Press reporter Dan Lett got a televised all-candidates meeting confused with an audition for the next Scooby Doo movie. Sporting bizarre chin whiskers Lett appeared to be angling for the role of Shaggy.




We give credit to CBC host Krista Erickson for not bursting out into guffaws everytime she called on him to ask a question.

Someone should have told Lett that television is a visual medium and if you show up looking like a ridiculous cartoon figure, you park your credibility at the door.

Shaggy, you remember, was scared of everything. Maybe Dan Lett was channelling his inner Shaggy to express how scary he finds the Conservative…