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:

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pallister's Culture of Entitlement mocks Stephen Harper

{Thanks to an alert reader who noticed that the blog gremlins had somehow affected the disappearance of this post, originally made on Saturday, February 4, 2006}

There was a sea of red faces in Parliament when Justice John Gomery released his final report this week.

The Liberal caucus turned red with embarassment.

And the Conservative caucus blushed as Gomery echoed their election theme and called for a "culture of integrity" to replace a "culture of entitlement."

Only, the Manitoba Conservative caucus was blushing in shame. Shame at the antics of one of their own, Brian Pallister, the last Member of Parliament to wallow publicly in the culture of entitlement.

Not for him this hairshirt culture of integrity. He has his own definition of integrity which includes

* running for re-election as MP for Portage Lisgar when he doesn't want the job,

* collecting his $144,000 a year pay to represent his constituents in Ottawa while he campaigns in Manitoba to become leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party,

* using his paid federal government staff for private purposes as campaign workers,

* and doing it all with the smug satisfaction that if he loses in Manitoba politics, he has a cushion-- his job in Ottawa is safely waiting for him.

Add to that an unnecessary by-election in Portage-Lisgar (if he wins the provincial leadership) and possibly an unnecessary by-election to get him into the Legislature. (Unless he wants to" lead" from the public gallery.)

To some, this sure looks exactly like the culture of entitlement the Conservatives campaigned against. To us, it embodies all the characteristics that have made voters so cynical about politicians that they see no reason to vote anymore.

(Not that a lower turnout makes it any cheaper -- when LibMin Sheila Copps quit her seat because the GST was not scrapped, the Chief Electoral Officer stated that every federal by-election costs the taxpayer a half a million dollars.)

Pallister claims he took himself out of the running for a cabinet seat so he could gauge his support in the leadership race in Manitoba. He obviously wasn't prepared for the peels of laughter this prompted.

After Stephen Harper announced his would be a smaller cabinet, and there would be no Minister of Pompous Egotism, what was there left for Brian Pallister?

His transparent letter to Stephen Harper made him a laughingstock across the country. Even CJOB radio host Charles Adler mocked him in his syndicated weekly column.

Pallister was driven to reply in a letter to the editor, a letter which caught the attention of The Black Rod for its blatant attempt at rewriting history.

Pallister tried playing the victim. "What could I do?" he pleaded. The election was underway when, on Dec. 10, the Tories called a leadership vote for April 29. Too late to quit. Do the honourable thing. Run. Win. Then graciously decline a cabinet seat. No, Stephen, I know you want me, but I must return to Manitoba. I must. They're calling for me. It's my destiny.

Whooah Moses. This wasn't only pathetic, it was false, false, false.

The first Gomery Report was issued Nov. 1st. The Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois called for an election. (Brian Pallister may have been notified something was in the air.)

The election was a foregone conclusion on Monday, Nov. 7 when NDP leader Jack Layton announced he was pulling his support for the Liberals because the two parties had reached a fundamental impasse over health care. (Brian Pallister may have read about it in the papers.)

Two days later, Nov. 9, Layton said he would make a motion of non-confidence Nov. 24. The other party leaders said they would support him. (Brian Pallister may have suspected an impending election.)

Certainly somebody knew something, because on Nov. 9, a new website,, was registered in Manitoba.

Almost immediately, the site began asking people to sign up to support Brian Pallister.

Register with our website:
Register with our website so we can ensure that you get the latest information on our campaign on a regular basis. Please direct your friends and conservative contacts to this site as well and ask them to register. We are collecting names to deliver to Brian. This will assist us greatly as he is gauging support for a leadership bid.

Do you think that Brian Pallister knew about the site?

If he didn't then, he had a clue Nov. 13 when The Black Rod reported on his bid to collect 500 signatures on a petition before announcing his run.

And we said then he had to decide immediately whether to run for office in Manitoba or run for office in Ottawa, or look like an opportunist.

That was Nov. 13, almost a month before he claims he was forced to make a last-minute decision. He was already running a campaign for the leadership. He just wanted a safe government job before announcing it.

Within two weeks, more evidence. A Manitoba telemarketing company was asking voters to do "a quick 45 second survey" on Manitoba Politics. And the questions? Well....

1) Are you a Canadian Citizen?
2) Are you over the age of 18?
3) Are you a resident of Manitoba?
Yes to all lead to...

1) Do you think the PC Party of Manitoba did the right thing by getting rid of Stuart Murray as leader?
2) Do you think Brian Pallister should return to provincial politics?
3) Would you support Brian Pallister if he were leader of the PC Party ofManitoba?

Rather Pallister specific, wouldn't you say? Remember, this was the week before the non-confidence vote in Parliament that brought down the government.

For Pallister to claim he couldn't make a snap decision because the date of the Manitoba Tory leadership convention was sprung on him in the middle of a campaign is just false. He knew he wanted the job. He tried to gauge support through the internet. He tried it by phone. But the groundswell he expected wasn't there. Now he's handing out divining rods to his wife and kids and he's going door to door on your dime to find it.

His letter to Adler is particulary galling.

What would you do in my shoes? Think about this: You are a nominated candidate in a federal election. The campaign is already underway. In the middle of the campaign on Dec. 10, the provincial party decides that it is going to hold a leadership vote on April 29.

False. You knew more than a month before Dec. 10 than a federal election was imminent. And you still started campaigning for the Manitoba leadership. The business about "in the middle of a campaign" is a total red herring.

Do you wish that people forgot you were asked on CBC Dec. 9 whether you were running for the leader's job. You were oh, so, coy.

"I am copping what's known as a woman's answer, isn't it? It's a sort of fickle kind of thing," he said, responding to criticism that a federal election campaign is no time for a candidate to be examining other job prospects. "I can do that, and I'm doing it now. There are always people on the sidelines that are going to be critical. I'm not worried about them. I'm not concerned about the critics."

Manitobans start calling you. They tell you that you should resign and seek the leadership. They tell you that you are the only one that can reunite the caucus and defeat Gary Doer and the Drifters. You love Manitoba. You want to support your provincial team but with the election so close you don't want to let your federal team down by resigning. However if you resign that is exactly what you will do. You consult with your constituency association and they ask you to remain on the ballot.

False. You could have resigned anytime in the weeks before the election was called. If the constituency association asked you to remain on the ballot, then you made your choice. Live with it.

What do you do? Do you resign or do you run? If you say "resign" you have never played a team sport in your life. It would take a special kind of selfishness to walk away from your teammates in a situation like that. Some could do it. Some have. I did not.

Oh, the irony. You are part of a team, one that needs your vote. Resign? It's the big game and your response is to tell the coach 'Take me out, coach. Sure, I might score a few touchdowns and help win the game. But I've got something better to do. Let someone else do it.'

It would indeed take "a special kind of selfishness" to abandon your teammates in Ottawa. That's a leadership trait, if we ever heard of one.

Let's get this straight. If I had resigned in December to run for the provincial leadership, I would have been placing my individual goals ahead of those of my constituents who desperately wanted to vote out a corrupt Liberal government. By staying on the ballot I gave them that opportunity.

Let's get this straighter. If you wanted to run for the Manitoba leadership, you should have resigned in November. Quit trying to fool people with the December date. You knew a month earlier you didn't want to be the MP for Portage Lisgar. To quit now is to place your individual goals ahead of those of your constituents.

Last week I met with our new prime minister and he thanked me for letting my name stand. I advised him that I needed some time to consult with my friends and supporters on the possibility of entering the provincial PC leadership race. Therefore, I asked that he not include me in his considerations for cabinet or other positions. I did this to be forthright. I did not feel it would be fair to wait and see. I will never know what responsibilities I may have been given. The Free Press, the Globe and Mail and various national media pundits had me in cabinet.
Mr. Adler claims he knows I wasn't. That's "chutzpah." He really hasn't a clue. He is a stranger to the truth.

The Black Rod defending Charles Adler. Now that's chuzpah. But Adler is absolutely right. The only stranger to the truth here is you Brian Pallister.

He is entitled to his opinion but how much is an opinion really worth when it is based on a false premise? Not a lot.

Like the false premise that December 10 is a relevant date?

The opinions of others, however, are important to me. I respect the opinions of Manitobans. Over the next while my wife Esther and I will listen to their views and consider our future and that of our family. This decision greatly impacts on our friends and supporters, my staff and my constituents. It is an important decision which merits consideration. My family and will consult and reflect and in the not too distant future I will announce my decision.

In the meantime I'll collect my pay and let you, the taxpayer, cover the pay for my campaign workers. Thanks suckers.

Pallister is demonstrating his brand of leadership very day this charade plays out. He has known since the beginning of November he had to make a choice, federal politics or provincial politics. He made his choice.

Now he wants to go back on his word to his constituents and to his fellow Conservative Party MPs.

Why the Manitoba Tories would want the stereotype of the ego-driven opportunistic politician as their leader is a question for the ages. But they should remember....the NDP have last bats.

After the PC's elect their leader, the NDP will have the opportunity to shuffle their team. Gary Doer will not lead the party into another election. He's tired of the game.

Some of the other lightning rods in the party---"Six Months" Chomiak, "Hydra House" Sale, "Smell the Crocus" Selinger--will also probably drift off, leaving the Tories to fight a new team of fresh faces.

We find it particularly disturbing that the pundits give short shrift to the brave women of the Tory caucus who showed more guts than either of the so-called front-runners for leadership. They challenged Stu Murray, they were punished for their chutzpah, and they were proved right.

Since when is good judgement and the courage to fight for what's right a liability in a political race?

It will be a sad day if the only candidates for "leader" are a man who ran from a political fight and then threw the party's provincial and federal camps into turmoil by his indecision, and a man who's prepared to desert a minority government to satisfy his oversized ego.

Short Snappers:

*** Brandon reporter (and blogger) Curtis Brown has, as promised, started his Eric Alterman Challenge to expose the conservative spin he sees in stories by bloggers, reporters and columnists. Keep 'em coming. Check it out here. We're flattered that he picked up with Exhibit B, following the sequencing started with our own, slightly different version of the Eric Alterman Challenge.

*** Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair scored big this week by unearthing the Zero Tolerance memo and proving that Police Chief Jack Ewatski was full of it when he testified under oath that no such policy existed.

*** Mayor Sam Katz is a new convert to urban reserves. He says he wants everyone to know that there will be a level playing field for businesses because urban reserves pay a negotiated amount for city services equal to what they would pay in property taxes. But why won't any reporter ask the obvious question: if that's the case, why don't they just pay property taxes?

*** Evangelical Christians still have Free Press columnist Frances Russell chewing the carpet. She attacked them again in this week's column. Their crime? They've joined a policial party and want to practice democracy in public by having a free vote in Parliament on the definition of marriage.

If Russell truly wants to warn about the dangers of religion in politics she should be paying special attention to the worldwide attack on Denmark for some cartoons that ran in a newspaper. For the full Muhammed Cartoon Gallery go to Human Events Online.

*** We note that neither the Winnipeg Free Press, the Winnipeg Sun, the National Post or the Globe and Mail have printed the cartoons. You don't think the members of some religion in Canada intimidated them do you? Evangelical Christians? See a sample of that intimidation in Britain here:

*** CityTV broke an excellent story Thursday with the report on how Winnipeg Police wouldn't come and arrest a violent intruder at Decanter's Restaurant, a two-minute walk from the Public Safety Building. City may be stepping up their game in advance of Global TV's move to a 6 p.m. local newscast on Monday.

*** And a regular correspondent took us to task for not giving credit to a local reporter who was probably the only one in the city to predict Conservative Rod Bruinooge "had a shot at beating (Liberal Reg) Alcock ".

He hasn't given us the name of this reporter yet, but, we want to give reporter X a pat on the back for his or her perspicacity anyway, whoever he/she is.

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