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:

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Winnipeg's tangled web unwoven

Do you ever find yourself shaking your head and asking "Just how small is this city ?"

Carol Shields wrote a book about it. The Republic of Love.

She wrote how in Winnipeg you can't find a romantic partner without knowing somebody who knows somebody who knows her and her ex-boyfriends, just as she knows somebody who knows somebody who knows you and your ex(es).

So imagine our surprise when, while perusing the Winnipeg Free Press Automotive section on Friday, we came across a picture of three charming young ladies on page 2, and this cutline:

From left: Kelly Brown and Suzie and Marissa Ataliotis show off the Motobushi quad, donated by Eastwood Truck and Toy Centre, that will be given away at the end of the cruising season.

Ataliotis? we said.
That's not a common name. You're more likely to see Maytawashing in the papers than Ataliotis.
Could it be...?

And wouldn't you know it....

Costas Ataliotis, former president and CEO of the late, unlamented Maple Leaf Distillers, is married to a Suzi, or rather, Suzanne, as in:

"In his suit, Passen alleged he was convinced by Wolinsky and Ataliotis to trade a $1.4-million US condominium in Florida in exchange for stock in Maple Leaf Distillers, which he claims was worthless, and a promissory note for $525,000 US. Passen further alleged the condominium was misappropriated by Ataliotis and his wife, Suzanne Ataliotis, for personal use." (Maple Leaf investor sues over condo deal, Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday, December 24th, 2005, By Dan Lett).

Marissa, you have to assume, is the lovely daughter.

A University of Winnipeg student she's accomplished enough to be the head of Glen Gairn, one of four districts of the "house system" at Balmoral Hall. As the U of W describes it:

"As in the UK, and in the "Harry Potter" books for that matter, every student is a member of one of the four houses (Ballater, Braemar, Craig Gowan, Glen Gairn). All new students entering the school are placed in Houses and receive a House pin in September. Houses compete during the year in athletics, debating and various spirited competitions. Houses accumulate points by participating and placing in events. The House with the greatest number of points at the end of the year wins the House Trophy."

Way to go Marissa.

And who is the third sweet young woman in the picture, you ask.

Well, Kelly Brown is also "connected" in her own way.

Turns out she's Executive Director of Student Relations at the U of W, where she works on her boss's priorities of student enrollment and housing, among other things.

She's also -- a certain somebody's main squeeze.

That same somebody showed up in another picture on the first page of the Automotive section in the same newspaper -- believe it or not.

That cutline read:

Pony Corral owners Jimmy and Peter Ginakes, left and right, with (auto columnist) Willy and Free Press publisher Andy Ritchie at Sunday's cruise.

Uh, huh.

Free Press publisher Andy Ritchie can't hide his sweetie any more. Not that he's been trying to.

He's been slipping her picture into the newspaper frequently, if you've been paying attention, as part of the various hoitee-toitee luncheons and award-winning night-time galas, regularly depicted in the pages of the broadsheet under the guise of 'community news'.

Now, how romantic is that?

But the outing of these fine folk leads us to another, less palatable romance.

Follow the dots...

* Kelly Brown is cozy with Suzi Ataliotis, who is married to Costas Ataliotis who owned Maple Leaf Distillers.

* Kelly works for Lloyd Axworthy, who's doing his best to rehabilitate the reputation of Sherman Kreiner, currently seated to his right as Executive Director of the U of W's Community Renewal Corporation.

* Kreiner ran the Crocus Investment Fund which, according to the Auditor General of Manitoba, funnelled money into money-bleeding Maple Leaf Distillers under the guise of "add-on" investments but really to cover payroll.

* Her other half, Andy Ritchie, runs the Winnipeg Free Press -- which used to call for a public inquiry into the Crocus scandal, but which now runs stories (by Dan Lett, of all people) saying the fund was a good investment run well under Sherman Kreiner, who was shafted by the executives he brought into the company to save it.

How would Carol Shields have written this story?


The day before Premier Gary Doer called an election, Global News anchor Derrick Oliver disappeared from the airwaves.

For a couple of weeks, the station continued to run promos featuring him, but then, they too, simply stopped. And Oliver never again sat in the host's chair.

He left, said Global news director Jon Lovlin, to pursue new challenges. Actually, it was "gone off to pursue other endeavors".

Oh, c'mon.

Your host doesn't just up and split on the eve of an election. Oliver loved elections.

Here's what was written on the Global website about the recent civic election:

" During Global's mayoral debates, Oliver's straight-talking style shaped his moderating.

"I was the quarterback during those debates," Oliver says with a grin. "I pushed buttons, was fair, and got the info the community wanted. Global was the only station to cover the civic election night as it unfolded, and viewers were relying on us because we were live when it mattered." "

Why do news organizations, which claim the public's right to know gives them the right to harass anyone and everyone, believe they have a right to lie to their viewers/readers/listeners. Derrick Oliver didn't one day decide to strap on a backpack and head out on the highway in search of "new challenges."

He was shown the door and advised to keep on truckin'.

The reason, says a friend to The Black Rod, lies with an overrefreshed performance at the Annual Volunteer Awards dinner two days before the election call, a final appearance which left observers abuzz, and not in a good way.

Among the guests-- the Lieutenant Governor and the Premier who was the target of a few agonizing "jokes". Twenty-nine individuals, groups, businesses and media recipients left with awards, but it was the host that left a lasting impression.

The Black Rod welcomes Peter Chura as the new 'Evening News' anchor and supervising producer.


Are we the only ones wondering whether the coming session of the Legislature will turn into a one-man show? And we're not talking about Gary Doer.

Since the election, Liberal MLA Kevin Lamoureux has been on fire.

He single-handedly got the community police stations in north Winnipeg reopened by questioning why they were closed in the first place. NDP MLAs were either asleep at the switch or didn't care. Neither, apparently, did any city councillors, especially Harry Van Winkle Lazarenko in Mynarski.

Then Lamoureux co-hosted a news conference where a former NDP candidate complained that party officials and insiders forced her to withdraw against her will. She obviously felt he was the most trusted politician she could take her complaint to.

The official Opposition is going into Question Period emasculated. Their leader has been repudiated. They can't raise the Crocus scandal again, they just ran an entire election without mentioning it once. They can't criticize the government over spending or health care, which barely made it on the Tory agenda during the election campaign. Crime? A one-note critique gets tired quickly.

Lamoureux on the other hand still has momentum. He never stopped calling for a public inquiry into Crocus, so he's still got credibility on that file, especially if more insider documents leak out, if the RCMP lay charges, or if certain information comes out during court hearings.

With the Tories on life support and Jon Gerrard on his way out as Liberal Party leader after how many failed elections, Lamoureux's train may have arrived.

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