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:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Political Scandals--old and new, and Krista too

What's this? Another political scandal in Ottawa?

What do we know for sure?

We know:

* In May, 2005, The Party was desperate to win the budget vote two days away.

* Emissaries were sent to a British Columbia Member of Parliament who could hold the deciding vote.

* There was discussion about the MP's pension

* Two Party reps floated inducements worth $1 million plus to entice the MP into voting the right way.

* A tape recording has surfaced showing the Prime Minister was aware of the approach to the MP.

But enough about the Liberal Party of Canada. We'll get back to them later.

What do we know about the Chuck Cadman affair?

We know:

- On May 19, 2005, Independent MP Chuck Cadman (Surrey North) voted with the Liberals on the budget, thereby saving the government from falling.

- A biography of Cadman is to be released March 17.

-In the book, Cadman's widow, Dona, is quoted as saying her husband told her he met with two representatives of the Conservative Party two days before the May 19 vote.

"They wanted him to vote against the government," she said. The Tories actually walked in with a list of offers written down on a piece of paper. Included in their proposal was a $1 million life insurance policy - no small carrot for a man with advanced cancer." (excerpt from Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story by Tom Zytaruk.)

- When he was still alive and speaking for himself, Chuck Cadman talked with CTV pundit Mike Duffy about a visit from Conservative party reps before the crucial vote. He said there was "some talk" about an unopposed nomination if he ran for re-election as a Conservative and "that was the only offer on anything that I had from any body. So there were no offers on the table up till that point about anything from any party."

- The Liberals have known about the book for almost a year. The author gave an early version of the manuscript to former Prime Minister Paul Martin "for review" just after he finished writing it in February, 2007.

- The Liberals sat on the information, waiting to use it as their ace-in-the-hole in an election to deflect attention from their own history of corruption. But with no election in sight and the publication date just around the corner, their window of opportunity was narrowing, so they leaked it to their friends in the mainstream media.

-There is zero chance that a man dying of terminal cancer like Chuck Cadman would get any insurance, never mind a $1 million policy. Zero.

- Cadman told Duffy in an off-air discussion that the only insurance he had was the life insurance that covers all Members of Parliament. He would lose that if the government fell and an election was called. And Cadman was too sick to run again. He died six weeks after the budget vote.

-The Opposition parties are beside themselves hoping for a headline "RCMP investigates the Conservatives." But for all their bluster, they know an investigation will go nowhere.

The entire allegation is based on hearsay evidence from Dona Cadman-- and her daughter who says Cadman told her about the $1 million life insurance bribe on his death bed. Since Cadman denied it in televised interviews, the RCMP know they're just being used by the Liberals.

- The Liberals are trying to link Stephen Harper to the bribe by citing a taped interview with him where he says he knew some members of the Conservative Party were going to make a last minute pitch to Cadman to vote against the budget. That meeting took place in Ottawa on vote day, May 19, 2005. The alleged bribe meeting took place two days earlier, May 17, 2005. The Liberals hope nobody notices the PM is talking about a different meeting.

- Book author Tom Zytaruk decided the simplest way to solve the puzzle was to delete any reference to a May 17 meeting and rewrite his book so the Liberals don't look any more stupid than they do.

But if the Liberals and NDP really want a full-fledged investigation of political bribery ? There's lots to investigate.

On May 17, 2005, the Liberal Party of Canada attempted to entice Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal and his wife to: a) vote with the Liberals on the budget and b) join the Liberal Party. A variety of possible future rewards were dangled in front of Grewal in an unmistakeable inducement for his vote.

The Liberals were going for a double double cross. Grewal's wife, Nina, was also an MP, and you didn't get one without the other. Grewal, however, taped his meetings with the Liberal representatives, Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, the Prime Minister's chief of staff.

In doing so he gave political science classes across Canada grade A evidence of how backroom politics operates in this country.

Tim Murphy told Grewal the defection machine was a time-tested mechanism. An independent emissary approaches the target turncoat, he said. That way the Party can deny it approached anyone and the MP can deny he approached anyone. Once the initial contact is made, negotiations begin. And so it was with Grewal.

In his case, Murphy told him the Party expected Grewal to show he could be trusted, first, before anything could be done for him. If, say, he sat as an Independent and voted with the Liberals on the budget, and four or five other confidence votes expected in the near future, he should know that trust is rewarded by the Party. The transcripts of the tasty promises of future treats are not the least ambiguous.

TM: "I'm thinking how Ujjal came into cabinet, the importance of honesty, faith and trust in the relationship and that at the one level Ujjal takes (a) risk, on another that his faith was rewarded and there is an element of trust underlying that obviously and I accept that can be difficult and sometimes, difficult burden to bear in politics, umm, because it feels sometimes like it is a career that does not operate on trust very much."

And elsewhere,

TM: I'm not offering and I'm making no offers. And I think that is a narrative we have to stick to it and I don't want to make the PM a liar. That's not to say that's what we are doing. but I think it is important that we can be honest about it.

But there also we understand that those people who take risk ought to be rewarded for the risks they take and, you know, that as you look through the process of, you know, making a difficult decision thinking about implications for you personally and then what that means that as we get out from under this, the gold fish bowl of right now and into a calmer temperature into the summer that then I think our flexibility to do things in that calmer period of time goes up considerably.

Dosanjh and Murphy discussed a cabinet seat for Grewal and a Senate appointment for his wife, who, said Grewal, was unlikely to win re-election in her riding as a Liberal. Nina Grewal was 47. If the Liberals named her to the Senate, she could sit for 28 years until mandatory retirement at 75. A Senator in 2006 collected $122,000 a year, meaning that the inducement for Nina Grewal alone was worth $2.2 million. And it was doable, unlike a $1 million life insurance policy for a dying man.

Belinda Stronach had whored herself out to the Liberals in exchange for a cabinet seat only a day earlier, so a cabinet position was not on the table immediately, Grewal was told. And a Senate appointment for the Mrs. wasn't out of the question, although, Murphy noted, the next B.C. spot was already spoken for.

As a further sweetener, Grewal was assured that Paul Martin was aware of the emissaries and their chat with him and the PM would call and offer his well wishes.

"I talked to the PM moments ago.He said he is going to Regina right now and he said he will be happy to talk to you over the phone tonight or in person if you want to move." Dosanjh said to Grewal.

The PM "is prepared, depending on how the conversations go, to talk to you directly both by phone an subsequently in person as you, as we see fit." Murphy added later on.

But there was something that could be done almost immediately as a show of good faith in return for a vote.

Joe Volpe, Minister of Immigration, had accused Grewal of taking money for visitors visas, and the Ethics Commissioner was investigating. Grewal wanted an apology from Volpe and a quick resolution of the investigation, which he was certain would clear him. Murphy and Dosanjh said they could, indeed, speak to Volpe and something could be arranged. The transcript of that part of the conversation is fascinating:

Can I say something? What Tim is saying to you, and what I understand tim is saying, is that we can make him do that if there is a deal and and he will do it before the deal is public.
TM: Yes

UD : So that , I am using very simple language...
GG : I understand that , my point...

: I think that before we talk to him, to do that, we need to have a deal in place. We should have a deal in place here and with the Leader. You simply, actually formally, (inaudible)

GG : Okay, I understand. Let me also be blunt. if I may. My point is that what we are talking is not part of the deal at all. This is somehing, what we are doing is the right thing to do. Make the way clear. It is just like to go somewhere the door has to be open. This is just simply a door which is inhibiting in my conscience to talk further or do anything. We are simply opening the door, but it (we can't make it out - ed) the subject of where we are going to.

TM : And I am saying I can only get the door only part way open.
UD : You can only get the door slightly open if there is no deal.
GG : You have to open the door where I can sneak out. (Laughter) That much the door has to be open.

TM: Well, I will see what I can do. We should actually be real careful about using "the deal" as a language because when you are asking, you want to say "No I did it from a principle basis."
GG : I agree

TM : "no deals". So I think we should, I know we're shorthanding, but let's not, because I don't think its good for either of us. But I think we all understand what we are talking about.

We all certainly do.

If the Parliamentary Press Gallery was truly interested in investigating a bribery scandal, it's all here, on tape:

* the promises of rewards,
* the teasing discussions of cabinet seats and Senate appointments,
* the millions of dollars in benefits,
* the Prime Minister who was aware of it all and just waiting for a phone call to consumate the deal.

In hindsight, the Dosanjh-Murphy tapes become doubly interesting.

Remember that the Liberal Party of Canada had funnelled tens of millions of dollars to selected ad firms for work that was never done or which was grossly overbilled, money that could be used for off-the-book spending, if necessary.

On May 17, 2005, the exact date that author Zytaruk initially claimed a bribe offer was made to Chuck Cadman, Tim Murphy talked to Grewal about the power held by the Independent MP's.

TM: As you know with this, its, the balance of power hangs with the two independents, right?
...My sense is that David Kilgour is unlikely to vote for us but he is (an) unpredictable man...And then Chuck Cadman, I think, actually, Chuck Cadman is an honest man. He has not made up his mind and he's going to wait and see what his riding wants and what the right thing to do it. and so I truthfully think with Cadman we won't know until Thursday.

And Ujjal Dosanjh was unusually interested in the status of Grewal's pension.

UD: I'm talking to you for your own welfare. I think you should tell Tim what you have in mind. The way you're approaching it isn't the way it's done. Then that is not good for you. I know you might not be ready to do it right now but you certainly be looking for a significant appointment for her, not for you. How old are you now?
GG: 47
UD: Your pension?
GG: After 8 years, at 53
UD: you will get after 8 years.

At that intriguing juncture, Tim Murphy walked into the room and the subject changed to whether Murphy wanted tea or water?

You don't think...


That would be just about as likely as catching the CBC red-handed collaborating with the Liberal Party as everyone always suspected.

Disgraced CBC reporter Krista Erickson, who was caught red-handed collaborating with the Liberal Party is tired to doing weather stories in Toronto while her former colleagues on Parliament Hill get to cover political scandals.

Erickson was exiled to Toronto for "more training" after the CBC announced that an internal investigation proved she had collaborated with at least two Liberal MP's to embarrass former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney at the Common's ethics committee hearings into, well, nobody can exactly say what the hearings were into since they were into everything from Joe Clark's election to cell-phones.

After her cover was blown, CBC Publisher John Cruickshank picked up the CBC's historic alliance with the Liberals against the Conservative Party by refusing to name the MP's who collaborated with Erickson, particularly whether one or both were members of the ethics committee.

Cruickshank also let stand unchallenged the Liberal Party's public claim that they never cooperated with anyone from the CBC.

Truth can never stand in the way of good biased coverage.

But lo and behold, in a CP story last month-- 22 paragraphs down--- we read that Krista may be down but she's not out.

"Relations hit a low point last December when the CBC launched an internal investigation after Doug Finley, a senior federal Conservative party official, wrote a formal letter of complaint over allegations that a CBC reporter fed questions to a Liberal MP to ask Brian Mulroney during a parliamentary hearing.

The broadcaster announced last month that Krista Erickson, an Ottawa-based CBC-TV reporter, had been reassigned to Toronto after her actions were deemed "inappropriate." She is challenging the decision.
(CBC should receive stable, indexed funding for at least seven years: report, Sue Bailey, THE CANADIAN PRESS, Thursday, February 28, 2008)

Who knows, maybe the public will get some answers, yet.

And as twilight crept in, we read that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sued the Liberal Party for libel over the Cadman affair. The Liberal's website carried articles accusing Harper of knowing about an attempt to bribe Cadman.

The lawsuit claims $1 million in general damages, $1 million in aggravated damages, $500,000 in punitive damages and legal costs.

But that's not the worst of it for the Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, or his allies in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. On March 3, Conservative Party pundit Stephen Taylor wrote on his blog (emphasis ours):

"Today, the Prime Minister served notice to Liberal leader Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff, Ralph Goodale and the Liberal Party of Canada indicating that they have libeled him with regards to the Chuck Cadman affair.

Harper's lawyer insists that the Liberals preserve email and phone records surrounding this topic Harper's lawyer insists that the Liberals preserve email and phone records surrounding this topic. If the Liberals are to maintain their position that Stephen Harper was somehow involved with a plan to bribe Chuck Cadman, they will have to go through a discovery phase where those records will become public. Harper likely hopes that this would put the Liberals in a difficult position and probably suspects that information
surrounding leaks, potential collaboration and planning will emerge."

The snow is still up to the roofs in Ottawa, but we bet a lot of reporters are already sweating.

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