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:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Alleged witness: Winnipeg Free Press Picket Pork contained spoiled meat

The latest chapter of the Picket Pork Scandal is the most distrubing yet.

A comment posted on the Internet at the PolicyFrog blog

by someone who identified himself as Winnipeg Free Press reporter Bruce Owen, is raising serious concerns about the health risks to anyone who eats the controversial pork delivered to picketing FP strikers.

The poster, who later provided an office phone number for anyone who wanted to call him, provided still another version of how government subsidized pork intended for the poor wound up in the freezers of highly paid Winnipeg Free Press employees.

In the latest "eyewitness" account, an unidentified farmer drove up to the line with 1500 pounds of prime pork in the back of his truck. Winnipeg Harvest "didn't have the capacity" to take it, he allegedly said, so it was either the strikers or the dump.

The pork was already thawing and "In the end some did spoil and was thrown out." said the poster.


Was nobody concerned about accepting thawed pork out of the back of a truck from a stranger? And didn't anyone raise the obvious---if some of the meat has to be thrown out because it's spoiled, shouldn't you assume that all of it is tainted? Obviously the meat hasn't been frozen properly. How many times has it been thawed and refrozen?

And that's not the worst of it.

The blog comment says "many" of the strikers took pork home to "plop it" into their own freezers so they could re-gift it in Christmas hampers.

So it's not enough to steal the food out of the mouths of the hungry, now you're intending on poisoning the poor to boot?

The inaction of government health authorities is appalling.

Do we have to wait for people to get sick from eating tainted meat at Christmas before anyone starts an investigation into the mysterious pork delivery to strikers?

When Agriculture Minister Roseann Wowchuk announced in the spring that the government would spend $500,000 so that pork from the federal sow cull program could be provided to Manitoba food banks she saw it as a win-win. The farmers win, the poor win, the food bank wins and the government wins the accolades of the public.

She never expected to run smack dab into a scandal that's tarnished the image of Winnipeg Harvest and put the health of the underprivileged at risk.

Nobody has been hurt more by this scandal than David Northcott, executive co-ordinator of Winnipeg Harvest. The whole pork-for-the-poor program was his idea.

Here's how the Manitoba Pork Council reported it in April:

"Last week provincial agriculture minister Rosann Wowchuk announced the province will provide 500 thousand dollars to cover costs associated with processing pork from animals culled under the Federal Cull Breeding Swine Program.

Under the program meat from the culled animals may not enter the commercial food chain.

Manitoba Pork Council chairman Karl Kynoch recalls, when the cull program was originally developed, diverting the meat to food banks had not been considered.

David Northcott from the food banks came forward.

He called us and wanted to know if there was any way to get some of this food into the food banks.

We in turn contacted the feds to see if the federal program would allow us that."

Now Northcott has to admit he has no controls in place to prevent the theft of food from the food bank system nor can he trace the flow of food from its initial donation to its alleged delivery to the hungry.

And he has to listen to the Winnipeg Free Press union call him a liar.

Northcott categorically denies the FP union story of how pork arrived at their doorstep. It was pork from the sow cull, he's said, and it had been delivered, stored and handled by Winnipeg Harvest prior to its still-unexplained delivery to the strikers. Northcott says the delivery was "unauthorized" and the food was "not stolen."

But that's a game of semantics.

Unauthorized means it was taken without approval, and 'not stolen' means nobody wants to admit it came from them because they don't want to admit they have no control over the food they get from Harvest.

The FP union contradicts Northcott by saying Harvest refused to accept the pork so it was delivered instead to the picket line.

So how did the rejected pork have Winnipeg Harvest stickers on it?

The union hopes you don't ask.

The striking Free Press employees want you to believe the pork went only to the least paid strikers, the carriers, and not the reporters and columnists making $70,000 to $90,000. Its a game of misdirection.

The union won't say directly that the pork was only given to striking carriers; they slip in the fact that half the strikers were lesser-paid carriers, hoping you assume that they are the only ones who got to help themselves to the free food.

It's a game that's fooling no one.

The Free Press pickets accepted food that was always intended to go to the poor and hungry. They are now celebrating their hefty raises ($2000 a year for the highest paid), but they are still refusing to pay for the pork they took at a time Winnipeg Harvest was cutting its rations to the poor.

They should all be ashamed of themselves.

And if anyone gets sick from eating spoiled pork, who should be charged with criminal negligence? The Free Press employees who made up the hampers? Or the union executives who accepted and distributed the mystery pork?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Winnipeg Free Press strikers jumped the queue for free pork

Striking employees of the Winnipeg Free Press are at the apex of a massive cover-up into how government-subsidized food was funnelled into their union strike headquarters instead of being distributed to needy clients of Manitoba food banks.

David Northcott, executive co-ordinator for Winnipeg Harvest, confirmed Thursday to CJOB's morning show host Richard Cloutier that more than half a ton of minced pork received by the strikers' union was from a government program to provide food to the poor.

Northcott said the delivery to the union headquarters was "unauthorized" and that the striking FP employees "did jump the queue" ahead of the disadvantaged and the disabled for whom the food was intended.

In his interview he also made it clear that the strikers are peddling a false story on their strike website about how the food-for-the-poor came into their hands.

The pork was not "surplus", as the strikers claimed at first, nor was it rejected by Winnipeg Harvest because their freezers were full, as the strike website claimed later. Both versions of where the pork came from were attributed to an anonymous "man who delivers donations for the Winnipeg Harvest."

"Nobody at Winnipeg Harvest was driving the truck," said Northcott.

Cloutier was told that Winnipeg Harvest canvassed 3 soup kitchens and 40 hamper programs in Winnipeg which each received more than 1000 pounds of the government pork for their clients.

"No one's giving up the person," Northcott said.

And by "no one", he's including the striking employees of the Winnipeg Free Press who certainly do know who delivered the pork they took home. But mum's the word. The conspiracy of silence stands firm. The union has been stricken with collective amnesia.

Northcott said that the picket pork was "not stolen." While he can say that definitively about Winnipeg Harvest, he's dancing on semantic ice when it comes to his "frontline agencies." The pork wasn't stolen from Harvest's freezers, but how it moved from Harvest to the picket line is a mystery.

Northcott says the distribution of the pork to the strikers was not authorized, which only means that none of the 40 frontline agencies or three soup kitchens that received pork from Winnipeg Harvest admitted to him they approved its delivery to the Free Press employees' union.

But that doesn't mean that someone didn't go into a freezer and help himself to half a ton of pork for his friends on the picket line. It only means that nobody has filed a complaint with police. And without a victim, there's officially no theft.

Except there are victims---the hundreds of people who went hungry because the food destined for them wound up at strike headquarters to be divvied up to the anonymous delivery driver's pals.

The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union that represents the Winnipeg Free Press strikers wouldn't make anyone's list of food bank recipients.

It boasts that it is the largest media union in Canada with more than 160,000 members.

The union can, without a doubt, afford to buy food for its members on strike.

And it should.

The Free Press strikers must pay for the pork they took from the mouths of the poor. Every cent. 1500 pounds at the going retail value for prime minced pork.

The strikers have a moral and ethical obligation to replace the food they weren't entitled to. And this bunch of moochers certainly knows a lot about ethics.

Columnist Dan Lett shared his vast expertise on ethics while writing about the Winnipeg police evidence before the Taman Inquiry:

"The band of police brothers and sisters who appeared before the Taman inquiry were just smart enough to avoid having to face criminal charges for their wilful dishonesty. Their inability to recall even the simplest of details from that fateful night protected them from punishment. … Recollections were conveniently murky."

Now we have the Free Press union band of brothers and sisters exhibiting their wilful dishonesty by refusing to tell the truth about how food intended for the poor wound up on their tables. They have an inability to recall even the simplest details of the driver who showed up with boxes of free chow. Recollections are conveniently murky, so murky that the strikers published two phony baloney versions of how the pork so conveniently appeared at union HQ.

But paying some charity back for the pork isn't enough.

The City of Winnipeg Health Department has to investigate where the pork came from.

You can't just hand out raw meat from the back of a truck. The food handling rules apply to the CEP union the same as to anyone else. We know the pork was in a Winnipeg Harvest freezer two weeks ago. After that, nothing.

Was it kept in the back of the volunteer's truck in his garage before he gave it away? We have no idea of the provenance of the pork. Does the health department have to wait until somebody gets sick before acting?

And the provincial Department of Agriculture must investigate the loosey-goosey rules of distribution being followed by Winnipeg Harvest. The government certainly wanted the credit when it announced that pork from a federal sow cull program would go to food banks to help the poor. Now we see how easy it is for anyone to snatch food from the food banks for themselves, their family and friends.

Will Roseanne Wowchuk insist on better tracking of food, at least food provided by the province, to ensure it can never again be stolen from the hungry?

And the picket pork scandal has created a big problem for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Once the strike ends, what credibility will the newspaper's reporters have after engaging in a cover-up of this magnitude? It turns out that the moral high horses the Free Press columnists and reporters have been riding lately are smaller than Shetland ponies.

They owe a lot of people a lot of apologies. If they can drag themselves away from the trough long enough.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

CJOB emailer challenges Free Press strikers' collective amnesia

An emailer to CJOB host Richard Cloutier may have provided a valuable piece of the puzzle to the Picket Pork Scandal enveloping striking employees of the Winnipeg Free Press.

As is well known, last Friday the strikers were celebrating the delivery to strike headquarters of half a ton of government-subsidized pork that was supposed to go to the Winnipeg Harvest food bank to be distributed to the poor and hungry.

The striking FP employees have provided two versions of how the food wound up in their hands. They said initially that the pork was "surplus", i.e. unneeded by Winnipeg Harvest. After The Black Rod picked up on the story and revealed the pork came from a government-sponsored program to supply food banks, the strikers amended their story to say the unnamed donor tried to deliver it to Winnipeg Harvest first, but it was turned away because the Harvest freezers were full.

Both accounts have been contradicted by David Northcott, executive co-ordinator of Winnipeg Harvest. And now, a user of Harvest's food bank has provided evidence that the Free Press strikers are lying.

The woman, who signed her email Cheryl, wrote to describe the hoops she had to jump through to get help from Winnipeg Harvest -- the screening, the humiliating declarations of spending, the hour or longer spent waiting each time to pick-up food. And despite it all she signed herself "A thankful user of Winnipeg Harvest."

Cheryl said she has MS and lives on $9,500 a year. Her only complaint was why Winnipeg Free Press strikers who aren't disabled and who earn much more than her, get their Winnipeg Harvest donations delivered right to their door -- no questions asked.

She added this:
"We were told two weeks ago that all the pork was gone and we would not be getting anymore."

That information confirms what Northcott has said about the picket pork. Northcott told CJOB that the pork had been delivered to Winnipeg Harvest; it was not surplus. Harvest had then, two weeks ago, supplied the pork to another agency, one of 40, for distribution to the needy.

That means that the pork has been sitting in some freezer for two weeks before it was given to the strikers.

Now the question is who authorized diverting the pork from the poor to the picketline? Or, did anybody?

Is it possible the pork was stolen? Have the Winnipeg Free Press employees have been scarfing down food snatched from the mouths of hungry children by a sympathetic thief?

Northcott said on Monday he was working hard to determine which agency delivered the 1500 pounds of prime pork to the union. He ended his interview with Richard Cloutier on a cordial note.

Cloutier: David, thanks very much for your time.
Northcott: Appreciate always the tough questions. Thank you.

But a day later, Northcott wasn't so appreciative. He first agreed to another interview with Cloutier, then had a subordinate phone at the last minute and cancel.

The striking Winnipeg Free Press employees have Northcott's number. After The Black Rod broke the picket pork story, they posted a story quoting Northcott as saying he applauded the delivery of the pork to the strikers -- even if Winnipeg Harvest didn't do it or authorize it.

Now Northcott needs help identifying the mystery donor.
And the striking employees of the Winnipeg Free Press appear to be suffering from collective amnesia.

All these trained observers and not one can say who, exactly, drove up with boxes of free frozen pork. Or who was on the picket line when it showed up. Or who was in the union office. Or who divvied up the juicy meat.
Or who took it home.

It sort of reminds us of another alleged case of collective amnesia.

Hmmmm. What was it again? Anyone? Maybe Dan Lett or Tom Brodbeck can help us remember.

So far the union's reaction to getting caught red-handed taking food from the poor has been a mixture of fear and fury.

"It's a despicable way to try and manipulate well-intentioned humanitarian outreach," huffed striker spokesman Bartley Kives at the press attention.

Now that's rich. A reporter complaining about reporters. The next thing you know he'll be attacking the reporters' ethics.

So far the strikers haven't discussed the ethics of people making $30-, $40-, $50-, $60-, $70-, $80-, $90,000 snatching up food meant for the poor. They only say they "don't think" that happened. Then they trot our the union's equivalent of cute, big-eyed children---the union-card carrying newspaper carriers.

It's funny how we haven't heard a word about the starving carriers in the years preceeding the strike.

Now, suddenly, the fat cats at the top of the FP salary list are only doing it for the carriers.

When columnist Lindor Reynolds wrote about Thanksgiving, she lamented she had to cancel a trip to Europe because she got injured on a junket to Minneapolis.
No mention of the starving carriers who could use the thousands of dollars she saved.

When columnist Gordon Sinclair wrote about his trip to New York City, where the hotels weren't up to his standards,
he failed to give a nod to the starving carriers who will never see the Big Apple.

When the newspaper was holding fund-raising campaigns to save Upper Fort Garry for the multi-millionaires of the Manitoba Club, nobody mentioned the starving carriers.
In all the stories about the millions donated to the multi-multi-multi millionaire Asper family for their daddy's human rights museum, no thought about the starving carriers.

But suddenly, when it comes to free food--it's 'screw the poor, solidarity forever.'

C'mon. Lets hear a rousing chorus of "Joe Hill" and pass the potatoes. And save some for the carriers.

Winnipeg Harvest is a non-profit corporation and as such is not accountable for who they give food to or why. They can do anything they want with the food donated to them, even if they claim its for hungry children and it goes to striking picketers instead. The Harvest board of directors has no objections that we've heard.

But when the food comes is paid for by the government, federal and/or provincial, then it does come with strings. The pork given to the strikers was intended at all times to be given to the hungry poor.

If the carriers can't make ends meet and need help from Winnipeg Harvest, there's a procedure to follow just as Cheryl says. It's embarassing and cumbersome, but it applies to everyone.

The employees of the Winnipeg Free Press think they are entitled to door-to-door delivery of food intended for the poor. They should be ashamed of themselves.

And we can't let the pork scandal pass without noting how CBC television is covering it.

It's not.

Not a word about the picket pork scandal has passed the lips of host Janet Stewart.

On the other hand, on Tuesday she reported, without a trace of irony, that the FP strikers were holding a rally where they would be collecting donations to Winnipeg Harvest.

Prime minced pork for us. Pork'n Beans for the poor. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Four versions of Pork-to-Strikers raise serious questions

We now have four -- count 'em, four -- versions of how taxpayer subsidized food intended for the poor and hungry wound up in the hands of striking employees of the Winnipeg Free Press.

The strikers' on their webpage provide two accounts of how a half ton of pork was "donated" to them :

There's the still-popular original version:

"Winnipeg Harvest had a surplus and they asked me if I could get rid of it," said the volunteer, who didn't want to be named. "I heard it might be a long haul here so I came here," the man said.

This was followed Monday by the revised version:

"On Oct. 16, a truck came by the Free Press line last week after trying to deliver frozen pork to Winnipeg Harvest. The driver was told Harvest had no room in its freezers for the pork. The truck then came by the picket line and donated it to the strikers, saying Harvest couldn't handle the donation."

David Northcott, executive co-ordinator of Winnipeg Harvest, provided two versions of his own, also on Monday.

To CBC News he said "that the frozen pork had been produced during a federal sow cull program that reduced the province's hog population by thousands. Winnipeg Harvest distributed the pork to more than a dozen organizations in the city for redistribution to their clients. One of those organizations gave the meat to the pickets, he said, suggesting it could possibly have been a group that had Free Press carriers as clients in the past. The meat was in no way surplus, he said."

He provided a variation of the story to CJOB's Richard Cloutier:

Cloutier: So who delivered this to the striking Free Press Workers?
Northcott: One of our frontline agencies who have been supporting working poor anyway. We're trying to find out exactly who because the person is not named…It will be one of the 40 or so frontline groups that picked up product in the last two weeks.

Take your pick. Northcott contradicts the reporters from the Winnipeg Free Press who contradict David Northcott. Professional journalists at work. (Or not.)

The versions range from "I just tried to deliver it to Harvest but their freezers were full" to "We had the pork and gave it to another agency, sometime in the past two weeks."

Here's what we think. Something smells. Somebody isn't telling the truth. Hell, it's hard to say any one of the four versions is the truth.

Winnipeg Harvest has an eight member board of directors, but the board is amazingly complacent about the inability of David Northcott to account for more than half a ton of government-donated food.

How often does a half ton of food disappear from Winnipeg Harvest without any record of where its gone? How often are volunteers told to take food and give it away to their friends and relatives with no accounting? Why hasn't the board of Harvest publicly disputed the donation story being flogged by the Winnipeg Free Press strikers if it isn't true?

Less than a month ago Winnipeg Harvest was begging for food donations. Now they admit they don't know where their donations go.

Something is very, very wrong.

For starters, the Winnipeg Free Press strikers union should not be getting anything from Winnipeg Harvest.

The strikers have jobs. They just don't want to work at them right now. That's their choice. But they can't claim they deserve free food.

The strikers are trying to deflect the opprobrium that's coming their way by claiming that half the Free Press workforce makes less than $15,000 a year. The unstated implication that's intended to stop questioners dead is that fully half of the employees of the Winnipeg Free Press are Dickensian-poor who depend on food banks to live.

Complete nonsense and we at The Black Rod are calling your bluff.

You don't get to push your way to the front of the line ahead of hungry children, the homeless, and the unemployed because you're greedy. Hungry? Your union brothers and sisters will feed you. That's the way it works. You don't get to take food out of the mouths of the poor because you're refusing to work and you don't want to collect a paycheque.

The astonishing thing to come out of the union's disgraceful conduct is David Northcott's confession that Winnipeg Harvest routinely gives food to unions.

It's funny that this has been a well-kept secret for so long. When Winnipeg Harvest goes begging for donations, they never mention that the food may wind up on some union organizer's table. They trot out the children.

Imagine how foolish Winnipeg Sun columnist Laurie Mustard feels today after learning he had been raising food for well-fed adults who worked up a hellish appetite walking in circles a few hours a day. Here's a bit of the heart-breaking column he wrote on behalf of Winnipeg Harvest, pre-strike:

Thu, October 16, 2008
Kids Counting on You


This being World Food Day, a question:
How many Manitoba children would you say receive food from Winnipeg Harvest each month?
Answer: the latest statistics indicate about 40% of people receiving food from Harvest are children -- that's about 16,000 per month.
The good news with regard to children and adults being challenged by access to food here in Manitoba is local food banks have it to put on their table, with no effort spared to make that happen.
This city and province's generous support of Harvest and all local food distribution organizations not only improves lives, but often helps turn them around, enabling those temporarily disadvantaged to recover more quickly and so often give back in spades.
As long as we remember 16,000 Manitoba children each month -- and even more adults -- are counting on our compassion and generosity to help them through their time of need (so often a "working poor" scenario), hunger should not be their main problem.

Remember the children (sob) and (don't mention strikers.)

The FP union carried an interview with Northcott on their strike website saying he's happy they got the free pork, even though he's been trying to distance himself from actually providing it to them.

And he told CJOB that he intends to deliver hampers to the Winnipeg Free Press strikers if the strike lasts much longer and the union asks for them.

In September, the Winnipeg Citizen's Coalition, a newly-formed left-wing political pressure group, issued a public statement titled "Perception is Reality". The group appeared as a delegation at City Hall to attack Mayor Sam Katz. Katz has fully complied with all civic rules and regulations regarding conflict of interest over his business dealings, forcing his opponents, including the Winnipeg Free Press, to invent a totally new argument, as articulated by the Winnipeg Citizen's Coalition:

"When it comes to conflict of interest ethics - perception is a reality that must be taken into consideration."

What then is the perception of the striking employees of the Winnipeg Free Press? Overpaid, greedy SOB's who celebrate taking for themselves food that was intended for the poor.

We can hardly wait for Gordon Sinclair's next column showing solidarity with the little people. "Hey, I know where you're coming from, man. I've been there. I had to get my cheeseburger from Harvest when I was on strike. It was rough. Real rough."

But, but, but…the strikers aren't public servants, so they can't be guilty of a conflict of interest. Let's see---the FP union wound up with half a ton of food that was given by the government to a food bank to feed poor children while the former candidate for the Liberal Party of Canada that runs the food bank can't explain how the food got to the strikers instead of the children. That's called perception. Which, as you know, is reality. Isn't that right, Councillor Dan Vandal?

Way back when the reporters for the Winnipeg Free Press claimed the moral high ground, Bartley Kives wrote a column (Sept. 20, 2008) attacking the Mayor.

"Conflict of interest clear to all except the mayor" was the headline.

"Apparently, Mayor Sam Katz either does not understand the concept of conflict of interest -- or wants Winnipeggers to believe that is the case," declaimed Kives.

"But a greater issue persists: Winnipeg's mayor does not seem to understand there's anything wrong …"

"And he also doesn't understand why it's a problem…"

In the hijacked pork situation, the conflict of interest is clear to all except the employees of the Winnipeg Free Press. They don't seem to understand there's anything wrong. They don't understand why it's a problem.

What's that clucking?

Chickens coming home to roost.

Here's another, more recent story which ran in the Winnipeg Sun.

Sat, October 11, 2008
Food Bank Forced to Cut Rations

Winnipeg's major food bank is starving for grub to stack on its shelves for the hungry. And it fears that Canada's ailing economy is taking a bite out of donations of cash and food to its West End warehouse.

Winnipeg Harvest's shelves have become noticeably sparse to the point the agency has begun issuing food in four-day rations to its clients instead of five days.
"We have only enough supplies in the building that it would provide food for the next two weeks," said Bryan Stone, Harvest's general manager. "We obviously have to adjust so we can spread it out as much as possible."

The FP employees want you to believe that less than one week later Winnipeg Harvest had so much food they declared half a ton of pork "surplus."

What's wrong with this picture?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Food donated for the poor directed to Free Press strikers

We don't know what's more shameful -- the fact that striking Winnipeg Free Press employees took food out of the mouths of poor people, or the fact that they're so arrogrant they boasted about it.

Barely five days after walking off their extremely well-paid jobs, the strikers snickered about their coup on their strike website,

Food bank volunteer donates pork to picketers
Oct 17, 2008
A man who delivers donations for the Winnipeg Harvest food bank dropped off a half-ton truck full of frozen minced pork at Free Press striking workers Friday .

The man drove up to the picket line around 11 a.m. with the surprising and generous donation: in total, 1,500 pounds of ground pork in one-pound packages.

“Winnipeg Harvest had a surplus and they asked me if I could get rid of it,” said the food bank volunteer. “I heard it might be a long haul here so I came here,” the man said.

The volunteer who didn’t want his name used.

The province’s biggest food bank appealed for donations last week when supplies ran low.

The appeal drew hundreds of donations, including the frozen meat.

One thousand workers with the Communication,Energy and Paper Workers Union walked off the job five days ago on Thanksgiving Day to protest management demands for cuts to wages and benefits.

Talks are continuing but both sides are reported to be far apart.

“On behalf of all the members at the Winnipeg Free Press, we’re grateful,” said one picketer who expressed thanks for all the workers.

Five days after stopping work the strikers scooped more than a thousand pounds of food away from the needy. They excuse it by saying the food was surplus. That's funny, that's not what Winnipeg Harvest was saying one week earlier.

Cupboard nearly bare at Winnipeg Harvest
Last Updated: Friday, October 10, 2008 10:26 AM CT
CBC News
Winnipeg Harvest has only a week's worth of food on its shelves, a result of the growing economic uncertainty, officials say.

"We've probably got enough food in the food bank for about seven days, so we can get us to next week," said executive coordinator David Northcott.

"We've not been this thin for a quite a while," he added. "I'm not certain we've ever been this light on food."

The food bank, the largest in the province, has taken steps to reduce the amount of food given in emergency hampers from a five-day supply to four, Northcott said.

Lo and behold, suddenly they have so much food they have to give it to the employees of the Winnipeg Free Press.

There aren't words to express our disgust.

Reporters and columnists are paid between $70,000 and $90,000 a year, and here they are claiming charity.

The Winnipeg Free Press strikers saw nothing wrong with cutting ahead of these Winnipeg Harvest clients (from the Harvest website):

· 118 food banks,
· 30 day cares, mostly inner city,
· 9 community kitchens, where low-income people cook together and take home prepared food,
· 102 community organizations for children and youth as well as school meal programs that depend on Winnipeg Harvest to provide up to 100% of their snack or meal needs, and
· 10 soup kitchens serving soup and meals to those who are hungry on the street or have no other resources for their food needs

Let's be absolutely clear. The Winnipeg Free Press employees aren't needy. They voluntarily left their jobs and their fat paycheques. They made a choice. And they have to live with that choice.

The people who depend on Winnipeg Harvest don't have the choice of going to work for $70,000 a year.

It was barely a few weeks ago that these same employees (step up, Gordon Sinclair Jr., Geoff Kirbyson, Bartley Kives) were lecturing Mayor Sam Katz about ethics.

Well, what are the ethics of rich, pompous journalists taking food away from the poor because, well, just because they want to and they can. Where's Artie Schaefer and the other university egg-heads who love pontificating about ethics in the press.

Hey, Art, let's hear how it's just and proper for the well-off to take food out of the mouths of poor kids. We'll all ears.

Is there a single mainstream reporter out there who will ask Winnipeg Harvest executive director David Northcott about his sudden surplus of food? Will any reporter go to any of the agencies that get food form Winnipeg Harvest and ask they why they suddenly don't need any donations? Wouldn't that be a lovely good news story?

Of course, there's the hard-news angle for reporters who want something with more bite.

Let's start with where the half-ton of pork came from. Are the Winnipeg Free Press strikers being subsidized by the taxpayer?

Back in April, 2008, Winnipeg Harvest was celebrating a government program that would see them receive tons of pork courtesy of Joe Public.

"CANADA - Around CAN$500,000 of federal funds will be used to process ground pork from animals slaughtered through the new federal cull breeding swine program. The meat will be used by the province's food banks and distributed Winnipeg Harvest.

According to Manitoba's Country Guide, provincial funds could make available over 150,000 kg of pork products to the food banks and should support processing of approximately 5,000 surplus sows available through the federal cull program, Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk said Wednesday.

"The significance of this donation will have impact for many low-income people in Manitoba," Winnipeg Harvest executive co-ordinator David Northcott said in the province's release.

Northcott said Winnipeg's soup kitchens currently provide about 2,400 hot meals per day and the organization distributes over 5,000 food hampers per week.

Northcott was ecstatic at the news, as reported in this story distributed by the Manitoba Pork Council.

"Winnipeg Harvest Applauds Manitoba Food Bank Initiative
CANADA - Winnipeg Harvest is applauding the efforts of the various partners in a program designed to direct pork to Manitoba food banks, writes Bruce Cochrane.

Earlier this week the Manitoba government announced the province will provide 500 thousand dollars to help cover the cost of processing hogs culled under the Federal Cull Breeding Swine Program so that meat can be directed to the province's food banks.

Winnipeg Harvest executive director David Northcott says the hope is to make use of as much of that meat as possible.

David Northcott-Winnipeg Harvest
We've got several partners we're working with to deliver these goods.

The first one is the Manitoba Association of Food Banks and that's the distribution arm that's been moving food throughout Manitoba for many years now.

Indeed the association is just over a year old but we've been working together with a number of food banks for many years so there's a template and a fair share model already for food so, once the pork is processed, we'll be able to just simply add the pork on those distribution models for food banks in Manitoba.


As long as this federal program runs we want to make sure we direct as much of it to Food banks as possible."

Who was the Winnipeg Harvest volunteer who allegedly made the decision on his own to feed the strikers ahead of the truly needy.

Did that person have any personal connection with the FP employees? Free Press columnist Lindor Reynolds has written that her daughter works at Winnipeg Harvest. Does her daughter know this helpful volunteer?

The relationship between the helpful volunteer and the FP strikers raises another important issue -- conflict of interest.

Only by knowing how closely the volunteer is tied in with the newspaper employees can we know whether the reporters are guilty of a collective conflict of interest. They know, from their own words thrown at Sam Katz, that perception is more important than fact. Reporters often cover Winnipeg Harvest as a news story.

Are they getting kickbacks from their subject?
Isn't that conflict of interest?
Is it even legal to give away raw meat in bulk to anyone but a recognized charity?

It doesn't stop there.

The Manitoba Federation of Labour has declared common cause with the Free Press strikers. MFL president Darlene Dziewit has written her membership:

We will be calling on affiliates of the MFL periodically throughout the strike to assist CEP Local 191 in their efforts. This may include a call for picketers at strategic locations including the Free Press Building on Mountain Avenue or other targeted locations.

But, better than that, money may soon be exchanging hands.

If any unions would like to advertise at
please make arrangements through

In Solidarity,
Darlene Dziewit, President
Manitoba Federation of Labour

If the Manitoba Federation of Labour starts handing money to the union representing reporters of the Winnipeg Free Press, is that a conflict of interest on the part of any reporters who will be assigned to the Manitoba Securities Commission's planned hearings on the MFL-sponsored Crocus Fund?

Should columnists who write about Crocus, or MFL bargaining, or the MFL-backed NDP government be forced to announce in advance the benefits they've received from the MFL as union members?

After all, pork is pork.

And pigs are pigs.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Black Rod federal election wrap-up


Like you, we've spent the past few days reading election stories on the internet. We've appreciated the comic relief.

Election coverage in Winnipeg was the worst in living memory. In place of examining issues or, at the least, trying to reflect the mood of the electorate in various ridings, the primary election news source, theWinnipeg Free Press, devoted its space to its own faux-polls, which were nothing more than internet surveys of a tiny sampling of readers of the newspaper. This is what passes as journalism today.

The post-election analyis across the Web has at least been amusing. And, if you search hard enough, informative.

With the Free Press on strike, we'll pick up the slack and give you highlights.

The Conservatives won the most seats, but now they have to compromise.

Say what? Yes, this was a popular theme of stories on the day-after.

It's still minority, opponents warn
Don't rule with same attitude, including using non-confidence motions, Harper told

Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, October 16, 2008

Opponents said Wednesday they would work with Prime Minister Stephen's Harper's minority government, especially on the economy.
However, they also warned a minority is a minority and they expect Harper to compromise.


New Democratic leader Jack Layton, whose party added seven seats for a total of 37, said Wednesday that Harper must abandon the "my way or the highway" tactic and be more flexible.

"I think he should realize that far more Canadians voted against his government than voted for it. He should respect Parliament and respect the results of the election and we'll proceed in the recognition of that fact," Layton said in Toronto.

Layton did not highlight specific elements of the Conservative agenda that should be changed to make the new Parliament work, but acknowledged the NDP's positions are well known on controversial issues such as Harper's plan to toughen youth criminal justice legislation.

Bloc leader expects more compromise from PM
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 1:33 PM ET
CBC News

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe says Tuesday night's election results mean Stephen Harper will have to compromise more with the opposition parties, and he also says the prime minister should respect his own fixed-date election law by waiting four years before calling another vote.

The Bloc won 50 of Quebec's 75 federal seats. "That's the reality. It's been six consecutive times that we've had a majority. I don't think there's another party that can claim that," Duceppe told a news conference Wednesday morning.

Duceppe said Harper will have to compromise with the Bloc and the other opposition parties to reach agreements on policy.
That means softening on unpopular promises, such as beefing up the Criminal Code to crack down on young offenders, Duceppe said.

The Toronto Star
EDITORIAL Federal Election
PM must work with other parties

Oct 15, 2008 04:30 AM
Now that the voters have spoken and elected a minority Parliament, it behooves the leaders of all parties to drop the partisan political games and work together to solve Canada's problems.


To push a governmental agenda through the minority Parliament will require compromise and negotiation with the opposition parties.

Get it? The Conservatives won the election, so now they have to compromise with the losers.

The Bloc Quebecois wants to break up the country and Canada has to compromise with them? In what alternate universe?

Taliban Jack Layton is so deluded about his importance that he wants to sit at the big-folks table. Prime Minister Stephen Harper should hold meetings with all the party leaders and give them briefings on government policies, he's declared.

The last person convinced of his own brilliance was Layton's very own right-hand, none other than celebrity thief Svend Robinson, who admitted to the judge about to sentence him that he was certifiably nuts throughout his political career. Layton just hasn't confronted his own truth yet.

The Liberals and the NDP reached out to the extreme fringes of the lunatic fringe for support. Former Liberal leader Stephane Dion (c'mon, face facts) at least had the guts to dump his 9/11 nutbar candidate once her conspiracy beliefs were revealed, but Layton publically endorsed his 9/11 supporters. The NDP's electing some MP's doesn't somehow make their supporters' batshit crazy views less batshit crazy. And it especially does NOT give him any moral authority to insist the Conservatives must compromise with people who share or give support to these insane conspiracy theories.

The opposite is true. The losers must compromise with the winner. Their visions and platforms were rejected by the electorate. The winning party has a mandate to govern and to pass the legislation it ran on. If you're willing to have another election immediately to clarify that principle, vote against the legislation and bring down the government.

If Dion has to quit, shouldn't Stephen Harper have to resign, too? He can't win a majority.

This one is especially rich. You have to wonder how stupid television interviewers feel having to ask pundits this question. But, for the stupid, let's spell it out...

1) Stephen Harper is the Prime Minister of Canada.

2) He led his party into government for the second time in a row, with a stronger vote of confidence from the voting public.

3) He's shattered the Opposition. The Liberals are broke, leaderless and demoralized. And that's the good news. They're about to spend more money they don't have to tear the party apart as they pick a new leader who will have to prepare a new election platform that repudiates the last Liberal leader and Liberal campaign.

4) Harper hasn't got a majority, but the next two parties together can't cobble together a majority either.

Yep, what a loser.
It's a crisis. The voter turnout was the worst ever.

Doesn't anybody bother to look at the facts anymore?

According to Elections Canada, there were 990,641 fewer votes cast for the major parties this election than last.

But pay close attention to the following:

Support for the Liberal Party of Canada dropped by almost 850,000 votes.

That's 85.7 percent of the missing voters

There's no crisis. Liberal voters sat this one out. They couldn't stomach Stephane Dion and/or his Green Shift taxes. That's the simple story you're not hearing anywhere.

For the record, in the federal election of 2008 compared to the election of 2006:

The Conservatives lost 168,737 votes.
The NDP lost 75,522 votes.
The Bloc lost 173,636 votes.
The Green Party gained 276,679 votes.

Now you tell us.
Election coverage in Winnipeg may have been particularly abysmal, but what do you call non-coverage?

In the days following the election, we're learning about all sorts of things that were never reported during the campaign.

Did you catch the network election reporter who casually mentioned that Stephene Dion would call Stephen Harper a liar "eight or nine times" in every speech he gave? Funny how none of the big-name reporters mentioned that in their stories.

But remember how many times you heard that Harper was running a negative campaign, that he was mean, that the Conservatives were turning voters off with their personal attacks? Uh, huh.

And what about this gem that showed up in a National Post story:

"Ipsos Reid survey last month revealed that almost two-thirds of respondents viewed Liberals as dishonest; 80% deemed them stale; 63% thought them phony; and 66% perceived them "out of touch with Canadians like you." By the time Tuesday night's numbers rolled in, their popularity finished at an all-time low."

Never heard about this Ipsos Reid survey before did you? Who knew about it and held it back from the press. Goodness knows the newspapers lived on polls during this election.

The Separatists are back as strong as ever.


The Separatists lost 173,600 votes in Quebec, more than the Conservative lost in the entire country.

The Bloc won only 38 percent of the popular vote in Quebec. In 2006 they had 42 percent. And way, way back in 2004 they had 49 percent.

Choose Your Canada

Remember when Paul Martin criss-crossed Canada bellowing "Choose your Canada"? The election of 2004 was all about values, Martin said. Canadian--read Liberal---values were being threatened by the American-style Conservatives.

You know which set of values won.

There was less talk about a contest of values this time around, but it was still there, particularly from the losers like Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh.

"The vast majority of Canadians philosophically are small 'l' liberals. I think we need to go back to those roots and those values and rebuild that coalition." said Dosanjh the day after the election.

Dosanjh just couldn't understand why voters rejected the Liberal values.

Globe and Mail columnist Gary Mason wrote, after talking with Dosanjh:

"Many believe he was hurt by the Liberals' support of Insite, the controversial safe-injection site in the Downtown Eastside. It's widely accepted that the Lower Mainland's Chinese population philosophically opposes Insite, a sentiment that has benefited the Conservatives, who want it shut down.

"I don't think that was a big issue," Mr. Dosanjh said. "It was no different in 2006 and I won by a large margin then."

Of course, that was when Dosanjh thought he had won by 700 votes.

Things changed quite a bit in 24 hours.

Recount ordered for Dosanjh's Vancouver South riding
Source: CBC News Posted: 10/16/08

Elections Canada has ordered a judicial recount of votes in the riding of Vancouver South, where incumbent Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh won a close race on Tuesday's federal election.
When electoral officials validated the results on Wednesday, the difference between the two leading candidates was officially 33 votes, less than one one-thousandth of the 42,076 ballots cast, an Elections Canada news release said Thursday.

As results came in on election night, Dosanjh trailed Conservative candidate Wai Young through the evening, but he overtook her at the end. Those initial, unofficial results showed the former B.C. premier taking 16,774 votes to Young's 15,995 after all 184 polls had reported.

But Wednesday's validated results give Dosanjh 16,101 ballots to Young's 16,068. Elections Canada did not explain the change.

The mainstream press has never examined this clash of values, no doubt because they agree with the Liberals. But this election has stripped bare the Liberal Party's claim to be the defender of Canadian values.

The Liberals won 76 seats, half of which came from Ontario. But almost all of their Ontario seats are within the Greater Toronto Area. In short, it appears that Liberal values are synonymous with Toronto values.

Quick. Take the Black Rod Reader's Survey.

Hands up everyone who thinks Toronto speaks for Canada?


We thought so.


What they promised

In 2006, the Conservatives had five major promises in their election platform. Judge us on how we carried out our promises, they said.

Cut the GST by two percent? Lunacy, said the Opposition. We need massive surpluses or else the government can't spend on new programs.

A $100 a month child care benefit? Pandering to the right-wing, screamed the Opposition. We have to have a national child-care system.

Two years later, nobody was running on returning the GST to 7 percent, nor on eliminating the child care benefit.

The public did judge the Conservatives on how they implemented their election promises in the face of unrelenting opposition from the Opposition parties -- and returned the Conservatives to power with an even greater plurality of seats.

In this election, the Conservatives made only one major promise--to overhaul Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act. Already, as you read higher up, the NDP and Bloc are promising to derail the proposed changes, which the public has overwhelmingly approved. The Liberals, you can bet, will oppose any changes in principle, since the exisiting Act is their creation.

But individual MP's like Winnipeg's Judy Wasylycia-Leis claimed they were in favour of toughening the youth crime laws.

Will they support the Conservatives' changes or will they toe the NDP line.

Will they campaign on one policy in Winnipeg and vote another in Ottawa?

We'll be watching closely.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Taman Inquiry invented conspiracies to save anti-cop agenda

Last time we exposed how Roger Salhany glossed over the fact that the basic premise of his Taman Inquiry was demolished within days of hearing evidence.

The Inquiry was intended to prove that, because of a cover-up (by police) and incompetence (by the special prosecutor), a Winnipeg police officer escaped prosecution and jail for killing someone while driving impaired.

Instead, the paramedic who examined the policeman, Derek Zenk, at the scene of the accident, testified that based on his personal expertise in attending hundreds, if not thousands of drunk drivers, Zenk was NOT IMPAIRED.

This, obviously, meant that if Zenk had been charged, as Salhany insists he should have been, Zenk would have been acquitted. And that the prosecutor, Marty Minuk, did the right thing in accepting a plea bargain to another serious charge.

Salhany went so far as to invent his very own conspiracy theory for his final report, a theory which depended on one witness reversing her clear, previous observations following a private "conversation" with one of Salhany's Inquiry lawyers.

(See details here

Today we'll see that truth is no barrier to Salhany's conspiracy ramblings.

At the centre of his alleged conspiracy is East St. Paul police chief Harry Bakema, who is demonized at every turn in the final Taman report, including this:

"I am satisfied that Bakema spoke words to Woychuk disclosing that Zenk had consumed alcohol. The inference is irresistible that in his close physical dealings with Zenk, Bakema likely smelled what every other person who came into close proximity with Zenk smelled, namely alcohol.

Bakema testified he never smelled alcohol from Zenk, but that he placed him into the back of Constable Jason Woychuk's police car with instructions to look for signs of impairment.

But look at what the expert witnesses had said:

Ted Rosser, paramedic
Taman Inquiry testimony
Q Okay. Let me ask you this, and this is based on your experience; would you not agree, that it is easier to detect the odour of liquor when a person is in a confined space as opposed in the outdoors where there is a breeze?
A Yes, for sure.
Q For sure?
A For sure.
Q It is not that easy to detect the smell of liquor on a person's breath outside when there is a breeze; correct?
A That's correct.
Q And we know from exhibit 61, on the day in question, at 7:00 o'clock there was a breeze of 15 kilometres an hour.

Rolland Fontaine, paramedic, Rosser's partner
Taman Inquiry Testimony
Q And we've heard already from the previous witness, Mr. Rosser, that it is easier to detect an odour of liquor if the person is in a confined space. That's obvious, correct?
A Very, yes.
Q And it is especially harder when it is outside, and it makes it even more difficult if there is a breeze; correct?
A Yes.

Fontiane was interviewed by the RCMP in 2006. In his interview he made this spontaneous statement:

Q. Right. Okay. So do you recall then passing that information on to any of the officers at the scene?
A. Yes. Norm. I believe talking with Norm, I says, yeah, um, it was definitely my, uh, what you wanna call it, assumption or, uh, I believe that this gentleman, uh, had been drinking and driving just by the odour that I had talking to him. And I, and I would hop into the vehicle to talk with him, I didn't stay outside of the vehicle with the breeze going by, I reached in, held my body weight up off of the seat and looked at him closely and that's why the, it was alarming to myself ...

Two witnesses who have attended thousands of accident calls between them stated unreservedly that a breeze can interfere with smelling alcohol on a driver's breath--- just as Harry Bakema said.

Salhany says he knows better.

The Commish is so taken with conspiracy theories that he can't help but create new ones.

While trying to prove Zenk had been drinking heavily the night before the accident, he excoriated the police witnesses for covering up for Zenk, then invented a brand new conspiracy -- police were lying to save their own skins, because they were all drunk that night.

And his proof? Why, none other than the only confirmed liar in the witness pool---Chelsea O'Halloran.

"Winnipeg police witnesses painted a picture to the PSU of the "shifter" at Branigans, where Zenk had been until 2:30 a.m. or so in the morning, as a low-key, staid affair with only moderate alcohol consumption and with, at most, one officer…being intoxicated. In fact, the evidence before me showed that there was far more drinking going on that was acknowledged by the 23 police witnesses who were interviewed. Those records confirmed the testimony before me of the server, Chelsea O'Halloran, who I have no hesitation in believing, that significant drinking occurred."

Chelsea, you will recall, testified that she lied to police when she initially told them that nobody was over-served at Branigans the night of the police get-together. She said she later realized she had to tell the truth, although we don't know whether her conversion had anything to do with another "private" meeting with one of Salhany's lawyers, who, as we've seen, did wonders "refreshing" the memory of Kathleen Beattie.

(See link above.)

Chelsea hit the front pages with her memory of serving Derek Zenk "eight or nine beers". She remembered it distinctly because she recalled serving the same man at a Super Bowl party. Super Bowl-man ate lots of chicken wings and had a pregnant wife, just like Derek Zenk.

Sadly for Roger Salhany, everything that could be checked about Chelsea's evidence has proved false.

She couldn't identify Derek Zenk from a photo line-up, she admitted she was guessing at the number of beers she served Super Bowl-lookalike-man, and, the coup de gras, the Taman Inquiry report says "there was later testimony that the police officer O'Halloran believed was at the Super Bowl party with his pregnant wife was another officer." In plain language, the evidence was that Chelsea's man was NOT ZENK, although you didn't read that in the newspapers either.

Chelsea remembered that night as if it was yesterday because she had to work overtime and serve the drunken louts who laughed loudly, cheered, hooted and hollered and made comments about her ass. She was, however, the only person at the bar who failed to notice the arm-wrestling competitions going on.

So, serving girl Chelsea O'Halloran is a confessed liar who gave the Inquiry false evidence about serving Derek Zenk while failing to see anyone struggling to flatten another man's wrist to the table. And Salhany has no hesitation in believing her evidence.

Why? Because Chelsea is the only witness he can cite who saw the invisible pitchers of beer.

We told you so.

We said that Salhany would be forced to claim the police were downing pitchers of beer like water because he had no other evidence that would support a contention they were all drunk as pigs.

The bar's records shows that over 3 ½ hours Chelsea served 68 specially-priced pints of beer to the 23 or more police officers. You can't build a case of drunkeness on that, so….out trots Chelsea to say she remembers serving the police pitchers of beer on top of the pints. How many, she can't recall.

Here's a brief excerpt of her Alice-in-Wonderland testimony:

THE COMMISSIONER:Can you explain again why you believe that the pitchers of beer are not on the sheet that you've been looking at?
THE WITNESS: They possibly could have not been on there because they weren't rang through, therefore, that means I didn't ring them through, but Darcey could have just poured them and not put them -- not rang them through on his tab either. Therefore, it would just be free flowing beer, it wouldn't be marked, it wouldn't be counted for.

THE COMMISSIONER: It wouldn't be.All right. Thank you, thank you very much. But you are satisfied that there were pitchers of beer?
THE WITNESS: I'm pretty sure, yes.

THE COMMISSIONER: Do you know how many?
THE WITNESS: No, I don't have an idea.

THE COMMISSIONER: Would you have served them, would you have brought the pitchers out to the table?

The night manager, who was doubling up as bartender, even said he could have poured a pitcher of beer to send to the police party. But, as was pointed out at the Inquiry, a pitcher wouldn't go far between 23 police officers. A free shot-glass of beer isn't much of a bonus.

But the manager was adamant, one pitcher could slide under the radar as spillage, but more than one had to be recorded and the number of comp'd pitchers of beer on the records---Zero.

Ah ha, cries Salhany. The bar's records show lots of free drinks were handed out the night in question.

19 to be exact.

Except that the 19 comp'd shots of liquor were handed out throughout the day, with no way to say when or by whom.

And anyone who has been in a bar in the past decade knows what those drinks likely were.


As for the conspiracy by Winnipeg police officers to hide Zenk's alcohol consumption?

Police officers are trained to make notes which can be used in court proceedings. They are taught to record only what they know for sure; they are not to speculate. And that's exactly what they did. They refused to speculate on how much Zenk had to drink when they paid no attention.

But most significantly, the final Taman report says that six police officers did testify to seeing a beer in front of Zenk at Brannigans. Six. Out of 23. So one in four police did give evidence that Zenk likely had something to drink at the bar, just how much they couldn't say.

Contrary to the hysterical press allegations of a police stonewall, the police testified truthfully to what they knew and only to what they knew. That has never been reported anywhere.

Neither has it been reported how the Inquiry tried to ensnare one other police officer in the bogus conspiracy to protect Derek Zenk.

That attempt involved none other than witness Kathleen Beattie, who is married to a Winnipeg policeman. She was being questioned about her dealings with special prosecutor Marty Minuk when the questioning took a sinister turn.

The Commission counsel began asking her whether she remembered a discussion with Minuk over the possibility that Zenk had fallen asleep while driving - and WHETHER HER POLICE OFFICER HUSBAND HAD TRIED TO INFLUENCE MINUK.

Q And I put this to you, and again in fairness to you and other counsel, the Commission has received evidence from other witnesses in the interview process that were present during this conversation, and they have told the Commission that Mr. Minuk discussed, with you present and the others, that there were no skid marks, that Harvey-Zenk could very well have fallen asleep, and that Harvey-Zenk had just come off of working a couple of double shifts?
A That's true. And I do remember that now, and I do remember saying that I was kind of along the same opinion.
MR. PROBER: Could you repeat the last part, I missed it, please?
THE WITNESS: That I agreed with Mr. Minuk, and then I said that I was of the same opinion.

Q And when you indicated that -- when that information was being provided to you, do you recall whether you, in addition to what you have just told us, said anything else about what Mr. Minuk said?
A I don't recall.
Q Because, again, in fairness to you, one of the witnesses that was present indicated that you commented that, yes, my husband works, has worked those kinds of shifts?
A Oh, yes, many times.

Q And had you talked to your husband about that?
A About the conversation, or about the fact that sleep deprivation --
Q Yeah, the notion that Harvey-Zenk --
A Yes.
Q -- might have fallen asleep?
1A Yeah, I have.
Q And did he have any theory on the accident?
A No. He didn't voice his opinion. He, basically, just agreed with me, as he usually does, but he never voiced his personal opinion.

While reading Salhany's Taman report, there was an odd sense of something very familiar.

- Conspiracies that were apparent to everyone although there was no concrete evidence.
- Declarations of fact that proved to be the opposite of the testimony on the record.
- Witnesses who changed their evidence following private ( and still secret) meetings with Inquiry lawyers.

Then it dawned on us.

We were reading the report of the Taman Truthers!

(Is Lesley Hughes hot on the trail of motorists who were warned not to use Highway 1 in the early morning of February 25, 2005?)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dissecting the Taman Inquiry witchhunt

It’s an ugly thing to see a lynch mob rejoicing at its work.

The cause for the morbid glee is the final report of the Taman Inquiry, one of the greatest travesties of the judicial process ever witnessed in Manitoba.

In years to come historians will recoil at the transparent bias of Commissioner Roger Salhany whose disregard for truth in favour of mob sentiment is a blot on honest jurists everywhere.

The Inquiry had one purpose---to show that a conspiracy of police from Winnipeg and East St. Paul thwarted justice by undermining the investigation of a drunk driver, a fellow police officer, who killed a woman when he rear-ended her car at a stop signal.

The officer, Derek Zenk (the Inquiry stopped calling him Harvey-Zenk with no explanation) pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and was sentenced to two years house arrest. But the mob, driven by the press, was convinced he got off easy because he was a policeman. They wanted blood, and so Salhany, like a modern day witch hunter, was hired to give it to them by pillorying the people who allegedly let Zenk get away with murder.

The result is Salhany’s final report, which is so chillingly flawed it should have been rejected by any Attorney General with integrity. But Salhany knew he could get away with it because the press had joined the lynch mob and wasn’t about to critize anything he wrote. He didn’t count on The Black Rod.

Every mystery eventually leads to a smoking gun. Instead of waiting to the end of the story, we’ve decided to present it at the beginning because it changes the story entirely.

Commission counsel David Pacicco made a rookie lawyer’s mistake. He asked a question he didn’t know the answer to. (Yes, we know you’re not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition.)

He was taking the evidence of Ted Rosser, the Selkirk paramedic who spent 15 minutes with Zenk in the back seat of a police car at the scene of the crash that killed Crystal Taman.

Rosser was called to support the basic proposition that Zenk was “impaired”, to use the legal terminology. The paramedic testified he smelled alcohol on Zenk’s breath and that he saw no signs of shock or head trauma that could cause a later loss of memory, something Paccioco wanted to get on the record to discredit Zenk later in the proceedings.

Rosser recorded the information he took from Zenk on a release form that paramedics must have filled out whenever a patient doesn’t want to be driven to hospital to be checked out.

Pacicco saw Rosser had in his hands something he brought with him to court.

Q You don't happen to have that document with you, sir?
A I don't think I have that part of it. No, I don't have that part. It is the inside part.
Q Sir, what do you have with you?
A Just my call report.

Smell the gunpowder.

Paciocco compounded his mistake.

Q Do you mind if I take a look at that, sir?
A Sure.
Q. Could you take the Commissioner through the contents and tell him what the document contains?
A Well, it has our times. We have Mr. Zenk's name, address, his wife, that he didn't
want to be transported, patient refusal, treatment release, where the accident happened, where his injuries were.

It sounded so innocent. But lawyers representing the other parties at the Inquiry knew enough to look at the document for themselves.

MR. WEINSTEIN: Mr. Commissioner, I have questions, but I request a brief recess to review that sheet that we haven't seen before that he filled out, the run sheet, before I commence my examination.

When the Inquiry resumed, lawyer Hymie Weinstein, representing East St. Paul police chief Harry Bakema, unloaded what will eventually be seen as the defining moment of the Inquiry. Not one reporter at the Inquiry reported the news. You are reading it here first.

Rosser, the inquiry had heard, had been a paramedic for 12 years at the time of the the Taman accident. He said he attended 500-600 calls a year, meaning he had been to thousands of cases.

Weinstein: And many of those would be to accident scenes? Some where there isn't an impaired driver, some that there are obviously impaired drivers; correct?
A Yes.
Q In this particular case -- or let me just ask you this. If you are dealing with a person -- and based on your experience, you've had much -- who is obviously impaired, is it not something that you would put down on your sheet?
A Yes.

Q A person that's obviously impaired to you, based on your observations, you come to the opinion he is obviously impaired, you would put that down on your sheet; correct?
A Yes.
Q That's not on this sheet; correct?
A That's right.

That’s right. Derek Zenk was NOT IMPAIRED.

The medical personnel who saw him first, who spoke to him longer than anyone, who is trained to detect signs of impairment testified that Derek Zenk was NOT IMPAIRED.

Salhany knew in the third week of the 9 week Inquiry that Zenk was NOT IMPAIRED.

Yet his vital information was never reported by the mainstream media.

It is not mentioned in the final report.

In fact, the report says the exact opposite, that Zenk was impaired and there was a conspiracy to cover it up, a conspiracy led by East St. Paul police chief Harry Bakema.

But, but, but…if the police thought Zenk was impaired and they still decided to cover it up, isn’t that just as bad?

Bakema, knowing that many traffic accident are caused by drunk drivers, advised a junior officer to look for signs of impairment even after Bakema detected none himself. The junior only suspected Zenk was drunk after a paramedic told him he could smell alcohol on Zenk’s breath. There was no roadside breathalyzer available, so Zenk was taken to the East St. Paul police station for a formal breathalyzer test. On his lawyer’s instructions, Zenk refused a breath test and was charged automatically with impaired driving offences.

It was the refusal that led police to believe Zenk was driving drunk but by that time Zenk was charged and facing trial. It was too late for a coverup.

The Winnipeg police, who were particularly vilified by Salhany and the press, have at all times said they had no reason to believe Zenk was impaired, not at Branigans where they were having drinks after work, or at an officer’s home where they continued to party after the bar closed.

They obviously told the truth because we now know Zenk was NOT IMPAIRED--- by alcohol.

There’s nothing that destroys a good conspiracy theory faster than the facts, so Salhany disregarded the facts and went with the conspiracy.

And a conspiracy has to have a ringleader. In this case, Salhany names Harry Bakema. Zenk cannot be prosecuted again, so Salhany wants Bakema to be the scapegoat, to suffer for letting Zenk get away.

“In spite of the challenges posed by the state of evidence, it is clear that when the officers arrived, no one took propery charge of the acciident investigation. Basic tasks such as identifying witnesses, securing eviidence from the scene, and investigating the possibility of criminal conduct were either not undertaken or done ineffectively. Bakema should have taken charge as the rnaking officer on site, but failed to do so.”

Nothing could be further from the truth as demonstrated in The Black Rod

"Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The Black Rod's final submission to the Taman Inquiry
The Taman Inquiry is the latest Manitoba show trial to stain the halls of justice in the province."

Salhany continued his barrage of allegations.

“What, then, was his motive in acting as he did at the accident scene? Was it to leave Zenk in Woychuk’s vehicle inorder to sober up? Was his intention to obstruct the investigation? Paragraph 3 of the Order in Council prevents me from expressing an opinion on this.” Writes Salhany.

Salhany thinks he’s being clever by then proceeding to blame Bakema for a litany of sins.

“It is clear that Bakema’s conduct, indeed his misconduct, had a devastating effect on the ability of a prosecutor to proceed with alcohol related charges against Zenk.”

“Observations of his condition should have been noted by Bakema but wre not, opening the door for any future defence counsel to ask “If Zenk was impaired, then why did Bakema not notice anything? And if he was impaired, why was Zenk not processed at the scene by Woychuk?”

“I am also satisfied that Bakema gave false evidence about what happened when he brought Zenk to Woychuk’s vehicle.”

“Bakema fabricated this account…”

“I am satisfied that Bakema not only falsified his own notes and reports…he also prompted Woychuk to falsify his notes.”

To test the validity of this ranting, you need only to examine Salhany’s very own contribution to the conspiracy theory.

Like the poor man’s Gus Grissom, Salhany had determined the very moment the conspiracy began.

He deduced it from Harry Bakema’s account of approaching Derek Zenk and learning Zenk was a Winnipeg police officer.

"Yet the testimony of accident eye witnesses Garth Shaw and Kathleen Beattie both contradict the claim that theirs was a fleeting encounter. Shaw and Beattie witnessed a protracted conversation between Bakema and Zenk at the truck. Moreover, Bakema’s notes, describing the two-minute window, have been falsified. Bakema did not wait until 7:40 a.m. to go over to the truck. By that time Bakema had already deposited Zenk in the truck. We know this because Selkirk Ambulance paramedics were attending to Zenk in Woychuk’s vehicle before 7:40 a.m. and in his testimony Bakema admitted to going over to Zenk within minutes of his arrival at the accident scene. I have no doubt that Bakema was with Zenk far longer than he says.”

But that’s not all.

Salhany says he suspects that former East St. Paul officer Ken Graham was with Bakema and joined in speaking with Zenk. This is behind Salhany’s recommendation that both men be investigation for obstruction of justice.

Unlike the reporters purporting to cover the Taman Inquiry, The Black Rod actually examined the raw material behind Salhany’s bizarre allegation.

We started with Kathleen Beattie. She was behind the wheel of a car stopped immediately ahead of Crystal Taman. When Zenk hit Taman’s car, it crashed into Beattie’s vehicle sending it spinning across the highway.

Here are some highlights of Beattie’s testimony culled from the Taman Inquiry:

- A. I don't recall that.

- But I don't remember that.

- Do you have a personal recollection of that?
A. I do not.

- I don't remember whether or not he stopped for any length of time.

- A .I don't recall.

- Do you recall when the gentleman who offered you the use of his cell phone came into the picture?
A No, I don't remember at what point I first saw him.

- Q. Okay. …do you recall at any point being in a group of more than two people? In other words, communicating with more than just the man from the truck?
A. No.

- I don't recall that kind of a conversation.

- No, I don't recall.

- A. I don't recall.

- Q. Do you recall how long you were in the front passenger seat of the ambulance?
A. No, I don't.

- Q. Do you recall where he might have been in terms of the proximity of the other officers?
A. No, I don't.

- I was in the admitting area for, I don't remember how long a period of time on the stretcher.

- Q. And can you tell us about that conversation?
A. I don't remember too much about that conversation.

- A I don't recall asking him that question, and I don't recall an answer from him either.

- How long were you at the hospital?
A. I don't recall.

- A. I don't recall if I heard from the police department that afternoon or if it was the following morning...

- A. I don't remember. I don't recall.

- A. I don't recall.

- A. I don't remember that at all...

Kathleen Beattie wasn’t mocked for her answers, nor did Roger Salhany demand a doctor’s report on her memory loss. Strange about that.

Maybe it was because she was too important a witness in Salhany’s personal conspiracy theory. And maybe it was because she only narrowly escaped being accused of being part of the conspiracy herself, as you’ll see.

Remember, she is being cited as a witness to Harry Bakema’s alleged lies about speaking with Derek Zenk, briefly and alone.

Here are some relevent snippets of her testimony before the Inquiry:

Q Okay. So the firefighters you noticed, are working on the Taman vehicle?
A Yes.
Q And there is the police officers, are at the truck where the male came from?

Q And what are they doing at the truck?
A All I can remember is seeing them standing by the truck with the gentleman.
Q And are you able to provide evidence as to how many police officers were present?
A No, I don't recall.
Q What were the police officers doing with the man beside the truck?
A It looked like they were standing talking, or just by him. I couldn't really, I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it looked like conversation was happening.

THE COMMISSIONER: The officers were talking to each other or to someone else?
THE WITNESS: I'm not sure, but it looked like they were standing around having a
conversation, but they were right by the truck where the gentleman was.

Q Did you see the man talking to the police officers?
A No, I didn't really pay too much attention to that. I was more watching the vehicle with the firefighters.
Q Okay. Do you know whether the man talked to the police officers or not?
A No, I do not.
Q But you do recall police officers being with the man?
A Yes.
Q And for how long were they with him?
A I don't recall.

Q Do you recall how long you were in the front passenger seat of the ambulance?
A No, I don't. I don't know the exact amount of time.
Q Do you know whether it seemed like a long time or a short time?
A It seemed like a very long time, but I don't know the exact.
Q But to provide Mr. Commissioner with, I guess, the best evidence that you can, and I understand your evidence is that you don't recall the amount of time, but in terms of delineating it from a short time or a long time, what would it be?
A I would say 15 to 20 minutes maybe, in my mind right now. It's a long time ago, so it's really hard to tell.
Q We can appreciate that. And in terms of the observations that you were making during that time that you were in the passenger seat of the ambulance, were the police officers there with the man for the entire time, or part of it?
A The entire time.

The only problem is that Kathleen Beattie remembered things entirely differently when being interviewed by the RCMP in May, 2006, when her memory, such as it is, was fresher and hadn’t yet been re-freshed. At that time she told the investigators:

A. Ahm, I think at that point I was in the ambulance. I think. I just don't
remember seeing a policeman actually.
Q. Okay. Did you see anyone in uniform, ah, in the very beginning?
Shortly after the accident, did you see anyone out there in uniform?
A. Hm. I've never been asked that question before so I've never really
thought about it. I don't know. I just remember the ambulance pulling

Q. And were there, did you have any chance to observe what the gentleman at the, at the truck was doing kind of in between your first contact with him and after he walked away?
A. I saw the, ahm, well I know that they're the Fire Department because I know the men that are from the East St. Paul Fire Department and they were over at the truck just before I got into the other ambulance.
So the Fire Department must have been there somewhere. I never saw
a truck. Because the Fire, ah, fellow that got into the back of the, the
ambulance when I first got in, I knew him. And he is, ah, with the Fire
people out here. Doug ROBERTS.
Q. Oh, he was an ambulance attendant?
A. No.
Q. Oh.
A. He was with the Fire Department.

Q. Alright. And you said that, ah, the Fire Department went over, was speaking to the fellow at the truck?
A. Um-huh.
Q. The pick-up truck.
A. Um-huh.
Q. Do you remember how many, ah, firemen went over there? Could it have... Was it one, or two, or three or?
A. I don't remember.

In 2006 she said she distinctly remembered members of the fire department standing around Derek Zenk.

But in 2008 she remembered it was police officers.

What changed her mind?

Hymie Weinstein asked her that very question.

Q Ms. Beattie, I've gone through, as you have, your transcript of your RCMP interview. And nowhere in that transcript is there any reference at all, and this is your interview on May 31st, 2006, nowhere in there is any mention at all of police officers, or a group, as you subsequently said in your testimony, standing around. Nowhere in that interview on May 31st, 2006, is there any reference to police officers standing around that gentleman?
A It's possible. Perhaps, at that point, I wasn't led to think about that situation.
(Not so. Read her very first statement quoted above.)

Q Okay. Well, what led you to think about that situation on -- two years later on April 8th, 2008?
A Conversation.
Q With whom?
A With Mr. Clifford.

That would be Mr. Vincent Clifford, Associate Commission Counsel.

Smell the gunpowder.

A witness radically changes her testimony after a private, secret meeting with a lawyer acting on behalf of the Inquiry and the mainstream press says--- nothing. Strange, isn’t it.

Clifford did use a transcript of the meeting to “refresh” Kathleen Beattie’s memory when she wasn’t saying what he wanted her to say.

Q Do you recall where he might have been in terms of the proximity of the other officers?
A No, I don't.
Q I just wanted to raise with you a question and answer sequence from your interview with the purpose of perhaps refreshing your memory on that point. And Mr. Commissioner, I'm referring to the interview of April 8, 2008, that was conducted at the Taman Inquiry offices. And what I'll be doing, with your permission, sir, is referring Ms. Beattie to page 18 and 19.
Ms. Beattie, I'll read a question and answer to you to determine whether it might refresh your memory on the question I have just put to you. 2 looking at this picture.

The transcript, which wasn’t made an exhibit, did its magic.

Q. Does that refresh your memory in terms of how he was situated, or how the officers were situated around him?
A Yes, it does.
Q And could you respond to the question as posed?
A I recall a group of police officers standing in front of the truck, with the gentleman closer to the truck. So I guess you could say they were around the gentleman.

But wait. There’s another witness that Salhany says buttresses Mrs. Beattie. That’s Garth Shaw. He was driving along the highway when Zenk passed him at a great speed just before hitting Crystal Taman’s car.

Shaw said he, too, saw more than one policeman around Derek Zenk. And he said they spent a long time talking to him.

Q Okay. Sir, can you describe what you observed the police officers, who you did see, doing at the scene?
A I know they went -- one of the police officers went and talked to the gentleman in the blue truck.

Q. I know that people don't take out stopwatches to watch events like this, but is there any way that you can give us any indication to -- well, let me put it this way, did you observe the police officers doing anything other than going and talking to the gentleman at the truck?
A No.

(Note how subtly the police officer becomes officers, plural, in the questioning.)

Q And can you describe what happens when you see the officer going to the truck, sir?
A He just approached the gentleman in the truck, and then they seemed to be conversing in a conversation.

Q Sir, did you notice anything about the conversation that you can share with us? How long was the conversation?
A About five minutes.

Shaw, too, was interviewed by RCMP in 2006. At that time he helpfully put a time to what he saw happening around Derek Zenk’s truck.

The gist of what he told the RCMP was in their report to the Attorney General’s office, which is a Taman Inquiry exhibit.

“Approximately ten minutes later emergency vehicles started to arrive so he moved his van to a different position in the intersection. While he was sitting in his van, he was approached by a policeman who he believed was from ESPPD. After providing a brief description of the events he witnesses, the policeman asked him to remain at the scene until further details could be gotten from him. During this time he observed an ambulance arrive and tend to the woman in the yellow car.

He said the attendants put a heart monitor on her, and then she was extracted by a fire crew. She was then transported away from the scene. Shaw stated that he then observed a policeman walk over to the driver of the truck who was still standing outside. The two were in normal conversation distance from each other for about five minutes.”

The problem here is that the ambulance carrying the body of Crystal Taman left the scene at 7:43 a.m., roughly five minutes after paramedics began their interview with Derek Zenk in the back of a police car.

So, according to witness Shaw, Derek Zenk not only managed to be in two places at once, but he could travel through time to do it.

It was just this sort of allegation that would get you burned as a witch in seventeenth century Salem. It seems nothing has changed in 21st century Winnipeg.

What, then, is the lynch mob celebrating?

Roger Salhany has produced a report that exposes a conspiracy that never existed to prevent the prosecution for impaired driving of a police officer who wasn't impaired.

He then invented his very own conspiracy backed by one witness whose evidence is impossible according to the laws of physics and another witness whose memory is worse than Derek Zenk's and whose evidence changed 180 degrees after a private meeting with one of Salhany's henchmen.

The press finds this perfectly reasonable.

Stay tuned. There's more. Much, much more to come.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Smell The Fear

They say you can smell fear. If that's the case, then extra deodorant is on order for the campaign offices of Liberal Anita Neville -- to hide the distinct reek of desperation.

Neville is running scared. Ever since Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff accused Israel of war crimes in 2006, Neville has been trying to shore up the Jewish vote in River Heights, one of her traditional staples of support. Then along came fellow Liberal candidate Lesley Hughes who had to be kicked off the Party roll because of her belief that Israel knew of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in advance, warned Jewish businesses in New York, and let thousands of innocent people be slaughtered by failing to alert them.

Back to square one.

With only a week to go before voting day, Neville is going for broke.

She's plastered the riding with attack-ad-style pamphlets declaring that only she can stop Stephen Harper in Winnipeg South Centre.. A vote for anyone but her is a vote for a Harper majority.

Oh, and his right-wing agenda is scary.
And he's got a secret agenda that's even more right-wing.
And more scary.

On Monday, she called in her only other firm allies---the gay community and the CBC.

CBC Radio, where Lesley Hughes used to host the morning show, carried a story on the Conservative Party candidate in Winnipeg South Centre, oddly titled on the CBC website "Eyebrows raised over candidate's decade-old letter on diversity education."

It turns out that in 1999 (not quite ten years ago), Trevor Kennerd wrote a letter to the Winnipeg School Division during a debate on a plan to introduce anti-homophobia workshops into schools because of claims of systemic harassment of homosexual students. He protested that resources should go to education rather than "on some minority groups' social agenda."

The CBC said they obtained the letter from Ryan Schultz "who came across the letters while conducting research for a book on the local gay and lesbian community."

Uh huh.

Shultz told CBC he was shocked by the letter.

"My personal question to the candidate would be: do you still espouse these views, and if so, why?"

The careful phrasing of the question is straight out of a political party phrasebook. It would be comical if it wasn't so deliberate.

The provider of the Kennerd letter turns out to be a member of many internet social meeting sites where he provides information about himself. Here are a couple:
* About Quiplash! / Ryan Schultz
Hello, my handle is Quiplash--I am well known for my snappy comebacks. (self-portrait coming soon...) I'm a reference librarian, queergeek blogger, Flickr photographr, social networking software beta-test whore, and Sound-of-Music Maria wanna-be

* About me: Standard-issue ex-Transcona ex-Lutheran queergeek blogger, Flickr photographer, retired Friendsterwhore, choral singer, local gay/lesbian history researcher, Brokeback Mountain fanfic writer, and university reference librarian. I'm on a six-month research/study leave from my job as a reference librarian at the University of Manitoba, doing research and conducting interviews for a book I'm writing on the queer history of Winnipeg.

He also has a blog. And there you can find his anti-Harper, anti-Conservatives posts, such as:

February 15, 2007
Harper admits he wants to stack Canada's courts
This article is an excellent summary of conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's mission to remake the courts in his more hard-right image (cloaking the entire process in a "law and order" disguise).


January 24, 2007
Why I Think Rod Bruinooge Is An Idiot

Dear Rod:
You are a political opportunist, pandering to the lowest common denominator using Fox-News-scare-bites devoid of any meaningful context...
For God's sake, give the public some credit for being smart enough to figure out issues for themselves, instead of feeding them this pablum, you idiot.

Schulz, a 44-year-old self-described internet video game addict, declares a hatred of hypocrites, especially homosexual politicians who pretend to be straight.

He attacks them in language which, we're sure, would send him into a tizzy of self-rightiousness if used by anyone else. Case in point:

October 04, 2006
"It's not my fault! the priest made me do it/I was drunk/I'm gay!"

I got news for Mr. Foley: Being gay does NOT excuse what you did. Being a drunk does NOT excuse what you did. Being a victim of child sex abuse does NOT excuse what you did. Being ANY COMBINATION OF a diddled-with, drunken faggot does NOT excuse what you did, in any way, shape or form.

The CBC didn't think that Schultz's political bias or his own use of anti-homosexual epithets was worthy of reporting.

They did run to Lori Johnson, chair of the school board at the time Kennard wrote his letter, for comment, but without mentioning that she is an open lesbian and a chief promoter of the school board initiative that Kennard was opposing.

Nor did they mention that Anita Neville sat on the school board in 1999 and, perhaps, might have been instrumental in providing a researcher with a certain letter from a certain candidate.

Xtra, "Canada's source for gay and lesbian news", in September called Winnipeg South Centre one of its 'ridings to watch.'

"Campaign buses carrying Canada's political leaders roll into Winnipeg over the next few weeks, they'll pass a friendly blue and yellow billboard that proclaims "Winnipeg: One Great City!"

What Harper, Dion, Layton and May won't realize is that, a few years back, some of the city's queers banded together to start their own marketing campaign: "Winnipeg: One Gay City!" Controversial at first, it was appropriate for a car-centered prairie city where the queer community is spread out all over, from the inner city to the suburbs - and where the lack of a distinct gay ghetto makes it hard to pick out one federal riding as the gayest.

Still, there are two main contenders in Winnipeg, one where the campaign will be almost invisible and another which promises to be one of the hottest in the province.

The riding where the fewest fireworks are expected is Winnipeg Centre. It includes the leafy neighbourhood of Wolseley, popularly known as the "granola belt" and favoured by the city's gay and lesbian nuclear families. Held by NDP MP Pat Martin for over ten years, Winnipeg Centre isn't expected to change hands.

The riding on the other side of the Assiniboine River, however, is shaping up to be a close match between a three-term Liberal MP and a former football star running for Team Harper.

Winnipeg South Centre has three neighbourhoods - Osborne Village, West Broadway and Assiniboine - that are dominated by apartment-dwelling young queers, not to mention progressive-minded artists, students and seniors. The problem is that those communities make up only a fraction of the riding and have a lousy record when it comes to turning out to vote. The people who wield the real power in Winnipeg South Centre are the business and academic elites who live in Tuxedo and River Heights.

The riding has been held since 2000 by Liberal Anita Neville, an outspoken advocate of gay rights and the arts since she chaired the local school board in the 1980s and '90s. But in the last election her margin of victory was cut in half, to just 2,500 votes.

The Tories smell blood. They've nominated Trevor Kennerd, a football star who helped lead the city's Winnipeg Blue Bombers to three Grey Cups before starting his own marketing communications company. For well over a year, Kennerd has been advertising himself as a "strong new voice for Winnipeg South Centre." His face is plastered across the riding's billboards and bus benches and the Tories have already dropped over a dozen different leaflets in local mailboxes. Kennerd is running on two key issues, crime and taxes, although it's hard to understand how either is a problem for the affluent voters he's targeting.

The good news for Neville is that the NDP has all but given up on this race..."

The author of the piece? Why, none other than Kaj Hasselriis, gay activist, mayoral candidate and---former CBC researcher, producer, reviewer.

Say, you don't think the letter passed through the hands of one researcher to another more politically attuned and with better news connections, do you?

Cecil Rosner, CBC Manitoba managing editor, defended the Kennerd letter story from complaints to the ombudsman:

"As you know, there is increased scrutiny during elections of positions adopted by candidates and statements they have made in the past. There have already been many stories during the course of this campaign detailing past statements from candidates, and questions surrounding whether the candidates continue to hold those views. These have involved candidates from several different parties."

So far, so good. Now will the CBC report on Anita Neville's more recent musings about human rights? Say, the debate slightly more than one year ago over extending the federal human rights code to Indian reserves?

Ryan Schultz may not be available, so we'll pass on the relevent news report:

Opposition blocks Conservative bid to pass bill
Juliet O'Neill, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, July 27, 2007
OTTAWA -- Opposition MPs accused the minority Conservative government of anti-democratic practices Thursday as they foiled a sudden government bid for Commons committee passage of a bill subjecting the Indian Act to the federal human rights code.

During a heated two-hour session of the aboriginal affairs committee, some spectators quietly hissed when Tory MPs attempted to launch clause-by-clause approval of the bill despite a motion approved last month requiring up to 10 months of advance consultation between government and First Nations groups.

"Human rights rammed down a community's throats are not human rights," Anita Neville, Liberal aboriginal affairs critic, said during the hearing.

And while we're at it, the CBC might want to rummage through its own news library instead of relying on tips from political hacks. There they would find the stories done by their own I-Team on Liberal candidate Ray Simard.

Readers of The Black Rod recall that Simard was president of a family business, Simaco Investments Ltd., a construction company, way back in 1997, the time of the big flood. The CBC's I-Team ran some stories about Simaco and the quality of repair and renovations to flood damaged homes south of Winnipeg.

As it turned out, Ray Simard wasn't happy with the CBC back then.

He sued the CBC. He sued Ross Rutherford. He sued Cecil Rosner. He sued Diana Swain. He sued Donna Carreiro.

The CBC has never said whether their story was wrong, or whether Ray Simard, the current Liberal candidate in St. Boniface riding, dropped his lawsuit.

You'd think the public has a right to know if a party's candidates for office can be trusted.

And the CBC has the exclusive on this one, too.