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?

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