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.

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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.

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