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:

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.

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