The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Friday, May 29, 2009

The truth is a rare commodity from backers of the CMHR

The board of trustees of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights knew six months ago that their financial plans had gone horribly off the rails.

They just didn't want to tell anyone. (Until The Black Rod forced their hand last week.)

"We first flagged that there was going to be a need for more money when our board was appointed in the fall," Canadian Museum for Human Rights CEO Patrick O'Reilly told CTV news Wednesday.

There's only one problem with that statement---the truth.

The CMHR board of trustees was appointed in August, 2008, what most people would call summer. O'Reilly was appointed CEO in October, the fall. But by then the board knew full well how deep in the soup they were.

How can we say that so flatly?
Because one of the trustees was Arni Thorsteinson.

Seven months earlier, in January, 2008, he had been interviewed by the Winnipeg Free Press regarding a proposed downtown highrise.

Portage Place seeking developer
Apartments would fill need in core area

Winnipeg Free Press
Monday January 21 2008
By Murray McNeill

DOWNTOWN development officials are resurrecting the dream of seeing a highrise tower rise up from the roof at each end of Portage Place Shopping Centre.

The chief executive officer of North Portage Development Corp. said he plans to contact three or four local developers within the next two to three weeks to see if they'd be interested in building a highrise residential tower at each end of the downtown mall.

One of those developers was Arni Thorsteinson, president of Shelter Canadian Properties Ltd., and, coincidentally, chairman of a nine-member advisory committee to the CMHR. He had this to say about the perils of building anything at the time.

"All three developers said one of the biggest obstacles to overcome will be soaring construction costs, which, Thorsteinson said, have increased by 40 per cent in the last two years."

Thorsteinson knew in January, 2008, that the $265 million figure being tossed about for the museum project was a sham.

- He knew it in August when he was appointed to the board of trustees.
- He knew it in October when O'Reilly came on board.

- He knew it in December, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to Winnipeg for a bogus sod-turning.

Do you think for one second he didn't tell everyone connected with the project that construction costs had already blown the budget to kingdom come.

He, and they, just didn't tell the public.

That's the problem. You can't trust a word that comes out of their mouths.

O'Reilly is a perfect example. You will remember he sat at the Senate hearing where a questioning senator was assured that all cost overruns would be addressed by the board of trustees.

This week when the board finally had to confess they were already sinking under $45 million in red ink, they issued a press release assuring the public that the private Friends of the Museum were tasked with finding the money to fill the gap.

Then, behind the scenes, they went running to Gail Asper's sugar daddy, Premier Gary Doer.

Doer, you will recall, personally doubled the provincial funding of the museum to $40 million in the 2007 budget without notice or debate.

Sure enough, Doer said he would be happy to pump millions more into the failing project.

But, once again, the truth gets slippery when discussing the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

At first Doer used an economic argument.

"We've said to the museum that we're going to get a lot of revenue out of this project. We're willing to reinvest some of that to close that gap," Doer told the Winnipeg Free Press.

Okay, but the province has a hundred programs to help businesses which are expected to produce tax revenue. The museum hasn't applied to any one of them.

Could it be because they all insist on documentation, a business plan, proof of viability, things like that?

The premier also hedged his bet.

"...he suggested the government might help fund construction of some of the museum's multimedia displays and possibly contribute to some of the finishing touches on the building itself."

But the museum doesn't have a problem with money for exhibits. (Or does it?)

The $45 million is needed just to put up the building. They'd budgeted $35 million for exhibits, separately.

Dare we float the obvious?

Is the board of trustees planning to use the money for exhibits to backstop the construction, then come crying to the governments that they've got such a beautiful "iconic" building, but it's empty?

"I have helped fundraise with Gail Asper... before. I know how good she is as a fundraiser. This is not an insurmountable gap," Doer said.

Gail Asper has failed in five years to raise the $105 million in private funding that was supposedly a prerequisite for the project.

Yes, we know Kevin Rollison wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press Wednesday that the private funding goal was complete. Not according to Gail Asper.

On April 22, 2009, were were informed the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs together with the South Beach Casino donated $1 million to the Museum.

"Asper said this latest donation brings the private total to about $104 million -- about $1 million short of the museum's $105-million goal." wrote Paul Turenne in the Winnipeg Sun.

Since then the only donation they've trumpeted is $250,000 from the Canadian Union of Public Employees on May 8. That's three-quarters of a million shy of the goal.

Maybe that's why the CMHR homepage still begs donors to help them reach their goal instead of boasting success.

"This is not an insurmountable gap," Doer said.

In January, 2006, the CMHR announced private campaign pledges had reached $60 million. Add $45 million and you get $105 million, the very goal still not reached 3 years and 4 months later. And it's a moving target.

That $45 million was the shortfall in construction costs as of March 31, 2009. The museum's own spokeswoman has said they're backsliding at the rate of $1.5 million a month. They need $1.5 million in donations every month just to stand still. How's that coming?

The last donation was for a quarter of a million dollars three weeks ago. Oops.

That $35 million in the exhibits pot begins looking better by the day.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is not a cure for cancer. It should not be given a blank cheque. Especially since the public has never been given any say on whether we even want this white elephant.

* Governments must give the board of trustees a drop dead number.

* They must be told the budget must come in at this figure and not a dime more or the project ends now.

* They must be given a deadline to come up with $45 million (plus any further deficits) before construction continues.

They admit that if they stop now, the cost will go up; the corollory is that costs are going up each month anyway and they cannot keep up. So how do they expect to pay the construction cost, other than millions upon millions from the taxpayer.

If, as Doer says, raising $45 million is a snap, then the millionaires who back the museum should pledge their personal fortunes to the construction, with their commitment dropping as the Friends of the Museum raise pledges elsewhere. Any takers?

Nobody involved with the CMHR has been honest with the public since its inception. Maybe if they put their own money on the line, we'll hear the truth at last, and not at the last minute.


There was a bit of comic relief in the CMHR scam Thursday.

It was announced that Gail Asper was getting a "lifetime achievement award" from something called the Canadian Urban Institute, which turns out to be a Toronto think tank.

The presentation was to be by none other than their president, Glen Murray, Winnipeg's former mayor.

None of the news stories of the day mentioned that Glen Murray has his own sordid connection with Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

A story in the Winnipeg Free Press in April, 2005, revealed how the bureacrats in Ottawa rejected nearly $24,000 in expense claims by the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Look who shows up at the museum trough in the list of rejected claims:

* $865 to London Limos;
* a $300 cash advance to Gail Asper related to her private meeting with the prime minister in Winnipeg last September;
* $248 for four claims under the heading of "gourmet coffee";
* $50 for in -room hotel movies;
* $12,432 "to the Murray Group, a consulting firm headed by former Winnipeg mayor Glenn Murray"

Yes, they misspelled Glen's name. And he still gives her an award. What a guy.

CMHR Update
In January, the CMHR announced a new Content Advisory Committee of human rights scholars, specialists, leaders and acknowledged experts in their respective fields.

The group consists of the old advisory committee, minus two, plus six new names.

One of the two outcasts was Anthony Hall, the 9/11 Truther who was using his seat on the committee to bolster his credibility with his conspiracy-minded friends. We revealed his dual roles on Dec. 28, 2008 ( and pfft, next thing you know, he's gone. What a coincidence.

The other name missing from the new advisory committe is Ruth Selwyn, "former executive director, Canadian Human Rights Foundation". In March, 2008, she wrote to the editor of the Montreal Gazette attacking Mark Steyn, who you recall, fought a knock 'em down, drag 'em out battle with a human rights commission---and won.

Wrote Selwyn:

"It is a pity that space is given to Mark Steyn's self-serving campaign to ridicule human rights. Steyn's representation of marginal cases as the be all and end all of the work of human-rights commissions shows a lack of understanding of the system or, worse, a deliberate attempt to distort it.

Oh that we could move on and focus on the real issues such as the discrimination that people do face every day in Canada."

It seems some people who wrap themselves in the cloak of human rights have no objections to human rights star chambers denying people their rights.

Ain't that the truth.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


It only took five days to flush the truth out of them.

The Black Rod, May 21, 2009
CMHR to Politicians: We Lied. So, Whatcha Gonna Do?

We dissected the corporate plan the Canadian Museum for Human Rights presented to Parliament and crunched the numbers. Looking at construction inflation alone we estimated "... the project could be $37 million in the hole already." Adding in the cost of "greening" the museum we concluded: "Sub-total then, $50 million."

The Winnipeg Free Press, May 26, 2009
Rights museum needs $45 million

By: Kevin Rollason
26/05/2009 3:50 PM
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights needs another $45 million because of escalating construction costs.
Arni Thorsteinson, chairman of the museum's board of trustees, said the budget changed because of a combination of inflationary construction cost hikes, increased material costs, and the drop of the Canadian dollar in the past year.
As well, Thorsteinson said the museum's board also decided they wanted the facility to meet today's green standards.

How about that? It's almost as if we had a mole in the organization. (Psst. Ixnay....ed.)

What a humiliating indictment of every mainstream media outlet in Winnipeg.

The Winnipeg Free Press, the Winnipeg Sun, CJOB radio, CBC radio, CBC television, CTV televison, Global television and the Globe and Mail.

They have each and every one been deliberately ignoring the machinations of Gail Asper and her allies to scam the public purse of hundreds of millions of dollars for her private pet project, the so-called Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Only The Black Rod has been pursuing this story vigorously, and the admission within days of our last story that we've been right all along, validates our citizen journalism and exposes the self-proclaimed professionals.

More than a year ago we flagged all the elements of the scam.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Canadian Museum of Human Rights: Follow the money

We wrote, then, how the proponents of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights knew in 2004 they didn't have the money for the project. We told how they were lowballing the construction costs. And how they misled the Canadian Senate, and by extension the Canadian people, over who would cover any cost overruns.

The MSM ignored the facts.

We predicted that once construction was started, the museum board of directors would begin to admit the huge cost overruns because they would believe it was too late to stop the project. It's been less than a month since the first earth was turned at the museum site.

We noticed in February that their operating costs had gone up by $5 million. The MSM ignored the story for two weeks until museum officials admitted they overlooked payments in lieu of taxes to the city of Winnipeg in their budgeting.

What we didn't know was that the very day we were pouring over the sloppily written corporate plan, with its elementary school errors in addition and subtraction, millionaire panhandler Gail Asper was in Regina begging for spare change.

As the Regina Leader-Post put it:
"Construction work started last autumn, fundraising is in its final stages, and there's even a tentative opening date: 2012, said Gail, who was in Regina Wednesday to meet with prospective donors so as to provide a financial "cushion" for unanticipated costs and to finance future student trips." (Work moving along on Canadian Museum For Human Rights, Will Chabun, Leader-Post, May 20, 2009)

We guess the fundraising didn't go so well; there was no announcement of new money.

And Tuesday morning, the museum reps were spilling their guts to the Winnipeg Free Press editorial board. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

The FP sat on the story until 10 minutes to 4 for some reason.

And the CMHR didn't go public with its budget shortfall until 6 p.m., an odd time indeed for a major announcement.

But no odder than the announcement.

May 26, 2009 19:00 ET
Museum Fundraising Campaign Continues

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA--(Marketwire - May 26, 2009) - The Board of Trustees of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has requested that Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights continue its fundraising efforts and raise an additional $45 million nationally and internationally. Significant inflation since the project was initially announced (as a $265 million project) has increased costs, necessitating the additional fundraising effort.

"The Board of Trustees asked the Friends to continue their efforts to ensure that we build the iconic structure and world-class exhibits expected from this national and international destination and centre for learning," said Arni Thorsteinson, Chair of the CMHR Board. "This project will have important economic benefits for the city, province, and country over the next three years and well beyond. We owe the Friends of the CMHR and their many, many volunteers and donors a great debt of thanks for their tremendous efforts to date."

So the Board of Trustees has asked the group known as Friends of the museum to raise the $45 million to cover the cost overruns.

This, of course, would be the same Friends who have failed to date to raise the private sector's $105 million share of the cost of the museum project.

In fact, over the past 3 years and 4 months, these same Friends haven't been able to raise a total of $45 million for the museum.

But, we guess, hope springs eternal. Especially since they're assuming that construction inflation for the next three years will be zero percent a year.

Otherwise, guess what? They're going to have to raise even more unknown millions.

Nevertheless, it is an advancement over the statement last week by Angela Cassie, Director of Communications and Public Engagement, who said they had a different plan to address cost overruns---they were planning to tap all the "stakeholders", including the three levels of government and additional private donors.

Somebody must have taken Angela aside and told her the facts of life---shut up.

Because they're pretending that they're not going to go to the government funders for more money. They've been playing this game for years, and the MSM has played along with them. But we know different, don't we.

Sooner or later, and we're betting sooner, Gail Asper will come hat in hand to Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz, Manitoba Premier Gary Doer, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

It's a national museum. It's iconic. We can't stop now, Mr. Mayor, Mr. Premier, Mr. Prime Minister.

Which is why we need commitments from those government leaders.

That their answer will be, "Yes, Gail, we can stop now. We told GM there was a point we would stop funding them. We told Chrysler. And we're telling you."

Harper has said the federal government won't top up its $100 million commitment, but we know what a politician's word is worth.

We need him on video, on audio and in print saying "this is it. No more." Then if he breaks his word, he will be held accountable on Youtube and in our own election ads and with him every Conservative MP in the province.

Harper's first test will come over the annual operating costs. He pledged $22 million a year. Less than a year later, the museum wants $5 million to $9 million more per year. And we all know that's just the opening gambit.

And Sam Katz must be put on record saying we intend to collect every cent of payment in lieu of taxes from the CMHR. If city councillors are even hinting at a property tax increase, then its obvious we need every dollar we can get. Homeowners shouldn't be taxed to subsidize millionaires.

And Gary Doer. He already slipped Gail Asper an extra $20 million in the '07 budget without telling the public what he intended to do. This year he'll have to explain why he won't refund hinky speeding ticket fines but he will find the money , maybe in the rainy day fund, to cover his best girl's cost overruns on a museum nobody wants.

The plain fact is that the museum backers still don't have a clue what the finished project will cost. They just want a blank cheque.

They say they will only have awarded tenders for 85 percent of the work by the end of November. Even so, they haven't decided yet whether to establish a Guaranteed Maximum Price Contract. Isn't that a sign they expect final costs to be even higher than the bid?

The Auditor General plans a year-end financial audit. Maybe then we'll get some clues as to how accurate the cost estimates appear.

But the truth is that the museum proponents don't care.

They're betting that the deeper the hole, the deeper the pockets.

A Winnipeg architect who posts on internet message boards under the name Trueviking is an avid defender of the CMHR. He let slip the true attitude of the museum backers in this post Tuesday to a critic:

Yesterday, 06:36 PM
suck it up big boy...the party has started and there is nothing you can do about it except cry in your beer....insert red river jig here.

Earlier this month, when only The Black Rod was predicting humongous cost overruns, he responded to our persistent coverage of the CMHR.

05-16-2009, 01:01 PM Human rights museum budget already short
Yesterday, 04:33 AM
we should have two for people who want to follow the construction and discuss the evolution of this incredible project...and one for guys who want to quote black rod, that beacon of un-biassed journalism, and worry that the federal government might have to pay for meaningless cost overruns or the operation of a federal museum, god forbid.

$45 million, plus millions more in operating costs, 'meaningless"?

We're sure former mayoral candidate and NDP MLA Marianne Cerilli doesn't think they're meaningless.

Even before the cost overruns were revealed, she saw how the money dedicated to the millionaire's pet project could be better spent.

"The $100 million in construction costs covered by the federal government is about double the $40.8 million in the current federal budget for Canada's Affordable Housing Initiative.
"The $22 million annual operating budget could pay for much-needed housing for 5,000 Aboriginal people now on housing waiting lists in Manitoba.
"10,000 immigrants and refugees who are slated to come to Winnipeg yearly join that waiting list, too. "

We've seen Gail Asper take money from the Winnipeg firefighters union that could and should go to their own charity, the Firefighters Burn Fund.

We've seen her stoop to taking $1 million without shame from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, which complains daily of a shortage of money for Indian reserves across the province.

Meaningless? No, we don't think so.

And as for our journalism...

Start at the top of this post and keep reading as many times as necessary, before the truth sinks in.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Is this what the NDP is trying to hide in the photo radar scandal

The NDP is being unusually obdurate in the face of the firestorm of outrage over the improper use of photo radar.

Premier Gary Doer is taunting the Opposition for making political hay out of it, gambling that public anger will fade by the time of the next provincial election two years hence. Of course he may be planning on resigning as leader by then and letting some other sucker stick his neck in the noose, but that's another story for another time.

Still, behind the public uproar the central question remains unanswered---how the hell did this happen?

The pundits have an easy answer---it was a cash grab; motorists were set up, tricked into speeding in construction zones when no workers were present just to raise millions in fines for the province and the city of Winnipeg.

We don't buy it.

To begin with, as sure as porcupines have pines (in the words of Justice Minister Dave "Six Months" Chomiak), something is not quite right with the way the province has responded to the matter.

Chomiak has done everything he can to blame the city, including propagating an obviously false story that the province couldn't appeal nine tossed out speeding tickets because of some belated discovery that the city failed to properly mark the construction zones where the tickets were issued.

As reported exclusively in The Black Rod, Justice of the Peace Norman Sundstrom said the exact opposite in his written decision dismissing the nine tickets.

"In all the cases herein being considered, there was appropriate signage designating a "construction zone" set up at each end of the zone."

How the MSM allows Chomiak to get away with blatantly misstating the truth day after day escapes us.

So, we did what these professional reporters should do; we went back to Square One, in this case, the written decision by Justice of the Peace Norman Sundstrom. And we hit paydirt.

Sundstrom ruled that his reading of the Highway Traffic Act supported the defence lawyer's contention that photo radar speeding tickets could only be issued in construction zones if workers were present. All nine tickets in question were issued when no workers were in the construction zones.

But Sundstrom didn't stop there. He discovered, he wrote, "an unfortunate glitch in the legislation".

Provincial law allows the use of photo radar only in school zones, playground zones and construction zones. But another section of the law states that the commissionaires manning the photo radar can only lay charges of "speeding" and NOT "speeding in a construction zone", which carries double the usual fine.

The implication is obvious.

All tickets for speeding in a construction zone issued as a result of photo radar were invalid.


Only police officers could issue tickets for speeding in a construction zone.

Anyone who got a photo radar ticket charging the motorist with speeding in a construction zone, not just speeding, was falsely charged under provincial law.

All those motorists must get a refund of their fines.

Is this what Chomiak doesn't want you to know?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let's talk about racial profiling and the Winnipeg Police Service

The ugly topic of racial profiling was raised again this weekend by a Winnipeg Free Press columnist who has filed a complaint against the Winnipeg police on behalf of her son.

From the details provided by the newspaper, it's clear somebody's guilty of the offence of racial profiling, but it's not who you think -- it's their own writer, Colleen Simard.

Simard's sad tale involves her 14-year-old son who was stopped by police, frisked, questioned and sent on his way some day recently. (The 'when' of a story doesn't seem to matter to newspapers anymore.)

Simard declares she recognized immediately what happened.

"Not every brown kid in dark clothes is a criminal. To treat them all like that is racial profiling."

"Police shouldn't be grabbing kids in back lanes and pushing them against fences. They shouldn't be searching them and treating them like they're already guilty of a crime."

The simplest details in her column, which are all provided by her son and only her son, demonstrate that the police in the case were doing their job properly and professionally.

* They saw three teenagers in dark clothing walking down a back lane near sundown and decided to see what they were doing.

Why were they in the back lane? Who lurks in back lanes?
Gang members who spraypaint garages, do.
Drug dealers love the privacy of back lanes.
Prostitutes, of course.
Car thieves scouting out targets.
Thieves checking out garages and empty houses.
Arsonists, doing the same.

Most decent people use the sidewalks to go from place to place, not the back lane. If you're going to take the lane late in the evening you might as well carry a neon sign saying "Suspicious? Me?" So immediately the police had questions. Like 'who are you?' and 'where are you going?'

Oh, look, those are the exact questions they asked Simard's son and his pal.

* We stress pal, because one of the trio disappeared. Simard says he "had gone into another friend's house---their destination---just before the unmarked pulled up."

Really? Or had he ducked into the yard when he spotted the police? And, didn't you say your son was expected home at 9 p.m. but was late because he was being rousted by police? But if he was going to a friend's place, he wasn't coming home for curfew, was he?

A few loose threads to this story, already, Colleen.

* Turning back to the back lane.... The police identified themselves. "We're cops." One officer turned her son around and patted him down, asking "Do you have any weapons?" A reasonable question to a suspicious person in the back lane in that neighbourhood.

Only a week or so earlier a 20-year-old man was arrested in the same area and charged with possessing a restricted firearm, two counts of careless use of a firearm and failing to comply with recognizance (three counts).

And it wasn't far from this very location that Matthew Dumas sucker-punched a police officer---in a back lane---minutes before trying to stab him with a screwdriver he had hidden on him.

Simard says a woman came out of a house and vouched for the boys. The officer took some particulars--age and address-- exactly what you want police to do with suspicious people in back lanes, just in case they learn later of a break-in, mugging, car theft, robbery in the area.

* A final question. "Are you breaching?" The boy took offence. "I don't live in a group home." But given the epidemic of youth crime in Winnipeg, a reasonable question. Police have found that simply asking the right question can bring astounding results.

How many teens stopped in a North End back lane would have to answer "Yes" to that question?

And that was that.

No allegation of racial slurs. Just a routine stop of some people who raised suspicion by virtue of their presence in a back lane.

And, perhaps more significantly, in that part of the North End, it's hard to stop anyone who isn't an Indian. (We'll use Simard's own terminology. After all, she is the publisher of something called Urban NDN {Indian, get it?}.)

Despite Simard's racial spin, it's obvious that the police were doing their job, keeping her neighbourhood safe.

They didn't stop him because he was "a brown kid", but because he was walking down the back lane in a neighbourhood where people in back lanes are not always just putting out the garbage. But Simard can't see the benefit to her community because she's blinded by race.

Everything in her perspective is tainted by race, including public safety. So what does she do? She profiles.

The police are white. They're bad. They're picking on Indians.

That argument got old long ago.

The most recent survey of public opinion in the North End and the City Centre, by the soon-to-be-extinguished Winnipeg Police Advisory Board, found that residents welcome the police, want more of them, and want them to be more pro-active in deterring gangs and criminals.

It seems the only complaints about police come from the section of the native community that produces most of the gangs and criminals.

That's only logical. When Daddy's in and out of prison, and little sister is a crack whore, and baby brother runs with the Indian Posse, then you can see how they perceive the police as the enemy.

But it's when Marxist university professors and spokesmen for Indian associations and newspapers embrace the criminals and deviants as the norm, that problems arise. Colleen Simard exposes this attitude in her column.

She writes that her son is forced to wear dark clothing because gangs attack anyone wearing "wrong colours." She says he has to watch out for the gang members, and yet she's not critical of these gangs. Just the opposite.

She somehow doesn't realize that the reason police are patrolling back lanes is because of those very gangs. The police are there to make her son safe, to make her whole neighbourhood safer. That's what she should have told her son.

That, and walk on the sidewalk.

Other communities in the city are begging for more police attention, but here she has it -- and she blames the police, not the criminals.

She wrote about Matthew Dumas in a previous column. Dumas, you'll remember, was a drugged up car thief who took off when he spotted police, fought with an officer in a back lane, pulled a screwdriver (the car thief's best friend) and refused to stop advancing on a policeman until he was shot two times.

Maybe, wrote Simard sympathetically, he was driven to it by his previous interactions with police. Yes, that's right; they arrested him repeatedly. He hated police because they kept throwing him in jail and wouldn't let him steal what he wanted when he wanted. But to Simard, Dumas was the victim, and the police were the enemy.

Racial profiling, anyone?

By all accounts, her son is not a bad kid. He goes to school, stays away from gangs, and even showed an interest in the U.S. presidential election, demonstrating his intelligence. He's not dumb, but if he follows his mother's lead he will be stupid.

There have been news stories lately of a move by Child and Family Services to seize some children from their parents who are white supremacists. What about a mother who fosters fear of the police and unwarranted anger at white society? Isn't that child abuse?

Simard has filed a complaint of racial profiling against the Winnipeg police. How does one file a complaint of racial profiling against a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press? And just how will the FP handle her column, now that she has an obvious personal conflict-of-interest regarding the police?

Saturday's column was an excellent example of how columnists abuse their access to the media to push their personal agendas. She ended her column demanding to meet the police officers who questioned her son. Obviously she was intending to write another column about that meeting.

Uh uh. The only way the FP could allow that is to give the police officers equal space in a column of their own.

Any bets on that happening?

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

CMHR to Politicians: We Lied. So, Whatcha Gonna Do?

We can't say it any better than Winnipeg's most colourful city councillor, Slaw Rebchuk: "It's right there in black and writing."

'There' is the pages of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights Summary of Corporate Plan and Operating and Capital Budgets for 2009-2010 to 2014-2015.

'It' is the scam being perpetrated on taxpayers.

Within the pages of their "corporate plan", the proponents of the museum admit they have no idea how much the "magnificent" building is going to cost to construct; they state unequivocably they have no intention of scaling back or changing the design to adapt to a budget; and, in fact, they are adding features to make the cost even higher.


An urgent priority will be to address the anticipated capital funding pressure that has resulted largely from an escalation in construction costs since the the Statement of Intentions was signed.


The total project budget included a base building construction budget of $165 million, which was the estimate made in 2007 based on the early architectural drawings by Antoine Predock.


However there remains a real risk that the construction costs will be higher than estimated in 2007. Despite some optimism that world prices for key construction inputs such as steel and cement will fall considerably-resulting in cost savings for the Museum-manufacturers are reducing output to stabilize prices. As well, many many key inputs (steel, major equipment and glazing) need to be sourced outside of Canada, increasing the risk of currency fluctuation. And, the competition in Manitoba for labour remains very strong, due to an existing shortage of skilled workers and the number of major construction projects underway or planned to start in 2009-2010.


The Board has determined that a significant re-design is not a viable option as it would result in little, if any, cost savings-in part because the delay would result in further inflation - and would result in this national museum being opened with no prominent architectural feature and significantly reduced programming space.


The elapsed time, however, has also had an inflationary impact on the budget, as have modifications to the design required to qualify the building for LEED silver designation and to reduce long-term operating costs (no additions have been made to the original design).

Oh, but they're developing a "mitigation strategy" to address the higher costs. That strategy, it seems, is to get the government to give them all the money they want, no questions asked.

This sloppy report to Parliament would be an embarassment to any legitimate organization trying to justify the millions its getting.

Take Table 1 for instance.

Under the heading Capital Funds, there are two columns detailing the financial contributions for the museum from three levels of government and the private Friends of the Museum.

The first column shows cash contributions: Canada, $70 million, Manitoba, $38.8 million, Winnipeg, $16 million, and Friends, $89.52 million.

Total, $215.6 million, right?


It's $214.32 million.

The corporate plan is off by $1.28 million.

Column two shows in-kind and previous cash donations that were received before the CMHR formally became a federal museum: Canada, $30 million, Manitoba, $1.2 million, Winnipeg $4 million, and the Friends, $15.48 million.

Total, $49.4 million, right?


It's $50.68 million.

The museum understated the money its already received by $1.2 million and overstated the amount it expects to get by the same amount.

The plan has some good news.

The former Liberal government gave the museum backers $30 million in 2004 to be doled out by Western Economic Diversification Canada. The museum backers say they used only $10 million, so the remaining $20 million was going back into the pot. Except...they spent $8.26 million of that last year.

So only $12.74 million is left to be spent. Right?


$8.26 million subtracted from $20 million is $11.74 million.

So, what's a million, eh?

The museum proponents can't pass a Grade Six arithmetic test, but they expect us to believe they have a handle on the multi-millions the project will cost.

Numbers? You want numbers? The plan buries its readers in numbers with pages upon pages of incomprehensible tables and columns. It's an old gimmick. People are afraid of looking stupid, so they glance at the numbers and nod as if they understand.

Enron used it for years, successfully, until a pesky reporter declared that the reason their numbers didn't seem to make sense is because---they didn't make sense.

But we've managed to mine some nuggets of information out of the barrage of numbers in the report, however incomplete.

Start with $265 million, the federal cap on the project's cost.

Subtract $35.7 million, the cost of exhibits, the first time that's appeared anywhere.

Subtract $3.3 million for furniture.

Subtract $165 million, the budgeted cost of the museum building, which everyone admits is outdated.

Subtract the $10 million
spent from Western Economic Development.

And the $8.2 million spent last year from the initial federal contribution

Subtract the $4 million value of the land, part of the city's contribution.

Subtract $15.4 million of the money raised by the Friends of the Museum which, as best we can tell, has been spent already.

Subtract $1.2 million in provincial seed money handed out years ago.

And you're left with about $22 million.

Is this the contingency fund that was built into the project?

If it is or isn't, the costs have swept the money away.

Public and private construction projects report construction inflation was in the vicinity of 18 percent in 2007 and 2008. That alone would add about $59 million to the project.

Less the $22 million we can't account for, the project could be $37 million in the hole already.

Intriguing is the asset value this corporate plan puts on the completed museum building--$199 million--- $34 million above the $165 million budgeted cost. Coincidence?

The decision to be holier-than-thou environmentally friendly is not cheap either. Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants of Westford, MA, prepared a report in 2003 titled, of all things, Analyzing the Cost of Obtaining LEED Certification.

They observed:

"While this is potentially the larger area of incremental costs (sources we consulted variously estimated these additional costs at up to 30 percent of construction costs), many of the available examples do not isolate these costs and for those that do the data vary across a large range. We believe a reasonable estimate is that greening adds between three and eight percent to the cost of a "typically" constructed building."

The CMHR is the opposite of a "typically" constructed building. If we assign costs to the high end, 8 percent, that adds about $13 million.

Sub-total then, $50 million.

To which we have to add operating costs.

The museum spokesmen confessed they screwed up royally by forgetting to account for payments in lieu of taxes that federal museums pay municipalities. That's put them $5 million short this year, 2009-10, and from here on in they're looking at a $5 million to $9 million annual hole in the operating budget.

Looking at the short term, the CMHR could be $55 million in the red to date, with millions of unbudgeted costs in the wings.

But let's not forget the risk mitigation strategy, aka begging for more money.

But from whom?

They obviously plan to come to Winnipeg City Hall to plead for the payment in lieu of taxes to be waived. Two words come to mind immediately: Bugger Off.

The last city budget was a touch-and-go affair, but we managed to stay in the black without a tax increase. Councillors are already hinting strongly that they intend to raise taxes next year.

How will they explain giving away $9 million a year to a millionaire's pet project? How much will they have to raise taxes to fill that budget gap? Exactly what services will have to be reduced so that Gail Asper gets her money? We can't wait for that debate.

The CMHR is also planning to go to the federal government, cap in hand, for more money. Let's see….yup, the good times are over. The federal government is broke. It's going to be running $40 billion a year deficits for the foreseeable future. So are we supposed to borrow even more money to give it to the Asper museum? Another two words come to mind… in both French and English.

That leaves Gail Asper's boyfriend, Gary Doer. He's already doubled the provincial contribution from $20 million to $40 million without any debate. Is he willing to dip into the rainy day fund to give the museum an extra $50 million or so?

And why must we watch this process anyway?

It was March 3, 2008. The event was the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. From the transcript of the proceedings:

Senator Jim Munson (Acting Chair) in the chair.
The Acting Chair: I am pleased to introduce the witnesses from Canadian Heritage who are here to discuss Bill C-42, to amend the Museums Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
The witnesses are Lyn Elliot Sherwood, Executive Director, Heritage Group, Canadian Heritage; Patrick O'Reilly, Director, Implementation Strategy, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Heritage Group; and Rina Pantalony, Legal Counsel, Canadian Heritage.
The primary purpose of Bill C-42 is to create a new national museum for human rights. It is to be called the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. As provided by clause 1 through clause 4 of the bill, it will be established as an independent Crown corporation through amendments to the Museums Act.
The remaining clauses of the bill amend acts that are related to the proper functioning of a Crown corporation. For example, the bill amends the Financial Administration Act to provide for federal funding, as well as both the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act to exclude museum material from their jurisdiction. The bill adds the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to the list of federal entities that receive funding for property taxes owed to municipalities due to ownership of real property.

Senator Cowan: (Addressing Lyn Elliot Sherwood, Executive Director, Heritage Group, Canadian Heritage ) On the page of your presentation entitled ``Background,'' it talks about $165 million having come from various sources other than the federal government and $100 million coming from the federal government. On the next page you say that the budget to build and fit up the museum, including exhibition development, would be capped at $265 million.
These projects have a tendency to run over the expected costs. Who will pick up the tab if the costs exceed $265 million?

Ms. Sherwood: It is the responsibility of the board to develop an approach to the building plan that includes a generous contingency provision designed to stay within the budget. A number of steps can be taken in planning for a construction project with detailed design, development and costing prior to the letting of construction contracts that enable a board to accurately assess whether the project can come in on budget.
Senator Cowan: Does the $265 million include a contingency provision?
Ms. Sherwood: Yes, it does.
Senator Cowan: This is not one of those projects where the federal government is left to pick up anything over and above the $165 million that is contributed by other parties, is it?
Ms. Sherwood:
The total budget is $265 million. You are putting your finger on a very real risk in the current environment, which is the impact of inflation on construction budgets. That has been factored into planning and is one of the reasons for the urgency of this bill because at the moment the purchasing power of that $265 million is being eroded at the rate of between $800,000 and $1.5 million per month.
Senator Cowan: I am not being critical of this project. However, someone has to hold it at the end of the day.
Ms. Sherwood: The board of trustees will be accountable for bringing this project in on budget and making decisions with respect to the building design and the contingency fund set aside that allow it to bring the project in on budget.

Sitting at Ms. Sherwoods elbow was Patrick O'Reilly, representing the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. He heard every word spoken and approved every commitment Sherwood made to the Senators.

The people getting the biggest laugh out of this have to be the federal bureaucrats who raised warned Heritage Minister Bev Oda in 2006 of of financial and accountability concerns involving the Asper family's pet project.

At the time Gail Asper was trying to get the newly elected Conservative government to come onside with funding the museum. Get this, they wanted Ottawa to provide annual operating funding which they said would cost $12 million. Three years later operating costs have climbed to a conservative $30 million with no end in sight.

Winnipeg Free Press reporter Paul Samyn reported in 2007 on briefing memos provided to Oda which were obtained by a private researcher in Ottawa. The bureaucrats obviously raised the right questions even back then.

"Many of the concerns raised in the documents released to Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin deal with the finances of the project and Asper's call for operating funding on top of the $100 million Ottawa has already pledged for capital costs:
* "It is clear that project funding will not provide a stable future for the CMHR."
* "The CMHR would have the eighth largest budget among museums in Canada. Including the national museums. It would have the largest operating budget in Western Canada, larger than the Royal British Columbia Museum and larger than the Glenbow. Its operating budget would be almost three times that of the either the Manitoba Museum or the Winnipeg Art Gallery."
* "Matching funds from other sources must be assured to cover the remaining costs of the project before federal funds are spent; a source of operating funds must be identified."
* "The government does not provide operating funding to non-federal museums. Should a precedent be set in this case, you could expect pressure to provide operating support to other non-federal institutions."
* "You (Oda) could ask what options they are considering if the government does not provide operating funding (e.g., raising endowment funds for this purpose, reducing the scope of the budget.)"

As a sign of how desparately Gail Asper was fighting to maintain control of the museum for herself is the warning to Oda that the museum's backers were proposing that it become a "hybrid institution" as part of a "multi-jurisdictional, public-private partnership." In other words, the museum would be privately controlled, and publicly funded. La plus choses change.

The red flags over this project have been flying for more than 3 years now. It's time for someone to take a stand.

We must have a 'drop dead number'. Fixed and immutable. If the red ink reaches that figure at any point, then the project is declared dead. All work stops. The hole in the ground becomes the world's largest goldfish pond.

The scam is working exactly as we predicted.

Now that the digging has begun, there will be no end to the bleeding of the taxpayer.

Barely five months after the phony groundbreaking, the operating budget is hopelessly outdated, they're hinting at unrestrainable costs for construction, -- and there's three more years of this to go.


If there is no politician willing to challenge this travesty, then we have to start naming people who must be held pubicly accountable.

Our first nominee is Patrick O'Reilly, the museum's chief operating officer, who sat at that meeting with the Senate committee and with his silence misled them over who would ultimately pay for the cost overruns which even then were totally predictable.

The higher the bill goes, the closer to the exit he moves.

As Slaw Rebchuk said, "You've buttered your bread -- now lie in it" .

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Winnipeg Free Press plays catch-up to us on the CMHR


The Winnipeg Free Press on Saturday discovered the obvious.

"Human rights museum budget already short."

The story is part of a series the newspaper has planned, with the next installments being 'The sky is blue'; 'Ice: It's frozen water!'; and 'Bacon is delicious.'

Reporter Mia Rabson wrote that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights "is expected to be over budget on everything from its capital costs to its annual operating needs because of inflation and taxes."

No kidding?

Here's the real story that Rabson missed: the budgets the museum files with the government have absolutely no relation to reality.

They either haven't got a clue what the project will cost at any stage, or, they do and they're lying through their teeth.

They say they need another $5.2 million in operating funds for this year (2009) alone. They got $6.5 million from Ottawa to cover the years 2008-2010, but they're running short and want a bit more---like 80 percent more.

We note particularly that Rabson fails to explain what operating costs are exactly for a building that hasn't been built.

Printer ink? Postage? Gail Asper's travel costs? Or is it the back taxes they owe the City of Winnipeg?

Oh, says the museum spokeswoman, about those "operating costs" after the musum is up and running --- you better plan on adding another $9 million a year. That's 41 percent higher than we said they would be. And that's not counting inflation which will up the ante even more.

And the actual cost of erecting the museum?
Yep. Going up.
Nope. No clue by how much.

But museum spokeswoman Angela Cassie knows where the extra money is expected from.

Wrote Rabson:

"Cassie said all stakeholders, including the three levels of government and additonal private donors, will be tapped to help."

Hmmm. Let's see … the museum backers have already failed to raise their promised share of cost ($103 million), and now they say they'll be asking private donors to cough up more millions. Yeah, we believe that nose-stretcher. So that leaves…ummm. YOU, SUCKER.

We did learn, for the first time ever, that the budgeted cost of the fancy museum building is $165 million.

Up to now that's been a closely guarded secret, with proponents only talking about the entire project costing $285 million.

We can now begin to rough out the numbers a bit more. A year ago we reported that the human rights museum number crunchers had included a 15 percent contingency for cost overruns. We can see today that the actual budget for construction was $143 million plus a contingency of about $21 million. That leaves $80 million, which, we're told is to cover the cost of exhibits---and the interior--- and of which at least $27 million has already been spent.

But museum backers continue to play fast and loose with the truth.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported that the museum spokesmen presented a report to Ottawa stating "…the $165 million estimate for the base building…was done in 2007."

But on three months ago, the newspaper reported ("Museum spinoffs an economic bright spot", Murray McNeill, Feb. 10, 2009):

"The museum's chief operating officer Patrick O'Reilly said in an interview the final price tag could be higher because construction costs have risen significantly since that cost estimate was calculated in 2004."

Which is it? The museum spokesmen say the cost estimate is either two years out of date or five years out of date.

Regardless -- The resulting margin of error is mindboggling.

Already they're saying the cost of the basic building is surely going up. The contingency fund has been entirely used up---just as we reported a year ago.

No less an authority than Gail Asper's big bro, David, said (New stadium by 2009 unlikely, Asper says, Winnipeg Free Press, March 29, 2008) that construction costs had gone up 1.5 percent a month over the last year. There went the contingency fund -- and not a thimble of dirt had been moved yet.

Add construction inflation for 2008 and 2009 and you're already looking at a hole in the budget of $20-30 million, with years of construction to go.

Remember what the Public Utilities Board said about the downtown Manitoba Hydro building?:
"9.7 New Head Office
As a condition of the purchase agreement entered into when WH was acquired, MH agreed to build a new Corporate head office in downtown Winnipeg. The building was originally forecast in CEF 03-1 at a cost estimate of $75 million, the amount then cited as a 'place marker' subject to design changes and cost revisions.
The new building is to accommodate approximately 2,100 employees and to be ready for occupation by 2009, and come at a projected revised cost of $278 million."

That's a whopping 370 percent over the initial cost estimate.

And the CMHR isn't expecting to have most of its tenders in until November.

We see that the museum proponents now intend to slough off the rising costs on the government "stakeholders" even though they solemnly promised only a year ago that wouldn't happen.

"It turns out the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights held a hearing into the human rights museum Monday, March 3, 2008 before passing the law making it a national institution.

Senator James Cowan asked:
" say that the budget to build and fit up the museum, including exhibition development, would be capped at $265 million. These projects have a tendency to run over the expected costs. Who will pick up the tab if the costs exceed $265 million? "

Lyn Elliot Sherwood, Executive Director, Heritage Group, Canadian Heritage, answered.
"The board of trustees will be accountable for bringing this project in on budget and making decisions with respect to the building design and the contingency fund set aside that allow it to bring the project in on budget."

Did they intentionally deceive the Senate?

Can you say bait-and-switch?

It's not too late to say:

Enough And No More.

Fill. In. The. Hole.

They lied to the Senate to get the government on the financial hook. They've proven they haven't the slightest idea what the project is going to cost other than they're orders of magnitude out on their public estimates.

The CBC last week ran a documentary on Enron called "The Smartest Guys in the Room". At the film's conclusion the narrator asks why, until the company imploded, nobody ever raised a single objection to the company's business practices---not the legion of accountants, or the lawyers, or the brokers, or the financial analysts.

We're asking the same question about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

And the answer is obvious.

This is exactly like Meech Lake and the Charlottetown Accord. The "elites" have decided its good for us and they're going to force it down our throats one way or another.

Nobody asked for this museum. It was never discussed or put up for public debate. It was never supposed to be a publicly funded endeavour. It began as Izzy Asper's pet project. When he died it became his daughter Gail's pet project.

Remember when it was pitched as Asper's contribution to Winnipeg? How it was going to put Winnipeg on the world map? How it was going to be to Winnipeg what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris?

Now even the biggest proponents shuffle their feet and mumble how it's going to be an addition to the attractions in Winnipeg for tourists.

"Hey kids. Let's take a vote. Do we go to see the baby kangaroos at the zoo? or go to the human rights museum and see how bigots beat up black children to keep them from going to school with whites?"

"Kangaroos, daddy, kangaroos."

"Come on, don't be hasty. There's lots to learn at the human rights museum. Who knows how to spell genocide?"

"Kangaroos, daddy, kangaroos."

Gail Asper realized her family's pet project still cost too much, so she foisted it off on the federal and provincial governments who simply announced that henceforth it was a public project. No debate. No discussion. No option.

No choice except to watch a quarter of a billion dollars given to a billionaire's family to guarantee his daughter gets free travel around the world at our expense forever.

Now that's obvious.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Unraveling the story of laughing journalists at Mulroney's grilling

Journalists from the CBC and the Globe and Mail snickered as former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney testified how the allegations against him by the government of Canada devastated his then-10-year-old son. Mulroney was so upset at the recollection, and at the mockery by the journalists, that he choked up on the witness stand.

True or false?

One truth is how quickly the rest of the reporters closed ranks to protect the allegedly laughing duo.

It proves once again how hollow are the claims of “professional journalists” who never stop declaring they have ‘ethics’ that prevents them from twisting their stories to their personal biases.

Can we find the truth of the matter in the reports of the snickering incident published in the newspapers and on television?

We have learned:

* Robin Sears, a Mulroney spokesman, watched a producer of the CBC’s Fifth Estate, Harvey Cashore and Globe and Mail reporter, Greg McArthur chatting and chuckling with each other throughout Mulroney’s second day of testimony before the Oliphant commission.

* He was infuriated by it. He said he twice stood over them and tried to catch them in photos (presumably with a cell phone camera) to warn them he was aware of their rude behaviour.

* Mr. Justice Jeffrey Oliphant announced an early break in the proceedings after watching Mulroney overcome with emotion at recounting how his youngest son was affected by the allegations against his father.

* In the Green Room, Mulroney told Sears that it was the sight of Cashore and McArthur laughing that caused him to choke up. “They were carrying on like a pair of school children,” said Mr. Mulroney after the break. “It just got to me.”

* Sears posted the information on, a website he’s run since the House of Commons Ethics Committee hearings against Mulroney started in 2007.

* The story was broken by CBC host Don Newman in a segment between testimony. After showing the exact post on Sears’ site, Newman asked Harvey Cashore if it was true.

Cashore, always wearing a trademark smirk, is a regular commentator on Newman’s afternoon show Politics.

This time he had lost his smirk. Stone faced he said,” You know, I have young children myself and the idea that any child would hear that their father was accused of these kind of things is not a humourous event. It’s a very serious thing and must weigh on Mr. Mulroney and his family. And its how I would feel myself and its just not something I would possibly feel as that as a humouous event. It wouldn’t happen.”

“Well,” said Don Newman,”let’s leave it at that for now.”

Red flag #1. When a reporter starts talking in the hypothetical, you know he’s hiding something. “It wouldn’t happen” is not the same as “it didn’t happen” . “It’s just not something I would possibly feel” is not the same as “I didn’t laugh.”

On his show, Politics, immediately following Mulroney’s testimony, Newman confronted Sears:

“…when we played he tape of Mr. Mulroney he’s talking about his family and he’s talking about his 10-year-old son Nicolas, who’s now, I guess is 24, but was 10 at the time. He doesn’t say anything about people are annoying me in the audience or I want them removed from the room. He’s talking about his family and he’s obviously very emotional as he recalls it. So I’m wondering why you would go out and put something else entirely on your website.”

Sears starts to explain how he watched Harvey Cashore and McArthur laughing between themselves during the testimony of Brian Mulroney but prior to the time Mulroney choked up, when Newman interrupts him.

“I’m really out of time, Robin, so you’ve got to get to the point very quickly.”

Red flag #2. Out of time? How convenient. When an eyewitness is describing the behaviour of CBC producer Cashore, suddenly the clock runs out. Nope, nothing suspicious there.

The evening newscasts and next day’s newspaper stories were even more telling of the how the pack protects itself.

Global News said only that Mulroney said his emotional moment came “after he saw reporters laughing at him.” No names, no affiliations. CBC National had no mention of Cashore or McArthur whatsoever.

CTV National News reported “Mulroney says these two journalists (seen on video sitting side by side in a near empty committee room), who have covered this story for years, started laughing.” They had a brief clip with Cashore who said “I have a 10-year-old. It’s serious, not a laughing matter. It’s serious. It wouldn’t happen.”

Red Flag #3. There’s that hypothetical again. But more to the point is the absence of Greg McArthur. Not even a “No comment.” Nothing from the “reporter” who knows the importance of refuting an allegation on the record.

McArthur’s ghost appears next day in the print stories.

La Presse reported the kerfuffle, adding that "both" reporters denied it.

Globe and Mail reporter Bill Curry wrote:
“Both journalists vehemently denied laughing. Other journalists who were within a few feet of the two reporters supported their denials.
"I'm sitting right behind them. I didn't see these guys laughing at all," said Toronto Star reporter Richard Brennan.”

Red flag #4. Note that the Globe and Mail doesn’t even have a quote from its own reporter. Hmmmm.

And who’s Toronto Star reporter Richard Brennan? Why, only the former president of the Parliamentary Press Gallery who lead the boycott of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s news conferences. Not exactly an unbiased source.

And "other journalists" becomes one, lone voice.

The Toronto Star’s story, by none other than Richard Brennan and Les Whittington told this tale:

“Afterwards, Mulroney handler Robin Sears accused two reporters of causing his boss to cry.

A furious Sears confronted CBC The Fifth Estate senior editor Harvey Cashore and Globe and Mail reporter Greg McArthur, accusing them of giggling like "f---ing schoolchildren" during Mulroney's testimony and issued a vague threat, saying, "if I were you, I wouldn't continue."

Mulroney's team sent out a news release, quoting him as saying: "They were carrying on like a pair of schoolchildren. It just got to me."

No reporters were seen laughing during Mulroney's testimony and Cashore and McArthur adamantly denied doing so. "Never happened," Cashore said. "It's not a laughing matter."
Cashore and McArthur led the coverage of questionable financial dealings during the Mulroney years.”

Red Flag #5: “No reporters were seen laughing” is not the same thing as “No reporters laughed.” McArthur is still missing in action. The confrontation, by Sears' own account, happened before the snickering, something unclear in the Star report. This time, Cashore is definite: “Never happened.”

And, of course, there's the explanation for the smear against the two honourable journalists’ who “led the coverage of questionable financial dealings during the Mulroney years.”

But there is this intriguing blog post by David Akin, National Affairs correspondent for Canwest News Service.

A reminder that there still may be some uncomfortable questions for Mulroney
by David Akin on Wed 13 May 2009 01:50 PM EDT

Over lunch at the Oliphant Commission, I've been thumbing through some of the documents that have been tabled today as exhibits, here at the Oliphant Commission. Among them is this letter
sent to Mulroney on Feb. 22, 2005 from the CBC asking for an interview. Frustratingly, only the first two pages of this interview request are part of the exhibit (It is Exhibit 46, tab 20 [PDF]
and not the last pages of the request. As a result, there is no signatory on this letter.

I just asked CBC producer Harvey Cashore, however, if he was the author and he says he is. Cashore, as Mulroney's team has just alleged

was laughing at Mulroney as he closed his testimony before lunch.”

Did he really say that Cashore “was laughing at Mulroney?” Or was he saying that that’s just what ‘Mulroney’s team” alleged?

One thing we know for sure, not one “professional reporter” will try to get the answer to that question.

The pack sticks together.

Not one of the news reporters recalled how CBC reporter Krista Erickson collaborated with the Liberals in fashioning questions for Mulroney at the ethics committee? Nobody has gotten to the bottom of whether these questions were framed by Harvey Cashore, CBC's resident expert on the Mulroney/Airbus affair.

And none of the journalists asked just how unbiased CBC is in its reporting on Mulroney. Can snickering be so far-fetched?

The Fifth Estate is a big part of the story.

The RCMP allegations against Mulroney were based on information from Stevie Cameron, a journalist turned secret police informant, and former host of CBC's Fifth Estate. She wrote a book on Mulroney with Harvey Cashore. The Fifth Estate has done a series of stories on Airbus and Brian Mulroney.

Even on Tuesday, before the snickering incident, Mulroney took another swipe at them.

"The Fifth Estate has been on a mission for 15 or 20 years to prove that I got Airbus money. Then they changed their mind when it exploded in their face, they changed their mind...orh, we made a little mistake, now we're going to prove that he did something else. And when that's finished they'll be on to something else. I mean, after all, they operate 100 percent with taxpayers' money and once they set out on these vendettas, such as the one that I've had the pleasure to witness, it's---if you're spending taxpayers' money, it's hard for the guy on the other side."

Cashore is mentioned regularly by Mulroney in his testimony, not that you would know it from watching any of the television news stories. You might say that alone puts him in a conflict-of-interest situation. So why should we believe a word of what he says regarding allegations of laughing at Brian Muloney's discomfort?

Oh yeah. He's a professional reporter. He's got ethics.

CBC ethics.

(See also The Black Rod, February 7, 2008,
Pablogate's two dead myths: the roadkill of the CBC-Liberal Party collusion scandal Part Two)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Will Photo Radar trap Dave Chomiak into pleading "guilty with an explanation"?

Fair warning.

Until further notice we have imposed a speed limit for reading The Black Rod--60 words per minute. Violators should e-mail guilty pleas to us and arrangements will be made to pick up fines.

Now to the matter at hand---photo radar speeding tickets.

First, let us say WE TOLD YOU SO.

In the Spring of 2007 we wrote in The Black Rod:

"Dave "Six Months" Chomiak is still new at the job of Justice Minister. But his legacy of disaster as Manitoba's Health Minister foreshadows his every move."

Now, a shade more than two years later, Chomiak has single-handedly:

* politicized and demoralized the prosecutions branch of the Attorney General's office;
* ignited a firestorm of anger among voters in the NDP bridgehead ridings in south Winnipeg;
* pissed off the police chief of Winnipeg;
* potentially punched a $23 million hole in the provincial budget from threatened speeding ticket refunds;
* and poisoned relations with the City of Winnipeg by blaming civic officials for the mess he created, as well as possibly costing the city millions of dollars in ticket revenue.

And that's just a week's worth of damage. Imagine what's to come.

Chomiak's unravelling began in February when Justice of the Peace Norm Sundstrom dismissed nine speeding tickets. The drivers were caught on photo radar exceeding the posted speed limit at construction zones.

The motorists argued the Highway Traffic Act, the provincial law, says the limited speed in construction zones only applied when workers were present. The Crown responded that the drivers were charged with speeding, not speeding in a construction zone (under which the fine is doubled) so references to workers being present or not was moot. (None of the 9 tickets involved speeding through construction zones where anyone was at work.)

Sundstrom said the signs posting the reduced speed were installed according to sections of the provincial Highway Traffic Act that directly referred to the presence of workers in a construction zone. That, he said, was consistent with the intent of the totality of legislation covering construction zones, namely to protect the safety of workers. With that, he ruled in favour of the motorists.

The Crown announced it would appeal the ruling.

As the public clamor to drop the appeal grew louder and louder, Chomiak put himself on a pedastal as the great defender of democracy standing against the unwashed rabble.

And, showing his true character, he tried to shift the blame to his underlings.

Manitoba Hansard, April 30, 2009

"I want the member to know that in the place where his parents and my parents came from in the old country, prosecutors did what the government told them. That's why our ancestors left that place because prosecutions and police were one in one.
We should stay out of the prosecutions business. That's the judicial separation of powers.

The member makes strong remarks, but I take it very seriously that we do not interfere in political matters as politicians. In fact, if I were to interfere politically, I would have to resign my seat by virtue of parliamentary law, Mr. Speaker. So the member ought to know that."

Uh oh.
Prepare for a by-election.

Chomiak obviously, ahem, forgot how he interfered in 2006 when Queen's Bench Justice Albert Clearwater ruled that Manitoba had the right, not to mention the duty, to impose its smoking ban on Indian reserves. Clearwater quashed the conviction of a non-native bar owner who had let his customers smoke.

The Crown immediately filed an appeal, as the Winnipeg Free Press put it at the time, "fearing the idea that everyone must be treated equally under the law could threaten employment equity measures and programs that offer special incentives to aboriginals, farmers or any specific group."

Do those sound like legal reasons, or political policy that could only be ordered by the minister?

But we digress.

One short day after Chomiak said he wasn't going to give the order to drop the photo radar ticket appeal, the Crown dropped its appeal.

What's more, director of prosecutions Don Slough announced that not only were charges against the nine motorists being dropped, but charges would be stayed on another 850 or so photo radar tickets pending in court.

Here's how the Winnipeg Sun reported the surprise announcement (Photo radar appeal dropped, Tom Brodbeck, Sun Media, 4th May 2009)

"However, the Crown is now dropping the appeal because they've discovered that the legal definition of a construction zone was not met in the nine cases, said Slough.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, photo radar can be used in construction zones. However, in order to meet the legal definition of a construction zone, signs indicating where a construction zone begins and ends must be posted.
Because there were no signs at the end of the construction zones for the nine cases in question, the photo radar cameras were not lawfully used."


Nobody was more surprised at Slough's strange explanation than Justice of the Peace Norm Sundstrom.

That's because Slough's bizarre reasoning is the direct opposite of what Sundstrom determined.

In his 13 page written decision, Sundstrom wrote (emphasis ours) :

"In all the cases herein being considered there was appropriate signage designating a "construction zone" set up at each end of the zone. As well, there were signs indicating that the speed in the zone was 60 kph." (Page 2 of 13)

In short, signage was not an issue at trial and was not an issue in the appeal.

There was absolutely no reason for Slough to address signage -- but there are certainly a million questions as to why he did and why he's contradicting Sundstrom. If you didn't know better, you'd say this smells of .... political interference?

Certainly Dave Chomiak was ecstatic at the outcome. He spent the rest of the week blaming the City of Winnipeg for the mess he was in.

May 5 Hansard

Hon. Dave Chomiak (Minister of Justice and Attorney General:
Mr. Speaker, we put in very strict provisions for the City of Winnipeg to utilize photo radar. ..Mr. Speaker, we put it in for safety purposes. The City of Winnipeg utilized it for different provisions. We had provisions in the act. The City of Winnipeg appeared to not follow the strict provisions of the regulations. When we found out, we told the City of Winnipeg we would no longer prosecute.

Mr. Chomiak: Safety was the reason that bill was put in place to allow the City of Winnipeg to use photo radar only in limited circumstances. When we found out that the City of Winnipeg was using it and, in fact, evidentiary-wise, it was inappropriate ethically, the Crown said, we're not proceeding to prosecute because there are evidentiary issues.

May 6 Hansard

Mr. Chomiak: I have said, Mr. Speaker, the credibility of photo radar, particularly in construction sites, is a problem now in the perception of the public and we have to solve that. If we have to change the legislation, we'll do it and we're going to sit down with the City who administered the program-
An Honourable Member: Put up the signs.
Mr. Chomiak: -who administered the program and ensure they put up the signs, Mr. Speaker, and we're going to try to get back to the original intent of photo radar which was safety and not for generating funds. That's where we're going to go.

May 7 Hansard

Mr. Chomiak:there's certain criteria that the City did not meet with respect to signage. Without the signage in place, we cannot enforce it in the courts.

We have to talk to the City. We intend to change the regulation as early as this weekend. We intend to have the photo radar back in construction sites under the three conditions: condition No. 1, workers present; condition No. 2, safety; condition No. 3, you have to meet the signage commitments that the City agreed to meet with respect to their agreement with the Province when they asked for photo radar to be put in place. I thought members opposite supported that.

Mr. Chomiak: As I indicated, the Crown, the independent Crown-I know the member wants to play Crown all the time and stick himself in the decision-making process-decided to do an appeal. An appeal was undertaken. Evidence came forward that signage was inappropriate. The Crown ethically said, we cannot, on the basis of all Manitobans, prosecute these cases. The City is responsible. The police are responsible for this. We can't prosecute because we don't have the legal ability to do so, and we'll stay charges."

For three straight days Chomiak peddled the falsehood that improper signage was responsible for having the photo radar tickets tossed out of court.

In doing so he managed to smear the City of Winnipeg, its employees, its police, and the contractors who do the road work and who are responsible for the signage.

Chomiak only took his foot out of his mouth to insert his other foot. He insulted all the drivers who got tickets in construction zones when there were no workers. He said he couldn't give refunds to anyone who pleaded guilty; that's the law.

The next day he said he might refund some fines. Or maybe all fines. Or maybe none of the fines.

He couldn't make up his mind although he had a lot to say.

But we have to take him at his word, whatever it is.

After all, if you can't believe the guy who eliminated hallway medicine in six months, who can you believe?

The Black Rod reading zone ends…now.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Sandy Bay Indian Reserve story that everybody missed

There's an old saying in the reporting business-nothing spoils a good story faster than the facts.

Luckily for reporters in Winnipeg this past week, they simply ignored the facts and went with the bleeding-heart, knee-jerk story at hand.

A five year old boy died in a house fire on the Sandy Bay Indian Reserve. Out gushed the predictable stories---blame the white man for overcrowding, for the housing shortage, for the ramshackle houses people have to live in on the reserve.

Here's a headline you didn't see:

No housing crisis in Sandy Bay: council

Correction. You didn't see that headline unless you're a reader of the Central Plains Herald-Leader, Manitoba's award-winning community newspaper.

Here's what else you didn't read in the story last August by Herald-Leader reporter Bob Swysun:

SANDY BAY FIRST NATION - Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation's band administration refutes claims it is ignoring housing needs in the community.

The band currently has 110 units either being built from scratch or undergoing major renovations, First Nation adviser Andrew Beaulieu said on July 22, armed with a stack of documents for proof. Beaulieu claims the former chief and council used money that was meant for housing on other things.


Destruction of newly-renovated and brand new houses, not as the result of break-ins, but by the people who live in them, rankles Andrew Beaulieu and also Prince (Simon Prince, manager/inspector for Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council's Residential Housing Program…ed.)

They both claim they've seen newly-renovated and brand new houses suffer extensive damage from the occupants on a regular basis, usually just mere days or weeks after work is completed.

"Sure they're living in deplorable conditions, but 90 per cent of those conditions are their own fault," Andrew Beaulieu said.

Oops. How did that get into print? That's not the party line.

The Herald-Leader story was a treasure-trove of relevant information, starting with the fact that the band had so mismanaged its funds that no housing activity was happening in the summer months---you know, the prime months for construction.

"All the renovation projects on the reserve have a completion deadline of Sept. 30, but all renovations on the reserve have stopped.

Chris Racette, who has been with the housing and public works department at Sandy Bay for four years, said the contractors, who are all residents of Sandy Bay, can't continue work because the band has no materials for them.

The last shipment of supplies from Rona, where the band gets all its supplies, was one or two months ago, Racette noted.

"It's not going to be done by Sept. 30, if it keeps going the way it is now," Racette said. "If we had the materials, the guys would be going full force."

But the band's warehouse is completely empty, he added."

And lo and behold, who makes an appearance in the Herald-Leader story?

Why, none other than Debbie Mousseau, one of the four adults in the home where her five year old grandson, Tristan Taylor-Mousseau, died Thursday morning.

It turns out Mousseau was on the list to get a new house to replace a dilapidated house she had been living in. But her father may have revealed more than he intended about that dilapidated house.

Her house, he said, had no siding and was rotting inside.

"…the house was stripped two years ago with the intention of fixing it, but that never happened.

"She went over to the band office for a new house," (he) said of his daughter, "and they told her they had no money. That thing's not going to build itself."

So somebody on the reserve took the siding off the house and left the structure to deteriorate while waiting for somebody else to pay for repairs. Yep, sounds like business as usual.

Mousseau did get her new house--in October --even though it didn't have electricity for the first two months she lived in it and had no running water as of the end of 2008.

That new house lasted a shade more than six months before a mysterious fire in an armchair burned it down. According to a television news story Friday, the family intends to move back to their old house, which was supposed to be completely renovated, but which, from the video, is worse than a pigsty.

But let's not get too far away from the original story--- boy dies in house fire.

Let's look at the "facts", starting with the Who.

The house was owned by Alvin Maytwayashing, the boy's grandfather. Debbie Mousseau, 37, is his wife. Also in the house were Alvin's daughter and her husband (names and ages unknown). And, according to the news reports, eight children under the age of six who "belonged to two families living in the residence."

Apparently, though, there were 9 children in the house. A cousin decided to crash at the house unbeknownst to the adults.

So when the survivors got out of the burning house, they counted the children and were relieved to find eight, the number they knew belonged in the house. Only later did they realize that No. 9 was still inside.

Why haven't we heard any demand that the adults in the house be held responsible for failing to know exactly how many children were in the home. This is a basic responsibility of every parent in the very case of an emergency such as a fire.

And while this week's stories said the children were under the age of six, Debbie Mousseau's father said she lived with seven children aged seven to 17. What's the truth?

The fire started about 7:30 a.m. in an armchair in the living room. It blocked the doorway out.

Say what? Does that mean there was only one exit to the house?

Is that legal in Manitoba?

And remember, the houses are built by "contractors, who are all residents of Sandy Bay…" So if anyone is to blame, it's the chief and council who allow homes to be built without proper fire exits.

Statistics Canada says two-thirds of the 510 homes on Sandy Bay reserve need major repairs. One reason is use of substandard materials. But if the contractors are from the reserve, who should we blame for using substandard materials?

We heard the word 'overcrowding' a lot this week.

12 or 13 people living in a three bedroom house is the definition of overcrowding.

But, once again, who do we blame?

Well, start with the fact that the birth rate on reserves is twice that of society at large. There isn't a housing shortage; it's a birth-control shortage. Stop breeding like rabbits and, poof, problem solved at zero cost.

But, aren't we overlooking the biggest threat of all to people living on reserves? Yes, we speak of genocide.

Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press recently that "Assimilation into Canadian society is a form of genocide."

And what screams assimilation louder than sturdy houses with indoor plumbing and flush toilets? How Eurocentric.

Shitting in the woods. Now that's the traditional aboriginal way.

Ron Evans says so.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

CTV host humiliated by Gen. Rick Hillier

It was beautiful to behold.

CTV Newsnet host Sandie Rinaldo, spanked, live, on national television. (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

Tuesday, after broadcasting some Taliban propaganda, unedited and unchallenged, she introduced General Rick Hillier (retired), former chief of defence staff, for comment.

She forgot the basic rule of Hillier -- he doesn't suffer fools gladly.

He gave her both barrels-- straight on, leaving her babbling nonsense to the camera.


About 2:15 p.m. CST, CTV runs a CNN clip of an alleged Taliban spokesman with his back to camera delivering the usual Taliban spiel.

Rinaldo (smugly) : So, you know, here we have Hamed Karzai in Washington talking about hopeful (sic) of peaceful future---how realistic is that given the threat of escalating attacks by the Taliban?

Hillier: Well, first of all I go back to the supposed threat of escalating attacks by the Taliban. It's kind of interesting we have a report from a supposed Taliban commander who clearly is not going to be identified. And whatever he spouts, people put it on the front page of the newspaper--- act as his vehicle to deliver it around the world no matter if there's any truth or basis to it whatsoever and put him on TV, in fact, and show...

I think it's actually appalling. I think if it was a Canadian commander or American saying things the dissection that would go on before that report was put out would be incredible. That has not occurred in this case. So on the case of the Taliban, you know, they can feel free to say what they want.
They are unconstrained by the Geneva Concention; they are unconstrained by truth. And as a result they can saw what they want.

For all we know, the reporters might have been talking to the village idiot.

Rinaldo (shell-shocked and incoherent) : No, I, I take your case in point on, on broadcast but I guess it's out. Other media are broadcasting it so it's available and it's not an issue of censorship at this point. We have to talk about it because other people are certainly talking about it as well.

So, Sandie, challenging Taliban propaganda is censorship, is it?

MSM journalism at its finest.