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

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Friday, June 19, 2009

The 10 Reasons Richard Balasko must go

Less than a month ago Manitobans learned the details of a carefully organized scheme by the NDP to defraud the public treasury of tens of thousands of dollars by falsifying 1999 election expenses to get public rebates they weren't entitled to.

Why weren't we told about this eight years ago when Elections Manitoba uncovered the fraud?

The man who can answer that question is Manitoba's Chief Electoral Officer Richard Balasko. And he refuses to tell.

No wonder people suspect he has colluded with the NDP to keep a lid on the scandal.

Pundits who should know better cry that it's a witchhunt, that Poor Richard is an honest civil servant being made a scapegoat. They are being willfully blind.

Here are the top 10 reasons Balasko has to go.

1. Richard Balasko won't say why no charges were laid against anyone connected with the NDP's 1999 campaign for altering election returns and submitting information they knew was false to Elections Manitoba.

Balasko has been consistent for more than a decade whenever asked about investigations conducted by Elections Manitoba. He has said he can't talk about them. That's the law, he claims. And he might even get away with that excuse if it wasn't for....

2. Balasko won't say why no charges were laid against anyone connected with the NDP's 1999 campaign for altering election returns and submitting information they knew was false to Elections Manitoba, even though charges were laid against Conservative and Liberal Party campaigners for much less serious and often inadvertent mistakes.

Now this makes it fair to ask why we shouldn't suspect collusion between the NDP and Balasko.

Trust me, he says.

Forget that. Let's look at the evidence through the prism of collusion and see if it comes out distorted or true to life.

3. Balasko hid from the public the real reason the NDP was made to repay $76,000 to the treasury. Here's how Elections Manitoba notified the public (thanks to Dave Chomiak for quoting the exact wording in the Legislature):

"As a result of a further assessment of the statements and considerations of the issues raised, the New Democratic Party and several New Democratic Party candidates amended and refiled certain financial statements."

4. Balasko hid from the public the fact that the NDP had been running the same fraud scheme since the mid-80's, and had scammed hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public purse, which they were being allowed to keep.

5. Balasko never told the public that the NDP tried to intimidate the forensic auditor who uncovered their scheme and that, in the auditor's view, this was an attempt to disrupt, if not obstruct, the investigation.

Why wasn't the NDP investigated for obstructing an investigation of their election finances? Balasko won't say.

6. Balasko never told the public that the NDP breached their own code of ethics which prohibited falsifying election returns.

7. Balasko hid from the public until after the 2003 election the news that the NDP had repaid the $76,000 they got illegally.

8. Balasko must think people are stupid and they will believe the string of coincidences he spins out.

The NDP made a deal with Balasko to repay the money just after the forensic auditor was taken off their file, just as they insisted. They submitted amended 1999 election returns two days before the 2003 election was called. Elections Manitoba made the repayment public four days before Christmas, 2003.

And that's not even suggesting a thing about the 36 percent raise in pay Balasko collected the same year as he negotiated the payback that he now can't talk about.

9. As the man tasked with maintaining the integrity of the electoral system in Manitoba, it was incumbent on Balasko to correct the falsehoods Premier Gary Doer and Justice Minister Dave Chomiak spoke daily in the Legislature.

When the Premier and the Justice Minister insisted the NDP fully cooperated with Elections Manitoba, Balasko had to tell the public that that was true only if you define cooperation as stalling for 3 years; lying to the investigator; attempting to disrupt, if not obstruct, the investigation; threatening the auditor that the government would freeze him out of future business and demanding he be removed from any dealing with the NDP.

10. And finally, Balasko has lost the confidence of the Legislature. The only support he has comes from the NDP members whose secrets he's keeping.

The prism says Go.

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