The Black Rod

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

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

There's a new sheriff in town

Have you heard? There's a new sheriff in town.

Unfortunately, it's Barney Fife.

Last week the NDP slapped a star on Dave "Six Months" Chomiak and pushed him into a scrum to announce the government's new anti-gang strategy. Correction---the NDP's new, new, new, new, new, new, new, new anti-gang strategy.

The NDP's over-arching anti-gang strategy has been to attack them with news releases. Just skimming the surface of their own announcements of gang-fighting initiatives we find:

"A street gang containment initiative, started in 2000.
This initiative includes the international-award winning RCMP Gang Awareness Unit, Project Gang Proof's helpline, website and handbook, and intensive probation supervision through COHROU."

"A witness counter-intimidation response by police and Manitoba Justice, launched in 2003."

"A new three-member Manitoba Corrections Organized Crime Intelligence Unit. The integrated unit will specialize in collecting and analyzing information on organized crimes and gangs, gathered by Manitoba Corrections."

"Bolstering the Gang Prosecution Unit by adding one Crown prosecutor and one staff support person, bringing the size of the unit to 10 members. The unit, which previously was staffed by six Crown prosecutors and two support staff, has been able to attain 89 convictions or guilty pleas involving gang members since November 2003. "

" An integrated prosecutions, police and corrections offensive, a Canadian first that utilizes a highly- specialized prosecution unit and an integrated police task force to target organized crime.

"The integrated Criminal Organization and High Risk Offender Unit (COHROU) of Manitoba Justice includes a gang prosecution and probation team and an overall gang management strategy that addresses community and institutional needs."

"Attorney General Gord Mackintosh today announced new resources to fight organized crime by creating new initiatives to take on gangs and organized illegal activity, building on the success of existing tools and 54 new police officers funded in Budget 2005. March 2005"

"'Spotlight' Key New Plank In Youth Gang Reduction Strategy: Chomiak October 5, 2006"

How well has the NDP performed in fighting gangs? Take the ten second gang-fighting government test:

Are there less gangs? Yes. No.
Are the gangs less violent? Yes. No.
Are gangs drying up because they can't recruit new members? Yes. No.

After 10 years in power, the NDP have FAILED to stop the growth of gangs, to curb the violence associated with gangs, and to keep young children out of gangs.

So now we should believe that Sheriff Dave Chomiak, the man who ended hallway medicine in six months, will succeed, right?

Why has the NDP been such a bust despite its weekly anti-gang news release?

You don't have to look any further than the last time any government dismantled a major gang in Manitoba.

When the Filmon government arrested 33 members of the Manitoba Warriors and prepared to prosecute them in a newly built courthouse, the NDP attacked the attorney general for not being sensitive enough to the native gangmembers and their families.

Leading the attack was NDP MLA Eric Robinson, whose brother was among those charged----and eventually convicted.

"This trial won't better relations between aboriginal people and whites," Robinson said at the time. "If I joined four Indians outside we'd be called a gang."

"Did you have friends you hung around with in high school? Were you called a gang?" Robinson blustered.

The Winnipeg Sun said he "bristles at Justice Minister Vic Toews' law and order stance. "They have more of a jail-first-ask-questions-later approach," he said of Toews' regime. "It's one thing to be tough on crime, you're also responsible for what's happening on the street."

Once the NDP took power in 1999, Eric Robinson became a cabinet minister and the NDP introduced its own "holistic" approach to gangs, starting with hands-off aboriginal gangs.

The Manitoba Warriors regrouped. Other gangs sprang up. Street gangs, primarily native in appearance, spread throughout Winnipeg and into Indian reserves across the province until….

"The single biggest issue we face is the organized nature of crime and gangs," Chomiak said during a news conference last week following a Statistics Canada report which showed Winnipeg was still the murder capital, car theft capital, and violent crime leader in the country.

As a born-again crime-fighter, Chomiak scrapped that dumb old "holistic" talk. It was time for talkin' tough, like a real man.

"The disruption and the prosecution of gang offences is the key to the drug trade. It's the key to prostitution. It's the key to laundering money and it's the key to human trafficking."

"Most of them, you can't in the conventional sense of the word reform, but if you're in their face you can disrupt their activities."

Yeah, tell 'em "Six Months". In yo face, sucka.

Of course, the new, new, new, new, etc. anti-gang strategy won't be ready until September, well past the best summer months for gang killings. Why September?

Because that's when the Legislature gets back in session.

When the Legislature prorogued, Dave Chomiak was a mess.

The Opposition had been hammering away at the government for revelations that the NDP had fraudulently collected tens of thousands of dollars from the public purse by fraudulently claiming non-existent election expenses and getting reimbursed.

Chomiak, who was involved in the scheme up to his eyelids, looked like a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown as he tried to deflect questions about the scandal.

But come September, he will enter the Legislature a new man. Like Wyatt Earp cleaning up Dodge City.

He'll introduce the newest anti-gang legislation, accept the accolades of the press and public, and, above all, be untouchable if the churlish Opposition tries to raise the rebate fraud scandal again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gail Asper to CJOB: Thanks for nothing

CJOB radio host Geoff Currier did more damage Tuesday to the prospects of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights than the proverbial bull in a china shop.

After years of ignoring the scam being perpetrated by Gail Asper on Manitoba taxpayers, CJOB finally tiptoed into the debate over the huge, growing, and unrestricted cost overruns for her daddy's legacy project.

And Currier, inadvertently, opened with a bombshell revelation.

Introducing Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxayers Federation he said:

"Initially we had planned to have both Gail Asper and Arni Thorsteinson from the Human Rights museum in studio... Without too much detail, we couldn't come to an agreement on the format of the interview."

So the millionaires who are spending at the very least $160 million of taxpayers' money on their pet project don't want to answer any questions about where the money is going. Ain't that interesting?

Especially since Gail has run to her boyfriend Premier Gary Doer for still another $7 million to tide her over while she flits around the country from city to city panhandling for the $45 million in already announced cost overruns on the construction of the "iconic" museum.

Meanwhile, she's asking Winnipeg city council to cough up an extra $3 million. But don't ask any questions, okay. Just sign the cheque.

Gail Asper has a very good reason for refusing to tell taxpayers where their money is going. It could be embarassing.

In 2005 she got caught by a Freedom of Information request asking Ottawa for money for limousines, a cash advance for herself, gourmet coffee, in-room hotel movies, and $12,432 for advice from Glen Murray.

And her screw-the-taxpayers attitude goes a long way back.

We reported exclusively in The Black Rod
that the Asper Foundation went to Federal Court to stop the release of information to somebody asking the department of Western Economic Diversification for documents "relating to the construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights".

But let's not get too far away from Currier on OB.

While fielding calls, most of which were extremely negative to the bottomless pit museum, Currier tried to run some defence for Gail Asper, only to wind up running over her.

A caller questioned the hypocrisy of the Aspers wanting the public to support a museum dedicated to human rights when Izzy Asper funded Jewish/Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Instantly Currier leaped in, cutting the caller off and declaring that it was just this kind of anti-semitic call that poor Gail was afraid of receiving.

Except that there was nothing anti-Semitic about the call.

There's nothing anti-Semitic about questioning or challenging the settlement program. That's a matter of Israeli foreign policy and cannot be exempt from any discussion of human rights and Palestinians who live in the West Bank and who object to the settlements.

By being so quick to stifle the call and to censor any discussion of Palestinian human rights concerns, Currier gave ammunition to those museum critics who have argued for years that the CMHR will have a biased and slanted presentation on Middle Eastern issues.

While Gail Asper has proclaimed the museum will fairly examine both sides of every contentious issue, her claim is undermined by Currier's assertion that discussing her father's Zionist, pro-settlement beliefs is off-limits.

Either that side of the issue is given a full and fair hearing even now, or no one can deny that the museum's message will be conveniently one-sided. And publicly funded.

Currier did allow us to hear from some of the museum's supporters, many of whom stress the unique design of the CMHR.

"What's the first thing you think of when you hear Sydney, Australia?" asked one patrician sounding woman.

Kangaroos! we all shouted in the office.

Wrong answer. Apparently it's the Sydney Opera House.

Now you know.

After running Gail Asper's fund-raising campaign into a reef, Currier made a lacklustre effort to discuss the real issues of the CMHR boondoggle.

"The spades have been put to ground," he repeated over and over, implying that its too late to stop the project.

Actually, a hole has been dug and some piles put in.

The only rush to complete the job is the fear that the public will catch on that there is no limit to how expensive it's going to be.

And when is it too late to stop wasting money?

If CJOB and the rest the cheerleading press had done its job the cost of the museum would have been thoroughly debated before the first hole was dug, in time for the public to see there has never been any limit to cost, as long as the taxpayer can be tapped.

Did the politicians know about the cost overruns before the ground-breaking last December? asked Colin Craig.

Of course they did. Over a year ago The Black Rod (Saturday, May 10, 2008 The Canadian Museum of Human Rights: Follow the money) flagged the fact the cost overruns were going to be huge.

Here's just a tiny excerpt of what politicians (many of whom are regular readers) knew then:

"The proponents of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights knew they were in trouble in 2004.

- Projected construction costs had risen 47 percent in three years.
- A cornerstone of the project, an endowment fund to bring tens of thousands of students to the museum in Winnipeg each year, had become prohibitively expensive.
- And the amount of money the private sector would have to come up with had leaped from $60 million to $103 million.
The following year, the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights released their annual report. It raised an alarm.

* The capital cost had grown to $243 million.
* The $35 million endowment fund that was part of the $200 million Phase 1 was now going to cost $50 million, they said, and should be hived off into Phase 2.
* And the $60 million the private sector had promised to raise was now $103 million to cover the increased cost of construction."

In March, 2008, they appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights where they were asked about the potential for cost overruns.

As reported exclusively in The Black Rod, the Senators were told cost inflation was running at the rate of $800,000 to $1.2 million a month even then, and that the museum's board of private directors would be responsible for any cost overruns.

If Gail Asper is telling people today that the cost overruns came as a surprise, she's lying.

The museum's board came clean on the overruns May 26, five days after The Black Rod spelled out the red ink drowning the museum project. (Thursday, May 21, 2009, CMHR to Politicians: We Lied. So, Whatcha Gonna Do?)

The numbers are far worse than CJOB or anyone in the mainstream media is admitting.

Do the math.

They admitted they were $45 million in the soup, 27 percent over the initial budget for construction of $165 million. They say they've made up $2 million already, although where that money came from nobody is saying.

(Remember the days when people were happy to get their picture handing over a big cheque to Gail Asper printed in the newspaper?-ed.)

So let's start with $43 million.
Add the five million they told the government they need for operating costs for this year.
To cover last year's operating cost they dipped into this year's budget, so they want the federal government to top up their wallet to the tune of 5 million.

Subtotal: $48 million.

Add $1.2 million per month for April, May, June and July, at least. (The construction inflation hasn't stopped. In fact last week city councillors spent a 12-hour day bemoaning the unrestricted construction overruns on city projects.)
Sub Sub-total: $52.8 million.

And does the museum have to pay taxes on the land this year? They took possession last August. They'll have to start paying when the museum opens, and they admit they don't have the money.

Gail Asper claimed the board had tenders in hand for 75 percent of the work. Goody Goody.

Winnipeg had tenders in hand for its water treatment projects and still went 30 percent over budget.

And is that 75 percent of the budget or 75 percent of the contracts? Have the tenders been awarded yet? Are the big budget contracts still up for tender, like, say the never-before-done glass work?

The last time we saw an "experimental" building go up in Winnipeg the taxpayer wound up on the hook for the $258 million ultra-energy efficient Manitoba Hydro headquarters which was initially sold as a $75 million project. For those who care, the final cost is 340 percent of the original estimate, the one the politicians were sold on.

Will the Canadian Museum for Human Rights wind up costing 340 percent over its initial budget?

Are we willing to see almost half a billion dollars go into the Asper museum?

We have to consider that prospect, because Gail Asper has every reason to believe she has been given a blank cheque.

We were ready to rescind our award of Civic Weasel Number One to city councillor Jeff Browaty (
who earned it by refusing to say unequivocally he would vote NO if Gail Asper came calling, tin cup in hand, for an exemption from city taxes (worth an estimated $9 million).

A day later he reversed himself and declared he would refuse such a request.

But last Friday, when Asper said she would come to city hall for $3 million, Browaty said he wasn't against giving her the millions and, in typical weasel fashion, he reverted to babbling about seeing a business plan before deciding. (This was before Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck reported that he was told by Gail Asper that there was a business plan, only it wasn't for public consumption.)

- No politician is willing to set a drop-dead number on construction costs. If they were, the switch would already be pulled.

- Gail Asper has no idea what the museum will cost to build and operate.

- She doesn't care, so long as she can count on Gary Doer and other politicians to give her money.

- And CJOB is at least a year late and a reporter short in covering this scandal.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A much-needed reality check on crime for the Winnipeg Free Press

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeggers are just a bunch of big babies, spooked by their own shadows.

We're too ignorant to understand crime statistics, unlike the brilliant analysts at the newspaper who see clearly that we suffer from a distorted fear of crime, when the actual risk is just in our heads.

The FP has published two Pollyanna-ish stories this week celebrating a drop in crime and chiding readers for being fear mongers.

But it's the condescending and insulting analysis of the stats by the newspaper's "crime" reporter Mike McIntyre that needs to be addressed most, because virtually every sentence he wrote is woefully wrong.

According to McIntrye, Winnipeg citizens need a reality check, some perspective in looking at crime reports, and only a little common sense to avoid becoming a statistic.

Winnipeg, he declared, is not a city under siege by criminals.

Too bad he doesn't read his own newspaper.

It was barely five months ago, in February, that Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen offered some sage advice to the public, through the pages of the Free Press,

"Police are warning people not to walk alone on city streets after a 34-year-old woman was swarmed and injured with a sharp object in a West End mugging during rush hour Friday." wrote Alexandra Paul (Woman swarmed during rush hour, Winnipeg Free Press, Feb. 9, 2009)

When the police department tells people the streets are unsafe for anyone walking alone, then you know there's a big, big problem.

That, is your reality check.

Muggings are up 38 percent this year over last already. It's worse than it was in February. You want perspective? On average almost 30 people a day are robbed, and the attacks are getting more violent, more widespread, and more brazen, often taking place in broad daylight.

The "crime severity rate", which measures violent crime in a city or province, dropped 14 percent in Manitoba in 2008. And Winnipeg was STILL the murder capital of Canada, the car theft capital, and the robbery capital. And "near the top of the list of other violent crimes", McIntyre admits.

Wow. That's reassuring. Take a big chunk out of reported crimes and we still outpace every other city of similar size.

Silly us. We thought that was bad.

But then McIntyre provides his own reality check.
"There is a very small percentage of our population causing the majority of the problems."

And so what? It's not the number of criminals, it's the number of victims that makes the city unsafe. Shouldn't that be obvious?

where, in this analysis, do you count the number of crack houses, the amount of gang graffitti, the intimidation of school children and residents, the nightly sound of gunshots, and the "convicted" criminals out on parole, probation, mandatory release?

Oh, thought so. You don't. You ignore these signs of crime in a neighbourhood. Well, so much for common sense.

McIntyre tries to hold out the drop in car theft as a shining example of how the city is getting safer.

But consider that over the past 10 years, 100,000 cars in Winnipeg have been stolen or damaged in an attempt to steal. That's in a city of barely 635,000 citizens.

Everyone knows someone who has had his car stolen, or has had his own car stolen or damaged by thieves. And the effect is cumulative. If your car was stolen in 1999, you've been reminded of it every year since as the car theft problem has escalated year over year.

McIntyre credits the turnaround in car thefts in 2008 to judges who "finally began to catch on" and started to keep car thieves in jail instead of releasing them on bail or probation.

You mean they finally did what the public has been pleading with them to do for 10 years?

Justice Minister Dave Chomiak is painted as the new saviour of Winnipeg, in McIntyre's analysis, for a newly announced plan to get tough with gangs. His new new gang strategy offers "some hope that similar success could be achieved in the long haul."

That's the only mention of gangs in the article. And mercifully, the only mention of Chomiak, who, with the rest of his NDP colleagues, has been in office for 10 years, a good definition of "the long haul."

The NDP loudly announced upon taking office in 1999 that they were abandoning the punitive approach to gang fighting followed by the previous government. They would henceforth apply a "holistic" approach to gangs.

How's that worked out?

Oh yes, street gangs have now expanded across the city, in every school, wreaking havoc on neighbourhoods from one end of the city to another.

Has Chomiak suddenly realized how wrong the NDP was? Or
does the coming provincial election of 2011 have anything to do with turning the NDP into born-again crimefighters?

McIntrye doesn't say anything about Chomiak's credibility... Hallway medicine, anyone?

But he does dip into his personal knowledge of crime, or should we say of covering courts.

"Further proof of the relatively small criminal element that exists can be found by scanning th daily docket at the downtown Law Courts, which I've been doing for the past 10 years."

Same names and faces. Same excuses.

"A serious over-representation of aboriginals."
"This is not politically incorrect. It is reality."

No, the reality is, that there are not enough aboriginals arrested.

"Aboriginal in appearance" seems to be the description of the vast majority of violent criminals still not apprehended.

- The television stations recently broadcast video of a hulking thug choking a female store employee unconscious without a care in the world. Aboriginal in appearance, as were his two accomplices.

- A surveillance photo taken in a taxi of a very stupid armed robber appears in the newspaper. Aboriginal in appearance.

- A rampaging gang of knife-wielding individuals kills one man, stabs another repeatedly, car jacks a couple that tried to help the wounded man….aboriginal in appearance.

That is politically incorrect. And also the reality of life in Winnipeg.

McIntyre says people need to put robbery in Winnipeg into "proper context."

"Most of these are occurring in a relatively small area of the city, usually late at night, often involving a handful of individuals, and ususally influenced by booze and drugs."

Why we should care what fuels the robbers, is a mystery.

Should we fear them less because they're drunk or doped-up? Or is that a convenient excuse for the judge for any level of violence during the robbery?

"A relatively small area of the city"?

Residents of the North End, the city centre and the West End are overwhelmed by reports of criminal activity. That's from Broadway north to West Kildonan, from the Red River to McPhillips, south across the Midtown and Osborne bridges to Corydon, and creeping west along Portage, Sargent and Ellice.

What's that area, 20 percent of the city? 25 percent?
You call that relatively small?

"A handful of individuals"? Individuals who are the beneficiaries of the revolving-door, double-time justice, so they can victimize as many people as possible in their criminal lives.

"We shouldn't assume the city is under siege," declared McIntyre.

A proper analysis of crime statistics proves just the opposite.

When a 77-year-old woman was mugged this week at 9: 30 in the morning, the statistics show one crime, and presumably one victim.

But if she had grown children, who now fear for their mother's safety every single day, the number of direct victims of the crime has doubled or tripled. If they have spouses, it's doubled again. Grandchildren who love their grandmother? Her close friends? Her neighbours?

Every robbed store clerk has a boss and co-workers. Each and every one of them will be touched by the same crime.
They too are victims, even if they are one step removed.

And the news of the mugging of a 77-year-old sent fear through every woman in her Seventies, or Sixties, or even Fifties. And through their families. Now the simple act of walking alone on a city street is fraught with danger.

How do the crime statistics measure the ripple effect of a single crime?

And each of those people directly or indirectly affected tells one other person.

McIntyre lectures Winnipeggers for losing perspective. But it's his one-dimensional approach to crime that fails the test.

"Does a person in Montreal not have to worry about getting robbed because they only have 151 robberies per 100,000 people, compared to our 223?" asks the Free Press reporter.

If everyone in Montreal had had his or her car stolen, or knew a co-worker who had, then the fear index in Montreal would be as high as Winnipeg.

And, to add more perspective, the residents of Winnipeg don't compare crime in the city to crime in other cities. They compare the Winnipeg of today to Winnipeg five years ago, Winnipeg ten years ago, Winnipeg 20 years ago. And the comparison is enough to make your hair stand on end.

There was a time not so long ago when nobody had the slightest concern about walking the street at any time of day or night. Downtown was safe by any standard. You went to bed and never imagined your car wouldn't be where you left it when you got up. When a drive-by shooting was so out-of-the-ordinary it made the front pages of the newspapers.

We're not talking a century ago or a generation ago. Try the Eighties.

"Numbers will fluctuate and really don't tell the true story. People do," McIntrye concluded.

So start listening to the people.

Get out of the court house and start walking the streets of Winnipeg.

You'll get an earful.

And an education.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gordon Sinclair revives his anti-cop crusade - but this ain't Africa

Don't you love it when some guy comes to Canada from some godforesaken lawless pit of savagery in Africa and starts telling us he doesn't approve of the way local police do their job?

Gordon Sinclair couldn't resist yet another sole-sourced anti-police diatribe Wednesday, even as his own newspaper reported that the NDP intends to launch an in-your-face attack on street gangs that have turned Winnipeg into one of the most violent and dangerous cities in the country.

Sinclair turned his column over to the sad and unchallenged story of Jackson Nahayo, "who had spent a sleepless night crying", over his allegations of police abuse.

Nahayo, it seems, can't tell the difference between police in a civilized country and rampaging bands of gun wielding killers and rapists in Burundi, where he was born and the country he fled.

"At the suggestion of a reporter for a Christian newspaper" he emailed Sinclair who jumped at the chance to blacken the reputation of the Winnipeg police.

"To Jackson, it felt way too familiar," sobbed Sinclair.

"Guys with guns," he (Nahayo) said. "Ganging up on me."

So what happened?

It all started, says Nahayo, as he sat alone in his girlfriend's car, a white Cadillac, outside the 7-Eleven at Ellice and Maryland. A police cruiser pulled up and an officer started questioning him. "What the hell are you doing here?"

Let's see, now. Nahayo has been in Winnipeg since 2003 so he knows all about the African Mafia, a violent gang of African refugees who have been active in the West End, which would include the Ellice and Maryland area. We've been arresting, convicting and deporting them in a steady stream for the past few years.

He's a lone male, African in appearance, in a car parked outside a 7-11 at 2:30 in the morning, and a quick licence check would determine he's not the female owner of the car.

Nope, nothing suspicious here, officer.

"Is there something wrong, officer," the wide-eyed innocent allegedly asked.

"Put your hands where I can see them," was the response. A perfectly reasonable precaution given the reasonable suspicion the car may have been stolen.

Did Nayaho say "I understand. I appreciate you're out here working the night shift in dangerous circumstances protecting honest citizens, and employees like that working in the 7-11 convenience store. How can I assist you?"


He says he put his hands on the wheel, but then "told the officer he wanted to use his cellphone to record what was happening." He must have had his cell phone in his hand, which was on the wheel, because that mean old policeman grabbed his hand, "rolling" his thumb back and taking the phone.

He's lucky he didn't get a bullet to the head. A cellphone in the hand looks a lot like a gun in the darkened front seat of a car. And, during a spot check of a possibly stolen car that may be connected to an abduction, "I want to use my cellphone" sounds a lot like "Chill. I'm callin' my homies".

Suddenly other cruiser cars pulled up. It seems there had been a report of two males in a white car with guns abducting someone on Ellice Avenue. And the police weren't taking any chances.

One officer began searching the glove compartment, a funny habit of police in Canada who have, through experience, discovered that guns are often kept there. Nahayo made a sudden move. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

"That's when he (the policeman) shoved me on the shoulder and jabbed me in the ribs with his fist." Ohhhh. Shoved in the shoulder. What a brute.
Here's a hint. Don't make a move like you're going for a weapon when a nervous cop is sitting beside you.

Nahayo started screaming for help at people on the street, he said. Yet the next thing he describes is a polite conversation with the police during which they tell him what they're looking for (the men with guns in a white car). They returned his cell phone and left.

To review:

- Nahayo drew attention to himself by sitting alone outside a convenience store in the middle of the night in a car that wasn't his.
- He wasn't beaten up.
- He wasn't slapped around.
- He had his cell phone taken away from him by a police officer who could reasonably have feared it was a gun or other weapon, and the glove compartment of his girlfriend's car was searched by police risking their own lives to save a possible kidnapping victim.
- He got an explanation for why the police were so aggressive.

If that doesn't sound exactly like Burundi, we don't know what does.

But did he forget something? NOWHERE in his sad sad story does he say the Winnipeg policemen had their guns drawn. So where does the analogy with the African thugs come from?

From Gordon Sinclair.

"When he was six, he and his nine-year-old sister were abducted by men with guns. They were rebel militia who later beat him and left him for dead in the jungle when he refused an order to shoot his sister." wrote Sinclair.
Except that's the abridged version of the story. What's missing, is the part where it was Nahayo's big fat mouth that almost got his sister killed.

In May, Nahayo told his story (the Africa one, not the Winnipeg one) to Josiah Neufeld of Christian Week. (A reporter for a Christian newspaper? You don't think....)

In that account his sister was 8, and was captured along with little Jackson by rebel soldiers.

"For weeks they cooked for the soldiers, hauled water and carried ammunition. Nahayo watched his captors sexually assaulted the girls-including his sister." wrote Neufeld.

One day Nahayo decided to lecture the rebels about their behaviour. "I told the soldiers God would punish them." "One soldier, infuriated by his audacity, shoved a rifle at Nahayo and told him to gun down his sister." reported Neufeld.

Wonder what would have happened to him in Burundi if he told the gang he wanted to use his cellphone to record "what was happening"?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

To the barricades, comrades!

Call us comrades.

It's not often we make common cause with left-wing activists, but when it comes to the proposed water utility for the City of Winnipeg, make room for us on the barricades.

We may not share their not-so-hidden agendas, but when it comes to the water utility it's been the Left that's asked the right questions, raised the right objections, and done the heavy lifting to slow and hopefully stop the juggernaut.

We've spent days reading the background material on this deal.

When we started, we knew next to nothing, having, like most citizens, ignored the issue as long as humanly possible. It wasn't long, however, before we knew what we needed to know---the water utility proposal stinks.
From A to Z, it's rife with red flags that collectively scream "CON JOB."

What's the Rush?

Mayor Sam Katz says we have to approve the water utility immediately. There's not a second to spare.

He's deliberately misleading the public.

In the administration's own report to city council, it says that the first 3 months to one year from the day of approval will be taken up simply with waiting for the provincial government to change the laws to permit the creation of a water utility, followed by the legal drafting of all the agreements.

The Manitoba Legislature doesn't get back to work until September, then has to debate and pass the required enabling legislation. There's no need to ram the water utility through this week. We can wait until September for a vote at city council without delaying anything.

Lawyers can work all summer on the legal agreements while the public works on understanding the implications of the new utility structure.

Whenever there's a rush to ram something through City Hall, the public knows its because the politicians have something to hide. They want the deal signed before the citizens find out what that secret is.

This isn't the honest and full debate of an important civic issue that we expect. It's the high-pressure sleaze sales tactic called a deadline sale---sign up now or we can't guarantee the price! buy today before the deal ends!

And what will happen if we don't sign on immediately?

The answer is obvious. NOTHING will happen.

Katz says the Clean Environment Commission has ordered the city to upgrade its south end water pollution control centre by December, 2014 and the north end centre two years later at a cost of $650 million (plus overruns.) Or else.

Or else what? Has the city gone to the CEC and said we can't do it? Katz has told Winnipeg he can't do it. Winnipeg doesn't have the money or the expertise, he says.

So how can the CEC force us to do something impossible?

Just say NO. Grow some balls.

The mayor the city is expected to speak for Winnipeg. Not roll over and play dead.

Lipstick on the Privitization Pig. Or is it Duck?

The Left is chewing the carpet over the water utility proposal because, it says, Sam Katz is privatizing water. Or some variation of that theme, since the facets of the Left can't agree on what level of privitization is involved, including whether it will be real or potential.

Nevertheless, privitization is the club the Left is using to bash Katz and his water utility supporters. It's short. It sounds scary. It's perfect for negative advertising.

But words have meaning, so we paid careful attention to the arguments over whether the water utility is or is not privitization.

Not, says the mayor and the city administration.

The water utility will be 100 percent owned by Winnipeg. Winnipeg will own all the assets (pipes, sewers, meters). And the utility will work to improve water services to Winnipeggers.

Okay, we said, until we read in CUPE's background paper that all the city's waterworks employees will be transferred to the new water utility.

Say what?

In other words, we will have a water system with no employees. But, but, but, we will own the water utility and their employees will, technically, work for us.

Oh yeah? Here's what doesn't sit well with us:

* The city of Winnipeg will own the utility, on paper.
* It will appoint 7 to 11 directors with various expertise in water service delivery to make all the decisions.
* Set is stone is the fact that there will be NO political influence in the management of the utility.
* The utility will set water rates with no input from city council or the public.
* The utility will collect your water bills and spend the money the way it wants.
The directors will decide what's good for you without your opinion, thank you.
* Winnipeg will pay the water utility to provide the services we're already paying for, and which will be provided by the employees we're giving to the water utility.

*Yeah, yeah, we know they have to ask the Public Utilities Board first before raising rates. How many citizens can afford to hire a lawyer for thousands of dollars to address the PUB? And it's going to cost the city $1 million a year to attend PUB hearings; its already in the budget. We'll get to pay for that, too.

In short, we're creating a company that
- is run by unelected directors,
- raises its own money, and
- sells its services to the city.

We're forced to buy its services, but we have no input or control over

- what it does with the money it collects,
- how or where it plans to expand its business, or
- who it does business with.

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck....

Let's Call It Enron

The Left may wave the privitization flag, but that's not the real reason it opposes the water utility. The far lefties want you to think that Sam Katz is selling the water from Shoal Lake to a big, bad corporation which will start bottling it to sell in Las Vegas while charging you higher rates to pay for shipping. The union left knows this is a fight over P3's.

P3's---the bugaboo of the union movement. Government teaming up with private corporations to build something the private company then owns and sells back to the government over time.

And that's exactly what the water utility is being set up for.

The mayor says Winnipeg can't afford to the hundreds of millions of dollars that's needed to upgrade the North and South End water projects. The city tried its best with the West End Water Pollution Control Centre upgrade, which went $21 million over budget, and the new water-treatment plant which ended up costing $300 million, or $95 million over.

Building in cost overruns of the same magnitude into the new projects would put the price just shy of $1 billion. Instead, the city's water utility could partner with some company that has the in-house expertise to build these giant projects on time and on budget. The city would give them up to 49 percent ownership in the plants so that they have a financial stake in the success of the construction project.

The city says this worked with the Charleswood Bridge, a major project that hit its time and budget marks thanks to its private partner.

The unions drag out a bunch of failed P3's from other cities, but those are there and we're here and we all remember other bungled bridge projects, like the Provencher Bridge which went $6 million over budget (with then-Mayor Glen Murray mocking taxpayers who didn't appreciate his "vision" regardless of cost.) So P3's sound pretty good.

And yet something sounded un-nervingly familiar. It was just about the time we read in the city's own bumpf how the private partner with the water utility was expected to borrow the money for the wallet-busting projects.

CUPE raised some interesting questions about this.
What would they use as collateral for the loans? They don't own the water. They don't own the pipes. Would the city be the co-signer on the loans, backing them up 100 percent in case the private partner bailed?

Pop. The light came on over our heads. We had heard this before.

It's an echo of a scheme invented by a little company called Enron.

Enron set up, ahem, independent partnerships called LJM-this and LJM-that. The LJM would borrow millions which would not appear on the books of Enron but which were used to, ahem, benefit Enron.

They even put one of their own executives to manage the LJM's. (They called that accountability. We can't even appoint a city councillor to the board of the water utility. )

Plain Talk

The mayor and the city administration think they can fool the public.

They know water rates are about to skyrocket
. They think that if they create a situation where they can blame the PUB for the higher rates, that the public won't take out its anger at the ballot box in next year's election.

They think the public is too dumb to understand that the politicians are giving away control of the city's water services to a bunch of unelected nobodies who will not be accountable to the citizenry.

They think the public is too stupid to know what's good for them.

The citizen's stopped Glen Murray's plan to charge per bag for garbage collection.
They rejected a city sales tax.
And they don't want their taxes raised only to see the brain trust waste the money on non-essentials like trendy bicycle paths and rapid transit lines for spoiled suburbanites (that will save five minutes traveltime, at best) under the guise of infrastructure.

And they're getting nervous about the water utility.

Coun. Harry Lazarenko, who supports the water utility, will ask city council this week to approve a motion mandating a referendum before the city's water and sewer system can be privatized. It's a straw-man vote to deflect attention from the real issues in the water utility debate.

Here's a better idea.

Let's have a real referendum on the water utility during next year's civic election.

Let the public decide if this is a privitization or not.

The enabling legislation could be passed. The proper legal agreements could be drawn up. A search for directors could be conducted. But a final decision would depend on the results of the referendum.

How confident are Lazarenko and Sam Katz that they're smarter than Joe Citizen, Comrade?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crocus Ghost Walks Spence Street - It's a family affair...

After piloting the Crocus Investment Fund into the toilet, CEO Sherman Kreiner explained his labour-sponsored venture capital fund had had multiple bottom lines. At the end, returns for shareholders were playing second fiddle to job creation, community development, and the spread of Kreiner's Mondragon model of anti-capitalism.

Nothing has changed.

Today, as managing director of the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation, Kreiner counts at least four bottom lines: "environmental sustainability, social sustainability, economic sustainability, and cultural sustainability."

And the core service of the university that employs him---education---- is playing second fiddle to Kreiner's grandiose scheme of---what else?--- job creation, community development, and the spread of the Mondragon model of anti-capitalism

At least he's thankful he's not Sam Katz.

Because if the news media found out that the mayor was funnelling business his wife's way in the same manner that Kreiner is favouring his own sweetie, the sky would blacken with screams of conflict of interest.

Rescued from the rubble of the Crocus Fund by Lloyd Axworthy, U of W President, Kreiner has kept a decidedly low profile even as he manages the university's $70 million capital campaign -- which includes projects such as the the Richardson College for the Environment & Science Complex, the CanWest Centre for Theatre and Film, and new proposed student housing and child-care facilities.

It's a far cry from his glory days with Crocus when he paraded around town as a Prince of the City, thuggishly threatening and intimidating anyone who dared challenge his command of the Crocus Fund and its many socialist offshoots.

That was before newly hired managers went running to the Manitoba Securities Commission with evidence the Crocus Fund had turned into a Ponzi scheme dependent on new investors to pay off old investors, with assets valued artificially high to sucker in as many newbies as possible.

Just before Kreiner's Crocus adventure ended, he was spearheading a new project called the Manitoba Property Fund, which was to use $25 million of pension fund monies for redevelopment and revitalization of downtown Winnipeg.

$25 mil. Bah, such chicken feed. Now Kreiner gets to play with almost three times that amount, with no embarassing questions asked.

Except, perhaps, why with all this money floating around the university can't pay its operating costs---like professors and classes--- and why administrators have to take a pay cut, and why lower level staff have to take unpaid days off, and why alumni are begging hat in hand for donations for scholarships.

Because you're not visionairies, people.

And Lloyd Axworthy and Sherman Kreiner are.

Of course, one of those socialist visions has taken an interesting turn.

In June, the University announced that all food services on campus, including the three cafeterias and the food for students in residence, would be provided by a brand spanking new organization.

The changeover was purely ideological. While students asked for more food options and, of course, lower prices, Lloyd Axworthy intends to give them food reflecting "the cultural diversity" of the university, including Middle Eastern and African eats, while concentrating on being environmentally friendly and healthy. Kumbaya.

The U of W news release on the plan contained this information:

"The architects of this food services delivery model are two Winnipeg based organizations, The University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation (UWCRC) and SEED Winnipeg.

They have created a joint venture called Diversity Food Services that will employ approximately 25 people to provide all food services on campus including meal-plan students living at the new McFeetors Hall student and community residence.

In the coming months, employees and managers of Diversity Food Services will be invited to invest in its ownership. It is an approach that is unique among universities in Canada."

'Employee ownership'. It's not hard to see where that comes from.

Sherman Kreiner's entire tenure at Crocus was dominated by the determination to entice, prod and cajole employers into making their employees co-owners. The time has obviously come to start injecting those socialist Mondragon principles into university operations.

SEED Winipeg, Inc. hasn't much of a profile in Winnipeg. The University describes it as "a non-profit agency whose mandate it is to combat inner-city poverty by aiding people in their efforts to save money and to start small sustainable ventures."

Hardly the stuff of scandal, is it?

The university press release quoted the "architects" of the food delivery model:

"Sherman Kreiner, Managing Director of the UWCRC, describes the venture as consistent with the UWCRC's mandate to work towards developing a sustainable University community that is attractive to the faculty, staff, students, and the greater community. "Every thing that we do, from building new campus and community facilities, to operating University business services is designed to address each of the critical pillars of long-term sustainability - environmental sustainability, social sustainability, economic sustainability, and cultural sustainability."

"SEED's mission is to positively influence the quality of employment opportunities for workers from low income communities, by supporting initiatives which offer good wages and benefits and career advancement opportunities," said Cindy Coker, Executive Director, SEED Winnipeg. "We seek to develop business opportunities where workers have access to skills training and training in various aspects of business management. Business ownership provides an important asset opportunity for individuals from low income communities".

What the university failed to mention, is that Kreiner and Coker are married. Or living common law, we're not sure which. But they're sure joined at the hip.

So what do you call it, when the one working for the university gives an untendered, sole-sourced contract to a new business jointly created by him and his spouse which must hire employees provided by the same spouse? Shades of grey?

Or another bottom line?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Is it hot in here? Or is it just me? asks Bob Brennan.

You know the drill....

You try to squeeze in a couple of weeks vacation and when you come back your desk is overflowing with work.

You pick up the top document and ...WHOOOO.


(How do you spell the sound of a whistleblower's whistle?)

The internet is literally buzzing about Brennan.
Bob Brennan.
Manitoba Hydro CEO Bob.

Four sources are saying Big Bob has become the living embodiment of Hydro's 'I'm all right Jack' attitude.

And why, say others, is the news media ignoring the story?

Whistler A said:
"Was talking to a PCL guy last night and supposedly, Bob Brennan, the CEO, has demanded his office be redesigned 6 times, including moving it from the South side to the North side. This has cost about $2 mil."

Whistler B said:
"Absolutely true. His office was in the south side of the building and had a $100,000 roof over it because the 23rd floor is a mechanical room (paranoid of leaks apparently). That wasn't good enough. So now, his floor is on the 22nd, North West corner ... and it's huge."

He later added:
"Looks like some type of white marble is going in as well, packages of it were sitting on the floor."

Whistler C said:
"The white granite is the same that is in other areas of the building (and it) is true that he has switched ends of the building more than once."

Whistler D (who hates The Black Rod) joined in:
"another bob brennan...he is having air conditioning for his floor priced out right now."

Say what ?

The big boss doesn't have faith in the geothermal heat pump system that's supposed to provide 100 percent of the air conditioning to the 23-storey building?

Ohhhh, that's gonna be embarassing.

Maybe that's why some proponents of the building are trying to get ahead of the curve -- by floating the excuse that the runaway costs were due to experimental features never before tried in a building of that size. So, when everything has to be redone at even greater cost, Bob will have a ready-made excuse?

"To keep this whole mess under the carpet is nothing short of jounalistic failure...." wrote one angry commenter.

Let's see what the MSM does with it now...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Jeff Browaty: Civic Weasel Number One.

In an uninspiring pack of 15 city councillors, North Kildonan's Jeff Browaty has distinguished himself by being the first to commit to waiving property taxes on millionaire moocher Gail Asper's pet project, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Browaty was asked point blank Tuesday on CJOB's Nighhawk nighttime talkshow whether he would support the expected bid by the CMHR to waive $9 million in city taxes. Gail Asper deliberately or otherwise "forgot" to include city taxes in the annual operating budget she negotiated with the federal government. Given that the museum project is already so deep in the hole they'll reach China before solvency, their only hope is for Gail Asper to come to council waving her tin cup, her gold-plated tin cup, and beg them to forgive the entire 9 mil.

Browaty knows that. So he answered in typical weasel fashion.

"Well, let's just see what the specific ask is. I, uh, you know, I…"

Guest host Marty Gold pressed the point home.

"C'mon now….yes or no. Yes or no?"

Browaty played dumb. (Insert dumb politician joke here)

"I'm not going to give you a yes or no answer. It depends on what they're asking for."

Gold spelled it out, simply, so simply that even a city councillor could understand.

"If they ask for a complete property tax (exemption)?"

Browaty spewed out a torrent of weasel words.

"A complete property…yeah….I mean, I'd have to see the business case to see if that makes sense for the city. I mean, we get enough other, you know, fall off benefits like…I'd need to see a full cost ben

efit on that."

Huh? A cost benefit on that?

Here's your cost benefit analysis: the city desperately needs money and the human rights museum owes the city $9 million a year. Where's the cheque? End of story. No further discussion necessary.

Browaty boasts on his website that he once worked "as a Communications Officer at the Manitoba Legislature." He thinks the public is stupid and easily bamboozled by a professional spinner like him. He's obviously learned nothing in his two years and nine months as a city councillor. If he had, he would know that we understand that the more a politician ducks a question, the more he confirms exactly what he's trying to avoid saying.

In short, he was asked a straightforward question regarding the CMHR's taxes, he refused to answer and tried to deflect the question with bafflegab, and by doing so he confirmed that he favoured telling a multi-millionaire she doesn't have to pay property taxes on her pet project. Taxes are for little people.

Did we mention bafflegab? Browaty's lame attempt to duck the question is classic.

Let's pick up at "I'd need to see a full cost benefit on that."

"I wouldn't be shocked that, you know, there was, there was a notion that perhaps the sale, or, I think someone somewhere has suggested at some point that the sale of the Winnipeg Square parkade, the revenues from that could go towards building a parkade at the human rights museum, for example. When the Winnipeg Square parkade was built, there wasn't a business case to do it. Today it's a cash cow. It's a very profitable entity."
"…In terms of civic involvement in the human rights museum there may be a case that, you know, that would make sense."

Or at least make more sense than Browaty. He was asked if he would support waiving the museum's property taxes and he wound up blathering about the Winnipeg Square parkade.

Not only is parking irrelevant, but he decided to rewrite history as well.

The City of Winnipeg's public works committee mused about selling the Winnipeg Square parkade exactly one year ago. The underground facility earns the city about $1.7 million a year, but the committee members estimated the air rights made the land worth between $20 million and $50 million.

Contrary to Browaty's flight of fantasy, the Winnipeg Square parkade was never an iffy proposition.

It was built in 1977, the year Browaty was born, to complement the Trizec development at Portage and Main, which was to include two skyscrapers plus a new shopping plaza or two. The concern was never that the parking structure wouldn't make money. Rather the debate was whether the slow rate of leaving the full parkade would put motorists' lives at risk from a build-up of carbon monoxide from idling cars.

Browaty and the rest of council should read up on the history of the parkade at

They would also learn that Trizec was to lease the airspace above the parkade for $175,000 a year for 99 years. Only about 70 years to go.

The Winnipeg Free Press published another puff piece on the CMHR Wednesday, all about how the museum is hiring and resumes are pouring in.

However nowhere in the 21 paragraphs would you learn that the museum project is already $50 million over budget, not counting the $5 million in operating funds they need for 2009.

Since confessing to bleeding red ink at a world-class rate, the museum has been long on gimmicks (a fundraising social for ex-Winnipegers in Toronto, a leave-your-footprints-in -cement-for-posterity in Winnipeg). But they've been short on donations.

In fact, there hasn't been an announcement of a penny in new money since CUPE announced a pathetic donation of $250,000 in May. At the rate the project is burning money, that covered about six days of expenses.

In fact, we estimate that without huge infusions of new cash almost immediately, they will run out of money in the spring of 2011.

Or sooner if they can't get a handle on the "unprecedented construction inflation" that the mayor warned city council about in his plea this week for more infrastructure money.


Did somebody say infrastructure deficit?


Just as we predicted, Magic Sam the Magic Mayor's fearsome deficit dragon turned out to be a phantasmagoria when presented to council's executive policy committee Wednesday.

"$7.4 billion" howled Magic Mayor Sam Katz in his best Count Floyd voice. "Scarrrry, boys and girls."

But, as Paul Turenne reports in the Winnipeg Sun, the scary deficit dragon was concocted by taking one part true infrastructure needs ($3.8 billion over 10 years) and one part gigantic spending wish list. ($3.6 billion). Actually the spending wish list was $3.6 gazillion gajillion dollars, but was pared down so the mayor and his sidekick Russ Wyatt wouldn't be laughed out of town.

It turns out Russ Wyatt's brainstorming sessions were phantasmagorical in themselves, so his spending wish list includes rapid transit lines criss-crossing the city hither and yon, and, says Turenne, "a biosolids green energy production facility."

For the uninitiated, biosolids are, as one U.S. newspaper tactfully put it, "the organic materials remaining after treatment of domestic sewage at a wastewater treatment facility." Or, colloquially, shit.

But here's something you likely won't read about the Sam-and-Russ report. And it's good news.

If the true infrastructure deficit is $3.8 billion over 10 years, that's an average of $380 million a year. But in their report to EPC, Mayor Katz says we ALREADY SPEND $476 MILLION. With the existing tax rates.

We're not only keeping up in timely repairs of existing infrastructure, but we're hacking away at the backlog at the rate of almost $100 million a year.

And that, folks, ain't biosolid by anyone's description.

Next: Sherman Kreiner is up to his old tricks

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Civic deficit a mythical beast reporters can slay- if they dare

Magicians of yore would invoke spirits with the incantation 'Abra Cadabra', and--poof--- a rabbit would emerge from an empty hat or a comely assistant would vanish, only to reappear seconds later behind a velvet curtain.

Nowadays, to make bags of money appear out of nowhere, tawdry politicians chant 'Infrastructure Deficit.' And the public yawns. For they know the trick too well, and it always ends the same way, with the only thing disappearing being the money in their pockets.

The Great (in girth) Russ-o and Magic Sam the Magic Mayor have already intoned the magic words and Wednesday they will unleash an imaginary dragon at Executive Policy Committee, allegedly to shame senior governments with money into giving lots of it to Winnipeg.

The monster is named Seven Point-Four Billion, which, they say, is what Winnipeg needs to spend over the next 10 years just to replace the streets crumbling under our feet and the bridges falling down on our heads.

Oh, woe, cries Mayor Magic Sam Katz. Oh, horrors, harmonizes The Great Russ Wyatt, his Secretary of Infrastructure Renewal.

On Wednesday they will bring with them a hefty report prepared by the city's public service explaining the decade of decay awaiting Winnipeg without scads of cash from Doer the Magnificent Dipper or The Illustrious Stevo, P.M. extraordinaire.

It will be a fine show, you can be sure---unless the assembled reporters utter their own magic words: "Prove it."

For, it seems, the infrastructure deficit dragon has made several notable appearances before---in various shapes and sizes.

Only last April, Scott Fielding, councillor for St. James-Brooklands, was rejoicing at news the federal government had doubled the gas tax revenue to municipalities

“The City of Winnipeg has over a $3 billion deficit and this new money will certainly help to upgrade and fix our crumbling roads, sidewalks and sewer and water systems," he sang.

Amazing how the dragon has more than doubled in size in two months. But its growth didn't pass completely unnoticed.

A Winnipeg Free Press editorial on June 1, 2009, praised David Asper's plan for raising taxes with a reference to the infrastructure hole that needed to be filled.

Now walk the walk, Mr. Asper
By: Editorial 1/6/2009 1:00 AM

A report to the city earlier this year on its infrastructure deficit showed that the $2.1 billion Winnipeg plans to spend in the next six years to fill potholes and truss up bridges is less than half of what's needed. The infrastructure deficit sits at about $4.5 billion.

So it's ballooned 60 percent in a single month?

Of course in his State of the City address in January, 2009, Magic Sam the Magic Mayor saw the deficit dragon as a lot smaller

"We are playing a game of infrastructure 'catch-up'. But repairing our aging infrastructure remains a top priority.
The cost of inflation on construction materials has skyrocketed and some projects - like the Chief Peguis Trail extention or the Disraeli Freeway, are adding to a 2.8 billion dollar infrastructure deficit each second they are not getting done."

Tripled in six months. Yikes.

It was only two months earlier, at the beginning of November, 2008, that Mayor Sam announced he was making Russ Wyatt his extra special secretary of strategic infrastructure renewal.

As reported in the Winnipeg Free Press at the time:

"Katz says Wyatt is now responsible for finding ways to eliminate Winnipeg's infrastructure deficit, which has ballooned to somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion, according to city estimates."

Wasn't it only five years ago that the Association of Manitoba Municipalities appeared before the federal standing committee on finance to say the infrastructure deficit for the entire province was pegged at $7.4 billion? With Winnipeg's share at a measley $1 billion?

My, my. How time flies and dragons grow.

Will a single reporter on Wednesday ask "Which deficit? $1 billion or $2 billion? $3 billion or $4.5 billion?"

All 'official' public service numbers that have been rolled out for public consumption.

The Winnipeg Free Press can devote a dozen pages to listing who ran in the Manitoba Marathon and their finish times. Surely they can devote a few to detailing exactly what this magic deficit is composed of, street by street, bridge by bridge, sewer by sewer.

The information is at the administration's fingertips, since they had to have it to add up to $7.4 billion, didn't they. Why shouldn't it be made public?

Of course, we all know that all magic tricks depend ultimately on misdirection. So when we look closely at the trick announced in a news release, what do we find?

Infrastructure deficit expected to balloon to $7.4 billion
Current funding formula will see shortfall escalate over next decade

Winnipeg, July 3rd, 2009 - Committed to ensuring that repairing our crumbling roads and bridges remains a top priority for all levels of government, the Secretary of Strategic Infrastructure Renewal will provide reports to Executive Policy Committee that show a total funding shortfall of $7.4 billion dollars to achieve an appropriate level of condition.
“With every passing day, our roads and bridges are falling into a further state of disrepair,” said Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz. “Our public service has confirmed what we’ve always known - that the current level of funding is simply not an option if Winnipeg is expected to make serious strides to long term sustainability of its existing and new infrastructure priorities.”

How can new infrastructure be part of a deficit? It hasn't been built yet.

And why are we adding new infrastructure when we can't maintain the old? Does that make any sense?

If we can't repair the old fast enough before it falls apart completely, we certainly can't maintain the new, so it too will soon fall apart. Then it will become part of the deficit, eradicating all efforts to cut the deficit down. Does that make any sense?

Will any reporter ask?

Or will they be too busy going "Oooh, a rabbit. Cool."