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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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?

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