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 adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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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: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sam Katz 2, Greg Selinger 0

We knew there was something wrong with the picture.

They came together at a "hastily called" news conference to announce a deal to provide Winnipeg with a police cadet program. Days earlier they had been calling each other liars over claim and counter-claim that the provincial government under Gary Doer had promised to fund the program in full.

So why was Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz grinning from ear to ear? He hadn't won the pissing match; he lost. The city will have to fund half the program, money which wasn't budgeted for.

And why was Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan wearing a frowny-face? He hadn't lost the pissing match; he won. The mayor and police chief did a lot of yapping, but when push came to shove, they caved and agreed to pay half, exactly what the public expected to happen.

Thursday we got our answer.

The Opposition Tories were leading the NDP under unelected premier Greg Selinger by seven points in the latest election poll.

Swan had been taken to the woodshed and soundly spanked. The last thing Selinger needs now is a public fight over a popular public safety measure against a popular mayor AND the police chief.

As the dirtiest politician in the province, Selinger has his own baggage to bring to an election.

As Finance Minister, Selinger propped up the Crocus Investment Fund even after it turned into a Ponzi scheme and swallowed the savings of thousands of Manitobans. While Crocus ran a secret information back-channel directly to Selinger's office keeping him abreast of its sinking fortunes, he knew that if things went bad he could always lay the blame on Industry Minister Maryann Mihaychuk whose department was ostensibly responsible for the fund.

It did and he did.

Selinger covered up, as long as he could, the 1999 NDP election fraud which saw NDP candidates file phony expense claims to justify tens of thousands of dollars in rebates they weren't entitled to. But first he got a letter from the NDP head office exonerating him of any blame, leaving his campaign agent to take the heat in case the fraud was made public.

Do you see a pattern here?

An NDP whistleblower finally revealed the NDP election fraud last year, but by then another whistleblower had enmeshed the government in allegations of enormous waste and mismanagement by Manitoba Hydro, the utility overseen by none other than Greg Selinger as Minister with responsibility for Hydro.

Instead of insisting the matter be investigated promptly, as required by the NDP's own Whistleblower Protection Act, Selinger did nothing while the complaint languished for months. Then he very publicly offered his support to Bob Brennan, Hydro's CEO, who was doing his best to breach the Act by identifying and villifying the whistleblower despite alleged protection in the Act against this very thing.

Selinger is not popular with the ladies, according to the Angus Reid poll.

Setting up one woman to take the blame for a failed investment company and dismissing another woman's work before its even been investigated aren't acts that will warm him to their hearts.

Neither will the sight of an imperious government minister looking down his nose at the Mayor and the Chief of Police and sneering at their efforts to put more police on the streets without raising property taxes.

Katz was smiling because he's come out the winner (in the public's eyes) in two nose-to-nose confrontations with the provincial government---for funding of a police helicopter and, now, partial funding of a police cadet program.

The mayor has fashioned the coming civic election into a fight between him and the NDP. It's the little guy non-politician fighting to stop the ideological NDP machine from taking over city hall.

With the NDP smarting from the poll results, despite their protestations to the contrary, Katz has undercut the value of the party's endorsation of any mayoral candidate. But he's also launched a preemptive strike against anyone running for council under the NDP banner.

With six months to go before the civic election campaign, the score is:
Sam 2 Selinger Zip

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