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, April 30, 2010

TV News reveals the reality of crime in the streets. Listen up.

Where are Simon and Garfunkle when you need them?

Come to think of it, where are the usual suspects? Where's cop-basher Nahanni Fontaine? Where's her Marxist university pal, Elizabeth Comack? Where's her professional and far-left political colleague Jim Silver?

Here's an obvious case of a racial hate crime, and all we hear is...the sounds of silence.

CBC Television News carried an interview Thursday with a young man who was carjacked on Bannerman Avenue by some armed criminals who were, ahem, aboriginal in appearance. Before leaving they threatened their victim with the words: 'stay out of the North End white boy.'

Say what? This, by any politically correct dictionary, meets the definition of a racial hate crime.

And yet, where's the outrage?

Where are the demands from Nahanni Fontaine for greater protection from aboriginal racists? Where's Jim Silver to declare that poverty breeds Indian racism? Where's Elizabeth Comack to condemn the police for failing to stem racial threats by Indian gang members?

Oh, of course, we're not living in never-never land. We see clearly now how their usual well-publicized kneejerk responses to crime and the native community is not based on principle, but on their Marxist agenda. Racism against whites? Who cares, eh Nahanni? Eh, Jimmy? Eh, Lizzie?

Maybe the next time the mainstream reporters go running to these usual suspects for comment on anything, they'll ask.

Yeah, in never-neverland.

We've said before that television has become the exciting new frontier for news stories. And Thursday was a perfect example. Along with the CBC aboriginal racism story above, Global News broadcast video that should be rebroadcast throughout the city.

A Global cameraman captured the arrest of an auto thief who led police on a high-speed chase that ended only when the thief crashed his stolen vehicle into two car at St. Matthews Avenue and Strathcona Street.

The thief was face down beside a fence whining that his arm hurt. A police officer was atop him with his knee in the thief's back.

Policeman: "Any weapons on you?"

Thief: "No. I don't think so. (pause) I might have a knife."

Repeat: "No...I may have a knife."

That's the reality facing police every single day in Winnipeg.

The mainstream media was only too happy to broadcast, and re-broadcast, and re-re-broadcast the video of police arresting car thief Cody Bousquet. Police brutality, the reporters screamed.

Now will they juxtapose the Cody Bousquet video with the Global car thief video to put the job of the police into its true context --- where police have to act quickly and decisively to subdue car thieves before they can reach for their knives.

The Bousquet video shows him with his hands unrestrained, fighting back at first, then resisting efforts to pull his hands out from under his body where police, as you can now plainly see, had every reason to suspect he was reaching for a knife or other weapon.

Or will the Global video go into the archives to the tune of Simon and Garfunkle---the sounds of silence.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Postl and Wright "CAUT" redhanded. Ignorant--or misleading--the Dr. Reynolds investigation

Four months from now a picket line will be thrown up around the University of Manitoba.

It will be an invisible picket line but a strong one nevertheless, a line of moral suasion that will turn the university into an academic pariah across Canada and around the world.

This is the legacy of Dr. Brian Postl, the former CEO of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the new Dean of Medicine. Thanks for nothing Bri.

The reason for the censure of the U of M is contained in a report issued Wednesday by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) into the unjust dismissal of Dr. Larry Reynolds, the former Head of Family Medicine at the university.

It's a tale of Machiavellian machinations by Postl and his minions, aided and abetted by the former Dean of Medicine who had his own bone to pick with Dr. Reynolds, all of whom felt the rules didn't apply to them. It's a tale you didn't read in the mainstream press.

Reynolds, says the CAUT report, was a hero to community doctors, but a thorn in the side of the WRHA, a pain that had to be removed to foster the goal of Brian Postl.

The WRHA intended to expand its empire to take control of the U of M medical school. The health authority would have a veto over appointments to the heads of medical faculties like this: the university would require the head of family medicine, for example, to work for the WRHA, and if he lost his job with the health authority, he would lose his job with the university, tenure be damned.

The problem they ran into was that Dr. Reynolds wasn't playing the game. The WRHA painted a bullseye on his back almost from Day One, according to the CAUT report.

According to the byzantine arrangement, Reynolds was hired by the University of Manitoba as a professor with tenure in the university's Department of Family Medicine, with his job divided between the university (professor and head of family medicine) and the WRHA (Medical Director of the Family Medicine Program), with the latter including the responsibility of Medical Site Manager for Family Medicine at St. Boniface Hospital. Somewhere in this, he was also Education Director at the Kildonan Medical Centre and he worked in emergency wards where there was a shortage of physicians.

But Postl wanted him out. He wasn't a team player. Or rather, he played for another team, not the WRHA.

He opposed Postl's plans for closing the low risk obstetrics unit at Victoria Hospital, for example, and went so far as to use his university guarantee of academic freedom to write an op-ed for the Winnipeg Free Press and to lobby the Minister of Health. There was more, unstated, opposition to Reynolds as well which we reported in The Black Rod here (

With 15 months to go in his original five-year term as Head of Family Medicine, Reynolds found himself fending off an unsubtle campaign to get him to leave.

He complained in writing about a "harassing and intimidating" meeting with Dr. Sharon Macdonald, WRHA vice-president, and Gloria O'Rourke, WRHA human resources officer.

He discovered by accident that the university had posted his job with a headhunting firm only when he "received calls from colleagues across the country expressing concern that they were being headhunted for my job."

When he persisted in reapplying for his job (incumbents were traditionally reappointed), he was met with procedural hurdles including a first-ever performance review which he characterized as "demeaning, threatening and demoralizing"

In the end, the WRHA starved him out. The CAUT report doesn't say it, but its obvious. They stalled him until his appointment ran out, then they appointed an interim Head of Family Medicine. Reynolds would not be paid further. He had no choice but to leave. Postl thought he had easily bested his lowly opponent.

"The incumbent Head, Dr. Larry Reynolds seems to have been subjected to coercion, initially to persuade him to agree not to stand for reappointment, then to withdraw his application, and finally to agree not to re-apply, presumably in any future search process. In that end, that pressure succeeded because time had run out for Dr. Reynolds," wrote the CAUT.

But Reynolds called on the CAUT to investigate the treatment he received at the hands of the Dean and the WRHA.

Bad news for the bad guys. And worse news for the university.

CAUT interviewed the principles of the story starting with the Dean. Two lines stand out in CAUT's review of Dean Sandham's story: "We believe that the Dean's claim was not accurate." and "This also was clearly false."

They spoke to Brian Postl, who told them "the whole administrative structure was built on having University Heads for the clinical teams, especially in Family Medicine; but that Dr. Reynold's team came to him (Postl) and said that they would resign if Dr. Reynolds was reappointed."

"At the time of this interview the Committee had seen no evidence to corroborate this claim. To the contrary, it was remarkably at odds with the May 2005 anonymous, confidential survey of 80 percent of all 49 members of the Department of Family Medicine regarding the performance of the Department Head in which 74 percent rated Dr. Reynolds' performance as "excellent" or "good" and 70 percent agreed that his appointment should be renewed unconditionally for a second term."

Oops. But that wasn't all. Postl, commenting on academic freedom, waffled, telling CAUT, yeah, there is that, but, you see, you can't contradict me. I am Caesar.

"Dr. Wright (Brock Wright, former WRHA Chief Operating Officer and VP - ed.) seemed to have essentially no understanding of the meaning of a university appointment with tenure," wrote CAUT. Postl supported Wright's, ahem, "misunderstanding" of reality.

"It seemed to this Committee that in taking this position, these two senior WRHA administrators were either displaying woeful ignorance of the content of the documents Dr. Postl had signed in May, 2001, or were attempting to obfuscate the issues."

Obfuscate. A fancy word that means 'to confuse'. Or, in this context, 'to mislead.'

CAUT has given the university until November to give Dr. Reynolds his university job back. If not, the intellectual picket line goes up.

That will mean that CAUT could discourage academic staff in Canada and around the world from working at the U of M, or from participating in academic conferences at the university or the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. That's a real black eye for a university.

And one for Dianne McGifford, the minister for universities in Manitoba.

It seems she's too busy watching the University of Winnipeg spend money on book stores and restaurants while not being able to afford professors for the Philosophy Department. And the University of Manitoba too engaged in building a football stadium to bother supporting its tenured profs.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In the red corner, the Challenger with the unpronounceable name

Is this the best they can do?

A burned-out NDP retread is the champion of the Left in Winnipeg's mayoral contest?

They've had four years to beat the bushes to find a candidate who could stand up to Sam Katz and still they had to reach way, way, way down to the bottom of the barrel to find anyone to pick up the gauntlet.

Step up Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

After 13 years in Parliament, during which she never climbed higher than the bottom rung of the No. 4 party in the House, Judy Alphabet thinks mediocrity is her key to the Big Job in Winnipeg.

That plus being a lifelong party hack who's never had a real job in her life. Some credentials, there, Judy.

Goodness knows, Katz is vulnerable to a real candidate for mayor. In the last election he was still a relative unknown, the non-politician who had to pick up the pieces of the rubble after the ego-driven Glen Murray dumped his "vision" for the city for a run at a federal seat more suitable for his swollen head. Katz's opponents were a homosexual activist and a man-bashing socialist wo-myn, who got a good drubbing at the polls.

Four years later, people know what they're getting in Sam Katz. He's not a leader; he's a product of the Winnipeg establishment; he gets things done---in the backrooms, in secret, as quietly as possible. He can't understand why nobody's happy when he stands up and announces his latest successful negotiation. Instead of applause, he's met with brickbats for failing to keep councillors and taxpayers appraised of what he was doing.

He balances the budget by including millions from a lawsuit the city may not win. He keeps property taxes fixed while lamenting an out-of-sight infrastructure "deficit" that's mostly a hodge podge of his pet projects which have never been approved by the voters. He claims there's no money to fix backlanes or remove graffiti, but shrugs at tens of millions of cost overruns on city projects with a 'Whatareyougonnado?' attitude.

On the other hand, there's Judy W-L, the NDP hack.

Why is she running? She told CTV's Tom Clark on his Newsnet show Power Play. She's sick of running in place, of fighting the same battles over and over again in Parliament, she said. In short, burn out.

What she failed to mention is that for most of her term in office, she's actively worked in Parliament against the best interests of Winnipeg.

The NDP in Manitoba is trying its best to deflect blame for the soft-on-crime probation scandal by hiding behind the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act, whose soft-on-youth-crime provisions have fuelled the auto-theft epidemic in Winnipeg.

What they fail to say is that the Act was passed with the full support of the federal NDP, including Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
In fact, federal NDP justice critic Joe Comartin publicly bragged after the Act's passage that the NDP was proud to have kept the principles of deterrence and denunciation out of the sentencing provisions of the YCJA.

When he spoke, Comartin represented the NDP caucus in Ottawa, which included Judy.

NDP premier-of-the-day Gary Doer led a delegation to Ottawa in 2007 (with Opposition leader Hugh McFadyen and Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz as his handmaidens) to ask for changes to the law to toughen sanctions against young offenders.

Wasylycia-Leis did not join the delegation here or in Ottawa. She did not add her voice to the pleas of Winnipegers for help in fighting car thieves with no respect for the law. She did not stand and be counted when it mattered for the city of Winnipeg and its citizens.

She stood silent, preferring to be a team-player with the federal NDP that opposed then, and opposes now, any substantive changes to the youth justice act that would let judges apply deterrence and denunciation to their sentencing guidelines.

Her allegiance lay with her political party and its ideology, not with the people of Winnipeg who were suffering under the crimewave. Now she wants to spread that Party ideology into City Hall.

How about this? Almost exactly three years ago---April 30, 2007---The Black Rod praised Judy Wasylysia-Leis for her concern about senseless violent crime in Winnipeg. She was one of the extremely few, if not the only, politicians to attend the funeral of a man who was beaten to death by a group of men as he got off a bus at Selkirk and Powers heading home after work.

"This week we saw one politician try to bridge the chasm between politicians and people in Winnipeg. At the funeral of Erin Pawlowski, New Democrat MP Judy Wacylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North) offered her condolences to Pawlowski's family.
"I don't go to every funeral that comes along, but this one grabbed me -- disturbed me. And I just had to show the family that the community is there for them. Lots of people are outraged by this. And lots of people are going to take a message from Erin's death and try to do something to change our society," she told the Winnipeg Sun.
You might cynically say she's trying to get a jump on the issue of crime ahead of a federal election, but at least Judy had the shame to show her face. Sam Katz has yet to show his on Selkirk Avenue, or Magnus."
Well, guess what? It looks like we were right the first time, it was just a cynical ploy to win an election. Judy W-L never again showed anything resembling leadership on crime in Winnipeg. She sends out a newsletter to her constituents which is primarily an exercise in how many stamp-sized pictures of Judy Wasylycia-Leis they can pack into a dozen pages. Between the pictures she writes about her latest battles to save this or fight that--- and fighting crime never gets a mention.

Hey, Judy, if you knew anything about Winnipeg you would know we're the murder capital of Canada, the gang capital, the robbery capital, and, now, the stabbing capital. We're No. 1 in a lot of things we don't want to be.

And get this. She told Power Play that crime prevention was one of her planks (Stop laughing). That and the environment and opportunities for young people.

That demonstrates how out of touch she is with Winnipeg. She thinks the big issue in the city is the environment? Global Warming? Recycling?

Hey, Judy. People in your own riding are worried about having the garbage picked up often enough to prevent fire-setting, not about bike paths and composting.

You would know that if you bothered to spend any time in Winnipeg instead of mixing with your fellow lefties in Ottawa.

You want to run for Mayor? Step one: read The Black Rod

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Will NDP's social-worker approach to crime result in probabation officer being charged for Lanzellotti death?

Oh, the irony.

Here's the NDP releasing a string of pre-election, tough-on-crime announcements and they get smacked in the kisser with a scandal that exposes their biggest crime-fighting "success" as a complete farce.

It would be funny if it wasn't for the string of tragic deaths that leads back directly to the office of the Justice Minister.

It turns out that Manitoba's probation services believes it's not bound by the sentences laid down by judges. Where a judge imposed strict probation conditions on a repeat juvenile car thief, the lad's probation officer waived them away and replaced them with her own, superior, "judgement", resulting in the death of a city cab driver rammed by the same joyriding car thief who was breaking his court-ordered probation.

The electorate has learned through evidence presented at a sentencing hearing that the epidemic of car theft infecting Winnipeg was fed for years by this very lax supervision of juvenile offenders, a policy endorsed by NDP Justice Minister Andrew Swan.

The Manitoba NDP is now frantically thrashing about, trying to get off the hook of the scandal that's engulfing them. But the usual deflection tactics perfected by our scandal-stained unelected Premier Greg Selinger have fallen flat because the public is seething at having been played for fools.

The NDP has resorted to its standard playbook---throw something at the wall and hope it sticks.

There's the old "ho hum, we already changed the policy to make it tougher" routine.

And the tried-and-true "it's your fault because you voted against hiring more probation officers" act.

And, of course, the always popular "we've called a meeting with the head of the RCMP, the Chief of Winnipeg Police, Nelson Mandella, the Dalai Lama, Olympic medalist Clara Hughes and Oprah to find a solution."

What the public remembers, though, is Andrew Swan's glib response to the news that taxi driver Tony Lanzellotti was killed on March 29, 2008 by a 14-year-old in a stolen car who had breached his probation at least 24 times in the prior six weeks.

"Frankly, if a kid is five minutes late for an appointment with a probation officer, or a kid because of his home life is late for school one day, I don't think Manitobans want that to be a reason for more criminal charges to be laid," sniffed Andrew Swan.

Flippant in the face of fact, Swan defended the NDP's social-worker approach to crime, even if it means the deaths of innocent people like Tony Lanzellotti, Zdzislaw Andrzejczak, Rachelle Leost, and too many others. MPI says on its website that on average, three people are killed and 76 people are injured every year in theft-related crashes.

Big joke, eh, Andrew.

The bigger joke is the university eggheads who have been promoting the NDP as valiant crime-fighters. Their reputations are in the toilet thanks to the Lanzellotti revelation.

"The NDP has done as well as it can as a governing party to address crime," puffed Jared Wesley, an assistant professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, during the Concordia byelection.

"Wesley pointed to the success of the Winnipeg Auto Theft Suppression Strategy to reduce car theft..." wrote the Winnipeg Free Press two months ago.

And two months before that, the newspaper trumpeted
"Rick Linden, a University of Manitoba criminology professor and co-chairman of the Manitoba Auto Theft Task Force, which designed WATSS, (who) said the program has been a huge success. Linden said the program does "as good a job as is humanly possible" on crime prevention, but it's impossible to stop every car thief."

So the eggheads believe the NDP has "done as well as it address crime" and its car-theft strategy does "as good a job as humanly possible."

We beg to differ.

The NDP could have done twice as much to address crime if it had simply enforced the judges' sentences and called the police the first time the car thieves breached their conditions instead of minimizing their behavior and allowing the criminals to call the shots.

And it appears that the claims of the vaunted auto theft suppression strategy need a serious re-examination.

The university eggheads continue to propagate the idea that baby-sitting car thieves reduced car theft, but it may be that over five years, the thieves simply aged themselves out of the Youth Justice Act and, once faced with serious jail time as adults, decided to stop stealing cars.

The government is trying to hide behind the federal Youth Justice Act. We're helpless, they plead. Our hands are tied. And to this extent, they're right: under the Act, probation officers, contrary to what you may believe, are not the buffers between young criminals and the public; they are officially buffers between the criminals and the police.

Yes, that's right, their job is to support the criminals in the system.

The rampant disregard for public safety by the Manitoba probation service, with the full backing of the NDP government, cannot be allowed to pass.

For starters, the province's chief medical examiner must call an inquest into the death of Tony Lanzellotti, just as he called an inquest into the preventable death of Brian Sinclair at the Health Sciences Centre. In the Sinclair case, the cause of death is known and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has taken massive remedial steps to prevent a similar incident, and yet there is a need to examine the wider problems in the health care system. So, too, with the justice system.

But why stop there? One year ago, the NDP announced they were charging two Winnipeg policemen with attempted murder for their actions in trying to stop and arrest a drugged-up chronic car thief.

Now we have an example of what happens when authorities fail to stop a chronic car thief. Who will be held responsible for that?

The Lanzellotti family should launch a private prosecution against the probation officer who was in charge of the 14 year old killer for criminal negligence.

Definitions of criminal negligence on the Web:

(law) recklessly acting without reasonable caution and putting another person at risk of injury or death (or failing to do something with the same ...

In the criminal law, criminal negligence is one of the three general classes of mens rea (Latin for "guilty mind") element required to constitute a conventional as opposed to strict liability offense. ...

Failure to use reasonable care, and thus put someone at risk of injury or death

She certainly knew that teen was a level 4 offender. That term is defined in Manitoba as someone who has been convicted and sentenced multiple times for car theft. Convicted. Multiple times.

MPI has reported that Level 4 offenders steal up to 40 cars a year each. So having him on the street without supervision was pretty much a guarantee that he would steal a car.

The 14-year-old was out of control. His own father called authorities to say his son was breaching the conditions of his probation. That call was on Feb. 25, 2008. He broke his probation conditions another 18 times before killing Lanzellotti.

18 times!

The probation officer said she wouldn't call police until there was a pattern of breaches.

The law on criminal negligence uses a "reasonable person" standard to judge the actions of the accused. Would a reasonable person interpret 24 breaches of the law within six weeks a pattern?

The probation officer turned a blind eye to the breaches, refusing to report them to police. That's the actus reus (Latin for "guilty act"). By doing so she would have known he was stealing cars or, at best, would eventually steal a car.

And by letting him get away with it, she demonstrated negligence through what Wikipedia explains is "the failure to foresee and so allow otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest."

She let him break probation.
She knew he would steal a car.
She knew he had no fear of the law by his vast previous criminal record.

It was only a matter of time before he killed someone.

"Who knew" is a poor defence when the obvious answer is "Everyone."

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's Time to Start Asking the Ombudsman the Big Question

The complaint from the Manitoba Hydro Whistleblower has been punted back to the province's do-nothing Ombudsman.

The Public Utilities Board last month told the whistleblower, a New York energy risk consultant, "Tough luck, sweetie. It's not our job to see if Hydro pissed away a billion dollars of taxpayers' money."

Their exact words in bureauspeak were:

"The Board’s jurisdiction derives from The Public Utilities Board Act of Manitoba and The Crown Corporations Public Review and Accountability Act, in connection with regulatory responsibility for MH. As a result, it is not possible for the Ombudsman or the Auditor General to transfer their investigations to the Board, although this may have appeared to be the process to the NYC. The Board is also not governed or bound by The Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act in the completion of its statutory responsibilities."
So the complaint is back in the hands of the person who has done nothing with it for 14 months and counting, despite the law's direction to deal with complaints expeditiously.

And we understand she's planning to immediately do nothing more until she sees what the PUB concludes in its own analysis of Hydro's risk management, a process that's only just started and which will take months to complete.
But now, the ludicrous performance by Ombudsman Irene Hamilton to, ahem, "investigate" the one and only complaint ever filed under the NDP's much vaunted Whistleblower Protection Act has to be brought under official scrutiny.

Her abysmal failure to do her job and enforce the law makes the obvious question unescapable:

Is it incompetence or collusion?

Incompetence is a given. That's not incompetence in a perjorative senses; it's fact. She is not competent even to understand the complexities of energy risk management. She got a law degree and became a bureaucrat---the two most useless skills imaginable for anyone tasked with wandering the labyrinth of Manitoba Hydro's financial and construction affairs.

But in 14 months of twiddling her thumbs she could have gotten a degree in hydro engineering or higher mathematics.

Or, maybe, she could have talked to the whistleblower and got an understanding of the complaint beyond "Omigod, I'm not going to fight Hydro and the government. I've got a pension to protect."

Collusion now becomes an option to be investigated.

Remember, Hamilton worked in the NDP government for five years as the assistant deputy minister of Justice prior to being appointed Ombudsman in 2005. She sat on the whistleblower's complaint for months, then handed it over to the government's pet bureaucrat, the Auditor General. AG Carol Bellringer, who sat on Manitoba Hydro's board before taking her government job, then announced she wasn't bound by the Whistleblower Act and that she intended to take a year and a half at least to, ahem, examine the matter.
Or, in other words, put it under wraps until after the next election so it doesn't hurt the NDP.

Bellringer, you'll remember, is the NDP's go-to gal to put out political fires, like the O'Learygate scandal (detailed in our story Follow the Money ). In that one, she saved Education Minister Peter Bjornson's ass after concocting a bogus timeline and ruling that a $300,000 loss on an illegal housing development venture under his watch was more than offset by a whimsical idea to build an unnecessary school on a parcel of land the school board would sell to itself at a "profit."

That land, by the way, still sits empty five years later, used only as a seasonal mosquito breeding ground.

When The Black Rod exposed Bellringer's monthly briefings from Manitoba Hydro even after she became Auditor General, she told Irene Hamilton to take back her whistleblower complaint.

Hamilton then sat on it some more before pushing it over to the PUB, hoping they would take the hot potato off her hands.

No such luck.

She's stuck with enforcing the law, something she's done her level best to avoid.

The Whistleblower Act protects the identity of the person making a complaint. When Hydro CEO Bob Brennan did his personal best to reveal the whistleblower's identity through his public statements, Hamilton said nothing.

When Manitoba's unelected Premier and former Hydro Minister Greg Selinger gave Brennan a very public nod and wink and words of support, Hamilton failed to admonish him and insist on at least the appearance of impartiality.

Hydro filed court documents to continue their campaign of harassment of the whistleblower, including another effort to disclose her identity, and Hamilton leaped into the fray---to have the Ombudsman's office removed from the record.

Instead of fighting Hydro in court and publicly defending the provisions of the Act protecting the identity of all whistleblowers, Hamilton was struck dumb as she ran for the exit.


Or collusion?

Why won't the Opposition ask the question?

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shakespeare and the mystery of the new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Why is Greg Selinger known as the dirtiest politician in Manitoba? Look no further than the suspicious Selinger Stadium deal for the answer.

Its exactly what you would expect from the man who secretly propped up the Crocus Fund while it turned into a Ponzi scheme and lost investors millions. Why has this government gone to such great lengths to hide the details of what should be a simple deal to build a football stadium?

Start with the secrecy behind the major announcement.

The stadium deal wasn't mentioned in the budget presented barely a week earlier. That's funny. Either the money wasn't in the budget or it was hidden so deep it was never intended to be found. $115 million is almost a quarter of the projected deficit for 2010. How could that be overlooked? Yet, not a word in the budget speech about spending that sum on a new football stadium.

The Winnipeg Free Press gave its best shot this weekend at explaining the stadium shenanigans. The bottom line?

Selinger is handing over $115 million of borrowed money in a deal that makes no sense to anyone.

It's a deal that wouldn't be approved by any reputable lawyer in Canada. Correction---by any reputable lawyer whose family isn't collecting hundreds of millions of dollars from the public treasury.

Here's what we know about the stadium deal based on information from the FP and other media sources:

* Manitoba's unelected Premier is borrowing $115 million and lending it to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team.

* The Bombers will use the money to build a new football stadium.

* The stadium will be on land owned by the University of Manitoba near its Fort Garry campus.

Here's where it gets strange.

* The Bombers are hiring Creswin Properties, Canwest's real estate arm headed by David Asper, to build the new football stadium.

* Once the stadium is built, the city of Winnipeg will sell the land where the old stadium stands to David Asper.

* Asper will build an upscale shopping centre on the land.

* If Asper pays the Blue Bombers $90 million before March, 2016, he will become the owner of the team. The team will use the money to repay part of the government loan. The Bombers are expected to repay the other $15 million.

* If he doesn't pay the Blue Bombers $90 million in the next six years, the government will tap into the future property and school taxes assessed to Asper's shopping centre to repay the initial loan to the football team, plus interest.

Here's the obvious question:
Why is David Asper in the equation at all?
Why would David Asper pay off a debt to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers? He can't own the stadium or profit from its operations.

Why is the contract for the stadium untendered?
Why is it going to Asper's company?
How much profit will he make on the untendered contract?
Will that "profit" be part of his "repayment" of the loan, i.e. the province will provide the money to give to Asper to use to give back to the province?

New Democonomics, anyone?

Why are we selling the old stadium land to Asper? Why isn't it going to the highest bidder? Is he the only one in Canada who can develop a successful shopping centre?

Why would tax money from a redevelopment in St. James be used to pay for a stadium in another community six miles away (as the crow flies)?

Not to mention, that that's currently illegal.

Why is David Asper getting kid glove treatment from the Blue Bombers, Mayor Sam Katz and Premier Greg Selinger?

Why is he the annointed owner of the football team? When was that decision taken and by whom?

He's contributing nothing to the team.

Once upon a time he promised to build the stadium himself, just like his sister promised to build a museum with minimal government funding. Now both of them are the biggest leeches in the province.

Their involvement in any project is enough to raise suspicions in itself.

Yeah, yeah, he's supposed to put up $10 million which is what he's already spent on design. Who says we have to repay him every penny?

He wasn't contracted to build a stadium.He did the work on spec, so he swallows the cost.

That's called an "investment."

- The new football stadium is being funded by the province, not David Asper, so why is he involved in the planning at all?

Winnipeg is crawling with architects who could design a football stadium. Let's see what they have to offer. If we're stuck with Asper's design, let's make him an offer. What's he going to do? Build a stadium on his own? (Maybe he'll build an attached human rights museum while he's at it. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA.)

- The Winnipeg Free Press confirmed that Opposition Leader Hugh McFadyen was right when he said there was little chance Asper could make enough money from his proposed shopping centre in the time available to repay the government loan.

Asper, you'll recall, blew up on CJOB (audio vault, April 1, 2010, about 10:36 a.m.) politicizing the Blue Bombers under his ownership.

Remember than when buying a ticket --- every dollar goes to support the NDP.

- The FP also confirmed Tom Brodbeck's observation in the Winnipeg Sun, that Asper's only hope to repay the stadium loan is to borrow against his shopping centre.

But think that through. Asper is going to ask a bank manager for a second mortgage on a shopping centre so he can pay off a loan made to the university?

A loan for which he's not responsible? Plus interest? And on which he won't make a cent? Uh huh.
We'll get back to you on that one, Mr. Asper.

Just like we'll get back to Mr. Selinger.

- It turns out there are a few hoops our unelected premier has to jump through before his sweetheart deal with David Asper can become law.

First, he has to change the Community Revitalization Tax Increment Financing Act, passed only last year by the NDP. Selinger wants to use this law to find the money to repay Asper's $90 million allotment of the government loan.

It requires major revisions to save Selinger's ass.

4(3) Before recommending that the Lieutenant Governor in Council designate a property as a community revitalization property, the minister must consult with the council of the municipality and the school board of the school division in which the property is located.

Will Selinger remove this provision to squelch any discussion at City Hall or the Winnipeg One school division of using city and school taxes to backstop David Asper?

Designation of properties in close proximity
4(2) A regulation under subsection (1) may also designate as a community revitalization property real property that is in close proximity to the real property that is to be improved.

Will Selinger rewrite the English language and make land in Fort Garry "in close proximity" to land in St. James-Assiniboia?

The property and school taxes from the redeveloped stadium land are supposed to go into a special fund, but currently there are limits to who gets to dip into that fund.

Payments from fund
15(6) On the requisition of the minister, the Minister of Finance may make a grant from the fund from amounts credited to the fund for a community revitalization property, for a purpose mentioned in subsection (2), to
(a) the person in whose name the community revitalization property is assessed;
(b) an occupier of the community revitalization property;
(c) the municipality in which the community revitalization property is situated; or
(d) a person or organization carrying on activities or projects that are consistent with the purposes of the fund and that are in the same community or neighbourhood as the community revitalization property.

There's no way a stadium at the University of Manitoba is in the "same community or neighbourhood" as Polo Park.
Greg Selinger wants fund a new football stadium with borrowed money. But he doesn't want to say so.
Why the mystery?
To quote the Bard: Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

David Asper hitches the Blue Bombers to the NDP bandwagon

With a barrage of insults aimed at the leader of the Manitoba P. C. Party, millionaire moocher David Asper has politicized the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team.

Asper was spitting mad at Opposition leader Hugh McFadyen on CJOB last Thursday for expressing doubt that Asper could repay the $90 million that the NDP is lending him to build a new stadium and become the team's owner.

"Everybody needs to stay focused... and not get distracted by Mr. McFadyen's cheap slogans," hissed Asper.

"It's so incredibly disappointing, frankly, to hear the scope of how uniformed or ill-informed he is."

"You really have to wonder the value of his contribution to this debate."

"It's a fundamental, fundamental, misunderstanding by Mr. McFadyen of what this deal is all about."

"I just find it very disappointing and, you know, I think that Mr. McFadyen certainly has the education to be a smart person but..." Asper sneered, condescendingly, before throwing his current, and the Blue Bombers' future, support to his champion, NDP leader Greg Selinger.

"... you juxtapose that---you sort of compare that to the guts that it takes from the Premier and the Mayor to actually make something good sure takes guts to make something happen..."

By turning the Winnipeg Blue Bombers into a partisan political football, Asper, and Selinger, have poisoned the well of goodwill that's fed the team through good years and bad.

They have made supporting the Bombers synonymous with supporting the NDP and the team may pay the price for that if Asper becomes its owner.

McFadyen's sin? Simply asking the obvious question: why should we believe David Asper?

Asper has already failed to live up to his grandiose plan to build a high-end shopping centre at Polo Park and use the profits to finance a new stadium for the Bombers. He came begging to the team for an extension of time last fall, then in the winter, he came begging secretly to Selinger for an infusion of government money to finance his pet project.

Selinger, the dirtiest politician in Manitoba, knowingly allowed his protege Rosann Wowchuk to present a phony budget to the Legislature, a budget which contained not a word about financing a stadium for David Asper.

A week later, Selinger announced his government was borrowing money to bail out a millionaire to the tune of $90 million.

But even that's not completely true. Hugh McFadyen is absolutely correct that the true figure is $105 million.

The NDP is also picking up the University of Manitoba's end of the stadium deal, $15 million. The University says it will pay back the money, through naming rights, for example. But not until five years after the stadium is built.

Yep, they will pay to build the stadium five years after its built. That's New Democonomics.

Adding $105 million to an already bloated deficit of $545 million is an increase of 21 percent---in one week.

Will any MLA ask that Selinger be named in contempt of the Legislature for submitting a misleading budget?

McFadyen wondered if Asper's still-to-be-built shopping centre can turn a big enough return to repay $90 million over the next six years, when the payback clock stops, plus interest of about $5 million a year.

Is Asper's frantic response a sign of ... worry that McFadyen's right?

Haven't we seen this picture before?

Remember ......... the Canadian Museum for Human Rights?

Spearheaded by David's sister and fellow leech, Gail, it was supposed to be privately funded, until expenses went wildly out of control, and it was foisted on the taxpayer as a national museum (that nobody wanted). Then the museum's backers promised a Senate subcommittee that taxpayers would never, ever be on the hook for any construction overruns.

Except, when they confessed they were at least $45 million in the glue, who did they go running to for the money? You know it---the taxpayer.

David Asper proposed to build a stadium at his own expense with minimal contributions from government. Now government is paying the whole shot (yeah, yeah, Asper is supposed to come up with $10 million dollars; hands up those who believe we'll see that). And if Asper fails to repay the loan, Selinger proposes to take the property and school taxes on the shopping centre land away from Winnipeg homeowners and students, and use it to repay Asper's debt instead.

Asper's nose was out of joint at McFadyen's merest suggestion that the best developers would have trouble squeezing $90 million in profit out of a mall in its first six years of existence (not to mention it doesn't exist yet.)

Nonsense, "coming from somebody who's never done a business deal in his life, which is Mr. McFadyen..." snorted Asper, who proceeded to claim great expertise for himself and Creswin Properties in developing shopping centres.

In fact, he said, the world's largest shopping centre convention occurs in Las Vegas in May, and Asper will have a display there.

Eat that, McFadyen. David Asper will have a booth at a shopping centre convention. If that isn't the sign of a professional, what is?

"And I can tell you that at the moment we have about 1.2 million square feet of interest that has spoken up for what is 640,000 sq. ft shopping centre." he told CJOB.

Wow. All that "interest." That's almost like all the "asks" that Gail Asper had out a year ago and which, she said, would begin pouring millions into the CMHR any day now.

Any day now. Any day. Now. Any. Day.

But David Asper certainly has his business acumen to fall back on.

* He was, for example executive vice president of Canwest Global when it stiffed about 60 former employees, including local favourites Meera Bahadoosingh and Andrea Slobodian, of their vacation pay.

The company did, however, squirrel away $9.8 million to pay bonuses to executives.

* And he did try to start up a hip hop radio station. We wrote about that in The Black Rod:
"Phat David bought up the private owner of 'Flava' and set up a company called YO Management to run the station. He promised the CRTC everything under the sun to let him keep the license, including taking over all the debts to former staff owed by 'Flava'."
Devol Dryden, a DJ and Flava radio host, believed David Asper and took him at at his word. When he tried to collect $10,000 he was owed after winning a federal Labour Board order, only to get the royal Asper runaround at every turn.

He finally wrote to the CRTC during the hearing process to plead his case. Frank Magazine found Dryden's letter in the CRTC files, from which we quoted:
"I was supposedly a student representative on the board. For the record, I was never a student in any affiliated school course," he wrote in his intervention. "I was never invited to a board meeting, I never saw or approved minutes of a board meeting, and I was never invited to an Annual General Meeting."
"I see that the new supposed management of Harmony Broadcasting includes David Asper. Mr. Asper is behind a museum of human rights that going to cost a few million dollars. Human Rights? Here I am being treated like a black slave, being cheated out of my wages by someone Mr. Asper wants to reward with a high-paying guaranteed job, and he's sitting there saying 'Nothing personal, boy. Just business'."
* And remember those big plans to turn Portage and Main into a mini-Times Square?

Yeah. We barely do, too.

* Oh, and according to a legal document for a mortgage on a shopping centre in Arizona, cited on David Watson's blog Waverly West And Beyond:

Westpoint Crossing: Barclay Creswin Retail LLC

"Creswin Properties Ltd. (formerly known as Asper Properties) is headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and serves as the real estate division of CanWest Global Communications Corp. ("CanWest," NYSE: CWG), an international media company."

How, exactly, does the break-up of the Canwest Global empire affect its "real estate division"?

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