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:

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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