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, May 16, 2010

Greg Selinger's phony-baloney crony democracy

And you wonder why we call Greg Selinger the dirtiest politician in Manitoba?

It's getting so you can't turn over a rock in this province without finding Selinger scurrying away from under it.
The latest scandal is how Selinger's wife got a cushy government job. She was, ahem, "appointed" by Selinger's colleagues in cabinet to be the assistant deputy minister of community planning and development, the little-known but powerful branch of provincial government that controls land development in Winnipeg and other municipalities.

There's a word for hiring your family members --- nepotism.

What's the word that describes hiring your friend's family member?.... Cronyism.

It's not illegal, but it stinks. But by now the stench of scandal is so great around Selinger that nobody can notice the difference.

James B. is one person who wouldn't be the least surprised to find how Selinger's cronies decided to line his family pockets with a six-figure salary for his wife. A known author in Winnipeg, he provided us the details of his own swim in the NDP swamp of cronyism (but without his written permission to use his full name we've decided to stick with James.)

In 2007, James was locking horns with the NDP just about the same time that Selinger was stepping out of the cabinet room to, ahem, avoid any conflict of interest allegations. ("You guys go ahead and decide whether to hire my wife. I'll take a walk and you can tell me when I get back whether you've hired my wife or tossed her application in the trash. I don't want influence the vote on hiring my wife, so while you make the decision whether to hire my wife or not, I'll recuse myself.")

James filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission against the NDP and Viewpoints Research Ltd., co-owned by NDP Premier Gary Doer's wife. But he wasn't happy with the way the complaint was handled under the direction of executive director Dianna Scarth whose son, David Todd Scarth, had, according to James, "close connections to the Manitoba New Democratic Party."

He said that because of her son's personal and financial relationship with the NDP, Dianna Scarth should have recused herself from his complaint. James has a highly developed sense of injustice, and he refused to let the matter go.

He complained formally about the Human Rights Commission and the Minister in charge, none other than Crazy Dave Chomiak, who hadn't yet spiralled into lunacy. (That would come two years later as he tried to defend himself from evidence of his involvement with -- guess who? -- Greg Selinger, in the 1999 NDP election fraud and subsequent coverup.)

James filed an access-to-infomation application for government documents, only to have his application land on the desk of Dave Chomiak's crony, deputy minister Jeffrey Schnoor. (Do you see a pattern, yet?)

By now it was December, 2008, and James filed yet another complaint against Chomiak, for political interference by assigning his boy to adjudicate the access-to-information request. He was told the Human Rights Commission would "arrange for my complaints to be investigated by an outside agency."

Who did that turn out to be? " individual who just happened to be a personal and professional acquiantance of a number of the respondents."

About that time, James wondered why the NDP was working so hard to sidestep his initial complaint against Viewpoints Research, so he started digging --- and hit paydirt.

While everyone knows by now that former premier Gary Doer's wife is a partner in Viewpoints, not everyone knows that he has a financial interest in the business --- an interest he failed to disclose during his entire term of office as premier when Viewpoints was raking in the contracts from government and government agencies.

James discovered that Virginia (Ginny) Devine used a mortgage on the house she owned with Gary Doer to finance the startup of Viewpoints.

"Gary Doer has never declared his status as a creditor, investor, or financial beneficiary of Viewpoints Research in any of his Declarations of Assets and Interests over the past twenty-three years...." wrote James to Ombudsman Irene Hamilton last October.

Hamilton's response? What? You expect me to do something? Gidatttahere.

What indeed do Manitoban's expect their watchdogs to do? Certainly not this:

* When the Seven Oaks School Division, lead by Supt. and NDP crony Brian O'Leary. engaged in an illegal land development and lost their shirts, the NDP's handpicked Auditor General invented a way to whitewash the deal. She blamed the Public Schools Finance Board for failing to catch the scam before the money was lost.

* When the NDP got caught cheating the public out of $74,000 in phony elections expense rebates, the Chief Electoral Officer helped the NDP cover up the attempted fraud.

* More than five years after the Crocus Investment Fund turned into a Ponzi scheme under the eye of Finance Minister Greg Selinger, and collapsed taking millions in pension savings with it, the Manitoba Securities Commission still hasn't held an investigation on charges laid in 2005.

* 17 months after receiving a complaint under the vaunted Whistleblower Protection Act about mismanagement at Manitoba Hydro, the Ombudsman has done exactly nothing to investigate the charges other than sit by complacently and watch Hydro do everything in their power to identify and vilify the complainant in breach of the provisions of the law protecting complainants from retaliation.

* The latest example of cronyism involves, who else, unelected Premier Greg Selinger.

On May 5, Opposition leader Hugh McFadyen asked Selinger

" In his drive to fast track the stadium project so that he's got a place to launch his campaign in the fall of 2011, why is it that he didn't follow the law, Madam Deputy Speaker, which in Manitoba says, and I quote: Whenever possible competitive offers are to be obtained through the use of public tenders or similar means? That's what the legislation says. Why is he sidestepping the law?"

Selinger ducked the question again, then again, then again each time it was repeated. He said the new football stadium is being built by Dominion Construction which will tender 98 percent of the work to subcontractors.

The legislation McFadyen referenced is the Government Purchases Act which states, clearly,
(b) whenever possible, competitive offers are to be obtained through the use of public tenders or similar means;. (c) every request for tenders must set out ...

It doesn't say the law can be sidestepped by the Premier at his discretion. It makes no mention of subcontractors fulfilling the need for tenders.

The stadium is being built by the province. After it is built, the province will try to recoup some of the cost from the University of Manitoba and David Asper. The province is bound by the law as written.

The law doesn't say it can be ignored by the Premier at his discretion. There is nothing about the construction of the stadium that makes it impossible to obtain tenders. In short, the law must be obeyed.
When Greg Selinger gave the contract without tender he broke the law.

He broke the law to benefit a crony.

He thinks its a joke.

He thinks he's untouchable just as Gary Doer was untouchable.
Is he right?

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