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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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Judy strikes out with council, MSM strikes out with coverage

Quick. Call 311 to get the 411 for 911. Somebody has drugged all the political pundits in town. Why else would they have missed this story?

The Left's champion in the coming mayoral race shows up at City Hall to go nose-to-nose, eyeball-to-eyeball with Mayor Sam Katz on a burning issue that can turn the election, and it warrants hardly a brief in the news?

It all happened last Wednesday.

As reported in The Black Rod, Katz had handed challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis the single issue she can use to defeat him. He wants to abandon bus rapid transit midstream, to adopt a wildly expensive electric streetcar system instead, based on

a) an embarassingly pathetic excuse for a "study" which he claims proves its viability and

b) his ego-driven need for a legacy, cost be damned.

JustJudy, as she now calls herself, marched down to City Hall to appear before council in person to speak against Katz's plan.

It was her 'coming out'. For the first time she would confront the incumbent mayor in his den and demonstrate her leadership skills to sway the councillors to reject his kookoo idea.

Well, it was Jerry Lewis vs. Jack Dempsey. If you were scoring the confrontation on a 10-point Must system, it was a 10-8 round for Katz. JustJudy never laid a glove on him.

JustJudy's major argument was 'finish what you started.' The BRT system to the University of Manitoba is only half done, she said. Why scrap all that time and money now only to begin building a light rail system that was initially rejected, has no funding, and no price attached? Her strongest point, that LRT would cost at least $565 million more than BRT, was lost in her trademark verbal diarrhea.

This first test of her leadership on a civic issue was a resounding raspberry. At the final vote, her only support came from the Dead-end Club (permanent members: Madame No-to-Everything Jenny Gerbasi, Harvey "Unwanted by the NDP" Smith, and Lillian "I quit" Thomas, with one rotating seat filled by Dan "No Mas, Sam" Vandal.) Even left-leaning River Heights councillor John Orlikow voted with Katz.

JustJudy didn't change one mind or win one vote, which has to bode ill for when the campaign heats up in the Fall. Her public performance only raised the question: can you see her at the negotiating table on city business? Us, neither.

And the sleeping journalists who cover city hall missed either a spectacular flip-flop by challenger Wasylycia-Leis or a stinging indictment of the mainstream media.

Two days before her city hall showdown with Sam Katz, Wasylycia-Leis called a news conference in a park in Fort Rouge to steal some of Katz's thunder. The Winnipeg Free Press reported on it the next day, starting this way:

Wasylycia-Leis touts 'buy local'
Stance part of transit policy statement
By: Bartley Kives
20/07/2010 10:08 AM |
In a move reminiscent of the U.S.A.'s controversial "Buy American" policy, mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis wants to change the way the City of Winnipeg tenders contracts to give local businesses a competitive advantage.

At her first formal announcement since her May 4 campaign launch, the former NDP MP for Winnipeg North gathered reporters to a Fort Rouge park on Monday to hear her reiterate her desire to see the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor completed as a bus-way, as opposed to the pricier light-rail corridor incumbent mayor Sam Katz prefers.

But she wound up unveiling a future campaign plank: enshrining a preference for local companies when the city hands out contracts.

At her appearance at City Hall, though, JustJudy seemed to reverse herself entirely, or else to slam the FP coverage of her Monday newser.

"And I want you to know today that I believe absolutely in building on Winnipeg's strengths and standing up for what Winnipeg is known for around North America. And that is the most innovative producer of next generation rapid transit vehicles anywhere on the continent. And I want to tell you, despite what you are led to believe, that-- in fact-- I, along with anyone else who is fighting on this issue, believes in value for money and an open tender process."

Misquoted on her first day on the hustings?

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