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:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Paper, Scissors, Rock---The story of 3 campaigns in Winnipeg North

Given the pathetic voter turnout in Winnipeg North (30.8 percent), the outcome hardly matters--- unless you're the unpopular, uncharismatic, unelected Premier facing his own election next year.

More interesting was how strikingly different the byelection campaigns were. It makes you wonder if the parties were using the byelection as a testing ground for the federal general election that's likely to come sooner rather than later.


The NDP went retro. They deluged households with election pamphlets introducing, promoting, endorsing, and championing their candidate Kevin Chief. Voters couldn't open their mailboxes without finding yet another glossy, full-colour election flyer for Chief. Recycling boxes groaned under the never-ending supply.
Chief's campaign started well before the byelection was even called, overlapped the civic election, and went into overdrive in November.

If anyone collected all the paper the NDP churned out they would have a fat book filled with photos of Chief with his family, Chief with Lloyd Axworthy (backstabbing his fellow Liberal Kevin Lamoureux), and Chief with Judy Wasylycia-Leis who held Winnipeg North for the NDP before resigning to run a failed campaign for mayor.

And when it was all over, there was more paper---Kleenex to daub the tears from the eyes of NDP supporters at losing the seat they held for 14 years.

It was the cutting edge of campaigns. The future, for sure. It should send a chill down the backs of NDP and Conservative campaign managers.

Did it win the riding for Liberal candidate Kevin Lamoureux? Hell, no. He won by his own popularity through years as an MLA for the area. But riding to Ottawa on tomorrow's technology is so cool.

The highlight was the virtual town hall. Residents of Winnipeg North got a phone call from the Liberal campaign inviting them to participate in a town hall discussion with Kevin and Michael Ignatieff. They were given a phone number they could call to plug into the event at the scheduled hour. If they phoned, they could hear the Q&A, and ask their own questions, all without leaving the comfort of their own homes.

Expect the Liberal Party of Canada to hold these virtual town halls in every riding in the country during the next federal election. Press 1 to go Wow.

A rock is featureless and inanimate. It requires outside force to propel it forward.

Yep. That pretty much describes the Conservative campaign in Winnipeg North.

Start with an unknown candidate who can't speak English and who avoids the press and the public like the plague. Then aggravate the voters with a never-ending barrage of automated phone calls from complete strangers and/or Conservative cabinet members in Ottawa who have no connection with Winnipeg North but who endorse the Conservative candidate.

Two, three, four calls a day. Hi, I'm Blahdey Blah and I encourage you to vote for Whatserrname.

If the NDP went retro, and the Liberals went techno, the Conservatives went nutso. May we never, ever, ever again see the use of robo-calls.

The local pundits assured us they had it all figured out. The Conservatives were, they said, running a Filipino woman to draw Filipino voters away from Kevin Lamoureux so the NDP could win the seat.

Somebody get their names so that nobody ever calls on these pundits again, please.

The Conservative's won't admit it, but they had to be running a campaign that would deliberately drive voters to the Liberals.

There's no way they could run a campaign this bad and expect anyone to vote for them. If we're wrong, the Conservatives need to take an axe to their re-election team today. Or introduce drug-testing.

The biggest casualty of the byelection was unelected Premier Greg Selinger. For the second time in as many months, he's watched the NDP ship go down despite his best efforts.

Judy Alphabet, the Left's champion in the race for mayor, got trounced in October by incumbent Sam Katz who walked away with a win by double digits. And her chosen successor, Kevin Chief, saw 7500 NDP voters stay home on election night, throwing the win to Liberal Kevin Lamoureux.

If the NDP can't get their vote out in Winnipeg North, what's their prospect in the October, 2011 provincial election?

Of course, NDP stalwart Ross Eadie did win the city council seat in Mynarski --- after confessing the NDP was helping fund his campaign in breach of their election financing law.

But then the NDP broke the law to win the 1999 provincial election, then covered it up for six years. So there's always hope.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

FP reporters: Money for nuthin'

Somebody must have been spiking the coffee at the Winnipeg Free Press with truth serum this week.

How else to explain the confessions that spilled out from reporters covering important beats, declarations that explain why the newspaper has become a worthless read.

Legislature reporter Bruce Owen wrote Friday that Question Period, the meat and potatoes of his beat, bores him to tears.

(Its) "a great time for me to catch up on email. That’s because, sitting up in the media perch, there’s not that much else to do." he said.

"Other reporters check up on the Facebook profiles and one religiously plays BrickBreaker on his Blackberry. He’s gotten pretty good at it."

Two days earlier, Owen's colleague, education reporter Nick Martin, made his own revelation on his little-read newspaper-sponsored blog.

"I rarely attend board meetings anymore," he wrote. "It’s just not worth my time, or my employer’s time..."


Doesn't the Free Press, along with the rest of the mainstream media, proclaim at every opportunity they are superior journalists to bloggers because they, and only they, can be trusted to attend the boring meetings where the business of the community is conducted?

You know, like the Legislature and school board.

Well, it seems... they don't.

And if they do, they spend their time playing computer games instead of listening to what's being said.

Nick Martin's confession was particularly informative given that he was responsible for the single worst election story during the October-long campaign.

"Candidates offer up some intriguing ideas" was the headline to the Oct. 15, 2010 story in which he provided a paper-thin overview of some of the ideas proposed by 55 candidates for school trustee who responded to a Free Press survey. For a fuller explanation of the positions of these candidates, Martin gave readers a link to the survey.

And readers wondering about the other candidates for school board were told the Free Press education reporter couldn't be bothered to do any reporting on them. Do it yourselves, he told people.

"You'll have to look for websites if they have them, watch for flyers in your mailbox, or maybe they'll come to your door, or you can even phone them up and ask. Their numbers are on the city website..."

Uh, thanks Nick.

But a month after the election, Martin reveals, on his blog that no one reads, that school board meetings often last only 20 minutes before the public is ushered out and the rest of the agenda is handled in secret behind closed doors. And the chairman won't even release the agenda in advance of the meeting.

This from an elected body that's responsible for more than half your annual tax bill.

You might think that this information was priceless during an election campaign, when voters could ask school board incumbents about this practice of secrecy and media obstruction.

Moreover, as the NDP candidate for mayor, Judy Wasylycia-Leis was stumping for more transparency and openess at city hall, her NDP counterpart Suzanne Hrynyk was running for reelection to the Winnipeg School Board where she had been the chairwoman and responsible for the policy of secrecy.

Yet another story the Free Press didn't think was important.

We decided to see for yourselves what was happening in the Legislature as Bruce Owen and his colleagues concentrated on their email and Facebook pages.

* On Monday, Opposition Leader Hugh McFadyen followed up on the story that broke the previous Friday afternoon of a shortage of nurses in cardiac surgery at St. Boniface Hospital.

Mr. McFadyen: In response, Mr. Speaker, what those 127 families are looking for is some explanation as to how it is that 11 years in, the government has not been able to meet staffing requirements for an important area like cardiac surgery, and rather than providing responses in the House that would be akin to those that might be provided by the Iraqi information minister, why won't the minister provide a direct response to Manitobans that's clear, focused, relevant and deals with the immediate issue before us for those 127 Manitobans and their families currently on the waiting list?

The NDP let Crazy Dave Chomiak, one of the architects of the 1999 NDP election fraud, respond.

Mr. Chomiak I remind the member, there are no patients over the medically recommended bench times that were not in place during the reckless, mean-spirited years of the Tories, Mr. Speaker.

Got that? After 10 years of NDP government, the wait times for heart surgery aren't any worse that they were 10 years ago.

Or any better.

* Conservative Party leader Hugh McFadyen asked about the lingering questions over the Crocus Investment Fund, which, under unelected Premier Greg Selinger's watch, turned into a Ponzi scheme.

Mr. McFadyen: And I want to ask the government today: Will there be accountability to the–for those thousands of investors who lost money, not just for the sake of their interests, Mr. Speaker, but for the sake of future investors in Manitoba companies who want to know that directors and insiders have a duty to disclose relevant information, because if there's no accountability for Crocus, there'll be no accountability going forward and thousands more people will run the risk of losing money as a result of their failure? Will there be accountability? Yes or no.
The government response came from Peter Bjornson, who did his best to mislead the Legislature.

Mr. Bjornson: Mr. Speaker, and certainly the Auditor General's report, the Manitoba Securities Commission investigation, the RCMP investigation–this has been looked at through five different lenses. The process has been in place now for court-approved interim distribution to shareholders.

The Manitoba Securities Commission has still never held a hearing on charges filed five years ago against the executive of the Crocus Fund. In fact, the news last week was the commission might never hold those hearings, putting the lie to Bjornson's veilled contention that the MSC provided any kind of accountability for the Crocus debacle.

* McFadyen asked the government almost daily the questions on the lips of every Manitoban.

Mr. Hugh McFadyen (Leader of the Official Opposition): On a new question. Manitobans are looking for accountability and transparency in terms of how their tax dollars are being used.
I want to ask the Premier, 236 days since the photo op, with ongoing concern on the part of taxpayers, ongoing concern about – in terms of the impact on the Blue Bombers, when are they going to provide some clarity on three basic questions: What are we getting? How much is it going to cost? Who's going to pay for it?

The unelected Premier's surprising answer?

Selinger: "All people from Manitoba that go to university will have access to it. All members of the community will have access to it. It'll be available 24/7, 12 months of the year."

The NDP refuses to answer the questions people have about the proposed new stadium--what's being built, what will it cost and who's paying for it. The NDP is committing itself to spending as much as $190 million on a new football stadium, but refuses to tell the Legislature how it intends to spend taxpayers' money.

That, in itself, is a story. If only Bruce Owen could tear himself away from his email.

* Almost every day, as well, the Opposition asked why the NDP was refusing to call a public inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair.

Mr. Kelvin Goertzen (Steinbach): Mr. Speaker, it's been five years since the tragic death of Phoenix Sinclair and we know that nothing this House can do can bring back that young girl's life, but what this government can do is to ensure that the lessons are learned through a public inquiry, lessons that would ensure this tragedy doesn't happen again.
This Minister of Justice seems content to stall this inquiry while a legal moon shot to the Supreme Court takes place by one of the convicted killers. Why won't he just admit today that the criminal damage has already been exposed through a trial and he's simply trying to mitigate the political damage by stalling this inquiry?

The NDP even refuses to appoint a commissioner to prepare a public inquiry.

Mr. Kelvin Goertzen (Steinbach): Mr. Speaker, the government is protecting its own interest when it should be protecting the interest of children.

He knows full well that once the commissioner is appointed there is much work to be done. There needs to be a mandate established, terms of reference, the commissioner needs to get organized, establish a schedule for the inquiry and have the legal experts in place for the inquiry. Perhaps this minister is hoping that all of this will take place after a judgment is rendered on this government in an election to come.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan replies that the case could still go to the Supreme Court which could order a new trial.

In a pig's eye. Legal Aid refuses to pay for an appeal to the highest court, saying there is no merit. The deadline for that appeal has passed. And the only option is a rare and unusual waiver of the deadline by the court, which hasn't been asked because no lawyer wants to commit to going to Ottawa without a guarantee he'll get paid.

After three days of debate, the Free Press finally did a story. "Province wants to wait till killer's appeal done", Nov. 25, 2010.

The story prompted the executive director of Legal Aid Manitoba to write to the Free Press to say the quotes attributed to him were taken out of context---by none other than that paragon of journalistic accuracy, Mary Agnes Welch.

* At the beginning of the week, Education Minister Nancy Allan accused the Conservatives of firing 700 teachers while in government. The Free Press reporters slept through her tirade. Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck caught the lie and wrote about it Saturday.

Amateur & pathetic
Claims of teacher firings by Conservatives latest myth
By TOM BRODBECK, Winnipeg Sun
November 27, 2010

Fired 700 teachers? They did? I didn’t even know they could do that.
Actually, they can’t. Allan just made it up.
Schools are run by school divisions. It’s the school divisions that hire and fire teachers, not the provincial government. So even if the former Filmon government wanted to fire 700 teachers in the 1990s, they couldn’t have.

* On Tuesday, McFadyen asked the government if Manitoba Hydro had a cost update on the Bipole III project given that CEO Bob Brennan had hinted to the Free Press that the cost might have doubled. This is an important question to rate payers who will, no doubt, be ordered to pay for the immense cost.

Mr. McFadyen: ... I know that the Premier will want to look at the actual – he'll want to look for the – look at the actual numbers tabled by Manitoba Hydro in its own capital expenditure forecast. Capital expenditure forecast 2004 for this project: $388 million. Afterward, they're required to add converters because of the west-side decision: it jumps to $2.2 billion. As of 2010, it jumps to $4 billion. It's now 10 times the original budget that it was as of 2004.
Unelected Premier Greg Selinger answered with insults.

Mr. Selinger: This statement, Mr. Speaker, once again shows how reckless and irresponsible the Leader of the Opposition is. He wants to cancel those converter stations. He wants to put hydro at risk for Manitobans. He wants to put our export contracts at risk, for a cost of $20 million. Manitobans would see their rates go up and their power diminish under the members opposite.

* The week also saw a chilling statement made in the Legislature by an Opposition MLA.

Mrs. Bonnie Mitchelson (River East): Mr. Speaker, Phoenix Sinclair, Gage Guimond, Jaylene Sanderson-Redhead, Dillon Breana Belanger, Heaven Traverse, Venecia Shanelle Audy, Patsy Desmarais, Michael Helgason, Tracia Owen, Baby Amelia: These are but a few of the names of children who have died under the care of this NDP government's child welfare system. It remains a system in chaos, as the child–Children's Advocate described it last spring.
Mr. Speaker, review after review has been conducted, and each time the minister says he's outraged about the treatment of children by adults who are supposed to care for them. Each time he promises change but then we hear about the tragic death of another child in care. When will it end?
Mr. Speaker, cultural identity and education about one's heritage is extremely important for all children, but achieving that goal should never come at the expense of a child's safety. Unfortunately, that is what is still happening in Manitoba. Too many children have paid the price for the system the NDP government rushed into place. It's got to stop. We hope the Minister of Family Services (Mr. Mackintosh) will heed our calls for a moratorium on the movement of children from safe, stable, long‑term foster homes until the chaos in our child welfare system is resolved. Thank you.

Ten dead children dead. All under the watch of the NDP government.

At another time the newspapers would have carried blaring headlines about the "crisis". But now the Legislature reporters just shrug off the death toll.
It interrupts their computer playtime.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Apologies and corrections: business as usual at the Winnipeg Free Press

It was juicy and irresistable. How could Michael Ignatieff resist?

So he took the bait.

Only when the hook pierced his aristocratic lip did the leader of the Liberal Party realize his mistake and begin thrashing about in panic.

Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mary Agnes Welch, who had trolled the sweet treat in front of Iggy, tried to save him, but wound up being pulled into the swamp herself. And this just after she had crawled out and dried herself off after her shenanigans during the civic election.

Welch was only trying to use Iggy to smear the Conservatives in the byelection in Winnipeg North. Who knew it would backfire so badly?

The reporter, whose controversial record of slanted and inaccurate reporting precedes her, asked Ignatieff a leading question, how pundits were saying the wily Conservatives were running a Filipino woman to siphon off Filipino votes from the Liberals to throw the election to the NDP.

Iggy bit.

"Let's have a straight-up fight," he said. "Everything else is a bunch of games."

The Free Press emphasized the alleged duplicity of the sneaky Conservatives in their headline, then again in the lead.

"Ignatieff warns against splitting Filipino vote
Wants 'fair' fight in city byelection
By: Mary Agnes Welch 15/11/2010
VOTERS in Winnipeg North deserve a "straight-up" campaign free from attempts to split the Filipino vote, said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff Sunday."

At first the Liberals were happy with the story. But after the Filipino press condemned his statement, and the FP wrote an editorial critical of his using identity politics, the Liberals went into full damage control mode. Once again Michael Ignatieff had used his anti-Midas secret power to turn gold into lead.

Mary Agnes Welch tried to help. On her newspaper-sponsored "blog" she printed a portion of a transcript of her interview with Ignatieff to show that she, not he, raised he issue of vote-splitting. And that he never "warned" anyone. And that he, in fact, never even used the term "split" or "splitting". Except, maybe, as regards to splitting hairs.

Another attempt to damage the Conservatives had gone horribly awry. And Mary Agnes Welch was in the thick of it again.

We remember how her pro-NDP, pro-Judy Wasylycia-Leis, anti-Sam Katz cover got blown during the mayoral election. In fact, here's the on-line exchange that outed her:

Posted by: Pumpkin Jack
October 21, 2010 at 7:50 AM
Isn't it a conflict of interest to have a member of the Winnipeg
Citizen's Coalition, whose main purpose is to bring Sam Katz down,
spinning poll results, oh excuse me, 'writing an article' on the
mayoral race?
Or should I say
'some people' would 'suggest' that there 'could appear' to be a
conflict of interest with a 'possible' member of the WCC writing an
article for the Free Press.

Posted by: MA Welch
October 21, 2010 at 11:00 AM
@ Pumpkin Jack
Are you referring to me?
If so, I can assure you I have never and would never be a member of
the WCC - no reporter at the Free Press would be. I've never even
covered one of their meetings or events, to the best of my
If you disagree with my interpretation of the poll, I would be happy
to hear your views.
posted by: MA Welch

Posted by: Pumpkin Jack
October 21, 2010 at 2:16 PM
@Mary Agnes
Then why are you one of their 'member's' on their Facebook group?
Again I say; 'some people' would 'suggest' that there 'could appear'
to be a conflict of interest.
October 21, 2010 at 3:19 PM
@ Pumpkin Jack
I just checked and I am indeed a member of the WCC Facebook group,
though I have no memory of joining. I have removed myself.
Thanks for the heads up.
Facebook? What Facebook? Oh, THA-A-A-T Facebook. Thanks for the heads up.

Mary Agnes Welch seems to have a problem getting her facts straight. There's nothing like truth to ruin a good story.

Take this recent story by Welch:

City lists properties subject to tax sale
Restaurant, mansion among 480 in arrears
By: Mary Agnes Welch
Posted: 5/11/2010 1:00 AM |
The biggest outstanding tax bill belongs to 881 Main Street, a one-story storefront that's the former home of one of the giants of the waning Internet pharmacy boom,
Building owner Daren Jorgenson, who also owns the Four Rivers Medical clinics, was baffled by the news his property was in arrears, saying his company refinanced the property last year and thought the tax bill was paid in full.

For a close look at how Mary Agnes Welch researches her stories, examine this email exchange with Jorgenson which The Black Rod was allowed to read (we've made minor edits for privacy and relevance and all highlights are ours):

From: Welch, Mary Agnes
To: Daren Jorgenson
Sent: Wed Nov 03 14:09:56 2010
Subject: 881 Main
Hi Daren,
Do you own 881 Main Street, where your old Internet pharmacy used to have its operation? Not sure if you ever did, but it's one of hundreds of properties the city is about to seize for unpaid property taxes. The owner is a numbered company. What's up?
Sent: November-03-10 2:59 PM
To: Welch, Mary Agnes
Subject: Re: 881 Main
We own these buildings through a numbered corporation but I am sure the taxes are paid up. Where do I get a copy of that list ?
I know before we have got behind on property taxes but that property cannot have much taxes on it so if we are really behind I would just pay it up.
The City cannot seize your property unless you have 3 years of property taxes owing.
Take Care,
Daren Jorgenson
From: Welch, Mary Agnes
To: Daren Jorgenson
Sent: Wed Nov 03 16:13:28 2010
Subject: RE: 881 Main
Hey Daren,
The list is enclosed - it ran in the Manitoba Gazette over the weekend. It's the list of properties that are three years behind and thus eligible for tax sale.
I went to city hall and checked on the big dollar figure properties. 881 Main is line item 349 on the list and $109,000 is owing. The owner listed is Manitoba 4698887.
Sent: November-03-10 3:38 PM
To: Welch, Mary Agnes
Subject: Re: 881 Main
It must be a mistake because refinanced all our properties less than a year ago and the taxes were paid in full then.
I will look into it tomorrow and email you what I find out.
Take Care,
Daren Jorgenson
From: Welch, Mary Agnes
To: Daren Jorgenson
Sent: Wed Nov 03 16:41:04 2010
Subject: RE: 881 Main
I think the story is running tomorrow....
Sent: November 3, 2010 3:46 PM
To: maryagnes.welch
Subject: Re: 881 Main
Really ? What's the story on that when you don't give me a chance to check into it. I am very open to being challenged on anything I do but running a story that is not time sensitive without letting me have one day to look into it does not really fit the bill for fair and transparent reporting. For sure the property taxes would have been paid in full in January 2010 when we arranged a blanket mortgage on all our properties with a new lender.
Anyways I will let you know tomorrow what I find out.
Take Care,
Daren Jorgenson
Story ran Friday, Nov. 5, 2010.

From: (law firm)
To: Daren Jorgenson
Sent: Mon Nov 08 13:48:05 2010
Subject: RE: 881 Main
FYI, Mary Walsh got it wrong - we have searched the titles that are in arrears and the $109,000 is another company entirely. You owe $36000 and that's it.
Sent: November-08-10 12:55 PM
To: Welch, Mary Agnes
Subject: Fw: 881 Main
Please see below. I am not sure why it was so important to have my name in that article but I thought I would let you know that you were wrong on your dollar amounts. The statement in the article that Daren Jorgenson was the owner of the building with the highest arrears owing is completely false but I have bigger fish to fry - no worries and no hard feelings.
In fact we only owed a total of $36,000 because just one of the rolls had been over looked. $12,000 per year x 3 = $36,000
Take Care,
Daren Jorgenson
From: Welch, Mary Agnes
To: Daren Jorgenson
Sent: Mon Nov 08 14:15:59 2010
Subject: RE: 881 Main
I sent you the numbered company to confirm it was yours!
I also note the comment in the email string below that I "backed all down" now because you copied Richard Cloutier from CJOB to keep me honest.
Just for the record, I didn't even notice you'd copied Richard. If I had, the story would certainly have run the next day because you blew my exclusive.
I asked the desk for an extra day as a professional courtesy and because I wanted to get the facts right. I also asked my editors not to run a picture of the building because your tax arrears sounded like a honest mistake.
Sent: November-08-10 1:48 PM
To: Welch, Mary Agnes
Subject: Re: 881 Main
I stand by my belief that you were trying every possible angle to put my name in a story with sensational journalism. I know there are folks that are putting pressure on media to discredit me because we are pushing the envelope in terms of Healthcare
Reform in Manitoba. There is a lot of Politicians, Union leaders, WRHA, Health Industry, etc that are threatened by our honesty to the public about our healthcare system.
No worries and no hard feelings on my side but I do get the impression that you take it personally/emotionally with me challenging you on your article, it's facts, and the motives behind it.
Take Care,
Daren Jorgenson
Sent: November-08-10 2:16 PM
To: Welch, Mary Agnes
Subject: Re: 881 Main
You need to take a RULER and make sure that the $ amount you are saying is attached to that building really is for that building.
When you use a RULER you will see that the $109,000 is NOT for 881 Main St but the property listed above it.
I had a $36,000 total due which certainly could not have been the highest amount because even in your article Alycia's is higher.
Poor reporting and honestly you need to go back to the drawing board if you think that publishing an article on back taxes owing on buildings in Winnipeg is some how an exclusive story. The City publishes that list EVERY year so it does not require some hot shot reporting to run a story on the list.
Actually, all those property owners have until November 30th to pay up so being in a rush to run a story the first week in November before you get the full facts is very sloppy reporting. You need to invest in a ruler.
I fully expect to see more attacks by the Free Press to discredit me as I know MANY people of power and influence in Winnipeg and Manitoba are threatened by our healthcare companies and how we are pushing forward reform to the healthcare system. I am not worried at all about these attacks as I know the public is much too smart to be sucked in by it and the message we have on healthcare reform is one that the people understand and want.
Again, no worries and no hard feelings from my side.
Take Care,
Daren Jorgenson
From: Welch, Mary Agnes
To: Daren Jorgenson
Sent: Mon Nov 08 15:04:08 2010
Subject: RE: 881 Main
For the record, below is the email I sent on Wednesday to confirm you owned the numbered company. I also enclosed the entire list of properties in tax sale so you and your lawyers could see where I was getting my information. You'll see that 881 Main has, by far, the biggest tax debt. As a reporter, I couldn't ignore that, so to imply that I singled you out because of pressure from the WRHA or the health care industry is just patently silly.
From: Welch, Mary Agnes
To: Daren Jorgenson
Sent: Mon Nov 08 16:40:58 2010
Subject: RE: 881 Main
I just called Mel Chambers at the city to have him confirm the lot and plan numbers. You are correct - the $109,000 belongs to 794 Main Street, not 881 Main Street.
We'll run a correction.

Wow. A correction.
Mary Agnes Welch is a professional journalist.
She has editors.
They have standards and ethics.

Accuracy is something else altogether.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Winnipeg police have lost control of the streets; Plus a brickbat for CTV

We've always respected the opinion of former police officer Robert Marshall, now an occasional writer for the Winnipeg Free Press. Which is why his latest column was so sad. And so troubling. Extremely troubling.

Marshall wrote how the gang culture has poisoned communities to the point where honest citizens are afraid of helping police.

"Snitches should not fear stitches" was some editor's idea of a clever headline for the story, wherein he or she adopted the gang lexicon that anyone who provides police investigators with information is a reviled "snitch".

But politicians must not ignore the clarion call of Marshall's column --- police in Winnipeg have lost control of the streets!

A spree killer roams the city for an hour, gunning down innocent people, and three weeks later, the best police can do, is beg for help?

And that's the best-case scenario. Winnipeg police are actually suggesting that there might have been two or three killers shooting people at random in the North End three weeks ago. And they haven't a clue who they were or when they'll strike again.

It used to be that Winnipegers could sift through the details of a shooting and reassure themselves that they and their families were not at risk. This victim was a member of the Zig Zag gang. That victim was a drug dealer. This incident involved rivalry between aboriginal street gangs. That incident was sparked by a fight at a drinking party. If you weren't in that social circle, you didn't worry that you might be caught up in a gunfight or drive-by. And the people that were... well ... look where they lived. They should be used to it by now, right?

When a woman was killed at a wedding reception on Main Street a year ago, people breathed a sigh of relief to learn some guests were members of the Manitoba Warriors. Nobody was ever arrested, but the public was satisfied to know (in their own minds) that the shooting probably had something to do with gang rivalry.
When a pregnant woman was shot to death through the door of her Magnus Avenue home, people shrugged and grasped at hints the murder had something to do with drugs. When nobody was ever arrested, it didn't matter because the incident had been long forgotten by most.

But the October murders were different. There was no way to blame the victims.

A man stopping by a friend's home on an act of charity gets shot in the back. Another man spending a quiet night at home watching TV with his disabled friend is lured to the door and killed in cold blood. Some flirting teenagers reject a stranger's request for drugs and he opens fire on them.

And the public instinctively knows the death toll could have been much, much greater. One teenaged girl almost bled to death when a bullet passed through her body, nicking her liver. Only the fast actions of health professionals saved her. The shooter tried to kill her companions but missed. Bullets crashed through the windows of two suites, and could have killed anyone in those homes who happened to be standing in the wrong place. In the final shooting that day, had the killer made his way into the house on Boyd Avenue he might have killed the disabled resident along with his friend at the side door. The official toll for that night was two dead, one wounded, but it could just as easily been five dead and others wounded.

Would a mass murder of that magnitude garner more attention.

And the old gimmicks don't work anymore.

You know, the news conference where the police chief, changed from civvies to his fancy official police uniform, looks stern and declares war on gangs. Been there, done that.

The announcement that all available officers are being poured into the area to catch the killer. Check.
Arrests--- none.
Extra police quietly moved out without any publicity. Check.

The earnest plea for tips from the community. Cue the snorts of derision.

The great big mobile command centre to demonstrate police commitment. That's new.

Gone in 10 days.

Wrote Marshall:

"The last few years have seen Winnipeg police struggle under a growing number of unsolved killings. For the people of the North End, whose neighbourhoods have suffered the greatest losses, it matters little how motivated police are to resolve these cases. They need answers. Real results."

What they don't need is evidence the police have lost the battle. Hearing the police chief go on radio and literally beg for that "one tip" that will solve the murders, is pathetic.

The police have to reclaim the streets. On their own.

Some suggestions (in no particular order) :

1. You're hiring new recruits. Hire applicants who live in Winnipeg.

The percentage of the force that lives outside of Winnipeg is appalling. We need police officers living in the city. This alone would double or triple the police manpower in Winnipeg. Everytime a police officer drives to work or drives home, the public has eyes on the street. Everytime he goes to the hardware store or the Sals, the police presence has increased. The extra cost is zero. The benefit, huge.

2. Hire 'em big.

The day of the politically correct hire is over. No more shrimps. No more midgets. No more five-foot-nothing women to meet a quota. These quota-hires have only turned the police service into a laughing stock.

You need officers whose mere presence calms down volatile situations. Officers who exude strength and power by showing up, not by pulling out tasers and guns to make up for their small stature.

3. Learn the lessons of counterinsurgency.

Move into the neighbourhood and live with the people you're trying to win over. They're scared of the bad guys, but before they throw their support to you they need to know the good guys are there to stay and not just passing through. The great big mobile command centre is a joke. Rent a house right in the heart of the roughest part of the city and move in the troops to send a message--we're here, we're in your face, and we're going to win. Wear the colours of the rival gangs to rub it in and demonstrate that the local gangs have lost their power to intimidate. The name of the game is power and you have to take it away from the enemy. Undermine them, humiliate them, shame them, challenge them. But you can't do that unless you're there.

4. Cameras.

Not at the library where there have been zero murders. In the North End and Inner City where the gangs live.

Retailers have wireless surveillance cameras that can be moved quickly and often. You don't need constant surveillance. You need a record of movement in the neighbourhood that can serve as a clue in the event of a murder. It beats doodly-squat, which is what police have in the case of the October spree killer.

5. Hire Herb Stephen back. Or at least a police chief who wants to fight crime rather than be a social worker.

Listening to current chief Keith McCaskill prattle on about listening to the community, working with the community, meeting with the community, blah blah blah is nauseating. The community wants you to do your job and stop whining. Does it get any simpler? They've told you a hundred times, don't you listen at these meetings? It's not up to the community to catch criminals. That's the job of the police. If you can't do it, step aside and let the city hire a police chief who can.

6. The newest management trainee will tell you the first order of business is to set goals.

How many crack houses were shut down this year, this month, this week? How many gang members were arrested? As Bob Marshall said, people want real results. If they know you've cleaned up Redwood Avenue, they'll be waiting for you to get to their street, if not next, then soon. It gives them hope. (See Point 3.)

7. You want to show results. Start with grafitti.

In New York City they set a goal for removing grafitti. One day.
Gang members want to mark their "turf" with grafitti. Remove it immediately and set a trap for the idiots who will try to replace it. Arrest them and send the message -- you don't own this turf, we do.

Complaining that police are at a dead end in solving the most serious killing spree in recent memory only underlines the problem.

They have lost control of the streets. They need to get it back as fast as possible, for all our sakes.

Less than a week after giving local CTV News a bouquet for their outstanding coverage of a police shooting on Portage Avenue, we have to replace it with a brickbat for their abysmal puff piece about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

"Officials say the project to finish the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is on time and on budget," reported CTV Winnipeg.

Say what?

"The project won't have to deal with the huge cost overruns associated with the stadium construction project because about 85 per cent of the $310 million museum project has already been tendered, said museum officials."

"However, there is still about $33 million that must be raised to meet that $310 million total cost."

The CMHR is both over budget and almost a year behind schedule. And Gail Asper's scam is exactly the same as her brother's stadium scam.

The reporter responsible for the CTV museum hype obviously knew nothing about the story and did less research.

The museum is at least $45 million over budget. The project was priced at $265 million when it was officially announced. The government of Canada news release is easily found on the Internet. So is Gail Asper's confession last year that the cost of construction had climbed astronomically.

Why, exactly, did CTV think the museum still needs a mysterious $33 million?

That's how much of the $45 million they still need to find -- even providing their unaudited claims of having raised $12 million towards the shortfall are true.
And did anybody notice the claim that 85 percent of the project has been tendered to date? Or do the math? 15 percent of the original $205 million pricetag for construction is a mil or two less than the $33 million they still need to raise. In other words, they haven't ordered yet what they can't pay for.

So unless they suddenly find a hefty wallet somewhere, they're going to wind up with a building only 85 percent finished. And guess who's going to have to bail them out again.
Oh, so the project is on time, too ? Puh-lease.

Watch the target move....

* July 28, 2010 Journal of Commerce/ Western Canada's Construction Newspaper
The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is taking shape in Winnipeg...
The museum is scheduled for completion in March 2012.
* Annual Report 2010 Forks North Portage Corporation.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the largest project ever undertaken at The Forks began construction this year. The only federal museum to be located outside of the national capital area is slated to open in April 2012.
* Smith Carter Architects and Engineers
This project is being implemented as Construction Management (CM) utilizing a ‘design assist process’. Construction commenced April 2009 with completion scheduled for Spring 2012.
* The CMHR website
Construction FAQ
Milestone Dates
Construction begins: Spring 2009
Construction duration: 3 years
Construction completion: Summer 2012

* CTV Nov. 12, 2010
Funds still needed to finish Canadian Museum for Human Rights, one third of work done
Construction work on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is expected to be completed in late 2012.
The only good news is that the museum finally paid its property taxes---four months after The Black Rod exposed them as scofflaws.

As for comparisons with the stadium debacle, David Asper was only following the example that worked so well with his sister Gail:

* Claim you're going to fund privately a multi-million dollar project and you only need a little public money to help the project along.

* Once you've got the government involved as a "partner", claim costs have grown so much they need to fund the bulk of the project, though you'll help.

* Start construction without knowing the final cost.

* Announce you can't afford it, so the government has to take over the project, though you'll be rewarded for your efforts. (In Gail Asper's case by being on the board and getting free travel and accomodations for her trips around the world for life).

* Watch the government pay for a project they didn't want in the first place, while you claim credit for it as the MSM applauds your "vision."
Our vision is we get to keep our money in our own pockets instead of seeing it given away to millionaires for their pet projects.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

The Asper Stadium deal: a race to see who is the bigger fool

How apropos. The cobbled-together deal to finance a new stadium for Winnipeg was announced in the newspapers on April Fool's Day.

It's certainly made fools of everybody connected to the devil's bargain, but no one more so than newly elected Mayor Sam Katz.

They had barely swept up all the confetti from the victory celebration when Katz broke his only promise to the electorate.

Throughout the whole election campaign, Katz and his challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis were peppered with questions about the (even then) shaky stadium deal.

JustJudy (as she wanted to be called) was the more honest of the two.

She would, she told a CTV mayoral candidates forum, give David Asper a blank cheque to finish his stadium with the initial design. Spend whatever it takes, she told the public.

Katz chose to play coy, responding to all stadium questions with a packaged answer. The deal was for a $115 million stadium, he said smugly, and any change in plan would mean the deal had to come back to city council.

Taxpayers took that to mean that if the price of a new stadium exceeded the agreed-upon $115 million, then the deal was off. City council would then be tasked with coming up with a new idea for replacing the old stadium.

But it turns out Katz was only foolin'. Within a week and a half after winning the election he was up to his old tricks and neck deep in backroom dealing to rescue the stadium at the University of Manitoba.

^ Poof ^. His promise to return the deal to city council was broken in a second.

David Asper had managed to keep the true cost of his planned stadium secret until the election was over. Eventually, though, came the day of reckoning.

On Wednesday Nov. 3 he dropped his bombshell in a meeting with "stakeholders". Costs were way, way, way over what had been agreed to. And his "partners" (i.e. the province and the city) would have to dig deep, deep, deep into taxpayers' pockets to pay the difference.

The very next day, the secret was out in public. CBC reported that a "source close to the deal" said that the cost of the proposed stadium had ballooned to $160 million.

And the reaction of the politicians? Transparency be damned!

"Get over it," sneered Katz at everyone who had predicted just this scenario.

He and unelected Premier Greg Selinger then raced into the shadows faster than a Kennedy at a whorehouse to cobble together still another backroom deal which will be delivered as a fait accompli to city hall for its usual rubber stamp.

Only this time it must be different.

This is a new council filled with four new faces and an equal number of incumbents bruised by reelection battles over their public's anger at the weak, slanted or non-existent public consultations over major issues in their wards.

This council must tell Sam Katz "NO."

NO to backroom deals.
NO to his broken promise to bring the stadium deal back to council.

NO to any continued involvement by David Asper.

NO to spending money when you don't know what the project costs, what it will look like, or who's paying for it.

This city council must insist that the question of a new stadium for the city start over again at square one.

The template for the new council can be the excellent 8 Questions on the stadium asked in print by Colin Craig of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

All options are open again. Remember, the very first idea was to rebuild the stadium in stages at its current Polo Park site. It was scrapped because the federal government wouldn't contribute money to sports facilities. But if the province is footing the entire bill through whatever ruse Selinger is using today, then this option becomes more viable than ever.

But, but, but....they've already dug a hole at the University of Manitoba.

Fill it it and send the bill to Creswin and David Asper.

We relied on Creswin's cost estimates. If they were so out of whack why should taxpayers get stuck? What is this---the Museum for Human Rights?

In fact, that would be the least of David Asper's concerns. We're picking up on comments left on message boards that suggest there needs to be a criminal investigation of the whole deal.

The initial pricetag for a new stadium to be built by Asper's company Creswin was $115 million. Asper was to pick up any cost overruns, at least that's what Sam Katz told the public, even after the day in August when Asper reneged on that promise as reported by Tom Brodbeck in the Winnipeg Sun. (Somebody's gotta pay, Winnipeg Sun, Aug. 30, 2010).
Dogged by questions about runaway construction costs, Creswin lied. (Emphases ours)

"For 10 days now, we have been fighting untrue, inflammatory numbers on stadium costs that are clearly being floated to media outlets in order to make mischief on the project. This conduct and inability to keep confidences while we work through the complex tendering process is both highly unprofessional and disturbing," wrote Creswin President Dan Edwards in an email to the Free Press. (Muddy pit becoming money pit, Gary Lawless, Winnipeg Free Press, Oct. 20, 2010).

Precisely 10 days earlier, guess who reported guess what?

Saturday, October 09, 2010
The tenders are in. Is the bill for new stadium $190 million?

As we see today, the numbers may have been "inflammatory" but they certainly weren't "untrue."

So, Creswin, which gets paid for the construction thanks to an untendered contract, lied to the public about the cost of the stadium before the deal was approved.

And lied after the deal was approved.

And kept the true numbers hidden until after the election, in the hope that the NDP candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis might win.

And saw a contract for pilings signed the day before the latest cost number was revealed, keeping the construction money flowing in.

And now hopes that Greg Selinger will bail the company (read David Asper) out of the jam. Or at least write a great big severance cheque. (Keep $13 million in mind.)

And Selinger is out to do just that.

He told CJOB morning radio host Hal Anderson:

"When the final decisions are made, everything will come out in public. The people will know the whole story."
Isn't that comforting? After Selinger and Katz make their backroom deal, they will inform the public.

But, then, Selinger has an ulterior motive. Don't forget he's already signed up David Asper as an NDP asset in the coming provincial election.
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.

The day after the April Fool's announcement, Asper publicly threw his support behind the NDP against Hugh McFadyen. That's why Selinger will work to keep Asper's stadium dream alive, whatever the cost to the public.

And that, in turn, is why he's known as the dirtiest politician in Manitoba.

Sam Katz, meanwhile, can only lay claim to being an April Fool.
But the bigger fools will be city councillors who let him get away with it.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Asper's stadium deal--a Mad Hatter's delight. Plus a big bouquet to CTV News

The saga of the new Winnipeg stadium is getting more surreal by the day.

Failed businessman David Asper appeared on CTV television Monday boasting," We are building a football stadium as designed."

Who's 'we', Kemo Sabe?

Asper doesn't have the money to build a doll house.

The University of Manitoba, which is sitting on a bridge-financing loan from the province, can only afford to build three-quarters of the proposed stadium. (70 percent, actually.)

Sam Katz, the re-elected Mayor of the City of Winnipeg, campaigned for two months on a promise to bring the deal back to council if Asper reneged on covering cost overruns. Instead, his first days back at work are spent in backroom meetings to save a deal that hasn't been approved by council.

And unelected Premier Greg Selinger is preparing to spend another minimum of $45 million toward a new stadium without the consent of the Legislature.

Literally the day before Asper announced that the cost of his proposed stadium has ballooned from $115 million to $160 million (and climbing), a contract was signed for piling.

Ahem. Who signed the contract?

The University? Did they know that the cost of the project was now way, way more than the money they have to pay for it?

Creswin? Did Asper commit the province into building his stadium before telling his "partners" what the true cost is shaping up to be? Needless to say, keeping things going benefits Asper since he's making money on the construction end.

Why isn't anyone suspicious about the numbers being tossed around so freely?

Creswin gets an untendered contract, digs a hole, and Presto Chango the cost zooms into the stratosphere. Do you think we could have gotten a more accurate sense of the cost from someone else?

And where do all these numbers come from?

Apparently, from Asper's company.

Do you trust the guy who's going to milk you for millions or do you get a second estimate?

And what's the true cost of a new stadium going to be? The estimated pricetag for a new stadium contemplated for Regina is $430 million. So how is Winnipeg going to build one for less than half?

Or is this all a scam because none of the politicians wants to admit that the true cost is going to be $300 million or $400 million and change---until it's too late.

(We have the answer, of course. Tie the stadium in with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. While David Asper says construction costs in Winnipeg went up 30 percent in the past year, his sister Gail Asper says construction costs for the museum haven't budged. If they had, then the museum would cost another $30 million or so, on top of the $35-45 million shortfall they're already facing. You don't think she's hiding that fact from us, do you?)

The stadium deal appears to have been deliberately designed to be as confusing as possible.

The official government news release announcing the bridge financing deal doesn't say who is actually receiving the money. So, of course, it was assumed that the loan would go to David Asper. Or to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who would funnel it to David Asper.

Except that the loan was actually to the University of Manitoba. In order to take ownership of the football club, Asper has to repay $75 million of the loan--- not to the government, and not to the football club, but to the university.

Will he get a tax deduction for giving money to the university on top of the government subsidy he's getting for the stadium?

Will the university sign the cheque over to the government of the day, or will the government just reduce its funding to the university by an equivalent amount?

Or neither, because four years from now the news media will have no interest in the details?

The Winnipeg Free Press writes today:

"Originally, Creswin was supposed to sign the construction deal with the Winnipeg Football Club. But the contract, signed on July 30, wound up being between Creswin and B&G Stadium Ltd., a non-profit entity created by the city and the University of Manitoba to own the future stadium, club spokesman Darren Cameron said in a statement."

So the province, which is putting up all the money to build the stadium, won't own the stadium. And the city, which isn't putting up any money, is a co-owner of the stadium. And guess who gets to pay the bills? Uh huh, the owners.

So now we're on the hook for running a stadium on behalf of the would-be private owner of the Blue Bombers, David Asper.

Can it be more convoluted?

Sit tight, the insanity has just begun.

The Asper deal is entirely in the hands of unelected Premier Greg Selinger, since he's the only one who can promise the tens of millions of more dollars needed for the new stadium project. He'll just borrow the money and hide it in the annual half-billion dollar deficits he's creating for years into the future.

So a government dedicated to social justice is borrowing money to give to a millionaire so he can achieve his pet project of owning a football team. Did we or did we not mention how surreal this has become?

Selinger excuses his subsidy for the rich by chanting the magic word "investment" as often as possible.
* All spending by the NDP is "investment", not spending.
* All projects are "investments".
* Deficits for "investments" are good.
* Since big investments are good, then bigger deficits are also good. Or gooder.

Lost in the shuffle is any debate of competing "investments."

Jenny Motkaluk, the defeated candidate for city council in Mynarski ward, saw an investment which should have been embraced with relish by a government that wraps itself in the cloak of social justice.

Although crime is a big issue in the North End, the usual response from the authorities is a dismissive crack about how "we can't have a cop on every block." Motkaluk, however, asked the big question---why not?

After talking with police, she estimated it would cost about $10 million to literally have a cop on every block in the poorest sections of the North End where crime breeds easiest. That estimate is every bit as accurate as anything that's come out of David Asper's mouth.

So the $160 million that Selinger wants to give to David Asper's vision of Winnipeg could provide a crime-free environment for North End families for SIXTEEN YEARS. Now that's an investment!

Only Selinger's NDP thinks giving money to millionaires is better.

Tommy Douglas wouldn't recognize what's become of his party.

And just for the record, CTV News wiped the floor with the competition Monday night over the police shooting at a car thief on Portage Avenue.

They had all the details you needed to understand what happened. They interviewed the woman who spotted her stolen car and called police. They had eyewitnesses who heard the police warn the car thief they would shoot if he didn't get out of the car and surrender. And above all they had a graphic showing the stolen car boxed in at the traffic light, how the police approached him, how the driver drove right at the officers, and how the stolen car wound up on top of another parked car.

In short, they had everything the other stations didn't have.


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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Why have police nothing to report on the Wpg spree killer's rampage?

Two weeks after a spree killer spent his Saturday night gunning people down in Winnipeg's North End, the city has returned to normal.

Only, the 'new' normal includes a cold-blooded murderer roaming free to search for new victims. What's wrong with this picture?

If a cougar wandered into Winnipeg, killed two men in random attacks and mauled a teenaged girl almost to death, the city would be up in arms and demanding action from the authorities. But when similar carnage occurs in an unfavoured part of town, the authorities respond with a shrug and turn their eyes to bailing out a millionaire who wants to buy a football team but can't afford it, poor boy.

Every few days the Winnipeg Free Press has been carrying a small update somewhere in the back pages telling the public that, yes, police are still in the North End in force and, no, nobody has been arrested for the two murders and two or three attempted murders during the spree killer's rampage.

However, we're informed, the police are "motivated" to catch him.

Oh goody.

Since we assume the police are motivated to solve every murder in the city, this news isn't much comfort.

It's no secret that police know much more than they tell the public about every crime. But they apparently have no clue how to communicate with people.

We know virtually nothing more about the killer (or killers) than we knew the day after the multiple shootings within an hour on Stella Walk, Dufferin Avenue and Boyd Avenue.

The police have released a Crimestoppers video to stimulate tips. Where some Crimestoppers include a re-enactment of the crime, this one consisted only of a detective talking to the camera with a vague street scene in the background that changed as he switched his commentary from one shooting to the next.

The only new information to come from the Crimestoppers ad is a clarification of the times of the shootings:
8:25 p.m. shots fired at a group of teenagers near 261 Stella Walk

8:40 p.m. a man shot to death at 495 Dufferin Ave.

9:12 p.m. a man shot to death at 486 Boyd Ave.

The news stories that said the Crimestoppers reward for information on the spree killer had been boosted to $6000 are wrong. The police are treating the shooting spree as three separate incidents and Crimestoppers is offering the usual $2000 per incident for a total of $6,000.

This raises the question of why, in two weeks, the police cannot say if there was one shooter or two? Or three, for that matter.

Haven't we been able to use the science of ballistics to tell if the shots came from one gun? Can't the police even tell us what kind of weapon was used to kill Tom Beardy on Dufferin and Ian MacDonald on Boyd? Is it the same gun or different guns?

And why are the police hinting that the shooter on Boyd may have been accompanied by a woman? Or is that a girl? We can guess that they have a witness who provided that information.

Did the witness see the shooting? Was it the girl who went to the door to lure Ian MacDonald out so the spree killer could shoot him? Did the witness say if the pair were on foot or in a car? We doubt the killer was riding his gal around on the handlebars of his bicycle.

What about the resident of 261 Stella Walk? A witness quoted by the Winnipeg Free Press said the killer pulled out his gun, hid it behind his back, and peeked into the windows of the first house on Stella Walk. When a group of teens walked past (without seeing him), he turned his attention to them. But was his initial intent to kill someone in that first suite?

This, of course, raises the question of whether the Oct. 23 murders were his first.

CBC television carried a story this week about six unsolved murders in the North End since 2008. Two were Beardy and MacDonald, in another police had arrested two suspects and were looking for one more, and one other fit the usual pattern of a gang-related killing---male shot down in the middle of the night. But two of those unsolved murders now take on new significance.

* Joanne Hoeppner was killed just after midnight Jan. 2, 2008. Like Ian MacDonald, she had gone to answer the door at 688 Magnus Ave. when someone fired a gun through the door, killing her instantly. She was eight months pregnant.

At the time the press hinted broadly that the killing had some relation to the drug world. The Crimestoppers reinactment even had a young man with a sawed-off rifle knocking on her door and shouting "I've got the money."

Hoeppner fit the unfortunate profile of a North End murder victim---native, female, poor, unmarried and pregnant, so her death was soon forgotten---except to those who knew her.

A distraught friend posted this comment on the Youtube page of the Crimestoppers ad:


FIRST OF ALL! it wasn't a guy coming for drugs thank you very much. and second of all, it was a guy asking for a man that did not live there. SO THERE! and she was in labour with her baby. just too early in the labor to stay in the hospital. STUPID press. and its not like you guys care at all. you guys think its just another native that got shot no biggie. well we do care.

Seventeen months later, another murder, eerily similar to the random shooting of teenagers on Stella Walk.

* A never-identified gunman stepped through an alley door and opened fire without warning into a wedding reception at a hall at the corner of Main Street and Cathedral Avenue. Cheryl Robert, a guest, was shot in the head and died in hospital. Two or three other guests were hit by bullets sprayed at the crowd.

Police learned that some of the guests were members of the Manitoba Warriors and the shooting slipped off the news pages into some dusty file of gang-related shootings. The case got a lot of news coverage and the police were "motivated" to catch the killer, but never did.

Were the Hoeppner and Robert killings the spree killer's first? Ballistics can tell us if the guns used were the same. Why not let the public in on the secret?

The day after the shootings, CBC reported: "Police have taken the rare step of bringing in a crime analyst to examine the incidents to see if they are linked."

Since detectives are all "crime analysts" we assume the CBC meant a profiler was called in. Did he or she have anything to contribute?

This is real life and not some lame episode of Criminal Minds where they sit back and wait for the killer to strike again so the team can gather more evidence to catch him.

* The Winnipeg Police have a terrible record when it comes to communicating with the public.

Security video caught a robber choking a store clerk unconscious in July, 2009. Television news clearly showed the store's sign that warned customers they were on video, so the existence of he footage was no secret. But the police waited 10 days before releasing the video to the news media, giving the robbers a 10 day headstart in escaping.

This is not a game of cops and robbers. This is deadly serious.There's a killer on the loose.

Talk to us. Tell us what you know.

As Joanne Hoeppner's friend said,"Well, we do care."

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