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 adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Name:
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: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Friday, December 31, 2010

Our unorthodox picks for Newsmaker of the Year

There's just enough time on the last day of the last year of the first decade of the 21st Century for us to name our Newsmaker of the Year.

It seems in hindsight like there were only two stories that dominated the year 2010. A tumultuous mayoral election pitted NDP pawn Judy Wasylycia-Leis against battered, chipped and dented incumbent Sam Katz.
And millionaire moocher David Asper played the long con with the city and province in a tawdry proposal to build a new football stadium, allegedly on his dime, but which ended up tens of millions of dollars over budget with the government, paying the whole shot, and Davey walking away with four or more million in his pocket.

While others might nominate a con man or a deceitful politician of one stripe or another, our standards are higher.

When the dust settled, we could see clearly the two who deserved to be named Newsmaker of the Year, 2010---for, yes, it was a tie --- a tie between JHendrix70 and AlexLV.
Sure, our choices might seem a little unorthodox. But there's method in our madness.

JHendrix70 did more to expose the stadium con job than any MSM reporter in town. At a time when they were still shilling for Asper as hard as they could, he brought the whole charade down simply by posting the truth as he learned it on the Internet.

JHendrix70 posted on Jetsowner.com on Sept. 30 at 8:19 p.m.:
You guys think the Museum is an issue. Let me give you this little tidbit:

Cost of new Bombers Stadium = 113-120 Million. ( 130 Total, 15 million going to U of M Facility )
Cost of Material alone for new Bomber Stadium = 165-190 Million.
You do the math......
Tenders were awarded today. Job will be priced again & will obviously have significant reductions.

It was more than a week later before we picked up on the tip and ran with it in a prescient story headlined:

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

Note the dates.

JHendrix70 had the facts five weeks before Asper acknowledged (on Nov. 4) the cost of a new stadium was wildly out of control. Even then he would only admit to $160 million.


It was another five weeks (Dec. 9) before everyone confessed the true cost was -- wait for it --- at least $190 million.

Readers of the Internet had known the truth for 10 weeks before the MSM reported anything close to it.

- They knew throughout most of the mayoral election that incumbent Sam Katz was lying when he professed he had no idea what the cost of the stadium would be.

- They knew throughout November that unelected Premier Greg Selinger was stonewalling the Legislature when he refused for three weeks to say anything about the true cost of the stadium---a cost he was secretly committing the public to pay.

- They knew for 10 weeks that David Asper was lying to the public whenever he professed that the tenders were still being counted and, boy, oh boy, how he wished he knew the cost so he could tell everyone.

JHendrix70 blew the whistle on the stadium con, giving the public the information they needed to hold the politicians and David Asper accountable, but which the MSM refused to report for 10 weeks. For that alone he deserves to share the designation of Newsmaker of the Year.

And what a week it was that last week of September.

For only one day before JHendrix70 posted his blockbuster news, another political scandal exploded. And, again, it was on the Internet and not in the pages of the daily newspapers.

An all-candidates meeting in Mynarski ward two days earlier was the scene. NDP candidate Ross Eadie was making a fool of himself by shouting to overpower the other candidates and the moderator who was trying to keep order. During his tirade he let slip that he was getting financial support from the New Democratic Party. His shocked opponents couldn't believe their ears. The NDP had made great hay from passing election finance laws that prohibited financial support from political parties, and here was their candidate admitting they were breaking their own law.

Winnipeg Free Press reporter Melissa Martin was there and heard Eadie. She failed to report his statement. It took another day or two for the news to filter out of Mynarski.

AlexLV posted this play by play on the Winnipeg Free Press website:

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/winnipeg-votes-103987744.html
Posted by: AlexLV
September 29, 2010 at 6:36 PM
Ross Eadie disrespected the people of point douglas and his fellow candidates at the debate on Monday. I was sent to this debate to cover it for a local community paper...Eadie's outburst followed a lot of theatrics, screaming and shaking, but it began when a question was posed to Polsky about party politics in city hall.
Eadie interrupted the candidates response by standing and yelling at the top of his lungs that he wouldn't have been able to run without the financial support of the NDP, but once he was elected he would drop his NDP ties.

AlexLV wasn't the first to reveal Eadie's statement, but he was the first on the record in print where the public could read the details in days to come.

What a story. We jumped on it as soon as we became aware.

Local blogger Cherenkov later summarized the implications of the Eadie story as well as anyone could:

http://anybody-want-a-peanut.blogspot.com/2010/12/who-killed-tgcts.html
"..., a sitting councillor being investigated for potential election finance violations, or the failure of the elections official to conduct the investigation, is a fairly significant story. Especially if it implicates the provincial governing party. Better to get on top of it now, even if it turns out to be that he simply mispoke and everything is cool, because if it eventually does come out that he was breaking the rules then it could be embarrassing for the Free Press that they knew about it all along and failed to report on it."

Where to start? A huge political scandal involving the ruling political party and possibly every NDP candidate in the city election. A coverup by the newspaper that's cozier with the NDP government than any independent news outlet ought be. And even the newspaper's editor using her influence to kill a radio talk show whose host wouldn't stop talking about the alleged law-breaking or the Free Press refusal to report on it.

AlexLV was there and he reported what he saw and heard. The "professional" reporter was there and didn't.

AlexLV and JHendrix70. Two Internet posters who sparked two of the biggest news stories in the city in 2010. And that's the reason they are the Newsmakers of the Year.

Their citizen reporting is a demonstration of the growing irrelevancy of newspapers. If you can get the news 10 weeks in advance on the Internet, why bother opening a copy of the Free Press? If you can read news that the FP won't print, why subscribe at all?
That's the lesson of 2010.

***********
With the clock counting down to midnight, The Black Rod wishes a HAPPY NEW YEAR to....

* Dr. Larry Reynolds. Welcome back. You're proof that sometimes the good guys win.

* Colin Craig. Keep raisin' hell in O-11. You've got 'em on the run.

* Jenny Motkaluk. Remember, you can go to bed every night knowing you're not a cheat.

* Wade Miller. Four years to get ready. It's your chance.

* Jacque Pierre. Our election correspondent. You did good.

* Marty Gold. You took one for the cause of free speech and holding them accountable. It hasn't gone unnoticed.

* Menno Zacharias. You're sitting on a great story. We'll do our best to shake it out of you.

* Laura Rance. The hidden treasure of the Winnipeg Free Press. You're worth a dozen humour and editorial columnists put together.

* George Dangerfield. They've got you in their sights, but you've got us in your corner. They haven't got a chance.

* Krista Erickson. Well, well, look who's here. Does Sun TV News know what a fan favorite they've hired? You bet they do. See you in the new year.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grading Miss Whistle. Plus...Manitoba Hydro Secrets Spilled.



Well look at that. It's the end of December, and you know what that means...

It's TWO YEARS since the Manitoba Hydro Whistleblower made a complaint to the provincial Ombudsman.

Two years and still no resolution.

Resolution? Hell, two years and no nothing.

Ombudsman Irene Hamilton has managed to botch the first complaint under the NDP's much vaunted Public Interest Disclosure Act so badly it will never be used again.

Now there's a legacy.

First Hamilton tried to pawn the complaint off to the Auditor General, who, oops, turned out to be a former member of the Manitoba Hydro board of directors, and who announced defiantly she was under no obligation in law to investigate anything.

When she eventually acknowledged that the perception of conflict of interest would render moot anything she did with Hydro, the complaint was returned to the Ombudsman's Office.

Hamilton then decided to wait to see the results of a report commissioned by the Public Utilities Board into Hydro's risk management, which was to include an examination of the whistleblower's concerns. That 350-page report was released in November.

Since the Ombudsman is now entering her third year of inaction on the file, we decided to see for ourselves how the Hydro Whistleblower, who we've affectionately dubbed Miss Whistle, fared in her latest review.

Yes, folks, we read the 350 page report over the Christmas break. (Yeah, yeah, we know---get a life.)

* Miss Whistle was hired by Manitoba Hydro as a risk consultant following the disastrous drought of 2004.

* She concluded that the utility lost millions of dollars unnecessarily, and ratepayers got dinged with unwarranted increases in their bills, because Hydro mismanaged the province's water resources.

* Needless to say, this observation didn't sit well with the bosses who were responsible for running the utility. So she was shown the door.

* That's when she took her concerns to the Ombudsman under the Whistleblower Act.

* We're finally able to pinpoint many of the problems she saw within Manitoba Hydro operations. (All quotes, unless otherwise stated, are from Manitoba Hydro Risks: An Independent Review, by Dr. Atif Kubursi and Dr. Lonnie Magee, submitted to the Public Utilities Board of Manitoba, Nov. 15, 2010)

1) Topping the list are the "suite of models" that Hydro uses.

"Manitoba Hydro supports, uses and relies on three major models (HERMES, SPLASH and PRISM) in its planning of operations, investment planning, financial forecasting and budgeting."

Miss Whistle said the in-house models use outdated programming and stale numbers which lead to poor decisions on water levels, pricing, and the risks Hydro is taking.

She was specific in a 2009 letter to the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press (which they refused to run but which you can read in The Black Rod):

"To keep the lights on in the Province, Hydro’s computers rely on a complex formulae, which operates not just the reservoirs like Lake Winnipeg and Cedar Lake, but of course looks at the import tie-lines from the US, and Hydro’s ability to the run expensive gas units."

"While it may be shocking to learn these problems exist, what was uncovered was there were “systemic and massive” computer system flaws - with obsolete computers maintaining the calculations. Massive system errors and inadequate mathematics were found in the power calculation of “blackouts” or reliability conditions - which could lead to faulty results in keeping the lights on."
"This could be seen as the equivalent of using rotary phones in the age of wifi and Bluetooth technology."

2) The McMaster profs said:

"It seems that both Quebec and BC have adopted more advanced systems than MH’s Hydro Electric Reservoir Management Evaluation System (HERMES) or Simulation Program for Long Term Analysis of System Hydraulics (SPLASH)."

And...

"...MH models are serving their purposes and can be relied upon for operational planning and long term planning, but they need to be upgraded to include stochastic and dynamic modules. They also need to be reviewed and authenticated by external subject matter experts. It is desirable and beneficial to initiate formal documentation and integration of these models on a common platform."
Translation: the models are okay for what they do, but everything about them should be changed to keep up with the times, starting with what Miss Whistle said.
3) She was horrified to learn that Hydro's models were operated like a "black box"--- they used it but nobody could explain how it works.

" If it was learned, that the safety methods for keeping the lights on were programmed only by 1 or 2 persons (with source code and changes known only to them), on an outdated computer which hasn’t been changed since the 80’s, I think you too would be worried." she wrote.

Miss Whistle said the ICF consultants hired by Hydro to discredit her were told not to look at the computers. But the McMaster profs did.
"MOST is a decision support system (DSS) for hourly scheduling of generation and reservoir operations for the entire Manitoba Hydro generating facilities and transmission network.
Findings
A number of questions about MOST (Vista) and a number of recommendations emerge:
* More than one skilled person should be responsible for the model."
And....
"Model Output: Lake Balances

Findings

Notwithstanding the small dollar amount of discrepancy between the Generation Estimate and HERMES solutions, these discrepancies raise concern about the accuracy of the model and the reporting system.

But the real problem is more profound.

HERMES and SPLASH are static models and do not handle time in a manner consistent with dynamic programming
. MH may wish to consider some of the existing dynamic programming systems in use at similar utilities in North America."

*** The profs also picked up on Miss Whistle's red flag over Hydro's risk management practices.

"The qualitative aspects of risk management are well in place at MH. Unfortunately, this is not the case when it comes to the quantitative areas of risk management. There is hardly a mention of the word “quantitative” in the CRMR. Risk management is ultimately about quantification of exposure and calculation of the magnitudes of losses and threats."
4) Miss Whistle suggested Hydro "incorporate a mark to market framework for monitoring risk capital exposure and profit and loss optimization" (as Hydro put it in a secret internal document).
Hydro scoffed at the idea and said they use good old Canadian accounting principles, not fancy American ones.
The McMaster report concluded:
"The quantification of financial exposure should use fair market values (replacement costs). The Mark to Market (MTM) measures shall take precedence over other benchmark evaluations of financial risks."
Score another one for the Whistleblower.
5) But where Miss Whistle lost points with the McMaster profs was over her concern with Hydro's plans to lock in long term sales contracts with American buyers.
She recommended that Manitoba Hydro concentrate on building up a big war chest to tide them over any future drought without worrying about blackouts. She said Hydro could make more money from selling power on the spot market. And the danger of a drought long enough to eat up Hydro's reserves, before forcing the utility to default on foreign sales and its outstanding debt, wouldn't pass until about 2018 when more power plants were built and Bipole III was in place to carry load south.

"...there are no grounds to believe that there exists a serious material risk for blackouts in Manitoba." they wrote.

Note the weasel words:

Grounds to believe.
Serious.

Material risk
.

That's not exactly saying there's no risk for blackouts, is it?

6) And seeing that the Whistleblower is basing her concern on proprietary software, which is more advanced than Hydro's "suite of models" you might expect the economist duo at least to reference the defects in her analysis. They don't, because they never got to examine how she reached her conclusions.

They instead depended on Manitoba Hydro's sweet spiel. Translation: keep your fingers crossed.

Hydro, said McMaster, needs to sign the Yanks up now or lose the sales to wind farms that are going to be built. (Honest. We're not making this up.)

And the deals require the American customers to build a transmission line to the border, giving us access to the U.S. market at no cost. We get it wholesale, see.

But one big reason to bless the long term contracts stood out for the profs.

"Finding 14
But the major achievements in these contracts are the curtailment provisions in the new contracts that could effectively decrease MH’s firm export commitments by 29%... in times of adverse water conditions."
Translation: In the event of a really bad drought, Manitoba can send as much as 29 percent less power to the United States and still be in their good graces.

7) Our dedicated team of codebreakers brings you the following Manitoba Hydro secrets:

-- In its deal with Northern States Power (NSP) of Minneapolis, Manitoba Hydro can reduce guaranteed energy during winter (Nov. 1 to Apr. 30) in 50 Megawatt increments, provided we give them notice by mid September. Manitoba Hydro still has to pay a penalty of the difference between the contract price and a complicated-formula price for natural gas.
-- In its deal with Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), Hydro can stop sending power on weekends if it can't meet firm energy commitments.
-- And in its deal with Minnesota Power (MP), Manitoba Hydro can, same as with the other buyers, reduce the electricity it sends them, but with the provisio it "must exercise at least 8 years of median or better water flows during the contract period" or else the contract is extended until that 8 years is experienced.
While approving Manitoba Hydro's series of mega-projects, the McMaster profs still slipped in some cautions of their own which carry echoes of Miss Whistle.

"... Long Term Contracts are now well structured and include many new and innovative curtailment provisions, reasonable escalators and upset heat rate based import prices. But these contracts need to be staggered over time and diversified over a larger group of counterparties."
"... the real material risks that can have drastic impacts on MH are financial. ..We argue strongly in favour of avoiding targeting massive borrowing, the debt structure of MH is already high and moral hazard behaviour must be avoided."
Seeing as how the PUB report was prepared by two McMaster University economics professors, we thought it appropriate to give Miss Whistle a grade based on their valuation of the validity of her complaints.

The grade: B+.
"The Consultant’s contributions to the improvement of risk governance, oversight and back testing of MH models, the quantification of risks, the use of stress tests and the need for provisioning of adequate risk capital are undeniably valuable and have prompted MH to rise to the challenge and to introduce several improvements in its operations and models," wrote the profs.

Ombudsman Irene Hamilton gets an F.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sam Katz: Busted. And, who is the new Civic Weasel No. 1?


It took a City Hall insider to spot Phase Two of the Selinger & Katz Stadium Scam.

Remember when they said Winnipeg was going to reap millions from the sale of the land where the old stadium sits? Well, forget it.

Brian Kelcey, former budget advisor to Mayor Sam Katz, was disgusted to the core at Katz's contemptuous disregard for the public in ramming a deal for a new stadium through city council.

And that was before he noticed the newest twist in the con job.

"... in what amounts to an invitation for delay, lowball pricing or worse, the City has chosen to use an Expression of Interest process (EOI) instead of a straight auction for the land or portions thereof," wrote Kelcey.

"... note that using an Expression of Interest allows City Hall to use maximum flexibility in who it chooses to sell the land to, because the "express your interest" step allows bidders to to present on - and City Hall officials to decide based on - various non-financial factors..."

Cut to the chase. The fix is in.

Instead of a straight-up auction to get the best price for the land, city administrators will hand it over to a city hall crony and make up some excuse why it's a great deal for the city.

Do you remember the last great deal endorsed by Katz and unelected Premier Greg Selinger, those two pillars of entrepreneurship? It was win-win.

We were going to get a brand new football stadium built at his own cost by a private investor who promised to cover all cost overruns. The land where the old stadium stands would be sold to the highest bidder and the money used to attack the city's infrastructure deficit. And redevelopment of that land would provide Winnipeg with annual property taxes, whereas the city collected no taxes on the old stadium.

And after they got through with it, what have we wound up with?

Let's see .... a 100-percent taxpayer funded stadium at almost double the projected cost, a giveaway deal to hand over the old stadium land to someone's pal at a bargain price, and no taxes from the land even after its redeveloped, at least not for a generation or two, if ever.

The cash-strapped Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team is saddled a debt of $85 million, which, according to the CBC, will cost them a total of $176 million over 44 years once interest is calculated.

And let's not forget the city of Winnipeg is committed to handing over at least $40 million to the province to cover its end of the new stadium.

The only win is for "entrepreneur" David Asper, who gets a cheque for $4 million despite failing to live up to every promise he made to his "partners" who got stuck paying for his mess.

"The fact that Councillors did not at least make an effort to correct a multi-million dollar dodge on the record represents nothing less than a total failure of the democratic system in Winnipeg."

What an appalling legacy for the newly-elected council to leave 2010 with.

A total failure of the democratic system in Winnipeg.

Only two councillors can end the year with their heads held high---Russ Wyatt (Transcona) and Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre).

They were among six councillors who refused to pemit the suspension of the rules of council to allow Mayor Sam Katz to "walk on" stadium deal 2.0 for a rubberstamp vote. But when Katz simply sneered at the citizens of Winnipeg by calling a "special meeting" a few hours later to circumvent the will of almost half the representatives of the city, four of the dissidents rolled over.

Only Wyatt and Smith refused to succumb to the bully tactics. They demonstrated that not all politicians have no principles.

But the worst of the lot deserves mention.

John Orlikow (River Heights) has elevated himself to the position of Civic Weasel # 1.

When seated on council through a by-election in March, 2009, Orlikow purported to be a breath of fresh air to a cynical and depressed electorate. He was different. He was smart. He refused to play the same old games of City Hall.

When debating the contentious Veolia contract, Orlikow shocked the gallery by announcing he had actually read the supporting documentation. His questions were sharpened because of it. When he voted NO, it wasn't the usual kneejerk negativity the voters had grown to expect from the cabal of left leaning councillors. His was a reasoned vote, which had the respect even of Veolia supporters.

But it wasn't to last.

- He sleepwalked through the vote to spend $21 million on bike paths, even though, he would later confess, he should have insisted on more public consultation.

- When Katz called a vote on making light rail the city's preferred choice for rapid transit, Orlikow voted YES, although he admitted in a rambling, confused speech that he didn't really understand what he was voting for.

- And then this flipflop on the post-Asper stadium deal where Orlikow was against it before he was for it.

This is a special form of hypocrisy.

A fresh soul corrupted in less than two years.

From challenging the way councillors did business to becoming one of the degenerate mob in one easy term.

Trying to disguise the rot by voting for and against a motion at the same time won't work.
Congratulations, John Orlikow, you have become Civic Weasel No. 1.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some victims are more equal than others: the Animal Farm ethics of the CMHR


You've got to hand it to the Winnipeg Free Press for exposing the Animal Farm ethics of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights --- some victims are just more equal than others.

The FP was actually coming to the defence of Gail Asper and her cronies who were being accused by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress for, of all things, playing favorites. Asper and her pals on the museum's advisory board have decided that the publicly-funded museum will have only two "permanent" exhibits---one for the Jewish Holocaust and the other under the grab-bag "Aboriginals". All others, like Stalin's campaign to starve Ukrainian peasants out of existence, will be relegated to "virtual" exhibit status, whatever that nebulous term means.

"The museum is not saying that individual Jews suffered more than Ukrainians, but it is saying that some crimes are more revealing and consequential than others." declared the Free Press editorial writer, confirming and justifying a two-tier approach to "human rights" by the CMHR.

When the museum was first floated by Izzy Asper about 7 years ago, he made no bones about it, it was going to be a Holocaust museum ("will incorporate the largest Holocaust gallery in Canada") garnished with modern human rights pother.
By the time the CMHR was put on the public payroll in 2008, the Holocaust aspect was being downplayed behind a facade of Human Rights 'education'. But under Gail Asper's tutelege, the core of the museum was and would continue to be forever, the Holocaust.

So you can imagine the shock when the Ukrainians raised their heretical ideas.

Why is Gail Asper given grandfathered status on the board of the CMHR when it is no longer an Asper-funded museum, they ask. Why does she get to say what will be a permanent exhibit and what won't?
Why shouldn't the Holodomor, the official Soviet campaign of starving the Ukrainian people to death, be given equal standing to the Holocaust within the walls of the CMHR?

The Winnipeg Free Press dashed to the side of Gail Asper.

"This is an unfortunate demand that ignores the uniqueness of the Holocaust and its enormous value as a teaching tool. It could also reduce the museum to a grim chamber of horrors that emphasizes body counts over education." bleated the FP editorial.

So comparing body count is not relevant? Good.

Because, unlike Holocaust denial, Holodomor denial is a thriving industry in academic circles.

How many died because of Stalin's starvation campaign?
7 million? 10 million? 2.5 million? 4 million?

It doesn't matter, says the FP , just as it doesn't matter how many died under the Nazi Holocaust.

"Then why give the Holocaust special status in a museum mandated to examine human rights?" said columnist Dan Lett.

"For the lawyers and scholars who study human rights, the Holocaust represents the most systematic, most premeditated, most calculated mass murder in history. A nation-state used legitimate means to legally declare some of its citizens subhuman. It is this event that prompted the world to forge a legal framework for human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) asserted that every human being has fundamental rights that cannot be extinguished by a national law. The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, as the name suggests, defined the crime of genocide and gave it a legal context in which it could be prosecuted. Both were direct results of the Holocaust."

If Lett had taken a minute to think it through, he wouldn't have wound up looking like such a dupe.

The "most systematic, most premeditated, most calculated mass murder in history"?

The decision to starve millions of Ukrainians to death wasn't systematic?

One day soldiers spontaneously decided to take all the grain and farm animals from Ukrainian farmers and give it to Russians?

And to seal off the borders so the starving Ukrainians couldn't leave to find food and couldn't buy food for their families?

And to kill anyone who protested?

The Russians didn't need to create a vast apparatus to transport Ukrainians to newly built death camps. They turned the entire country into one big death camp.

And not premeditated? So one day Stalin woke up for find millions of Ukrainians had died in the night? And nobody told him? You bet that's the way it happened.

The most calculated mass murder? Are we counting now?

The only reason we know about the Jewish Holocaust in such excruciating detail is that we conquered Nazi Germany by force of arms.

We occupied the entire country and took control of the massive documentation. And we arrested thousands of Nazi's who facilitated the attempt to exterminate all the Jews of Europe and they talked and talked and talked.

The Holodomor was hidden and denied for almost sixty years.

It wasn't until the collapse of Communism and the independence of Ukraine that historians had access to documentation, and even only from the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, not Stalin's Russia.

The mass murder of Ukrainians was a contemporary genocide to the Holocaust. They were less than 10 years apart.

Stalin was celebrating the deaths of millions of Ukrainians just as Hitler was taking power in Germany.

If the world had been told of the Holodomor in 1933, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide might have been proclaimed before the outbreak of World War Two.

Was the Holocaust a direct result of the failure to publicize the Holodomor?

You want a teaching tool?

Put the two galleries side-by-side and ask why one is remembered, and the other is not and why Stalin got away with it.

Why are we still prosecuting 80- and 90-year-old men for being guards in Nazi death camps, but there hasn't been even one prosecution of a Russian involved in the campaign to starve Ukrainians peasants out of existence?

The FP failed to address the most important point in the UCC message to government:

"(T)he crimes of communism receive no mention in the Content Advisory report."

How could that be?

The Communists were responsible for more deaths, more suffering, more human rights violations within their own national boundaries and around the world than the Nazis, and there's NO MENTION in the museum's content advisory report?

Doesn't that tell you all you need to know about the CMHR's advisory committee?

The Holocaust is the worst mass-murder of Jews in history. To them it is unparallelled.

To everyone else in the world, it is a sickening example of the extremes of racial and religious hatred. But it is not unparallelled.

The Holocaust is not extraordinarily special in the world context. Every mass murder is just as shocking to the target community as the Holocaust is to the Jews. We just happen to know every minute detail of the Holocaust thanks to the meticulous record-keeping of the Germans. But that doesn't make it any more "revealing and consequential."

If the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is truly to be something other than a Holocaust museum, then its board of directors must realize that the Holocaust deserves no special status regardless of how painful that would be to Gail Asper and her associates.

And the crimes of the Communists must be front and centre in this "world class" facility, if it is to have any credibility at all.

Are you listening, Dan Lett?

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Selinger and Katz. What are they hiding?


Unelected Premier Greg Selinger and promise-breaking Mayor Sam Katz have gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent legitimate scrutiny of their backroom deal for a new stadium.

Their efforts go far beyond the sleazy actions of sleazy politicians, and raise intimations of criminal acts by criminal politicians.

Selinger and Katz have known for more than two months that a new stadium will cost at least $190 million.
They had to have known. We knew.

We wrote about it in a story cleverly headlined:

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

Does a blog know more than the Premier and the Mayor?

Selinger and Katz knew in October at the latest that the stadium would cost way more than the $115 million they told the public it would. But for the next two months they pretended to be surprised as the cost estimates climbed, and climbed, and climbed.

Katz went through an entire election campaign feigning ignorance about the true cost of the stadium. His opponent declared openly she would give the project a blank cheque. She, at least, was honest. Katz dishonestly claimed he was waiting for his partner David Asper to tell him if the price for a new stadium had gone up.

When the president of Asper's construction company, Creswin, complained to the Winnipeg Free Press about The Black Rod's stadium tenders story, Selinger and Asper knew it was empty bluster, but they said nothing.

"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).

Selinger, the dirtiest politician in Manitoba, was asked every day in the Legislature about the stadium deal, and every day he showed his contempt for the public by refusing to answer, choosing instead to throw insults at the Opposition for asking the questions.

Only after the Legislature ended its session and he couldn't be held to account in Question Period did Selinger leap to the microphones to announce a new stadium deal.

Sam Katz, for his part, withheld the details of the deal from city councillors until the eleventh hour, then announced they simply had to vote in favour or the deal would be scuttled.

He said Tuesday that tender prices were guaranteed only until Nov. 30th but that the contractors agreed on a 15 day extension.

So Selinger and Katz knew before Nov. 30 that the stadium would cost $190 million, but withheld that information for at least another two weeks to create a phony "deadline" to whipsaw city council support.

You wouldn't buy a used car from this man under these circumstances, yet city councillors are poised to commit tens of millions of dollars on his say-so.

Remember that Katz also wholeheartedly endorsed the previous deal with David Asper --- which collapsed into rubble in less than 8 months.

Katz has begun the hype campaign to convince the public its getting a great deal.

Wow, a new stadium for only $12 million (the city's cost), he declares.
Another lie.

The province will be sucking up all the property taxes from the old stadium site for the foreseeable future until it's recovered $75 million of the cost of the new stadium.

If half the taxes are municipal property taxes and half provincial education taxes, then the city is losing at least $37.5 million in taxes. On top of the $12 million in costs.

Got that? The City of Winnipeg is going to wind up paying $50 million toward the stadium.

And who's paying the interest on the $75 million? For that matter, who's paying the interest on the $190 million? It works out to about $10 million a year.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are supposed to be repaying an $85 million loan from the province. Oh yeah?

- The interest on $85 million is at least $4.2 million a year.

Let's see, naming rights, $150,000; ticket surcharge, $500,000; entertainment tax, $800,000, for a grand total of $1.4 million.

- So each year the Bombers will go $2.8 million further in the hole while "repaying" the loan.

We should sell raffle ticket on how many years before the city of Winnipeg is called on to bail out the Blue Bombers again.

How is Greg Selinger going to account for borrowing another $190 million next year? Will it be layered on top of the $500 million deficit already predicted? Will the provincial deficit be $690 millon next year or will he try to disguise it with some NDP Enron accounting?

Katz was asked on CJOB if he would table the entire new stadium deal Wednesday at city council's last regular meeting. Listen to OB's Audio Vault, 9-9:30 to hear how he shucks and jives around the question.

He will table the city's portion of the deal, he finally acknowledged, leaving only the province's, university's and football team's portions secret.

Why is anything secret? There's no private partner to be affected by the release of the facts.

Katz said David Asper is getting paid $4 million for his work on the stadium. What a deal, said the mayor; Asper wanted $6.4 million.

Does that mean Asper wanted to make a 50 percent profit on the deal? Or that he's walking away from $2.4 million?

Is Asper getting $4 million on top of millions paid to Creswin for its work on the untendered contract to build the stadium?

For every question answered, two more arise. But the biggest question is not being asked.

Why are Selinger and Katz so desperate to seal the deal without any scrutiny.

Why did they do everything possible to hide the details as long as possible.

Why are they still lying about the cost of the stadium?

What are they hiding?

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Selinger and Katz, the bank of Asper scams


It's getting harder and harder to run a good scam in Winnipeg.

Just ask David Asper who's been drop kicked out of the hinky deal he screwed together to build a new stadium for the city.

One minute he was the city's darling and the next he's the goat. And why? Just because he low- low- lowballed the cost of a stadium to con the public--- and to throw his construction company some business.

So who hasn't done that in his life?

David can't figure out what went wrong since his sister Gail has been running the same scam successfully for years as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. But even she's sensing that the public is catching on to the game.

Last week the Ukrainian Canadian Congress declared the Aspers and their friends need to be pried out of positions of power at the CMHR.

"The UCC has consistently maintained that the governing body of the CMHR must be representative of all Canadians. Unfortunately the composition of the Boards and Advisory bodies of the CMHR has been dominated by friends and supporters of the Asper Foundation. This unfortunately brings into question the objectivity of the Content Advisory report, the Museum layout and content, and the selection process for staff and consultants to the CMHR." reads a statement issued by the UCC.

The Ukrainians thought they had a deal with Izzy Asper to get in on the ground floor of the CMHR. They would give their support, way back in 2003, and in return they would see their genocide story, the Holodomor, (Stalin's official campaign of starvation that killed 7 million Ukrainians) given equal status with the Holocaust in the museum's galleries.

Equally important, Ukrainians would be recognized as victims of the Nazis ("this would be portrayed as an historical fact in any discussion about the Holocaust") thereby forestalling the expected charges of collaboration.

"A review of the “Content Advisory Committee Final Report to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights,” dated 25 May 2010, makes only one minor, passing reference to Canada’s first national internment operations and only one reference to the “Holodomar” (sic). Further articles and information about the Museum evidence that the Holodomor will not have a permanent and prominent position in the Museum," the UCC states.

"(T)he crimes of communism receive no mention in the Content Advisory report."

"The current vision of the CMHR, as expressed by the Content Advisory Committee, is to include only two permanent galleries in the museum – one devoted to aboriginal issues and another to the Holocaust. Any other experiences and issues will be addressed thematically in the remaining galleries. This is unacceptable...".

But even while being attacked for overemphasizing the Holocaust in the CMHR, the museum's designers were defending themselves from allegations they were underemphasizing the Holocaust.

The Asper Foundation brags on its website that the CMHR "will incorporate the largest Holocaust gallery in Canada."

Bernie Bellan, publisher of the Jewish Post, got a tip from an inside source at the museum that shocked him.

Bellan wrote:

"...the individual, who asked not to be named, told me that the size of the Holocaust Gallery had, in fact, been reduced to 4,500 square feet. Given that the original size of the gallery, as previously mentioned, was 13,000 square feet, this represents a diminution of approximately 67 percent."

That's fancy talk saying the Holocaust gallery is going to be only one-third as big as promised in 2003.

"I was also told that the Holocaust Gallery does not have “a stitch of information about the great diverse European Jewish world annihilated by Nazi Germany and its allies" nor is there any “mention of Christian anti-Semitism”, said Bellan.

"Finally, I was told, the Holocaust Gallery will be part of a larger “Mass Atrocity Gallery”.

Bellan started phoning everyone he knew who was connected to the museum project. Angela Cassie, Executive Assistant to Stuart Murray, confirmed what he heard---the Holocaust gallery will be 4500 sq. ft. of the 47,000 sq.ft of exhibit space.

What the gallery will look like is still undecided, said Cassie. Design development won't be finished until January.

"Design Development is a process where decisions about use of technology, delivery method for information, placement of electrical, and major design components are made in order to begin tendering these components of the project." she told Bellan.

She's playing fireman.

The last thing the museum wants is a public fight over content.

Nothing scares money away faster than the chance of being drawn into a squabble over Holocaust vs. Holodomor or should we blame the Christians or not?

Millionaire moocher Gail Asper is still begging for money, at least $25 million more just to cover the costs identified a year ago.

She's started tapping her rich friends twice over but the pickings are getting slimmer and slimmer.

The last million dollars they got, from a donor who had given $3 million already, came with a door prize.

"We are delighted to show our appreciation by unveiling a feature room within the museum -- Stuart Clark Garden of Contemplation," said Gail Asper, the National Campaign Chair of Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

It beats a decoder ring.

But the money is drying up.
The scam doesn't work like it used to.

Faced with shaking her begging bowl for two more years to get another $25 million, Gail Asper is turning to the usual marks---the premier and the mayor, who can always be counted on to give away taxpayers' money.

"Asper and her team are still counting on municipal and provincial support for the final leg of the fundraising effort." said the Winnipeg Free Press when reporting on the latest CMHR donations.

"I am very confident we can reach that goal. We're working with the city and the province, hopefully it won't be all from the private sector," said Gail Asper.

Oh, horrors, no. Not all from the private sector. Not that.

Such a vile idea belongs in Homer Simpson's Ukrainian Beer Garden of Atrocity.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Selinger's Stadium Snake Oil--makes a perfect Xmas gift


Hallelujah!

Just in time for Christmas --- a new batch of snake oil arrives in town.

Unelected Premier Greg Selinger, the slimiest politician in the province, waited until the Legislature rose for the winter before leaking details of the latest, oiliest, New Stadium Deal yet.

He doesn't think anyone will find it suspicious that he kept the deal hidden until the very day he can't be questioned about it on camera.

Or that he won't give city councillors a look at it until, maybe, the day before their last meeting of the year, next week, when Selinger wants them to rubber stamp it with the help of his, ahem, "partner", just-reelected Mayor Sam Katz.

Nope, nothing suspicious about that.

Why, only a hardened cynic would compare that tactic to David Asper's hiding the cost of the new stadium until the civic election was over and his candidate for mayor, NDP-backed Judy Wasylycia-Leis, got trounced. "Still working on it", he'd say every day that went by after the tenders were delivered.

And after The Black Rod revealed the true cost had climbed as high as $190 million--for material alone.

And after Asper's construction company said we were just trying to sabotage the project with such inflammatory numbers.

What's Selinger saying today? "Still working on it."

That's the problem with snake oil. A little bit of sugar helps the rotgut go down---once. The second time around, no amount of noseholding helps kill the stench.

And this New New Stadium Deal is even less palatable than that whipped up by chief brewer David Asper.

You'll remember that one was supposed to be a privately-built stadium, with only a little government help here and there, that would provide the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with a guaranteed stream of revenue to keep them a viable team for generations.

The deal would cost $115 million and Asper promised to cover all construction overruns before taking over as the new private owner of the football club.

It turned out every word was a lie.

Asper didn't have two nickels to rub together, so his participation consisted of a tattered IOU. The cost to build a stadium ballooned to $190 million and climbing. And Asper reneged on his promise to pick up the tab for overruns the minute there were overruns. (He came as close to owning the team as you did, only you cost the city much, much less.)

The New Snake Oil is for the province to write a blank cheque for the still-unknown cost of the stadium and for everyone to pretend they'll get most of the money back from their "partners".

Unfortunately for them, and for us, their "partners' are other money-sucking government entities that depend on the province for existence.

The only hint of private sector involvement is the millions of dollars Greg Selinger intends to pay his "partner" David Asper to go away.

Instead of the fig leaf that Asper will pay back $90 million of the cost, we have the even bigger pretense that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will pay back $70 million. You know, the team that can barely keep the lights and heat on at the existing stadium suddenly has a Gold American Express card and can't wait to pick up the tab for everyone. Nope, nothing suspicious about that, either.

Oh, wait, we forgot that Selinger says they'll have help with a $2.40 surcharge on all tickets sold. At that rate, they only need to sell 29 million tickets. In a short 100 years, they'll have paid the government every cent back.

Except for the fact that the stadium will have been rebuilt twice over by then.

So, instead of pulling the hapless Bombers out of debt, we'll be drowning them with tens of millions of dollars of debt.

That, folks, is New Democonomics. As long as you've got your hands on the taxpayers' wallets, spend, spend, spend.

What more do you expect when the business deal is being drawn up by a social worker who has never run a business in his life.

But, of course, Sam Katz will be, as the Winnipeg Free Press put it Thursday, "scrutinizing" the business plan. Whew. That's a relief. But, uh, is this the same Sam Katz who OKAYED THE PREVIOUS DEAL WITH THE PREVIOUS SNAKE OIL SALESMAN, DAVID ASPER?

You know, the deal where an untendered contractor spent six months excavating a site without knowing what we would be building, what it would cost and who would be paying for it?

Uh, yeah. Same Sam Katz.

His latest trick to protect himself from the fallout of the stadium fiasco is to publicly insist he won't agree to anything unless he's given a maximum final price. Oooooh. Tough talk.

Until you ask yourself what happens if the cost exceeds the maximum final price. Answer: nothing.

The province will just pay it. That's what a blank cheque means. So all this talk about a maximum final price is only Sam Katz's escape clause from blame.

The city, we're told will be expected to cough up $7 million for the stadium. That's on top of the $2.5 million we're kicking in for a fitness centre at the University of Manitoba that's part of the whole deal.

So Winnipeg's contribution more than quadruples without a word of debate at city hall.

We suggest a word.

NO.

That's the word Sam Katz should hear when he finally drags this dead carcass of a deal into city hall.

We just had an election where the mayor and one candidate after another wept crocodile tears about the lack of public consultation in the city and about the need for greater transparency. And how overwhelming the infrastructure deficit is.

Well, it's time for the new council to prove those weren't just weasel words by politicians who will say anything to get elected.

Start by saying NO. No to any suggestion that the stadium deal has to be rushed through council. Hold public hearings. Demand a thorough accounting on the financial health of your "partners".

Katz confessed in a radio interview during the election just past that the city had done no due diligence on David Asper before committing itself to a multi-million dollar deal with him.

We're standing on the rubble of that trust agreement.

A commenter on Skyscraper.co, writing under the name Tower Crane, summed up the public's frustration Thursday night. We couldn't say it better, so we'll give him the last words:

"Why are the people of Winnipeg letting somebody get away with this?"
"Someone needs to start asking the tough questions.
"How was this project allowed to start?
"The Contractor ( Dominion ) would be smart enough to know the available funds versus the design were in major conflict, why was the start of excavation allowed to happen?
"How was Dominion even awarded this work, public money should have had a tender for general contractor?
"What was the permit value based on?
"One of you forumers that were so full of themselves earlier, saying stuff like you'll see, I know from a good source, blah blah blah should put as much effort into finding out what the heck happened, how, why.
"Someone's getting away with something rotten here and no one seems to be doing anything about it."

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Tax cutting NDP sends MSM reporters into a blind spin



Winnipeg's news outlets collectively deserve a fat raspberry for their fawning coverage of the NDP's announcement of the elimination of Manitoba's small business tax.

They were spun like tops and, to this day. don't know it.

In a nutshell:

* The NDP announced they were reducing the tax on companies that make $400,000 in profits or less to zero.

* They held a news conference in an Osborne Village cupcake shop whose owner, Derrick Godfrey, said he would save $10,000.

* “This move is about supporting entrepreneurship. It allows small businesses to keep more of their profits and reinvest in their companies, their employees and their communities," said Catherine Swift, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.

Let's see -- the hard-Left government of unelected Premier Greg Selinger cuts taxes, gives a whack of cash back to a businessman, and is embraced with hugs and kisses by the small business lobby.

What could be wrong with that?

Global News tripped over the hustle but didn't realize it.

They reported that "away from the glitzy photo op" the owner of the Cupcake Corner Godfrey admits the government doesn't make running his business "a piece of cake." ... "with the new tax cut, his yearly savings will be closer to $3,000, rather than the $10,000 he said earlier."

Say what? The saving to this business owner will be less than a third of what the NDP said it would be?
You might think it would be worth examining why the NDP was lying, but that's so Old School.

It took us a day to get some answers, thanks to blogger Brian Gilchrist at Things That Need To Be Said.

The small business tax rate was 1 percent. At a top base of $400,000, the MOST anyone could save is $4,000.

CTV news dutifully regurgitated the government spin right at the top of their story.

"Businesses in Manitoba will save a total of more than $422 million annually when the tax measures are combined with tax cuts previously announced by the government."

The government's intention is to fool the public into believing the elimination of the small business tax will save save business $422 million a year. The real figure was buried deep, deep in the CTV story---$9.5 million.

Instead of depending on the NDP's new cheerleaders, the CFIB, the MSM reporters could have provided some context to the tax announcement by finding their own sources --- easily available through a Google search.

Say.... Courtney Hirota, Vice President Manitoba-Saskatchewan for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association who addressed this very point in her reaction to the Throne Speech where it was first announced.

"The province holds up the elimination of the Small Business Tax as the solution to every business owner's challenges. But in the restaurant industry, where 30 cents of every dollar goes directly to labour costs, the Small Business Tax is a drop in the bucket," she said.

The government legislated increase in minimum wage (50 cents an hour) cost Manitoba's restaurant owners alone an estimated $16 million. A similar increase was introduced in 2009 with two 25-cent-an-hour hikes.

So the NDP burden small business with $32 million in costs and return $9.5 million in taxes. Whoopee.

The CRFA says the restaurant industry is one of the top five private sector employers directly employed more than 38,000 people in Manitoba. More than half of those employees are young people between the ages of 15 and 24.

The latest unemployment figures were released Friday, indicating Manitoba had the lowest unemployment rate at 5.1 percent.

Statistics Canada said the drop in the unemployment rate in Canada was not because the country created jobs, but because 43,600 job-seekers dropped out of the job market, mostly people in the 15-24 age group--- the ones being priced out of entry level jobs.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Tiny clues help reconstruct the secret discussions on a new stadium

Sproing!!!!

No matter how tightly they try to keep the secrets, details keep spilling out.

The "partners", including unelected Premier Greg Selinger and promise-breaking Mayor Sam Katz, refuse to tell the public anything about the discussions going on in secret regarding the debacle of the failed plan to build a new stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team.

You know, the project they started last May based on phony construction numbers provided by David Asper, chairman of the company given an untendered contract to build the stadium.

Nevertheless, tiny but revealing breaches in the wall of silence have appeared this week. Together, they provide hints at what's going on in those secret meetings.

1. The Elms is dead.

David Asper's fantasy---a high-end shopping mall on the site of the existing football stadium---is kaput.

" UNDER WINNIPEG'S CANOPY OF ELMS, you'll discover an upscale shopping destination that will take the prairie marketplace by storm."
"Located in our most profitable shopping district, The Elms will offer the finest fashion brands and the most expansive collection of prestigious retailers within hundreds of miles."
"When it opens, The Elms will be home to the most sought after retailers in North America, a number making their first foray into Canada."

Yeah? Try to find www.theelms.ca today. You'll get a message telling you "there's no such domain". (H/T to roccerfeller at Skyscraperpage.com for spotting this first.)

With no Elms, there's no David Asper in the mix. The only difference between him and toast is that one is good for breakfast and the other is a ...

Without even the pretense of private investment, the new stadium is all-government all the time. And given that the City of Winnipeg can barely find the money to clear the snow off the streets, it's looking like the province will have to foot the entire bill by itself. You know, the province that's running $500 million deficits every year for the foreseeable future.

The Elms was always Greg Selinger's fig leaf. Selinger had to make it look as if he wasn't borrowing money to give to millionaire David Asper so that Asper could fulfill his fantasy of owning a football team. Asper would help him with the deception.

Selinger tried to disguise the millions for the stadium as a loan to an educational facility, the University of Manitoba, which then hired Creswin, the millionaire's company, to build the stadium. As a side deal, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers would agree to sell the team to David Asper if he repaid $90 million of the loan. To pay off the loan and save Selinger's hide, Asper pledged to buy the old stadium site from the city, redevelop it into The Elms, and use the profits from the new mall to repay the province. Selinger could, and did, argue that the province was taking no risk at all because most of the "loan" would be paid back either by David Asper or, if he couldn't do it, by the taxes that would flow from the redeveloped stadium land.

Asper sweetened his romance with Selinger last April by attacking Opposition leader Hugh McFadyen and linking support for the NDP with support for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. McFadyen's sin? Questioning whether Asper could ever raise enough money from The Elms to pay back the provincial government for fronting the cost of the stadium.

"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."
"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 in a radio interview at the time.

Asper had his snit before it was revealed that he had vastly underestimated the cost of construction. And before he reneged on his promise to cover all cost overruns. And, of course, before The Elms crashed and burned.

He owes McFadyen a big, big apology.

2. The cost of construction just keeps rising with no end in sight.

Gary Lawless, sports writer for the Winnipeg Free Press, reported this on Monday:
"The latest figure being bandied around by the stadium partners is very close to $200 million."

Let's review the long and rocky road to $200 million.

The cost of the new stadium is:

* $115 million on May 20, the day of the sod-turning ceremony at the University of Manitoba.

(The Black Rod reported on Oct. 9 that an insider said tenders showed the cost of the stadium would range from $160-$190 million for building material alone.)

(Creswin President Dan Edwards issued a denial to the Free Press on Oct.19. "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.")

* $160 million according to the CBC on Nov. 4 quoting "a source close to the deal."

* More than $160 million but less than $180 million according to an unattributed statement in the Winnipeg Free Press by reporter Bartley Kives on Nov. 25.

* $185 million according to Global News on Nov. 26 citing "sources".

* Very close to $200 million. The Winnipeg Free Press Nov. 28 citing "stadium partners".

As the price of a new stadium breaks through the stratosphere and heads into outer space, we can see some of what's been happening at the secret meetings. Someone has been asking questions and, in the process, uncovering more and more costs.

The pricetag as revealed through "sources" has climbed $40 million between Nov. 4 and Nov. 29.

Someone was hiding expenses which were being pried out slowly.

You can imagine the angry exchanges behind those closed doors as millions of unexpected costs came spilling out of the cupboards.

Selinger thought $105 million would be enough to buy a new stadium. Now that the price has escalated by $90 million or more, he's in a panic. He doesn't have the extra money. Neither does anyone else.

"That figure (almost $200 million) has at least one of the partners ready to push away from the table." wrote Lawless.

The partners are the province, the city, Asper, the university of Manitoba and the football club.

- Asper is already out; it's not him.
- The U of M is getting something for nothing, so they'll stay in.
- The Blue Bombers have no burning reason to see David Asper as their owner so they'll go along with anything the others agree on.

That leaves the province and the city.

- Sam Katz has nothing to lose by walking away and leaving his nemesis Selinger to stew in his own juices. He just won his election. Selinger, who wanted Katz defeated in the worst way, still faces his.

If this surmise is correct, does it explain what Greg Selinger said in the Legislature on Tuesday? Or, rather, what he didn't say.

3. Every day the Opposition leader asks the unelected Premier for an update on the stadium discussions, and every day Selinger lectures the Conservatives that a new stadium is needed because repairing the old one would cost $50 million. Every day except Tuesday.

From Hansard:
Mr. McFadyen: ... can the Premier tell us how much more have the costs escalated since the third update that we got earlier this month?

Mr. Selinger: Mr. Speaker, as the member well knows, there was a very high price that was coming to fix up the existing stadium at Polo Park. And also, the member should know that the stadium at the University of Manitoba was a very old facility, in a state of great decline, as well.

"A very high price" is as far as Selinger would go on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he didn't mention fixing the old stadium at all in reply to the usual question, choosing instead to rant about converter stations for Hydro. (We don't know how that relates to the Blue Bombers, either.)

Has Tom Brodbeck shamed Selinger into backing down?

Winnipeg Sun columnist Brodbeck has challenged Selinger repeatedly, writing that $14.4 million is the real cost of fixing the old stadium enough to keep it operating for up to 10 years, more than enough time to make a measured plan to replace it instead of the back-of-the-envelope decisions that Selinger and Katz have taken to date.

He's written:

"The $52.5 million figure includes a whole range of enhancements like 20 new guest suites, renovated washrooms, relocated press facilities, upgrades to seating allowances and enhanced concession areas.
Those discretionary enhancements would cost $26.8 million, but they're not required to keep the stadium safe and functional. They would be designed to improve the fan experience."

A commenter attacked Brodbeck on a Saskatchewan Roughriders discussion board, making some points that have been repeated in Manitoba:
Under_Miner wrote:

"The guy should really research his facts. Whenever a building like this is upgraded or renovated the entire building MUST be brought up to current codes. That includes providing adequate barrier free access throughout seating, and other areas. It also includes Increasing exit capacity and reducing travel distance and bringing washroom facilities within compliance of current health requirements, which I'm certain the ones on the East side do not meet. Furthermore, electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems would all have to be replaced where the upgrades are being made, and they can't just be abandoned, they would have to be removed and disposed of. Also, providing adequate worker safety on a job like this would probably cost the builder into the millions. Every dollar in that amount cited is necessary."

But Brodbeck had addressed these claims in his original column.

"The report (commissioned by David Asper’s Creswin Properties) also speculates that if the stadium were to undergo major renovations by adding luxury boxes, upgraded seating and new food concessions, it’s possible there may be a need for building code upgrades. The bill for that “could” be $11 million, but the author of the report is not certain."

"What is certain is that the possible code upgrades are tied solely to the proposed enhancements, not to the $14.4 structural upgrades required to eliminate the leaky roof, the pigeons and the plumbing problems."

Is it possible that, faced with an impossible bill for a new stadium, Selinger is willing to concede that the only option is to keep the existing stadium operational until a solution acceptable to all is hammered out?

Which looks better going into an election---a small cost to buy time to make the right decision or a blank cheque written in haste?

Maybe the next leak will tell us what the untested Premier is saying in those secret meetings.

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