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:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Money for millionaires: Come and Get it, says Winnipeg's city council

At Wednesday's city council meeting, Mayor Sam Katz must have been auditioning for Dancing With The Stars because you've never seen such tapdancing in your life.

Mr. "I Can Take It" looked on the edge of a nervous breakdown as he spewed out a string of unconvincing excuses to justify his giveaway plan to return $3.6 million of property taxes to the Gail Asper-driven Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
In fact, Katz said the museum WON'T PAY ANY TAXES to the City of Winnipeg for FIFTEEN YEARS.

Yes, he said that.

For the first 11 or 12 years (he wasn't sure) the City will take the payments-in-lieu-of-taxes they get from the CMHR (which, as a federal institution doesn't pay taxes directly) and give it to the Province. The money is to pay off an $11.1 million secret loan that was given to Winnipeg so we could pretend we were making a significant donation to the museum to dupe the federal government into kicking in money to match contributions by Manitoba and (allegedly) Winnipeg.

For the next 3 years, he said, the city will collect the payments-in-lieu-of-taxes and kick them back to the CMHR. Just because Katz wants to give Gail Asper more money and he can.

The only problem is that the CMHR will owe Winnipeg about 9 million a year in taxes. Says who? Says the CMHR in their last annual report. So what has happened to that 9 million per year we're supposed to be getting for the next 15 years? Maybe somebody should ask Sam Katz.

Not that he cares.

He said so.

"I don't care whether it brings in 79 million or 709 million or 7.9 million. That's irrelevent to me," he said. He only cares how the museum makes people feel. Fuzzy and warm.

Of course, Winnipeg taxpayers who are paying Gail Asper's share of taxes might care. But Katz doesn't care about them, either. He said so. He called them "ludicrous".

By then Katz was all revved up and blasting in all directions.

Remember that football stadium he claimed he didn't know about all through the last civic election? And then after the election he announced a deal with Gail's brother David Asper, to pay him $4 million and build the stadium for him at taxpayers' expense?

Remember how it was going to cost $190 million. Guaranteed. Honest Injun.

Well don't hold your breath. Sam Katz said "construction inflation happens all the time. It's just a fact of life."

Fact of life, is it? So, what is the real cost of the football stadium going to be, you ask? A really inside source told us $300 million. Sam Katz, we'll bet, doesn't care.

He was a bit touchy about that $11 million loan from the province, though. What does body language mean when a man goes all rigid and can hardly speak?

"In order to get the first phase of BRT ( bus rapid transit) done...the City put up all the money and the Province is paying us back on an annual basis, i.e. (eye eee, he said) a loan."

Uh, no it isn't. Not by any stretch of the English language. Eee Eye Eee Eye Owe. A loan is when you give somebody money and they pay it back in installments, with interest. Not when you buy something and they help you pay for it. Nice try, though, Sammy.

Katz was extremely defensive about the charge that he's always got money for millionaires' pet projects but never for struggling social agencies.

He wanted credit for throwing a few crumbs to Osborne House in his last State of the City address. Each year Katz and the Chamber of Commerce raise money from the dinner and split it with various needy organizations.

We don't know what he gave Osborne House in 2011, but the previous year he handed them a cheque for $10,500. That, for anyone that's counting, is a whopping one-three-hundred-and-sixtieth of what he's giving millionaire Gail Asper for her museum. Whattaguy.

The Mayor was also very sensitive to the idea that he's giving away millions to the CMHR when it could be used to pay for some of the infrastructure deficit he's always whining about. So he did what politicians always do, he deflected the criticism to another level of government. Two, in fact.

There's $189 million sitting in the Building Canada Fund which isn't being used, he huffed. "We're losing $14 million every single year on construction inflation," he said.
He forgot to say that money was intended to go towards Phase Two of the Bus Rapid Transit corridor, which Katz kiboshed. He wants to spend it on a hugely expensive Light Rapid Train system, which the other two levels of government don't. A stalemate costing us $14 million a year.

The Mayor wasn't alone in spewing insults. Councillor Justin Swandel accused a speaker of "having a behavioral disorder" for appearing before council to oppose spending more money on the museum. That's the quality of city councillor we have in Winnipeg.

Although, it actually got worse.

Councill Ross Eadie spoke and said, as best we could decipher, either "Gwahr, I'm clinically insane" or "Woo. The psychedelic drugs are kickin' in."

He announced that Winnipeg could fix bad streets, backlanes and sidewalks at the same time as build "what will be, I think, the greatest project in the world today."

In the world. He said that.

He said it just before he started a rolling ramble about the Selkirk Settlers, the Forks, a private war that violated human rights, Point Douglas, Fort Douglas, all the immigrants he knows, "money is very important", the Women's Resource Centre, "why we're struggling in our inner cities", how we'll solve the problems though "it will take time", and reprising with how he knows so many different immigrants.

Then he clapped. Once.

Councillor Harvey Smith apologetically asked whether the proponents of the museum were going to come back for more money.

"If you got more cash, I'll be back," said Bill Morrissey, of Yes Winnipeg, who had earlier told the councillors that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights would better the quality of life of Winnipeg residents because it would be "a tremendous pastime."

Councillor Russ Wyatt said that if you added the money Katz wants to kickback to the museum to Winnipeg's streets and sidewalk renewal spending, we could catch up on the backlog. Then he voted in favour of spending the money on the museum instead of sidewalk repair.

We saved Councillor Jenny Gerbasi for last.

She said she just returned from a conference in Chicago where she learned you have to think big. And to welcome big ideas that come "from our citizens, whether they're wealthy citizens or not, they're citizens."

Big, she said, like the $400 million that Chicago spent "on a public park." It sounds crazy, she admitted, but it was providing Chicago with " $1 billion per year in economic investment. Per year."

Except that it doesn't.

The project was called Millenium Park and involved turning 25 acres of old railyards and an empty parking lot into "a park with cutting edge sculpture, landscape architecture and outdoor performance space", to quote one report.

The project went wildly over budget, approaching $500 million, of which $200 million came from the public sector. They immediately ran into problems covering operating costs, resulting in, guess what, high parking rates and higher taxes.

The value is nowhere near the imaginary numbers quoted by Gerbasi.

As with the CMHR, no two reports agree on the economic impact.

Compare these two plucked from stories on different days.

"A study, which we now think understated the impact, was completed in 2005. It stated that the value of the surrounding residential property values would increase by $1.4 billion over a ten year period ending in 2015 and the increase in tourism dollars over that same period would be $2.6 billion."
"The 24.5-acre park will spark $1.4 billion in new residential construction in the East Loop over the next 10 years, according to a study commissioned by the city's Department of Planning and Development. Tourist spending is projected to surpass $1.9 billion during the same period."

Is that an increase in residential property values or is it new residential construction? Before or after the housing crash of 2008?

Is the tourism boost $2.6 billion or $1.9 billion?

And note, that's over TEN YEARS. Not "per year" as Gerbasi gushed.

Oh, and Chicago gets 25 million or 26 million tourists a year. Did before the park and did after. Of which one-and-a-half million visit the Millenium Park.

That's the sort of wild, dare we say "ludicrous" boosterism you get from city councillors who are in the pocket of the "visionaries".

City council voted unanimously to give $3.6 million to the CMHR.

Remember that the next time your city councillor says there's no money to fix your street.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

The unfettered bias of Terry Milewski, Robert Fife, Bruce Cheadle and Bruce Campion-Smith

The pack journalism of the Parliamentary Press Gallery was on display like never before this past weekend. We got to see the extent to which they're willing to go to inject their personal political biases into the election campaign and to pass off their own opinions as news.

But, sadly for them, we also got to see how the days of the mainstream media are numbered.

It all began at a Conservative Party election rally in Mississauga where Prime Minister Stephen Harper was answering questions from reporters. Harper-hater Terry Milewski of the CBC got to the microphone with a list of carefully prepared ambush questions which he, himself, confessed were the talking points of Harper's critics.

The next day, press gallery reporters for CBC, CTV, CP, the Toronto Star and even Postmedia spread stories across the country that the audience, prompted by Harper aides, drowned out Milewski's questions to protect the Prime Minister.

The stories are lies.

The reporters knew it.

And, thanks to the new media, the public can, too.

* It begins with Milewski at the mic. Contrary to the meme being spread by the press gallery that Harper's media access is scripted and controlled with reporters limited to 4 questions, Milewski, following other reporters, asked three questions himself and wanted answers in English and French for each.

His "question" consisted of three mini-speeches. He spoke for almost two minutes.

To understand how the press gallery spins the story you have to hear Milewski's condescending, contemptuous, insulting questions for yourself. Here, then, is a transcript, with a few choice phrases highlighted.

Terry Milewski:

"Thank you. Good morning, sir. "

"You have been portraying yourself in this campaign throughout as tough on crime and a friend to victims. And I'd like to put to you, if you don't mind, um, some items which suggest to your critics otherwise, and to have your comments on these in both languages, if you could."

"First, your candidate in Scarborough, we all know, was an enthusiastic cheerleader for a terrorist group, the Tamil Tigers. Now one of your own ministers, Peter Kent, has repudiated him. You haven't. Why not? Why is Mr. Paranchothy still your candidate?"

"And, second, you promised in your 2006 platform Stand Up For Canada to create a national Security Commissioner. You broke that promise and you continue to break it even when a judge that you appointed, John Major, urged you to keep it, said it was essential, would require no new bureaucracy. So the second question is why you broke your promise on such a basic issue of public safety."

"And finally your campaign has now issued what seems to be a completely preposterous statement on the decision of your candidate in Vancouver South, Wai Young, uh, to, uh, meet with and receive the endorsement of a well-known member, founder member, of the Babar Khalsa terrorist group who paid over $100,000 to the bombmaker in Air India. And, sir, the point here is that Malik was front page news for five straight years in the biggest criminal case in Canada history in her town and Wai Young now (says she?) didn't know who she was, who he was, went to his meeting, heard him endorse her, didn't know who she was."

"Isn't that a slap in the face to the Air India victims's families and why is Wei Young still your candidate?"

* Harper then answered the questions.

All three of them.

The questions that were asked without interruption from the audience.

Stephen Harper:

" First of all, 3 of these things...First of all our candidate in Scarborough has been very clear on his rejection of the Tamil Tigers.Very clear on that. That is the position of this party and this party is the one that listed the Tamil Tigers organization.
" In terms of the national Security Commissioner...we looked at that some years ago and concluded that the current arrangement where we have a national security adviser coordinating a number of agencies within the Privy Council office is the way we wanted to go. I think that is the most effective way to go and we've looked at the various options."

" Finally, in terms of our candidate in Vancouver South...she was invited to attend a school, she attended, in good faith, uh, she has been very clear, she and her campaign have no links and do not welcome in any way Mr. Malik into this party. We're absolutely clear about that."

* Barely had he stopped speaking when Milewski began to argue with the P.M.

"Do you actually believe, sir..."

And the applause started. The audience just realized the Prime Minister had finished his answer. They clapped politely, then louder, then joined in a standing ovation and ended with chanting Harper's name a few times. It lasted about a minute.

And then, Prime Minister Harper.... answered Milewski's 3 questions again---in French.

Far from silencing Milewski, Stephen Harper gave six answers to three questions from one reporter.

* How did the Parliamentary Press Gallery report the exchange?

Canadian Press
Cheering Conservative partisans shield Harper from awkward terrorism questions
By: Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press
04/23/2011 8:22 PM | MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Partisan supporters of Prime Minister Stephen Harper — led by Conservative staffers — purposely drowned out media questions Saturday about a controversial endorsement from a man with links to the Air India bombing.
A reporter attempted to ask Harper if he actually believed Young could not know who Malik was when she received his endorsement.
A Conservative staffer near the reporter prompted the crowd of about 500 into sustained, aggressive applause that lasted more than a minute, drowning out the reporter's repeated efforts to get a response from Harper.

The Toronto Star
Party favours: Election ephemera
2011/04/23 14:14:00
Bruce Campion-Smith (Ottawa Bureau chief , the Toronto Star)
Stephen Harper’s relations with journalists hit a new bump Saturday when a crowd of partisan supporters shouted down a reporter as he tried to get an answer from the Conservative leader.

Cheering partisans shield Harper from questions
Updated: Sat Apr. 23 2011 6:07:55 PM News Staff
Conservative Party staff helped a crowd of Ontario supporters to drown out reporters' questions Saturday to Prime Minister Stephen Harper about a controversial endorsement in B.C. from a man with links to the Air India bombing.
When a reporter attempted to follow up with a question about whether Harper actually believed Young did not know one of the most high-profile characters in the Air India saga, Conservative staff rallied the crowd into loud applause. As staffers led cheers of "Harper!" the crowd surged to its feet.

The Globe and Mail
Tory crowd drowns out question about support from man acquitted in Air India
STEVEN CHASE (Parliamentary bureau reporter, The Globe and Mail)
MISSISSAUGA, ONT.— Globe and Mail Update
Published Saturday, Apr. 23, 2011 11:29AM EDT
Last updated Saturday, Apr. 23, 2011 6:33PM EDT
Conservative partisans deliberately drowned out a journalist’s question to Mr. Harper during a Greater Toronto Area campaign stop Saturday as he was being asked about a Vancouver candidate’s endorsement by a man acquitted in the Air India bombing.
* Milewski was interviewed Sunday on Newsworld.
"So the idea that she somehow didn't know who he was seems almost too bizarre to believe. Yesterday, as you know, an attempt to get Mr. Harper to confirm that he actually believed that story was unsuccessful due to the enthusiasm of his supporters who kind of drowned out the question. We asked Harper again, the question he wouldn't answer yesterday."

* Robert Fife, CTV 's Parliamentary Bureau Chief, discussed the incident on CTV Newsnet.
Female Host: Somehow they were encouraging the crowd to essentially drown out those media questions. Is anybody talking about that today?

Fife: When a reported asked 'do you believe, do you believe her?'... when he asked that question, people from the Prime Minister's office were on a stage encouraging people to clap and shout the reporter down. So on a matter of principle we asked Harper about this today.

* The pack was in full howl. The saintly reporter was shouted down and drowned out when all he wanted to do was ask a follow-up question. Oh, those evil Conservatives.

What the press gallery reporters still haven't learned is that their day is long gone.

On Small Dead Animals, this comment popped up on the thread about the Milewski incident:

Here is the video...the media are liars on this story

Video? Yep. And on the CTV website, too. Watch it before they take it down.

You will hear for yourself Milewski's sneering questions and insulting behavior towards the Prime Minister. A perfect example of CBC manhood.

You will see that Stephen Harper answered all of Milewski's questions, twice.

You will see that Milewski wasn't asking a follow up question; he was starting to argue with the P.M. His mind was already made up. The answer from Harper and his camp was , in his opinion, "completely preposterous" and "almost too bizarre to believe."

What, then, did he wish to get from his "follow-up" question.

Obviously, he wanted to goad Harper into a sound bite that could be used by the Liberals, especially Ujjal Dosangh, the source of the Vancouver South complaint in the first place, which Milewski freely admitted ("some items which suggest to your critics otherwise").

Milewski was acting as a foil for the Liberals. The audience realized that.

This wasn't CBC's Liberal election rally. This was a Conservative Party rally, and they let their voices be heard.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery was incensed. So they simply ignored the truth and went with the lie. Poor Terry got shouted down. How can we help the Liberals if we let that sort of thing happen.

But they didn't count on the new media---the internet. The video of the entire exchange was online and available for anyone to see.

The gatekeepers have lost control.

And all their credibility.

Is there anyone left who believes the "national reporters" are impartial reporters who don't inject their personal opinions into their, ahem, "news" reports?

If you find someone, show them the Milewski video. Be sure to issue the "barf alert."

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

REVEALED: the two bombshell secrets Sam Katz is hiding from city council, and you, about the CMHR

In between whining that Winnipeg doesn't have enough money to fix the mythical infrastructure deficit, and waiving taxes for his friends, the Aspers, Mayor Sam Katz is hoping you never find out two things about the finances of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Secret Number One

Sam Katz wants city council to kickback $3.6 million in property taxes that the CMHR is supposed to pay sometime in the future, but he's hiding from the public the fact that the CMHR HAS NOT PAID ITS TAXES for 2009 and 2010 !

Its already $241,000 in arrears PLUS penalties, despite collecting $24.9 million from the federal government over those two years for operating expenses -- which were to include payments in lieu of taxes.

Secret Number Two

Former Premier Gary Doer was in such a rush to give Gail Asper money for her museum that he not only doubled the province's contribution, from $20 million to $40 million, but he secretly loaned another $11.1 million to the City of Winnipeg so that Mayor Sam Katz could pretend the city was also contributing.

The loan was carefully hidden in government departments so it couldn't be traced back to the NDP, but someone may have made a mistake -- which could cost the city at least $1.6 million (and counting).

We waited almost two weeks last year to check whether the CMHR had paid its tax bill to the city.

The result:
The Black Rod Monday, July 12, 2010

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights tells Wpg taxman "Talk to the Hand"

... the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, has stiffed the City of Winnipeg for $360,000 in property taxes.

The story created such a buzz that CMHR CEO Stu Murray went on CJOB to "set the record straight."

"There's been some concept about property taxes. I want to be very clear, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights will ... pay ... property tax. That's an absolute. Uh, there's basically a process that goes between Public Works and the City. That process is undergoing right now, so the fact is we will pay property tax." he said.

We, foolishly, took him at his word, and never checked further.

The 2009 tax bill for the CMHR, which was for the period April-December 2009, was $157,792.21.

The 2010 bill, for the entire year, was $202,938.63.

Imagine our surprise to read in the newspaper last week that the CMHR had paid all of $119,652.51 (on taxes owing of $360,000). That didn't even cover the bill for year one.

Property taxes owing as of June 30, 2011 on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights will be $439,835.

When the building is open, possibly in 2013, the taxes are estimated to be anywhere from $6 million to $9 million a year. The CMHR has a plan to cover their tax bill --- ask the federal government for more money. It's in their last annual report.

Winnipeg council's executive policy committee voted last week to kickback $3.6 million in taxes from the CMHR to, uh, help finance the construction of the building. That, you'll note, makes absolutely no sense. How can we refund taxes to help build the museum when they won't pay the taxes until after the museum is built and open to the public? Not one of the geniuses on the committee asked.

Neither did anyone ask any questions about the vague reference in the EPC agenda to a mysterious loan from the province that has to be paid back before the city refunds property taxes to the CMHR. An astute reader sent us the "recommendation" from city bureaucrats to approve the kickback which reads:

b. The funding contribution commencing after the requirements of the Loan Agreement between the City of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Development Corporation have been met.

What in the hell was that about? we asked. We had to know, so we released the tracking hounds.

They led us to this long, long, long list of city bylaws...

...where we found Bylaw 194/2007:

Borrowing: Authorization of a loan from the Manitoba Development Corporation re Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR) 194/2007 Dec 17, 2008 Active Finance/Taxation Corporate Finance 311

That led to the City of Winnipeg Annual Financial Report (2009)

"Also included in general government expenses is a $16.0 million cash contributiion to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights ("CMHR"). Part of the cash contribution was financed by the Province in the form of an $11.1 million interest-free loan. The loan will be repaid based on future payments-in-lieu of taxes received by the City on the museum facility. Further as part of the contributions to this project, the City has agreed to sell, transfer, and convey to the Government of Canada for the price of one dollar, land located at the Forks which will form part of the site on which the CMHR will be constructed...The city will also return development and permit fees up to an estimated value of $1.3 million. "

...and eventually, to the NDP cabinet room and, guess who, the dirtiest politician in Manitoba, Greg Selinger.

DATE: January 23, 2008
ORDER IN COUNCIL NO.: 00023 / 2008
RECOMMENDED BY: Minister of Finance (that would be Selinger)

1. The Minister of Finance is authorized, on behalf of the Government of Manitoba, to:
a) to make advances of up to $11,100,000 million to Manitoba Development Corporation
(.MDC. ) out of funds designated for the Manitoba Industrial Opportunities Program (the
.MIOP. ) under The Loan Act, 2007 for the purpose of making a loan to The City of
Winnipeg (the . Loan. ); and
b) to determine the terms and conditions of the advances to MDC.

2. The advances to MDC shall bear interest at the rates established by the Minister of Finance
under subsection 61(2) of The Financial Administration Act.

Under Background, the order-in-council said this:

2. The Minister of Competitiveness, Training and Trade requests that the Government make a loan to The City of Winnipeg from the funds authorized for the MIOP. The Loan is to be made to a maximum aggregate amount of $11,100,000 million and is to be administered by MDC, as agent for the Government.

By the time we plowed through the info on the Manitoba Development Fund and MIOP sites, we had the story pieced together.

In 2008, Gail Asper was trying to create the pretense that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights had the support of all three levels of government.

The only problem was that Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz didn't have millions of dollars to piss away on a museum when he was trying to create the pretense of a balanced budget.

So Gail's best friend, Premier Gary Doer stepped in to create the pretense that Winnipeg was so enamoured of the idea of the museum that it would kick in $20 million to the cost of building it.

In reality, Winnipeg could (see above) only put up land, which it sold to the federal government for $1, and $1.3 million in kicked-back development and permit fees. The rest of Winnipeg's "contribution" was made up of a secret loan from the province for $11.1 million, a loan that's been hidden from public view until now.

Doer did his best to obscure the loan from scrutiny.

The government gave the money to the Manitoba Development Fund which channeled it through the Manitoba Industrial Opportunities Program as a loan to the city. The what...?

From government websites, we can see the MIOP has nothing to do with museums, and certainly not with this loan to build the CMHR:

Manitoba Industrial Opportunities Program (MIOP)
The objective of the Manitoba Industrial Opportunities Program (MIOP) is to secure significant business investment that would not occur in Manitoba without provision of some level of government assistance. The major criteria in assessing the project will be the viability of the business proposal and its resulting benefits to the Manitoba economy. The Program provides secured loan or loan guarantee assistance to recipient companies in return for fixed asset investment and long-term job creation.
Grow your business with a secured loan or government loan guarantee for projects related to the diversification of the technological/industrial base in Manitoba. Access is based on eligibility criteria and a comprehensive business plan.
Size of Loan:
Typical Range for MIOP loans is:
Minimum loan amount $300,000.
Maximum loan amount $5,000,000.
Larger loans may be considered.
Assistance from all levels of government must not exceed 50% of eligible project costs.


5 The corporation may
(a) subscribe for, obtain, or otherwise acquire and hold, and dispose of shares, share warrants and securities of any company or acquire assets or any interest of any person carrying on any business capable of being conducted to enhance the industrial development of the province or any part thereof;

(b) acquire, develop, maintain, manage, operate, rent, let on hire, option or dispose of industrial sites, buildings, plants, machinery, equipment and utilities or any interest in the foregoing, and enter into agreements with a municipal corporation or municipal development corporations or any other companies for that purpose;

So how did MIOP justify its loan of $11.1 million to the City of Winnipeg for the CMHR?

Simple. There's a slush fund provision in the Act creating the MIOP.

Agent of Crown on special projects
41 The Lieutenant Governor in Council may authorize the corporation to act as agent for the government in respect of projects or matters, undertaken or carried out pursuant to an order in council, for the advancement of the industrial or economic development of the province.

Finance and accounting
42 The moneys to be used for the purpose of this Part shall be supplied by the government, and shall be accounted for by the corporation separately from its other accounts.

The provincial cabinet can authorize any spending it wants by claiming its for "the economic development of the province". The money is then kept off the books of MIOP and away from prying eyes.

And that's how city taxpayers wound up on the hook for $11.1 million for a museum they don't need and don't want. That "loan" is supposed to be repaid by, guess what, the property taxes received from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Yep, we're on that road again.

But there's one problem.

Somebody forgot the law.

The law, even for secret loans like the one to the city of Winnipeg, sets the interest rate. The government's own order-in-council cited the law on interest rates to be charged by the government:

Interest rate
61(2) Subject to subsection (3), the Minister of Finance shall, at least monthly, establish a schedule of interest rates to apply to advances made by way of loan under this or any other Act of the Legislature.
Minimum rate of interest
61(3) No rate of interest shall be less than the rate of interest estimated at the time the schedule of rates is established to be the government's cost of borrowing for the term during which the advance is to be repaid

Uh, oh.

In case you skipped over the 2009 City of Winnipeg annual financial report cited above, you missed this key sentence:

Part of the cash contribution was financed by the Province in the form of an $11.1 million interest-free loan.
Uh, uh.

The NDP could NOT, legally, give Winnipeg an interest-free loan.

Somebody has to be paying the interest.

How much are we talking about? At the very least the interest rate in 2008 was 5 percent for the province. That, on a loan of $11.1 million, works out to about $550,000 a year.

For the past three years, somebody owes the Manitoba treasury $1.6 million. More money swallowed by the money pit.

Either, a) the province is swallowing the interest or b) the City of Winnipeg is going to get a great big unexpected bill sooner or later. And we'll have to pay it with real money now, instead of pretend future money.

Given that the CMHR can't or won't make payments-in-lieu of taxes to cover their property tax bill, we're betting not a penny of the loan has been paid off yet. And won't be for years to come, with the bill adding up at least $550,000 a year.

City council as a whole will vote this coming week on the recommendation to refund $3.6 million in payments-in-lieu-of-taxes to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

At least now they know the hidden facts.
Who knows? Maybe one of them will actually ask the right questions before rubber-stamping the Mayor's motion.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

The anti-Ukrainian hate campaign infects the Winnipeg Free Press

Knowingly or unknowingly, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Dan Lett has become a part of the hate campaign against Canada's Ukrainian community.

On his newspaper-sanctioned blog, Lett purports to address the debate over the decision, by museum trustees, to have a stand-alone Holocaust gallery within the Canadian Museum for Human Rights while relegating every other genocide in history to second-class status by lumping them together in a grab-bag gallery of "mass atrocity".

The hand-picked board of the museum insists the Holocaust is the most important genocide in history because it sparked the human rights movement, a view disputed by one of their own former consultants who is among the most respected Holocaust historians in the world.

Voices of the Ukrainian community, namely the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, are arguing there should be no hierarchy of genocide, and the galleries in the CMHR should be grouped by themes. If the theme is genocide, they say, then the Holocaust should be discussed alongside the Holodomor, the government-sanctioned famine that killed millions of Ukrainians less than 10 years earlier, and other mass-murders of ethnic groups before and since.

Lett tips his bias in the debate early on.

"The Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association have been waging an increasingly bitter campaign against plans to establish galleries that will deal with the Holocaust and aboriginal people."

Say what? The Ukrainian groups have been extraordinarily civil at all times. They have never engaged in name-calling or personal insults. They have scrupulously avoided any reference to the Jewish background of Gail Asper, who is spearheading the museum; Ron Stern and Bob Silver, the owners of the Winnipeg Free Press, and Sam Katz, the Mayor who has funnelled $20 million into the museum and now wants to waive almost $4 million in property taxes.

They have always focused on the central issue---the special status being accorded the Holocaust.

By contrast, the museum backers dove into the gutter instantly. Gail Asper hinted that the UCCLA might be anti-semitic. She hadn't met them, she said. The Winnipeg Jewish Review has circulated outright hate speech that accuses the Ukrainian Canadian community of "a significant tolerance of antisemitism..." .
University of Manitoba (ed. note: apparently not a professor, but an instructor) Catherine Chatterley went so far as to invent a falsehood that she could use to discredit the Ukrainian community as, what else, anti-semitic.

But Lett didn't notice any of this. To his eyes, it's the Ukrainians who are responsible for the "bitter campaign".

After briefly mentioning Prof. Michael Marrus, whose denunciation of the CMHR was reported fully in The Black Rod but never in the Free Press,

"However, if the sheer number of academics counts for anything, then the scales may have tipped in favor of the CMHR. This past week, a group of 91 academics from around the world with expertise in the Holocaust, European history and genocides, including the Holodomor, signed a letter (text also follows below) condemning the UCC and UCCLA for its attack on the CMHR."
Where did the letter come from? None other than the Winnipeg Jewish Review.

It's purpose---to smear Ukrainians by denouncing the nationalist groups that fought the Soviets during World War Two as Nazi collaborators.

"By pointing out the historical record of the OUN, UPA, and the Galicia Division, we do not mean to suggest some sort of collective responsibility for genocide on the part of all the men and women who served in them, and certainly not on the part of all Ukrainians." said the 91 "academics".

Oh no? You fooled us.

The simplest check of the signatories leads one to the apparent source of the letter, David Hirsh, a lecturer at the University of London and the founding editor of a website called Engage, which is described as a resource for those working to understand and to oppose contemporary antisemitism.

Do you detect a theme here?

Lett cited the expertise of the academics who signed the letter --- "Holocaust, European history and genocides, including the Holodomor" --- but he failed to point out that their only interest in the Holodomor is to spin it as an example of how Ukrainians use their own national tragedy to feed anti-semitism.

Lett then printed the letter in full on his blog, making sure it receives wider distribution than just on the Winnipeg Jewish Review. He hasn't printed any letter or news release from the UCCLA or UCC regarding the Canadian Museum for Human Rights?

Is one side of the "debate" more equal than the other, Dan?

Lett did contribute something to the debate when he interviewed Heritage Minister James Moore and quoted him saying "there will be no permanent exhibits. That was clear from Stuart Murray and the board.” He contributed the question 'Did the Canadian Museum for Human Rights mislead the minister?'

The CMHR has always planned to have a permanent Holocaust exhibit in one of their 12 zones. That zone will be dedicated to the Holocaust and only the Holocaust. It will be permanently assigned to the Holocaust.

Did CMHR CEO Stu Murray tell the minister something else?

Was he, shall we say, less than crystal clear, allowing Moore to hear what he wanted to hear?

Because there is no doubt there will be a permanent Holocaust exhibit.

Canada's ethnic groups object to having one zone dedicated to the national tragedy of only one group while genocides affecting their groups will somehow be lumped together in another of the 12 zones. And nobody at the CMHR can give a straight answer about how "permanent" the exhibits in that gallery will be.
Angela Cassie, the museum’s communications director, speaks a lot but communicates poorly.

Here's how she explained the situation to the Globe and Mail:
“...each space within the museum is going to have a wide variety of content and exhibits, most of which will be digitally driven ... All of our exhibits and all of our plans will be in constant, not necessarily day-to-day evolution, frequent evolution. So even in the Holocaust and aboriginal galleries, as additional research is done and more information is available, the content of the museum will be updated and added to.”

Clear as mud.

It sounds like the exhibits in the mass atrocity gallery will change constantly, while the Holocaust gallery will always be the Holocaust gallery.

So. one day the mass atrocity gallery may focus on the Amenian genocide, the next on the Holodomor and the next the massacre of Tutsis. But that's alright, because everything is digital and, as you know, digital is "permanent" so, technically, the ever-changing exhibits are permanent and the permanent Holocaust gallery is also permanent, although it will change too. Got it?

You would think that by committing hundreds of millions of dollars to the museum, the federal government would demand a clear, and permanent, answer.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Your taxes go up as the mayor waives taxes for his millionaire friend, Gail Asper

Mayor Sam Katz is raising your land taxes so that millionaire Gail Asper won't have to pay hers on her pet project, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

While you get dinged by a hike in frontage fees (the most regressive tax on your land, which hurts the poorest homeowners the most), Katz wants to waive the property taxes on the CMHR.

He says he's raising your taxes to pay the city's infrastructure deficit, but his friend Gail won't have to pay her share, you'll pay it for her.

Katz wants to save Gail Asper $3.6 million because she and her Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights have run out of money and need millions more.

The CMHR has turned into a money pit.

They not only can't raise money to finish the museum, but they can't afford their taxes either.

So Katz wants to do Gail a personal favour by waiving the taxes on the museum and pretending the money will go instead to construction.

Except there is no money, it's all a shell game.

The proponents of the museum say they're still $25 million shy of what they need to finish building the CMHR. At least that's what they admit to. How deep the hole is really is anyone's guess.

What's certain is nothing they say can be trusted to be true.

They lied to the Senate when they vowed that any cost overruns would be paid by private sector donations. Now that they're drowning in red ink, they've gone running to governments to bail them out.

Two years ago they tried as hard as they could to keep secret as long as they could the fact they were $58 million over budget.

It was only after The Black Rod crunched the very public numbers and determined they were at least $55 million in the hole that they came clean.
They snipped $10 million out of their plans and laughed at how easy it would be to raise the rest.

Now, two years later, they've only managed to raise $20 million (if you believe them, of course) against the overruns. At that rate, they'll never raise the money they owe before the supposed opening date on Spring, 2013.

Even worse, it looks like the well has run dry. They've tapped everyone they know twice over, and now that they've managed to divide Canada's ethnic groups against the Asper-run board of trustees, the donations from the public have dried up.

Once the CMHR became a public institution, the federal government was on the hook to pay the property taxes. Since, by law, federal land is exempt from city taxes, they play a game whereby the federal department makes a 'payment in lieu of taxes' that's equal to the property tax bill.

The feds agreed to pay the CMHR $21 million a year in operating costs, which was to include the payment in lieu of taxes.

But Gail Asper and her geniuses budgeted to spend all that money on other expenses.

They forgot they needed to set aside money for the property tax bill, and for utilities.

Now they're left begging to cover those bills.

Sam Katz is taking Gail Asper's tin cup to Executive Policy Committee to get her property taxes wiped away. Last year the CMHR stiffed the city for $360,000 in property taxes (and only paid up after being shamed into it by The Black Rod).

Or did they? Reporter Jen Skerrett said Saturday the city only received $119,652 from the federal government in lieu of taxes on the CMHR. What happened to the rest of the taxes owed? Has Sam Katz already interfered with city tax collection to save Gail Asper?

Katz never fails to whine about the alleged infrastructure deficit, which rises and falls depending on whose pet projects are included at any given moment. But when faced with collecting millions of dollars from the Aspers, he always turns it down and gives them a present --- our money.

David Asper collected $4 million form the public purse for his failure to build a new football stadium. Why? It was a business deal gone bad. He wasn't acting as a consultant or agent for the city? He risked the money as a private entrepreneur and he failed. Why doesn't he give the $4 million to his sister so that she can PAY HER TAXES.

According to press accounts, Asper's company Creswin collected $4,079,556.34 for "architectural, legal, planning and communications work on the stadium project."

The compensation included :
"$1.8 million for architectural fees, $850,000 for legal fees, $660,000 for marketing and communications, $476,000 for business planning and development and $246,000 for administration and organization."

Why would the public pay him for his legal fees, his failed marketing, and his failed business plans?

Worse, instead of allowing any other private businessman to present a plan for a new football stadium, Katz agreed to the Asper plan to be paid 100 percent by taxpayers. He then agreed to give up all the entertainment tax plus the property taxes on the Polo Park stadium to finance the new stadium at the U of M. In short, Asper got his pet project built by taxpayers and the city gave up millions in taxes.

Now, we're asked to surrender another $3.6 million to, guess who, Gail Asper, for her pet project.

When, exactly is the city going to get anything back from the Aspers?

Oh, expect the argument that the CMHR is a great asset for the city. How?

It can't pay its taxes. It's sucking up money from every other charity in the city. And its going to cost millions to run.

But, but, but... what about the "conservative" estimate it will bring 250,000 visitors to Winnipeg every year?

We debunked that myth two years ago in a series of stories:

They've since refined their spin to say they expect 55,000 individual visitors, 25,000 from packaged tours, and 33,000 students brought by Rotary Clubs.

And the remaining 142,000?

Online visitors, of course.

Earlier this year the former president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Gord Steeves, who sits with Sam Katz on Executive Policy Committee, told CBC News this:

"This has gone well beyond any sense of rational debate. At this time in our history as a province I think we, as a people, need to stand up and say this project needs to be stopped."

What was he talking about?
Bipole III.

But his words apply perfectly to the biggest boodoggle in Winnipeg, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Three years earlier, Steeves issued a news release on behalf of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. He wrote:

“Canada's economy and quality of life and the health and safety of Canadians depend on the infrastructure our municipalities build and own, yet we don't have the resources to maintain it.”
“If we don't act soon as a nation to tackle this deficit, we will see more catastrophic failures in our roads, bridges, water supply and other vital infrastructure. Continued delay is unthinkable.”

Roads. Bridges. Water supply.

Note what's not on the list of vital infrastructure.

Unwanted museums.

So how does the CMHR suddenly show up at the top of Sam Katz's list?

The mooching from the City of Winnipeg is only the start of the next scam.

Remember, THEY HAVE NO MONEY. The scam is to get enough to keep construction going until later this year, say during the provincial election, when they will admit they're skint, and throw themselves on the mercy of the politicians.

You can't let the project fail now, when it's almost built, they'll wail.

It only needs a little bit more money ($10 million, $15 million, $20 million) for this magnificent building, they'll cry.

Surely. Surely, you won't let it fail at this the eleventh hour, they'll plead.

And the politicians will open your wallets, again, and throw more millions at the Aspers.

Remember. We told you so.

Next: Dan Lett joins the smear campaign.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Shut their mouths: The first legacy of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

What's round, respected and rolling away from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights?

Another wheel fallen off the Asper bus.

"Leave it to the experts" has been the desperate last-ditch cry of proponents of the CMHR as the public facade of the museum has slowly chipped away. But the experts have begun to desert the CMHR.

Over the past few months, the truth has been forced out, bit by bit -- that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was always intended to be a Holocaust museum, is still, and, if Gail Asper has any say, always will be. Asper and her hand-picked trustees refuse to contemplate that the mass murder of anyone else has the same significance to the world as the Holocaust.

That, to them, justifies having a separate Holocaust gallery, with all the other genocides in history lumped together in a "mass atrocity" exhibit.

They specifically reject the argument by the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association that the crimes of the Communists (specifically the Holodomor, the state-sponsored famine that killed millions) equal or surpass the crimes of the Nazis, and that neither should have special status in the museum.

The Holocaust gets "a place in the front seat" (and all other genocides must ride in the back of the bus), railed the Winnipeg Free Press.

Why? "Only the uninformed ask questions like that." sniffed the FP editorial writer.

To buttress their argument, the Asperites have wrapped themselves in the cloak of scholarship.

"The problem with the CMHR is it is mired in the politics of Canadian ethnic identity rather than rooted in the scholarly study of genocide, Holocaust and human rights. Subjective feelings are influencing content and design choices rather than objective historical and legal reality..." wrote the museums's newest defender Catherine Chatterley, the founding director of something called the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism.

Someone who knows about the scholarly study of genocide is Michael Marrus, a professor emeritus of Holocaust studies at the University of Toronto, and a consultant during the museum's planning phase. He can't be dismissed as "uninformed" by the Free Press.

He's written six books on the Holocaust and related subjects, including Vichy France and the Jews (1981), with Robert O. Paxton, The Unwanted: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century (1985), The Holocaust in History (1987) and The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial 1945-46: A Documentary History (1997).

As a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, he has been a visiting fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a visiting professor at UCLA and the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

As they say in French, not too shabby.

Last week, Prof. Marrus distanced himself from the CMHR, both on its corrosive effect on the unity of Canadian ethnic groups and on the alleged scholarship that the Asper family relies upon to put the Holocaust first, above all other genocides.

He spoke to the National Post:

" This is supposed to be a human rights museum and it has started off by being highly divisive. The only thing they can do is to start all over. I am despairing of the whole thing."


" They want to promote human rights, to get people active and engaged. The problem with that is that the museum is not really grounded in the kind of knowledge historians can agree on," he said.

Prof. Marrus said the museum is operating under the belief that the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a touchstone of the modern human rights movement, was inspired by the Holocaust.

" The museum points to the declaration as evidence that the Holocaust was somehow the moving force behind the modern human rights movement.

Unfortunately, there is very little evidence for this contention. To the contrary, in the immediate postwar period there still does not seem to have been a very clear sense about the nature of the Holocaust, and it takes until the 1960s or ’70s for this to really gel. I think the prominence given to the Holocaust, however well meaning, is historically incorrect."

With the scholars starting to dissent from the "truth" as dispersed by CMHR apologists, we turn this space over to a respected voice of the Jewish community who wants to comment on the debate:

" I've been reading your observations about the CMHR with great interest. As a matter of fact, I have referred to your blog from time in my own writing on the subject in The Jewish Post & News.

I think you might want to know that, in contrast with Rhonda Spivak, to whom you referred in your blog on April 4, I have taken a much more conciliatory view of the disagreement over the proposed content of the new museum. You might want to read an editorial that I wrote several weeks ago. It can be read at

Further, I have attempted to maintain a dialogue with Lubomyr Luciuk of the Ukrainian Civil Liberties Association. I have printed an article he wrote arguing for a greater prominence for the Holodomor in the museum.

Mr. Luciuk sent me the following e-mail today:

Thank you for your fair minded comments on the CMHR controversy and the position that the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association has taken. We stand ready, at any time, to meet with the representatives of the Jewish Canadian community to discuss our concerns in a true spirit of civility and mutual respect.

We also want to make certain that your readers understand that while we want all 12 of the CMHR's galleries to be thematic, comparative & inclusive, that does mean, for us, that the Shoah (Holocaust) must be included, permanently, and we have never suggested otherwise. That there is a problem with the proposed contents of this taxpayer funded national institution is true. But if there is a will there is a way to resolve our concerns, with fairness for all. I hope this genuine offer of engagement, dialogue and reconciliation will be accepted.

Dr L Luciuk
5 April 2011

I would hope that a compromise that would be acceptable to all parties might be arrived at, rather than fanning the flames further, as Ms. Spivak has done. I have agreed with you that, ever since the museum became a government-funded institution, its original raison d'etre changed. It is lamentable that something that could have been a unifying institution now appears to have become a source for disunity.

Bernie Bellan


The Jewish Post & News "
Unfortunately, the signs are the extremists are taking the debate into territory far uglier than anyone imagined, from disagreement to outright hate speech.

"Ukrainian group’s postcard paints Jews as pigs" blares the headline in the Winnipeg Jewish Review.

The story begins:
"WINNIPEG — The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association (UCCLA) has sent out a postcard to supporters that appears to depict Jewish backers of a prominent Holocaust gallery in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights as pigs."

The postcard is a copy of the 1947 Ukrainian edition of George Orwell's Animal Farm. In the book, the pigs represent Communists who promise equality, but after they take over, they announce that some are more equal than others.

The UCCLA asks why, in the publicly funded Candian Museum for Human Rights, some genocides are more equal than others.

There's no indication anywhere that the pigs in the postcard represent Jews.

The Winnipeg Jewish Review bases its false claim on, guess who, the rant of museum apologist Catherine Chatterley who wrote in the Winnipeg Free Press:

Clearly [in the postcard], the pigs are supporters of the Holocaust gallery, which is characterized as a vehicle of domination, inequality and exploitation. The image of the Jew as a pig has a very long and well-established history in European antisemitism, and, of course it is also a theme in Islamic antisemitism (Jews are purported to be the descendants of apes and pigs).”

The reference to Islamic antisemitism was seen by some to be a veiled slap at James Kafieh, the former president of the Canadian Arab Federation, who has joined the UCCLA's call for a single gallery on genocide. This didn't go unnoticed on the Internet.
Posted by: LL53
April 6, 2011 at 5:57 AM

...we must protest against the bullying and name-calling being deployed by some in their failing attempts to silence legitimate public debate over the proposed contents of the CMHR. That kind of behaviour is unacceptable. For example Dr Chatterley’s identification of Mr Kafieh as an Arab, whom she then less-than-subtly associates with those Islamic extremists she says have spewed falsehoods about Jews being ‘descendants of apes and pigs.’

The truth is that he has never uttered such a calumny, nor would he. He happens to be a Christian and a Palestinian who has also consistently advocated for the Holocaust being included in a comparative Genocide Gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Ms Chatterley’s remark about Mr Kafieh smacks of anti-Semitism. How ironic.

Anita Neville, the Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review the postcards were "deplorable." The Jewish Review fails to mention that more than half the Liberal caucus has put their names on a letter supporting the Ukrainian community's position that no genocide be give special treatment in the CMHR.

Does this mean Neville believes her colleagues are deplorable?

The Jewish Review also quoted Dr. Per Rudling, a post-doctoral fellow at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität, Greifswald, Germany.

"Per Rudling, a scholar of eastern European history who has specialized in antisemitism in Ukraine and currently teaches at the University of Greifswald in Germany, said that “the card should be seen against the background of a significant tolerance of antisemitism in the Ukrainian Canadian community…"

So, Rudling says the Ukrainian Canadian community as a whole not only tolerates antisemitism, but has a "significant tolerance."

If that doesn't qualify as hate speech, what does?

The legal definition of hate speech includes:
2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against and identifiable group is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
We predicted this in The Black Rod barely two weeks ago, that the defenders of the CMHR as a Holocaust museum would resort to blindly accusing anyone who disagrees with them of anti-semitism to silence them.

That great defender of human rights, Gail Asper, has done and said nothing to stop the extremists.

The first legacy of the "human rights" museum, is a campaign to stifle free speech and debate.

Her daddy would be so proud.

And the wheels on the bus go clunk, clunk, clunk.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Twisting the truth Toronto Star-style

The Toronto Star tried a drive-by smear of The Black Rod Saturday, but wound up shooting themselves in both feet.

The Star has invested a lot of capital in attacking the Conservatives for ejecting nonthreatening, non-partisan students from campaign rallies. The MSM has tagged it a bubble campaign and declared it demonstrates Stephen Harper's over-controlling personality.

Imagine the consternation at the Star when The Black Rod broke their bubble and exposed the poster boy of the tossed students, Izzy Hirji, as a lad with a past that would have interested anyone doing security for the Conservative Party leader.

He not only once posted a comment on Facebook that could be construed as a threat to Stephen Harper, saying he was ready to go to Ottawa "an take him down", but he later participated in a protest that harassed people attending a Conservative rally, and he regretted not having joined a politically motivated publicity stunt (a "strip mob") put on by the same people responsible for a get-out-the-youth "vote mob" just prior to Harper's speech.

Within 24 hours, another blogger uncovered an NDP link to the poster girl of the ejected students, Awish Aslam, who had insisted to reporters she belonged to no political party and was only listening to the party leaders before deciding who got her vote.

(She's since admitted she was an NDP volunteer in the last election.)

The media myth of mean security guards giving the bums rush to sweet, innocent students who were only looking to be engaged in the political process cracked like the ice on the Red River.

Toronto Star reporter Joanne Smith had written a story weaving the stories of Hirji and Aslam into a broader look at how young, often first-time, voters feel alienated from politics.

"Do they become more active — and angry — or do they withdraw, getting the message their engagement is not wanted?

“I think it’s very disheartening,” said Hirji."

She hadn't yet realized the irony of her words, that some of the students who were bumped, and the organizers of the "non-partisan" vote mob, were members of environmental groups that were just as political as political Parties even though they weren't running for office themselves.

She quoted Hirji heavily, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May, without mentioning (if she knew) that Hirji was a Green Party member.

With the political blogosphere chiding her for her failure to report the political backgrounds of Hirji and Aslam, Smith needed to resuscitate her story.

On Friday, Joanne Smith phoned the two thorns in her side, Small Dead Animals and The Black Rod. We don't know how the exchange went with Kate at SDA but here Smith spent a lot of energy defending her account of why Hirji got turfed.

The vote mob went to great pains to be non-partisan, she insisted. Nobody knew they were involved in the Strip Mob. Security personnel tossed Hirji because he was in the get-out-the-youth demo, not because they saw his Facebook comment or knew his involvement in an earlier protest against Harper, she argued.

Sez who, we asked. Do you know different, she said. Nope.

But any security detail worth its salt would know who was involved in the Vote Mob and would know they were behind the Strip Mob ... and might even run the rather unusual name of Izzy Hirji on the Internet to see what pops up.

You have no credibility, she said.

Google "Lesley Hughes black rod", we replied.

We earned all the political cred we need with our story during the last election of a long-forgotten (except by us) article that got Liberal candidate Hughes in dutch with leader Stephane Dion and created a one-day firestorm.

Including, we note, two stories in the Toronto Star following our story.

Joanne Smith's piece ran Saturday.
But it was later in the day that she hit the paydirt for the Star. She plopped this "revelation" into her blog.

UPDATE: Sean Ledwich, a freelance journalist in Winnipeg, notes the original Facebook post included an "lol" at the end, presumably to indicate Hirji was joking (which is an important bit of context). The Black Rod left that out, but McMillan included a screen shot in her post on the subject. It appeared Thursday night the original Facebook comment had been deleted, but Ledwich found it in a Google cache result on Friday.

Smith was obviously implying The Black Rod misled readers by selectively quoting Hirji out of context.

"The Black Rod left that out." she wrote.

Except that we didn't. Smith, we fear, had never bothered to actually read the story about Hirji in The Black Rod. Otherwise how could she get it so wrong?

We highlighted the most relevant part of Hirji's Facebook comment -- the part that could be considered as a threat. We then linked to the actual Facebook page where the comment appears, so people could read the entire comment in context. And then, in paragraph three, we specifically referenced to what readers would have seen for themselves on Facebook:

"Maybe 3 months ago, before Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at a political rally by a schizophrenic gunman, you would see the "lol" at the end of the comment and the date (2006) and put it in the crank file."

There was no attempt to hide the "lol". We deliberately drew attention to it.

We even returned to it four paragraphs before the end:
"How serious to take his threat to "go to Ottawa myself an take him down...", "lol" notwithstanding?"

The Black Rod left that out? No, we cited it TWICE.

Smith writes that the Facebook comment has been deleted "but Ledwich found it in a Google cache result on Friday." Was that a cheap shot at The Black Rod for allegedly sending people to a site that wasn't there? We had nothing to do with deleting the Facebook comment in question.

And why would an innocuous comment be deleted, anyway?

If it was innocuous.

And you should be more careful of your sources.

Sean Ledwich would do better picking up chicks by calling himself a freelance astronaut or freelance firefighter. His byline has appeared once in a while, here and there, but he's known more as an environmental activist (now, where have we heard that term before?) who once argued that all the roofs in Winnipeg should be painted white to reflect the sun.

You got snookered by a "green", again, Toronto Star.

And for the record...

The third non-partisan student cited prominently for getting the heave-ho from a Harper rally was Joanna MacDonald, a fourth-year environmental sciences student at Guelph University.

“I was told the RCMP had done a screening and that perhaps my name was affiliated with something on Facebook or the Internet,” MacDonald told the Star. “Something that made me unfit to enter. They wouldn’t say what it was.”

MacDonald says she has never been affiliated with any political party. Nor has she participated in any anti-government or anti-Conservative rallies.

“I was shocked. This had never happened to me before, so I didn’t really know how to deal with it.”

When she pressed officials further, she was asked if she had ever been involved with any on-campus clubs. When MacDonald replied that she had been involved with various environmental groups — including one advocating for the removal of bottled water from the university grounds — she said the official responded, saying: “Well, that’s probably why.”


It was more likely participating in the sit-in at Copenhagen in 2009.
"December 16, 2009
Copenhagen, Denmark – At 5:00pm today, during the opening of the high level segment of this year’s international climate change negotiations, a group of approximately 30 international youth staged a sit-in, refusing to leave the talks until a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty was reached. The group included young people from both developed and developing nations, including 10 Canadians."

Concurrently protesters occupied Stephen Harper's constituency office in Calgary, demanding he either agree to clamp down on global warming or resign.

Joanna MacDonald was inspired by Cophenhagen protests and she wrote about it.
From Copenhagen to Cancun: Words can hurt
Posted on December 1, 2010 by joannamacdonald08
Joanna MacDonald


If that statement wasn’t enough, the claim that Canada’s 17% target is “ambitious” was like a bullet to the chest. Honestly? Do you actually believe that Mr. St. Jacques? Speaking of understanding, I have yet to understand how our negotiator can say that a death sentence is ambitious. It is also nothing new… this behaviour is extremely predictable and consistent. It’s words like this that remind me why I’m here… to push back when nonsense spouts out the mouth of those who represent me!

Joanna Macdonald is a member of the executive committee of the Sierra Youth Coalition, the youth arm of the Sierra Club of Canada.

On their Facebook site you will find a poll on "What issue is the most important for you this election."

There are a dozen choices. The top three vote-getters:
Get Rid of Harper
Net Neutrality

Nope, nobody would think they were political. Would they?

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

BREAKING NEWS. City officials told Osborne Village is the Flood 2011 bullseye

( Welcome to our new readers from Small Dead Animals ! More federal election analysis coming soon )

Manitoba flood officials don't want you to panic, which is why they're doing the panicking for you. And, boy, are they sweating bullets today.

If worse comes to worse, it's going to turn out we've concentrated flood preps on THE WRONG RIVER.

It's not the Red River we should be worrying about. IT'S THE ASSINIBOINE!

Municipal officials have been told on the QT that if things stack up the wrong way, Osborne Village and, maybe, downtown Winnipeg are going to be flooded. They're already planning for mass evacuations and helicopter rescues.

Blinded by Perimeteritis, Winnipeg reporters don't realize how serious the flood situation is along the Assiniboine. West of Winnipeg has been smacked by heavy snows all winter. Just last week a resident of Brandon, looking at the snow on the ground, reported "It's just like February here."

All that snow, not to mention what's coming from Saskatchewan, will drain into the Assiniboine, which flows into Winnipeg to join the Red River at the Forks. While the Winnipeg Floodway protects the city from water coming up the Red, it won't prevent the Red from rising to near-record levels. If it gets too high, the Assiniboine River will back up, causing massive flooding---including the low-lying parts of Winnipeg.

A big fear is the speed with which the river can rise.

Flood officials are afraid that people could go to work in the morning and be unable to get home in the afternoon because Osborne Village has been cut off by sudden-risen flood waters. And residents of apartment buildings along the river could find themselves isolated without warning.

The river ice has broken and river levels have shot up. And the forecast is for a weekend of rain. We're as interested as you are on how this will affect the flood threat


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Inventing a scandal. What the MSM didn't tell you about Harper's campaign screening.

"...stephen harpers plan is ridiculous, 40 years without results, and death to Kyoto!?!?!?! OMGWTF im ready to like go to Ottawa myself an take him down..."

You're in charge of security for the Prime Minister of Canada during the current election campaign. You read this comment on a Facebook message. What do you do?

Maybe 3 months ago, before Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at a political rally by a schizophrenic gunman, you would see the "lol" at the end of the comment and the date (2006) and put it in the crank file.

That was then.

Now, you dig deeper into the writer's activities since he wrote that comment. You know his name, Izzy Hirji.

March, 2008. Prime Minister Stephen Harper campaigns in Guelph during the last election. About 50 protesters show up. They're mainly opposed to the mission in Afghanistan, although some shout slogans attacking Harper for his failure to adopt the Kyoto Protocol targets.

Protestors block the street as Harper supporters arrive at a rally. Two are discovered on the roof of a building and escorted down. Izzy Hirji gets his name in the local newspaper as one of those protesting the Prime Minister.

Aug. 30, 2008. Blair Wilson, Independent MP for West Vancouver, announces he will be joining the first Green Party as their first member of Parliament.

Izzy Hirji on Facebook
I'm SOOO excited!!! What happens now? Does a re-election have to happen...or is this just in case a general election is called? August 31, 2008 at 6:39am

"Greetings to all our supporters!
We have an amazing announcement!
Greens have changed the political landscape in Canada forever…"

Mike Nagy, the Green Party candidate in Guelph, announces Wilson and Green leader Elizabeth Maty will be at a rally in Guelph at 4:30 p.m. " Come out and support our new Member of Parliament!!!"

Izzy Hirji responds:
AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING! Unfortunately I'm stuck at the university during that time but if i get ANY chance I'm coming down to the office!
November, 2009. World leaders prepare to gather in Copenhagen to work out a treaty to follow up on the Kyoto Accord in fighting global warming. A Guelph group calling itself the C2C Strip Mob uses Facebook to organize a publicity stunt to protest the death of a private members bill, Bill C-311, the Climate Accountability Act.
C2C Strip Mob
Partager · Évènement public

Heure vendredi 13 novembre 2009 · 12:30 - 13:05

Lieu Science Atrium

Créé par : Guelph Countdown to Copenhagen

En savoir plus 1) Meet at that underpass area between MacNaughton and Zavitz at 12:30pm
2) We'll deliver instructions quickly
3) We'll inconspicuously filter into the Atrium and settle ourselves. You can do homework until the time comes.
4) At 1pm, it's showtime
We'll be doing an extremely easy and short dance to Daft Punk's 'One More Time,' and then stripping down to our bathing suits/underwear and performing the "Ooo, it's hot in here" cheer.
After about 30 seconds of this, we'll be walking around collecting signatures for the KYOTOplus petition.
So...even though this event location is the Atrium, remember you are meeting at that underpass. Also, even though it says 12:30-1:05, the strip party is only happening from1-1:05pm.
*Make sure you wear strip-easy clothing or come beach-clad.
Izzy Harji sends his regrets.

"HAHA amazing!! WISH I could partake but unfortunately I have class."

April, 2011. The students responsible for the Strip Mob organize another stunt, ostensibly to encourage students to vote in this federal election. They call it a Vote Mob. They tell reporters they are non-partisan.

Their target---Stephen Harper.

The main organizer of the Vote Mob is Yvonne Su. She's a University of Guelph student who describes herself as an activist. She attended the Copenhagen Summit where she thrilled at the clashes between protestors and police.

"I felt so much power in the people and so much oppression executed by the police. I was not in the group but I felt their struggle so deep within me. The climate change movement has come up again and again against resistance from established systems of our society and to watch as civil society physically clash with police to fight for a cause that runs so deep within me- was life changing."

Co-organizer Gracen Johnson is closely associated with the Green Party.

"It's been a dynamic and monumental year in terms of global mobilization around the energy-climate-crisis. This weekend is a chance to recharge and once again call all hands on deck." -- Gracen Johnson
You're handling security for Stephen Harper. Some of the Vote Mob, including Izzy Hirji, have a pass to attend.

Do you take the chance that the people responsible for the Strip Mob will do something to disrupt the Harper rally? Have they progressed from taking off their clothes to stronger tactics ala the riots of Copenhagen that so inspired them?

Izzy Hirji has been involved in an anti-Harper protest where Conservative Party supporters were physically blocked in the streets. Has he advanced his activism to new tactics?

How serious to take his threat to "go to Ottawa myself an take him down...", "lol" notwithstanding?
The decision was taken to dis-invite Izzy and his companions from the the rally. Politely.

CBC's anti-Harper attack dog Terry Milewski and his parliamentary press gallery colleagues seized the exclusion of Vote Mob participants as a "controversy" they could use to undermine Stephen Harper.

Not a word about the Strip Mob, the Green Party, or the Copenhagen riots that so energized the organizers. Instead it was how controlling the Harper campaign is and how aggrieved the students were.

Of course, CBC, CP, and the rest of the press gallery did carry the story of Ottawa Liberal candidate Ryan Keon whose campaign signs were defaced by spraypainted crosshairs.

Each story referenced the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and each made a thinly veiled inference that the vandalism was the work of someone supporting the Conservative candidate.

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