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.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Black Rod Potpourri: Ghosts, a rescue, a spanking or two, and, oh gee, a city hall boondoggle

Whither Liberals?

We've been asked why we don't write anything about the Liberal Party in our provincial election coverage.

Oh, c'mon. The what?

There hasn't been a viable Liberal Party in Manitoba since the Swinging Sixties (that's more than FORTY YEARS AGO), and that includes the wacko election of 1988 when it became the official opposition under Sharon Carstairs with 20 MLA's, most of whom were shocked to find they had actually won their seat. One winner wanted to know if becoming an MLA meant he had to quit his job at Consumer Distributing.

The Liberals haven't elected enough members to the Manitoba Legislature to rank as an official party since 1995---that's merely 16 years ago. They should run as the Ghost of the Liberal Party.

In the last provincial election they got a whopping 12 percent of the popular vote. The news media continues to pretend there is a Liberal Party in Manitoba because the don't want to admit the truth. It's like being too polite to tell your senile grandfather nobody is listening to his stories anymore.

Creaky old Jon Gerrard holds news conferences where he promises to do this and do that if elected, but everybody knows he's never going to form a government, ever, so pity the poor reporters forced to waste their time nodding at his pronouncements.

If the Liberals poll above 20 percent, they might be a news story on how voters are so disgusted at the choice for government they are parking their votes with the Grits. Until then, you have to wonder if anybody in the Liberal Party of Manitoba has noticed that their federal Liberal counterparts were eviscerated in the last federal election only four months ago. Trotting out federal rejects like Justin Trudeau and Bob Rae is just sad and pathetic.

And the Green Party? Oh, God. The Green Party is to provincial politics what Natalie Pollock was to mayoral politics.

Bellringer to the Rescue

Provincial Auditor General Carol Bellringer had to ride to the rescue of the NDP again.

Sharp-eyed columnist Tom Brodbeck noticed that the NDP was offloading spending in the latest public accounts to lower their reported deficit for 2010. Loans and advances to Crown corporations are counted as government assets instead of government spending, which is how the figures would be reported in the private sector.

Bellringer provided a completely incomprehensible explanation to the Winnipeg Free Press as to why the NDP accounting is okey-doke with her. Two by-lined reporters couldn't explain what the hell she was talking about. But isn't that why you hire auditors?

Offloading expenses to wholly owned entities as a way to boost the profit numbers is exactly what Enron did until somebody started asking questions.

And their auditors said it was perfectly fine practice, too.

Bellringer has a long history of pulling the NDP out of scandal. Just run a Google search for ' O'Learygate The Black Rod.' We reported how Bellringer gave her seal of approval to the Seven Oaks School Division which produced two sets of books to explain how they lost $300,000 on a secret land development that they undertook with government money. In one set they admitted they spent $300,000 (and counting) more than they made on the deal; in the other they said that if they sold the land they already bought and paid for to themselves for an inflated price, they would make an inflated profit. (Honest, we can't make this stuff up.) When a sharp-eyed resident spotted the school division engaging in land speculation, the NDP education minister blew him off, tipped off the school board which then backdated all their paperwork, and the NDP called in Bellringer to say everything was above board.

Bend Over

The former chairman of Manitoba Hydro applied his likkin' stick to unelected Premier Greg Selinger on Saturday.

Selinger and the NDP have run out of ideas to run an election on, and their whole campaign hinges on the scare tactic of constantly accusing Tory leader Hugh McFadyen of planning to sell Manitoba Hydro.

Hydro ex-chairman and CEO Len Bateman had enough. He wrote a scathing letter to the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press:

"Does the government understand the legislation that governs the operation of Manitoba Hydro? It appears from its statements about privatizing Mantioba Hydro that Premier Greg Selinger is making that it does not."

Bateman went on to cite the law that says Hydro can't be privatized without a referendum.

"This should quash one of the fear-mongering attacks by government on the opposition parties," said Bateman.

But Bateman should also take McFadyen to the woodshed. It appears the Tories have found preparing for an election was too hard, so they've decided to wing it. Otherwise they would have known about it and wouldn't have had to rely on Bateman to defend them.

More Incompetence at City Hall. Or, as the public calls it, the usual.

Let's see. A report to city hall released Friday says more and more often buses are passing up passengers because they're overcrowded. Winnipeg Transit has been converting its fleet to low-floor buses. That's meant replacing high-floor buses that have 50 seats with low-floor buses that have only 39 seats. And, they could have added, you lose another five seats every time a Godzilla-sized stroller gets on, which is pretty much every trip.

So 15 people either can't find a seat or can't even get on board, every time a bus shows up on a "busy route."

Ridership has risen 20 percent since 2002, the report said, which means even more people are being inconvenienced today than ever.

Pure genius by the transit planners. City councillors are considering buying more buses, which, the bureaucrats promise, won't cost more money because the fares will cover the cost of drivers and fuel.

Uh huh.

Sort of like the new stadium and the Disraeli Bridge ?

City spokeswoman Alissa Clark released a blathering statement that lectured bus riders to be patient and wait for another bus that will be along sometime or other.

In other words, the usual.

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