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:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Manitoba Tory politics: the people who blew the election do it again

The Walking Dead is a popular television show about small groups of people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world overrun with zombies.

The Walking Dead is also the story of the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives, a zombie political party pretending it's alive in a world overrun by the NDP following an apocalyptic election.

You know how this plays out. The people will be okay in the long run.
The zombies? They're dead already, they just don't know it.

The Tory walking dead had a ghoulish meeting this weekend to rehash the debacle known as the last provincial election. Everyone with anything to do with their disastrous campaign met to discuss what went wrong and what went -- well, wrong. Because nothing went right.

But, wouldn't you know it, that's not how the people behind the campaign see it.

They've slapped on Hugh McFadyen's crazy happy-face, the one he wore thoughout the march off the cliff, and they've proclaimed the election a success, except for the fact that they lost. They had enough votes to win any other election but this one, they're telling anyone who will listen. So the fact that the Conservatives have lost four elections in a row, shedding five seats in the process, is seen as just a minor aberration, barely worth mentioning.

And then, the people who made every wrong move possible in the October election proceeded to do everything wrong again.

The Tories had the option of acting quickly to pick themselves up off the floor and hit the reset button.

Have no illusions; the Party has been fatally injured by the McFadyen experiment of taking the Party to the left of the NDP as we explained here

But a speedy repudiation of the 2011 campaign would have allowed them to return to the Legislature with at least some self respect.

- They should have immediately given the heave-ho to the braintrust that designed, approved and ran the last campaign.
- They should have issued a public apology for abandoning conservative principles in a cynical gamble for votes.
- They should have declared they will return to those principles and stand or fall on them in elections to come.

Instead, they took the weasely way out. They postponed any leadership convention to next October, 11 months away. In a four year election cycle, they've conceded 25 percent of it to the NDP during which they will be rudderless. For nearly a whole humiliating year the public face of the PC Party will be the man the public didn't want as Premier. And the official policies the Opposition will be endorsing will be the policies rejected by the public at large and which are too far left of the base of the Party.

How will Hugh McFadyen debate the next budget? Will he attack the NDP for spending too much when he campaigned on spending like a drunken sailor? Or will he accuse them of spending too little because he campaigned on spending more for longer.

He has, in short, zero credibility on budget matters. And he's the official spokesman for the Conservatives.

The Opposition is supposed to be seen as a government in waiting. But the caucus of the Tory Party has demonstrated it is not ready for prime time. A government has to act in a time of crisis. The Tory Party is in crisis, but the caucus doesn't have the balls to take control of the situation, to seize the reins, elect one of their own as interim leader and tell the backroom to get their act together. How can they lead a government if they can't even lead their party?

Of course one reason for the lengthy delay of the leadership convention is the hope that someone will come riding over the horizon to fill the position.

As it is, three names have been floated for the leadership. There's sitting MLA Heather Stefanson who, under any other circumstances, would make an excellent choice. But she will have to explain why she ran for office on the McFadyen campaign and whether she endorses it still. And we'll see how much McFadyen allows her to speak in the Legislature or if he will continue to be a one-man show.

The only one openly campaigning for the job is former politician Brian Pallister. But he was in Manitoba during the last campaign and apparently said nothing to the contrary. He's since badmouthed the campaign, but leadership is getting ahead of public opinion, not following in its wake.

And then there's the little problem he has of credibility. We tore a strip off him in 2006 when he wanted to run for Manitoba Tory leader to replace Stu Murray and to run he was willing to force a $500,000 byelection for the federal seat he had just won.
Is an ethically challenged leader what the Conservatives want?

MP Rod Bruinooge should ask himself that same question. He's in Pallister's 2006 position---just elected to Ottawa and considering a jump to provincial politics. Is he willing to pay the $500,000 cost of a byelection out of his own pocket or does he think this is a price the public should pay for his personal ambitions.

Bruinooge is still the giant-killer--the man who defeated the unbeatable Manitoba Liberal Reg Alcock even after jumping into the race on short notice after Hugh McFadyen ran away in fear from the Conservative nomination. In 3 elections since, he's put a lock on his riding, Winnipeg South-Centre, but he ran last spring to represent his constituents and that's what he should do.

On paper he looks good. He's young, he's tech savvy, he could run in a Winnipeg seat, he's Metis, he's got a track record of doing the impossible.

But quitting after less than a year into a new term in Parliament would be a betrayal of the trust voters put into him. Wanting to spend more time with his wife and family in Manitoba is completely understandable, but the way to do that is to serve his term in Ottawa, announce he's not running in the next federal election and campaign for his replacement. He could retire from Parliament in 2015, run for a seat in the Manitoba Legislature and pick up from there. To run now would be the wrong message to an already cynical electorate.


The Conservative Party continues to get advice from pundits, all of it as appalling as it is useless.

The latest to wade in is the Winnipeg Free Press editorial writer who concluded Tuesday "The Tories have time to grow".

Choosing a new leader next October, wrote Staff Writer, "leaves the party three years to strengthen and expand its base..."

"That's plenty of time" for a party that's as popular as the Conservatives, Staff Writer said. They might even have won the last election "except for two things: the collapse of the Liberal party and the disastrous Tory campaign..."

Note to Staff Writer:
The Liberal Party hasn't been a factor in provincial elections since 1988. The Conservatives doubled their vote in many ridings and still got creamed. The Liberals didn't collapse; they don't exist and neither does the future for the Conservative Party. The disastrous McFadyen campaign took care of that. He wiped the slate clean; the next election will be fought on the NDP record starting in 2011 and likely with a new NDP leader to replace Premier Greg Selinger (unless he wants to collect an old-age pension and a salary from the Legislature at the same time).

"Leader Hugh McFadyen also lost credibility with his pledge to continue running a fiscal deficit until 2018, four years longer than the NDP were promising to end it. "

Hey, Staff Writer, that's still the official policy of the Conservative Party of Manitoba and the man with no credibility is still the official voice of the party.

"He is the best person in the legislature to challenge the government and hold it accountable."

The Legislature sat a mere 57 days in 2011 -- with Hugh McFadyen's approval. That's some accountability.

The Free Press gives this advice: The new leader will need to expand the party's urban appeal (duh) and its support in northern Manitoba, but it is not too tall an order (even though it sure was in October).

"Voters will toss out a really bad or corrupt government, but not necessarily, particularly if there isn't a reasonable alternative."

We just had an election and not even the Conservatives said the NDP was really bad or horribly corrupt. So how are they going to win? Tell us again.

The Tory campaign song in 2011 was the Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO.

They've got to reach way, way back for their next one---Dusty Springfield's smash Wishin' and Hopin'.

It reached Number One in 1964, the same year the Zombies had their first hit.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has a new villain---Christianity

For a brief moment, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights dropped its public mask and revealed its true agenda.

The national moneypit's biggest shill, CEO Stuart Murray, travels the country to put a happy face on the private Holocaust museum that was foisted on the public as the first "national museum" built in 40 years. Its backers, the Asper Family, realized they couldn't afford it without a pipeline into the public purse, so they tweaked the idea by folding the concrete Holocaust museum into a vague, undefined promotion of "human rights" in order to win a "national" patina for the project.

Murray still can't exactly define what the $310 million CMHR will be, other than it will have two permanent exhibits---one for the Holocaust and the other for Canada's alleged mistreatment of its natives.

Here's how a professor described the museum's mandate in a lecture at the Fort Garry Hotel in October:

"Murray emphasized the museum’s inclusivity and that it invited open-ended critical dialogue and debate on the part of visitors. Implicit throughout his talk was that educating about human rights was about respecting individual differences and differences based on group identities, and getting people not simply to tolerate differences in others but to respect and to value those differences."

Get it? Stu Murray is going around telling people the museum won't be pushing any absolutes. It will, instead, invite differences of opinion and treat all opinions as worthy of discussion.

That's the public face of the CMHR. In private, among friends, it shows its true face.

The University of Manitoba recently held a conference on immigration to Canada. Its theme was "positioning the rights of immigrants and refugees into the human rights agenda around the world." Among the speakers was Armando Perla, curator for the CMHR who would, the convention was promised, be telling " stories of some of the more than 700,000 refugees offered protection in Canada since the Second World, and of those denied entry, including war resisters, queer refugees and Romani refugees from Eastern Europe."

The Winnipeg Free Press, the propaganda arm of the CMHR, reported his address briefly:

Government slammed door on refugees
Museum curator remembers those who weren't allowed into Canada
By: Carol Sanders
"While Canada's proudly welcomed 700,000 refugees since the Second World War it has silently kept the door shut on certain groups over the years, says the curator of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights."
"It has been a little bit quiet about the people we don't allow," Armando Perla told a conference at the University of Manitoba Thursday.

But Perla was the the setup for another speaker, immigration lawyer David Matas who launched into a political attack on the Conservative government in Ottawa.

"If history's taught the world anything, it's that human rights and refugee protection go hand in hand, said lawyer David Matas.

"If you say no to refugees, you're saying yes to the violation of human rights," he said...


When Jews in Hitler's Germany and other parts of Europe were in danger, countries like Canada and the U.S. wouldn't take them, said Matas...The Nazis could see that the world didn't care about what happened to the Jews, and that sent the signal they could get away with genocide, said Matas. Doing nothing for refugees eventually resulted in the slaughter of six million people, he added.

When countries don't act, they're complicit in refugee persecution, he said.

"Today we shake our heads. It was obvious the Jews needed protection from the Nazis." That kind of hindsight hasn't improved the vision of countries that champion human rights today, said Matas.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently condemned plans to hold a summit in Sri Lanka because of the country's human rights record. But Canada has failed to offer protection to Tamil refugees who fled Sri Lanka, said Matas.

His punchline...

"The message to the Sri Lankan government is 'Go ahead and mistreat the Tamil minority -- we don't care,' " said Matas

Now this politicization of a university conference could be overlooked if Matas was simply a private lawyer.

But the FP failed to mention his deep and influential connection to the CMHR.

Matas was on the controversial Content Advisory Committee which was established in January 2009 to travel the country and consult Canadians.

“We are eager to begin a dialogue with the public on their expectations for the Museum,” said then CEO Patrick O’Reilly on the formation of the CAC. “Canadians have interesting stories and unique perspectives on human rights, and we look forward to including these in the Museum.”

The museum had already, almost a year earlier, sent the government a report from its Ministerial Advisory Committee containing a table on how Canadians ranked the subjects they wanted addressed in the museum. Aboriginal issues was at the top with 16 percent, then Genocide with 14.8 percent, then women, internments, war, and the Holocaust sixth with 7 percent.

By the time the Content Advisory Committee got through with it, the priorities of the CMHR reflected a very different Canada.

The Holocaust was now at the top of the list and worthy of its very own gallery. The rest of the world's genocides were deposited in a grab-bag gallery that could be labelled Other.

So a curator for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and a member of the Content Advisory Committee show up at a conference to attack the federal government and its immigration policies. Hmmmm.

You know, that looks a lot like taking sides rather than listening to all points of view.

No wonder. Listening to all sides sounds so good in a speech, but that's the exact opposite of what the museum's supporters believe in. Whenever they get a chance, like the U of M conference on immigration, they prove they are as biased as anyone.

And the bias is the standard left-wing, anti-conservative lean you would expect from a prominent backer of the Liberal Party like Gail Asper.

The real purpose of the CMHR is to serve as a left-wing think tank that will attack conservative principles and policies under the cloak of non-partisan concern for human rights.

They have demonstrated absolutely no commitment to a diversity of opinion on any issue, nor will they.

When the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, backed by a variety of ethnic organizations across Canada, challenged the primacy of the Holocaust in genocide exhibits at the CMHR, the backers of the museum didn't engage in discussion. They invented vile accusations of anti-semitism and accused the Ukrainian community of being Nazi sympathizers to shut them up.

Last week was the fourth annual National Holodomor Awareness Week, when Ukrainians remember the mass starvation of their countrymen in the Thirties by Communists in Russia.

The UCC believes the genocidal polices of the Communists deserve equal attention to the genocidal policies of the Nazis in a "national museum" that's funded by all Canadians.

The Asper-led museum proponents believe otherwise, but, with their slanderous accusations of anti-semitism failing to scare off their challengers, they've made a few changes to their argument.

They used to argue that it was the Holocaust that sparked the human rights movement in the world. It was such a proven fact, they said, there was no need to debate it, Stu Murray notwithstanding.

But then scholars started coming forward to challenge their version of the truth. We wrote about one such comment:

He's not alone.

John Lukas is a well-respected American historian with more than 30 books to his credit, among them The Hitler of History (1997). In Chapter 6, The Jews: Tragedy and Mystery, he wrote:

"That the cruelties visited upon the Jews in Europe were due to Hitler was obvious enough both during and after the war, so that no special attention was directed to their causal and effective connection by profession or popular historians for a relatively long time. Of course, documentary materials became available only gradually after 1945 (though more rapidly than after any previous great war), but there was more to this. There seemed to be no general, or popular, interest in the Holocaust for many years---indeed, for about two decades. The very word "Holocaust" did not begin to appear in American (or English) usage until the late 1960s."

Instead of stimulating debate and discussion the way Stu Murray would have us believe the CMHR intends, the Asper-led museum proponents launched a vicious attack on anyone who dared to present facts contrary to the CMHR world view.

But there appears to be some softening of their position. Note this story on the CBC website about a film showing at the Rady Jewish Community Centre this month.

Winnipeg's Tarbut festival celebrates the gamut of Jewish culture
Posted by Alison Gillmor, CBC reviewer

The film "The Rescuers" makes a persuasive argument that because the Holocaust is so meticulously documented and studied, it can demonstrate how genocide operates.


The film also addresses a question that keeps coming up in Winnipeg with the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights: Why a permanent Holocaust exhibition? The Rescuers makes a persuasive argument that because the Holocaust is so meticulously documented and studied, it can demonstrate how genocide operates.

The argument was echoed in a lecture delivered at the Fort Garry Hotel by Lionel Steiman, a Professor of History at the University of Manitoba and one of the signatories to a letter that accused Ukrainian critics of the CMHR of being anti-semites and Nazi sympathizers.

"There is a consensus among experts that the Holocaust is the most thoroughly documented and exhaustively studied mass atrocity in history."

If that was all of it, they would have a pretty good argument for highlighting the Jewish Holocaust--- in a gallery dedicated to the study of genocides throughout history.

But Steinman included a sinister twist.

"The problem is that to provide even a minimal understanding of how this vast process evolved would require far more time and space than CMHR could possibly give to it. It would have to convey at least some idea of the Christian roots of Jew hatred, and how it permeated European culture high and low; it would have to show that what we condemn as “antisemitism” was not a “prejudice” but the common sense of people everywhere, openly expressed at all levels of society everywhere."

"Antisemitism was a necessary cause of the Holocaust. CMHR’s initial plan for a Holocaust gallery didn’t mention antisemitism, and would have considered the persecution of Jews only in Germany— where only 5% of Jewish Holocaust victims came from. Fortunately gallery designers have moved beyond this, possibly in response to a critique from Dr. Catherine Chatterley, Winnipeg’s foremost academic authority on the Holocaust. They have now re-framed their Holocaust presentation so as to provide necessary historical background, and ensure that the “lessons” they draw are related to actual particularities of Holocaust experience."

Apart from the unintentional comedy of referencing Catherine Chatterly, Winnipeg's self-appointed "foremost academic authority on the Holocaust", the professor reveals a disturbing shift in the museum's approach to the Holocaust.

He says they now intend to highlight the historic anti-semitism of Christianity as the root cause of the Holocaust.

So let's get this straight.

The taxpayer is paying for a museum that divides Canada's ethnic communities, opposes free speech, provides cover for Liberal attacks on the government, and now blames Christianity for the Holocaust.

Well Merry Christmas to you, too.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Holla homies. The police chief in Murderpeg has a plan.

So you're the police chief in Murderpeg.

Four years after you got the job, the city is setting a record in the number of homicides, StatsCan has named us the most violent city in Canada, and Pollyanna the Mayor is fighting with the national airline that says downtown is too dangerous to bunk its crews overnight.

The murder rate would be double if it wasn't for the skill of the medical professionals who keep saving the lives of the daily victim of a shooting or stabbing. The Rock Machine is fighting the Hell's Angels while street gangs have overrun half the city. And a spree killer is still on the loose a year after he gunned down one man outside a house, one man inside a house and gut-shot a teenaged girl on the street for no reason except to see her die. (She lived.)

Wouldn't you know it, the uppity politicians and public started asking what you were going to do about it. Apparently a helicopter that keeps communities awake half the night isn't enough.

So late last week, Winnipeg Police Chief Keith McCaskill released The Roadmap, A Strategic Plan for 2012-2014.

Written in impenetrable bureaucratese, padded out with pictures and pages of blather about vision and mission statements and touchy/ feely platitudes, the 48-page report outlines how the police service hopes to operate over the next three years leading up to the next civic election. The buzz word du jour is apparently 'relationships.'

Some of it's been reported, some hasn't and almost none of it has been discussed.

McCaskill begins his "relationship" with the citizens of Winnipeg by telling them they're stupid, they don't know what they're talking about, and their fears about crime are the result of their boneheaded "perceptions", not reality. Way to go, Keith.

"Street disorder in Winnipeg's downtown core and the high crime rate areas negatively impacts our citizens perception of personal safety. Some causes of street disorder include behaviours such as urban camping, aggressive panhandling, fighting, open drug sales and graffiti."
"Although overall violent crime is decreasing, many Winnipeggers perceive that violent crime is on the rise, and believe it poses the greatest danger to their safety and security."
Nevertheless, forced to pander to the public, McCaskill promised more foot patrols, plus bicycle patrols. But the real story was in the small print.
He intends, he wrote, to add 500 hours of each. Sounds good, until you realize policemen work in pairs.

That translates to two police officers walking a beat for 250 hours a year, or, at the rate of an eight-hour day, roughly one month. Ditto for the bicycle cops.
Should we slot the pledge of a month of beat cops under perception of crime fighting or reality?
McCaskill's violent crime strategy includes the goal of the crime of assault by 9 percent over 3 years, muggings by 3 percent and sexual assault by 3 percent. How did they arrive at the exact figure of 3 percent over 3 years? Who knows.
But before mocking the police, read what we wrote in The Black Rod four months ago when we detected that something good was happening on the crime front and we challenged the MSM -- find out what was behind it ?
The MSM "journalists" did their usual, and waited for a press conference. We, meanwhile, noticed that crimes such as muggings were down 4 percent or more in some parts of town in one year. That makes McCaskill's goals seem modest.
The Chief of Police is also promising to make downtown safer (or seem safer) by boosting the number of police you'll see during "major events." Does that mean all Jets games?
On the flip side, McCaskill says the police service will reduce the personnel assigned to parades and escorts. In the same vein, they will be reassessing their participation on boards and committees to see which "partnerships" are still useful and which are not. Expect some noses to be out of joint over those decisions.
Buried deep, deep, deep in the report is this gem:
Develop and implement a community-based crime prevention and reporting mechanism for citizens
Translation: In high crime areas McCaskill wants to replicate Powerline, the community tip line that activists in Point Douglas credit for clearing crack houses out of the neighbourhood.
For McCaskill's role in setting up the first Powerline, see here:
The crime strategy is big on proactive, intelligence-based policing. McCaskill sees a big role for Crimestat. Here's how retired Deputy Chief Menno Zacharias, who helped set the program up initially, described it's function:
"For the casual observer, Crimestat is simply a website that displays crime statistics and crime maps. For police, it’s significance is far greater. Crimestat is a management and accountability strategy that directs police commanders to concentrate on emerging crime issues and trends in the area under their command. It forces them to track criminal activity in their area, identify emerging crime trends, develop effective tactics, and deploy resources quickly to deal with emerging trends in their early stages before they develop into a full blown crime spree. Lastly, there is follow-up and assessment by the executive. This is the accountability feature of the process that ensures everyone (commanders in particular) have their eyes ‘focused on the ball’, the ball being crime prevention and crime reduction."

The Winnipeg police service has not been using Crimestat to its fullest, but McCaskill has seen the light, belatedly. He plans on hiring and training crime analysts to
"Implement Intelligence led, Evidence-based, Predictive Policing Models."
The report contains a section headlined Innovation and Technology in which McCaskill writes:
"Advances in technology can be employed for a variety of uses, including analysis of breath samples taken from impaired drivers, and retrieval of real-time information on criminals and their activities. The Service is planning and budgeting to stay on top of the latest technological trends affecting numerous facets, including disclosure and how we conduct investigations. Staying current is not easy, and often very expensive."
Blah, blah, blah.

What's missing? Any mention of SECURITY CAMERAS in high crime areas.

Apparently that technology hasn't made its way into the police brains yet. Maybe that's why they're setting another crime record in Winnipeg--- for the most unsolved homicides in a single year.
The McCaskill report also raises a few issues that presage much butting of heads in the future.
Let's start with the most contentious.
* The Service will introduce education-based discipline as an alternative to traditional punitive discipline. (Page 30)
This is much like the policy of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority when dealing with doctors. They now encourage doctors to come forward without fear of discipline or prosecution whenever there's a serious incident, including a death. The idea is to find out what went wrong and correct the mistake in future without destroying the reputation of the highly-trained doctor. It both protects the morale of the institution and improves service, although its done behind closed doors.
As for applying the same principle to police --- hoo boy. Is this going to raise a ruckus. Already there are elements of the community (read Marxist sociology professors and their ilk) who accuse the police of widespread coverups of police wrongdoing. The existing LERA process is condemned as not working due to the paucity of successful complaints. Oh, and the NDP government is trying as hard as it can to send a policeman to prison, any police officer will do, to send a message to their social worker constituency that they agree that police are the bad guys and criminals are poor victims of society.
And now even fewer police will be punished? Watch the fireworks fly.
* Under the heading Develop Crime Prevention Partnership Program, the report suggests the police will:
"Work with partners to address problems in multi-unit residences."
So far, so good. But then, further in, they elaborate on the partnership.
The Crime Free Multi-housing program will give apartment owners and managers the power to evict or deny residency to those residents who partake in criminal or nuisance activities.
Oh yeah? You think so? Provincial authorities might have a different view of the rights of tenants to stay.

And the homelessness initiative that the NDP backs strongly is based on inserting troublesome transients into housing that would otherwise be troublefree.
Good luck bucking that pressure group, even in the name of public safety. The NDP was willing to see people killed and maimed by car thieves every year rather than risk angering the aboriginal lobby by taking the (mostly aboriginal) juveniles into custody for their own safety if nothing else.
And lastly, there's the elephant in the room.

* McCaskill outlines a model built on accountability. He even names the senior officers who will be held responsible for achieving the goals of the strategic plan.
"The principle of authority and accountability is one of the most
important concepts necessary to ensure everyone within the
organization understands what decisions they can make, and what
direction they can give. Without clearly defined levels of authority,
members and supervisors can become unsure of what they can or
cannot do.Working in an environment such as this causes
paralysis in decision-making and a lack of confidence. Additionally, it
opens the process up for excessive discussion, compromise and
momentum loss. Recognizing that authority must be clearly stated and delegated, accountability is the control mechanism that is designed to prevent insufficient decisionmaking and/or abuse of authority."
Currently ,the Chief of Police reports to the Chief Administration Officer of the City of Winnipeg, writes McCaskill. But in the wings is a new creation of the provincial government---the Police Services Act which threatens to muddle the lines of authority and accountability and undo elements of the plan.
"The Act defines provisions relating to how the Chief of Police will report to a Police Board, how investigations involving police conduct will be handled, and other issues associated with training and equipment."
"... A number of regulations are currently being developed and may have a substantial impact on how policing is done in Manitoba."
McCaskill is too much of a team player to criticize the provincial government, so instead he throws out a red flag so he can say later, 'well, I warned you there might be trouble.'
The police board, already stuffed with people antagonistic to the force, will be an alternate line of authority and accountability and the public will suffer for it.

The good, the bad and the ugly of McCaskill's strategic plan. You decide which is which.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The new crime strategy: McCaskill comes to the party late.

More than a year ago, in a blog post, retired Deputy Chief Menno Zacharias ripped back the curtain from some of the most secret inner workings of the Winnipeg Police Service.

What he wrote was astonishing---and never more relevant than today, on the heels of Police Chief Keith McCaskill's much anticipated crime strategy.

Perhaps shocked at breaching the blue code of silence, Zacharias later refused to give more details and never returned to the point despite our best prodding. The mainstream media ignored his comments entirely.

To put his observations in context you need to know that it's been 15 years since New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his hand-picked police commissioner Bill Bratton wrote the book on fighting crime in the big city. Proving that their method wasn't a fluke, Bratton later moved right across the country to Los Angeles and recreated his success in reducing the crime rate by phenomenal amounts.

Giuliani and Bratton designed a system based on detecting crime trends in neighbourhoods early (through a computer analysis they called Compstat), intervening quickly before the trends could spread, and making police commanders responsible for devising solutions in their areas. This was supplemented by a "broken windows" philosophy of not tolerating social crimes (graffiti, panhandling, prostitution, street drug dealing, squeegee men) which undermine a community's character and create an atmosphere where more serious crimes will be committed.

When he was first elected in 2006, Mayor Sam Katz declared he was committed to the crime fighting methods of Giuliani and Bratton, and he soon found a fervent ally in Menno Zacharias. When Zacharias retired in 2008 upon the selection of McCaskill as Chief, Katz made a point of telling the press that he had worked closely with the deputy.

"On a personal note, Menno Zacharias was very instrumental in setting up CrimeStat, was a major ally and help to make that a reality, believed in it," the mayor said. "I personally thank him for that, and I wish him all the best in his future." (CBC News)

But it wasn't until two years later that we got a hint of what was going on within the police department when he retired--- and afterward

Zacharias wrote:

"Crimestat was designed to be a tool to track crime in our city’s neighbourhoods. It does that very well. The process has a proven record in helping to combat crime throughout major cities in North America. In order for it to be effective the tool must be used in the manner it was designed to be used. All players in the system must understand and execute their roles. Division Commanders must stay on top of crime in their area, identify trends and devise effective tactics to deal with them. The Police Executive must be fully engaged and ensure the resource is used as intended."

"The executive of the Winnipeg Police Service does not appear to understand or appreciate the capabilities of Crimestat and that could explain why they have largely turned their backs on it. A key aspect of the Crimestat process centers on accountability. The Executive needs to hold Division Commanders accountable. Accountability is exercised most visibly during Crimestat meetings. That cannot happen if the Executive does not attend Crimestat meetings. Residents of Winnipeg have a vested interest in the overall safety of all neighbourhoods."

"Winnipeggers need Crimestat to work."

McCaskill, it turned out, had a different philosophy to policing---the social work model. He wasn't focused on fighting crime; his priority he said repeatedly, was in listening to the community and working with them on solutions.

The "community" told McCaskill they wanted more police in their neighbourhoods and they wanted the police to fight the gangs, remove the drug dealers and prostitutes, stop the random shootings and arsons, and put an end to the graffiti marring their homes and garages. In other words, stop talking and start fighting crime.

After three years of "listening" and seeing his "holistic", social worker approach to crime fail miserably, McCaskill cobbled together a crime strategy to get the public off his back.

Wouldn't you know it, the core of his crime strategy is detecting crime trends early, intervening quickly, and holding police commanders accountable.
Nobody in the MSM asked him why he wasted three years before adopting the successful model that Zacharias had been spearheading way back when.
Or whether (and how) he had forced his top commanders to buy-in.
Or if they have.

Next: The McCaskill crime strategy under a microscope. The good, the bad and the ugly.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Some people haven't yet realized that the Manitoba PC Party is dead

They say a chicken with its head cut off can run the length of a football field.

Which brings us to the depressing news that former MP Brian Pallister is again musing about running to be leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party.

Ugh. What a disturbing sight. And yet, how apropos. Reach into the political graveyard for a someone to lead a party headed directly there.

Obviously some people haven't yet realized that the Tory Party is dead.

We don't say that rhetorically. We mean dead. Devoid of life. With no future---even if it continues to lurch forward for months or even years. After all, the Liberal Party of Manitoba continued to exist as a zombie party for almost 20 years until all that was left in 2011 was a disembodied head which just keeps rolling along.

The backroom geniuses who brought you Hugh McFadyen and the election debacle of '11 think the Party can be revived with a leadership convention. If you can graft a new head on the robust body you can turn the clock back and start fresh, goes the thinking.

Uhh... No.

Hugh McFadyen took care of that. His legacy is a party so discombobulated that a) it's impossible to pick a leader, b) the party is in such a mess it's impossible to lead, and c) the only road open for the poor sucker who gets to be called the leader is off a cliff. Thank you Hugh.

Let's start with the leadership.
The Conservative Party must have a leader from Winnipeg.

That's a cold, hard fact. More than half the population of the province lives in Winnipeg. If you want to be the government, you must have an intimate knowledge of the place where most people live and work. It doesn't get any simpler than this.

The Conservatives were elected in only four seats in Winnipeg and all three are clustered in the extreme south end of the city.

One seat, Fort Whyte, is held by Hugh McFadyen. Been there, done that, it was a disaster.

Another, Charleswood, is held by Myrna Driedger. First elected in a byelection in 1998, she's been around the Legislature too long to be a fresh face. Bonnie Mitchelson of River East has been around since 1986. McFadyen ran a one-man show and didn't allow any of his colleagues to shine, undercutting any patina of public confidence they might bring.

That leaves Heather Stefanson in Tuxedo. She too won a byelection, in 2000, replacing, of all people, former Tory Party leader Gary Filmon. At 41 she's the right age to represent a new generation in a reborn party. Although she's been an MLA only two years less than Myrna Driedger, most of her term has been in an age when the mainstream media has ignored the Legislature, making her fairly unknown to the public and therefore a new face, a new voice.

But did we say she's from Tuxedo? The bastion of wealth and privilege. The riding name alone alienates voters in the rest of Winnipeg. Good luck with translating that to support.

The alternative is a leader without a seat in the Legislature. There's nothing like leading the Opposition from the visitors' gallery to get people to take you seriously. Fighting for a seat with schoolchildren dragged to the Legislature as a lesson in civics. Tweeting questions to caucus members who actually sit in the House.
Unable to sit on committees. Begging reporters to quote you. Four years of humiliation, that's the ticket.

And, believe it or not, it gets better. The Conservatives might elect someone as discredited as Brian Pallister or Gord Steeves. You want to fuel public cynicism? Put these two in the race.

Pallister, you might recall, ran for election as a Member of Parliament, took his seat in a minority Conservative government, quit in 2006 to run for leader of the provincial PC's, leaving his party with even a thinner hold on power in Ottawa and forcing a costly and unnecessary byelection because he eventually decided not even to contest the Manitoba leadership.

Steeves ran for election as a city councillor in 2010, took his seat on council for a year, quit to run as a Conservative candidate for MLA in 2011, forcing a costly and unnecessary byelection as the voters rejected him. Yeah, that will rejuvenate the Conservative Party, a cheap conceited politician who plays the electorate for suckers for his own advantage.

Apart from the impossibility of picking a leader, there's the question of who wants the job anyway? What's the new leader going to tell the public? "Ha, ha, just kidding. You know all that stuff we said during the last election---you know, how we were going to outspend the NDP and go deeper into debt because deficits are good---well, we didn't mean it. Or we don't mean it now. Although we might mean it if you elect us because we did promise it."

Caucus members have already posted on their Facebook pages how much they support Hugh McFadyen and how grateful they are for his leadership in the 2011 election campaign. So how are they going to repudiate everything he said when the next election rolls around?

The Conservatives have just handed the NDP the keys to the treasury for the forseeable future. Newly elected Premier Greg Selinger can now spend the $1.3 billion the NDP promised to spend, plus hundreds of millions the Conservatives promised to spend. What, are the Conservatives now going to oppose the very spending they promised? Good job, Hughie.

Then, we get to c) on the list of Hugh's legacy---the future or lack thereof.

The Party embraced the future in 2007, but when it arrived four years later -- with the very Jets the Tories told us to dream we could get back -- Hugh McFadyen had moved on: into the past. He ran a campaign straight out of the Seventies, a promise a day under the overarching theme of spend, spend, spend, borrow, borrow, borrow.

Hugh McFadyen and the backroom boys are furiously spinning the results of the 2011 election. As the cliche goes, the operation was a success but the patient died.

In any other election, winning 44 percent of the popular vote would mean victory, they'll tell you. The Conservatives were only 7000 votes behind the NDP, they say. The campaign was a hit; the internal pollsters predicted 32 seats, so who knew? Next time, right?

What everyone knows is that the Conservatives lost the election and failed to win a single seat more than they had before the writ was dropped.

What's more, the complete confusion over where the Conservatives stand and what they stand for means that even if the public turns against the NDP over the coming four years, the Tories won't win the 10 seats they need to regain government. They haven't taken a seat from the NDP in three successive elections and have given up five.

By the next election, Greg Selinger will be 64. Unless he intends to be a Premier collecting an old-age pension, he will hand off the leadership of the NDP by then to a new generation and the NDP can present themselves as a renewed and refreshed government for reelection.

Any new leader of the Conservatives comes in knowing he or she is looking at four years in the wilderness followed by at least four more in limbo. In other words, the Tories are electing a caretaker leader, not a potential Premier, someone who will spend the next four years twisting this way and that to repudiate the 2011 election platform, while staring into the abyss.

And let's not overlook the wild card. Sooner or later someone from the Liberal Party in Manitoba is going to realize the golden opportunity just sitting there for the taking. Change the leader, change the name, a clean break with the dying federal party and a small shift to the right (not hard with the Conservatives staked out to the left of the NDP) and you start bleeding off voters from the Tories. What's your guess? We say conservatively 20 percent of the Tory vote would move.

Bleak as the picture is, the PC Party in Manitoba has one, and only one, chance to resuscitate its fortunes.

It's daring. It's bold (and not the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce way). And it's foolproof.

The Party has to.......

Oh, did you think we would give the solution away for free?

Uh uh. Or at least not yet.

The solution is time sensitive, and unless someone buys it first we will offer it up without cost sometime around the next provincial election when the magic formula loses its potency.

In the meantime, we offer a number of options:

* the Conservatives can buy it exclusively
* the Conservatives can buy first refusal, with half their money back if they don't like what they read
* in such a case, the solution will be up for sale to anyone else for half price, which will likely make it worthless to the Tory backroom because the secret will be out.
* any other political party can buy it to keep it out of the hands of the Conservatives.
* you wait, three or four years, and read it for free in The Black Rod and say "Hey, that would have worked."

If you were a headless chicken, what would you do?

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