The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Name:
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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

Monday, September 26, 2011

Manitoba election: and the winner is ...

Well? How was it?

How was what?

The election, of course.

But, but, but....isn't election day, like, 10 days from now?

Nope. Voting started yesterday (Sept. 24) and continues non-stop, except for one break of 48 hours, until Oct. 4. That means you can vote for 8 out of the next 10 days. The election is officially over, dude.

Then, who's going to win?

Have you noticed that this is the first election since the cavemen that there was no poll of voter preferences? So The Black Rod did its own polling and discovered that the election is neck-and-neck between Don't Vote and Spoil Your Ballot.

It hardly matters, because the winner will be the NDP---either the NDP under Greg Selinger or the NDP 2.0 under Hugh McFadyen. The Conservative Party decided to sit this one out.

Selinger is the dirtiest politician in Manitoba, linked to every scandal in the past 12 years from the NDP election fraud in 1999 to the Crocus ponzi scheme to the phony deficit figures released just before the election call.

He took his party into the gutter with him. Even incumbents like Gord Macintosh, who was respected by friend and foe alike and who was trusted enough by the public to be the man the NDP sent in to clean up troubled cabinet portfolios, was forced to campaign on lies and vitriol aimed at the half of the province that doesn't support the NDP.

McFadyen's NDP, on the other hand, reached into the gutter to bring in candidates like Gord Steeves, the poster boy for voter cynicism. Steeves lied to voters when he ran only last October to be elected as a city councillor when he knew all along he was going to abandon the position to run for MLA. He even whined about the law that forced him to quit city council to run provincially; he wanted to be assured he had a job to return to if he lost, and lose he should. He was, in the words of another slimeball, entitled to his entitlements.
Selinger's NDP has run out of ideas. Like him, its stuck in the Seventies--- big government financed by big deficits funding megaprojects to create the illusion of growth.

McFadyen's NDP thinks the Original NDP is doing a good job, but could do better if it only spent more money for longer, running deficits for 7 years instead of three. McFadyen doesn't object to anything the NDP is doing, except for building a power line on the wrong side of the province. He would just do everything the NDP plans to do, but more of it, plus more stuff. And, he assures us, it will be paid for by the Money Fairy.

Both the Original NDP and Hugh McFadyen's hybrid party have announced they plan to spend $1.3 billion over the next four years, on top of the half billion dollar deficits they'll run each year. Some choice, eh.
Selinger knows that all he has to do is keep McFadyen's NDP from winning 10 seats. His campaign is geared solely to winning his base. Hence the endless attack ads. He doesn't care who they alienate, as long as they get the Original NDP base to the polls to hold at least one of those 10 seats.

He knows the popularity of the NDP has waned badly in Winnipeg. The Party might have been popping champagne out East, but here they were drinking hemlock after the last federal election. On the heels of the trouncing given the NDP candidate for mayor, the NDP lost her former safe seat in Winnipeg North twice in a row (byelection, then election) as well as another "safe" seat, Transcona. The vaunted union voter delivery "machine" isn't delivering like it used to.

McFadyen has abandoned his base--- that's the men and women who support the Conservative Party for its values like fiscal prudence--- in order to attract women in south Winnipeg. Taking Conservative Party voters for granted, he'll do anything and say anything and obviously promise anything to pry seats back from the NDP.

At least he's stopped trying to be "one of the guys". He's not ashamed to wear a suit this election. Oh, and he's been told to be nice, not attack anyone, and smile, smile, smile all the time. He obviously missed the study that came out last March that said women aren't attracted to men who smile a lot.
The best campaign of the election was run by someone who's not even a candidate, Dave Angus, president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

Angus travelled the province pitching the Chamber's campaign called Manitoba Bold. Innovative and exciting, Manitoba Bold was the spark missing from the dreary campaigns of Selinger and McFadyen.

"We believe that to achieve this we can’t tinker our way to success. The Chamber believes it’s time to be BOLD and focus on growing our economy, creating jobs and leveraging our strengths through a strategic, focused and results driven approach." Manitoba Chamber of Commerce news release

Ranging from revitalizing the agriculture sector of Manitoba to fostering an entire industry of creative arts and artists to stimulate the imaginations of youth, Manitoba Bold was exactly the sort of positive, future-oriented vision Manitoba voters wanted to see.

"Leaders need to spend the time necessary to bring people on side with bold ideas and to move forward and stand on principle. People will respect that," Angus told the Winnipeg Free Press. You dreamer.

In many ways the Manitoba Bold campaign resembled Hugh McFadyen's abandoned 2007 election run for office on the theme "If we can dream it, we can do it."

But the Angus plan depended on the presence of "leaders."

When McFadyen's wildest dream, the return of the Winnipeg Jets, came true this year, he had abandoned dreaming for pandering. And Selinger's dream is a Soviet-style planned economy but without any of that newfangled obscene dance music.
With no poll of the intentions of Manitoba voters to guide pundits, we've had to resort to the only thing available---a national poll of voter support for the national parties.

An Angus Reid Public Opinion poll for the Toronto Star and La Presse was released Saturday. It shows 39 percent of voters (and leaners) supporting the Conservatives, 29 percent the NDP, and 21 percent the Liberal Party.

"The Conservatives remain the most popular party for both genders (Men 43%, Women 36%). Respondents aged 18-to-34 pick the NDP first (38%), while those aged 35-to-54 and those over the age of 55 prefer the Tories (42% and 48% respectively)."

"Three parties—the Conservatives, the NDP and the Greens—are holding on to at least four-in-five voters who supported them in the May 2011 election. The retention rate is lower for the Bloc (75%) and the Liberals (70%)."

The latter figure offers no hope for McFadyen. The addition of all the Liberal votes to the Conservative tally in the 2007 Manitoba election wouldn't have changed a single riding. There just aren't enough Liberals left in Manitoba to make a difference.
So, its back to our choice.
We'll let science decide.
Heads Don't Vote, tails Spoil Your Ballot.

And the coin is up....it's spinning....spinning...
-30-

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Monday, September 19, 2011

The NDP's long history of election campaign dishonesty

So the NDP got caught cheating in the provincial election.

Gee, what else is new?

When grinning Greg Selinger, Manitoba's dirtiest politician, joined Winnipeg Jets co-owner Mark Chipman to announce a mentoring program for high school students, it wasn't the first time the NDP broke the law during this campaign. And it wasn't an accident.

Manitoba's Election Financing Act prohibits governments from publishing or advertising any information about its programs or activities starting 90 days before an election.

The Winnipeg Jets/mentoring breach only made the news because Liberal leader Jon Gerrard officially complained to Elections Manitoba. But if the mainstream media had done their research, they would have known that Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux is already being investigated for breaking the same law in mid-August.

Lemieux handed a government cheque for $15,000 to the Landmark Friendship Festival for organizers to buy new playground equipment. He even generously posted a photo of himself presenting the cheque on the blog mysteinbach.ca. http://www.mysteinbach.ca/blogs/2431.html

That's publishing by any definition. And, although he might have been the first to break the election financing act, two other cabinet ministers were right behind him, breaking the intent if not the letter of the law.
Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mary Agnes Welch commented about the deception on her barely-read newspaper-approved blog Gripe Juice. On Aug.31, a staffer in the NDP media office phoned the Free Press newsroom to offer a tour of a new birthing centre in St. Vital.

"That’s an obvious attempt to do an end run around the very election spending legislation the NDP overhauled with great fanfare a few years ago." she wrote.

" By calling us up and offering a tour of the birthing centre, the NDP aren’t publishing or advertising. They’re getting the Freep (and CTV, who were also on the tour) to do it for them. Making matters worse, two NDP cabinet ministers – Health Minister Theresa Oswald and Education Minister Nancy Allan – were on the tour. Both represent south Winnipeg ridings the Tories are targeting."

"A cheesy start to an election that technically hasn’t even begun." she concluded.

The FP did ask the question at the time in as sidebar to their story about the tour (complete with picture of the two cabinet ministers).

"Tour or election-law violation?"

"WAS it a way of skirting the province's election laws or just a tour of a health facility that just happens to be coming into operation days before the official start of the election campaign?"

"Oswald denied she was doing anything to run afoul of the act."

"This is a tour," said Oswald, as she left the centre Wednesday.

"I didn't announce anything new. Joan (Dawkins, executive director of the Women's Health Clinic) wanted the media to come in and didn't want to hold up the births. I didn't ask for this arrangement.

"We had our formal announcements on this months ago."
Allan added "they wanted to get us in there before the babies and midwives."

They forgot to mention that their colleague Labour Minister Jennifer Howard used to be the executive director of the Women's Health Clinic. Funny how she wasn't invited on the media tour.

Two weeks after the, ahem, "non-political" media tour for reporters and NDP ministers only, unelected Premier Greg Selinger was sharing a news conference with Mark Chipman and he, too, was denying it was a government announcement. Responding to critics, the NDP said it was an election promise, not a government announcement.

Now that is a blatant lie. The smoking gun is right here in the government's own news releases.

Manitoba Youth Corps to Provide Mentorship, Job Opportunities For More Than 2,800 Young Manitobans

11/23/10

"Province’s Unprecedented Focus on Youth Opportunities Will Benefit All Manitobans: Selinger"

"A new provincial initiative known as the Manitoba Youth Corps will connect 2,500 high-school students to mentorship and job opportunities and create an additional 345 new job spots over the next three years, Premier Greg Selinger announced today at Tec Voc High School."

snip

"The $6.7-million program will launch in September 2011..., the premier said."

So Greg Selinger is present at an announcement about a mentorship program in -- when? -- September, 2011. Coincidence?

In short, the NDP under Greg Selinger has been planning for 10 months to break the law. They knew in November, 2010 when the next provincial election was to be held. And yet they planned to start their vaunted mentorship in the blackout period, regardless.

Selinger feels he is above the law. The NDP cheated their way to power in 1999 and managed to keep the scandal secret for a decade. You can read here the details and how then Finance Minister Greg Selinger engaged in the cover-up:

The day before Mentorgate broke, we wrote in The Black Rod:
Manitoba election Day 10: McFadyen draws first blood

"It's too early to say if this is the game changer, but the NDP's phony deficit figures could turn into just the integrity issue that tips the election."

Between releasing phony deficit numbers to openly breaking Manitoba's election financing laws, the whiff of scandal is spreading from the NDP.

But MSM reporters are slow to catch on. During the last leaders debate, "professional journalists" asked tough questions like “By the way, your teeth are really white. Really, really good looking. Have you got them whitened at all?" (Richard Cloutier, CJOB, to Tory leader Hugh McFadyen.)

Before leaving the issue of NDP dishonesty, we have to thank our readers who continually prove the internet adage "everybody knows something."

Last time we wrote how the NDP snookered the news media by giving them an NDP ringer to verify the hardship story of nurses allegedly fired by the heartless Conservatives in the Nineties. It turns out the former nurse who gave her sob story was none other than NDP school trustee Suzanne Hrynyk, who wasn't identified as such by either the NDP or the reporters who quoted her.

Well, after our story was posted, we got more information on sweet Suzanne, starting with the fact she's a current member of the board of directors of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority!

And who appoints members to the WRHA board, you ask? Why, the Minister of Health. Just another fact the NDP, um, forgot to tell you.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

A clue in The Black Rod may be Bob Wilson's last hope

Bob Wilson's last hope of exoneration lies with a memory stirred up by The Black Rod.


The former MLA has been fighting for 30 years to clear his name after being convicted on a drug-smuggling conspiracy rap that sent him to prison for 7 years.

Last January we told Wilson's story on the heels of the arrest of Ian (Whitey) Macdonald, Wilson's former friend and the kingpin of the pot smuggling ring that brought Wilson to the attention of the RCMP.

Before he could be extradicted to Manitoba, Macdonald managed to break out of jail in Florida, leaving Wilson to take the fall. Thirty years later he was tracked down, arrested and returned to Winnipeg on the original drug charges.

We said then that elements of the Manitoba Justice department weren't happy to see him surface because it put them in an uncomfortable position regarding Wilson's claim that he was innocent and wrongly convicted.

We never expected that our story would wind up playing a crucial role in Wilson's generation-long battle for vindication.

The 77-year-old Wilson had just been released from hospital in Vancouver following a bad fall when he learned Macdonald had betrayed him again. In January, Whitey, told a television interviewer that Wilson was not part of any drug smuggling; six months later, after arranging a plea bargain whereby he pleaded out in exchange for a sentence of house arrest, Whitey implicated Wilson.

According to an "agreed statement of facts", Wilson, Macdonald and William Wright, Whitey's local drug contact, met at Wilson's home where they discussed a deal to fly 500 pounds of marijuana into Manitoba.

Wilson was devastated. He had counted on Macdonald as the ace that would prove his innocence. And time is running out. Wilson is 77. Macdonald is 72 and stricken with prostate cancer among other ailments. Other potential witnesses are equally old and likely to die soon.

Bob Wilson expected Macdonald's testimony would be the slam dunk evidence he needed to convince Ottawa officials to grant him a new trial. But if Manitoba Justice expected Wilson to give up they just don't understand his tenacity.

Which is where The Black Rod comes in.

In our January story we explained how the Crown tried to paint Wilson as the Mr. Big Moneybags behind Macdonald's drug ring, the man who financed the deals and lived large on the illicit profits. It was an image radically different from the man people knew. We wrote:

"Wilson was the quintessential Winnipegger---save-a-dime and stretch-a-dollar. At the time he was being wiretapped for allegedly financing drug deals, he was selling warehouse clearance blue jeans out of his office in the Legislature and worrying he didn't have the sizes to fit the secretaries who were buying from him."

It was a fortuitous comment, as we soon learned. Someone brought The Black Rod to Wilson's attention, and he was ecstatic---he had forgotten the blue jeans, but now that his memory was refreshed HE HAD FOUND HIS ALIBI.

At the exact time that Macdonald and his drug contact Wright were meeting downstairs, Wilson was on the second floor of his house on the phone, talking to a friend ABOUT THE BLUE JEANS.

Wilson's phonecalls were being tapped and his house was under surveillance by police parked in a car. The police record says Wilson was talking to an UF---unknown female. But Wilson knows exactly who he was speaking with. She was never called as a witness.

And it now begs the question if the RCMP knew her identity, questioned her and failed to disclose her evidence to the defence. Even if they didn't, they certainly know who she is now because Wilson will tell them.

He believes she can provide him with the alibi to refute Macdonald's claim that he talked drug smuggling with Wilson. The RCMP have a record of the the timing of the call and a record of when Wright left the Wilson home. If the former overlaps the latter, then Wilson could not be talking to Wright as he talked with his female caller.

But Wilson hasn't got the resources to follow up on his lead. He can't force the RCMP to give him tapes of the call. He has no lawyer to pressure the police and he has no money to hire a lawyer.

Exoneration might be within reach, but in this case his reach exceeds his grasp.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

The election forecast for the NDP. Chilly with chance of showers.


In less than a week, the election forecast for the NDP has turned from sunny and mild to unsettled with a chance of revulsion.

It's getting cooler. The winds have shifted. Radar is picking up clouds on the horizon.

Is there a storm coming? Or will it just blow over? It's too soon to tell.

But, unexpectedly, a theme is developing within the election campaign--- can you trust the NDP?

And in the eye of the growing tempest is unelected Premier Greg Selinger, the dirtiest politician in Manitoba, whose re-election campaign boils down to scaring voters with attack ads that paint Conservative leader Hugh McFadyen as the Boogieman.

No lie is too great to throw at McFadyen, but it's those very lies that are backfiring in the face of the NDP.

It started last Saturday with a letter to the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press from Len Bateman, the former chairman of Manitoba Hydro. Selinger has consistently declared that the Conservatives have a secret plan to privatize Hydro. Bateman pointed out there's actually a law in Manitoba that Hydro can't be sold without a public referendum.

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

It didn't. Selinger just kept repeating the lie.

A few days later, the Winnipeg Free Press revealed that police have recommended criminal charges be laid in connection with the 2008 death of Brian Sinclair, a wheelchair-bound man whose dead body was noticed 34 hours after he came to the Health Sciences Centre emergency room with a non-life-threatening bladder infection.

The NDP has managed to stall an inquest into Sinclair's death for 3 years to keep the secrets of its malfunctioning health care system under wraps until after the election. Justice officials went into overdrive to try and discredit the Sinclair charges story.

A careful reading of the denials shows the police saying they haven't formally submitted a report to the Crown --- yet --- not that they won't be recommending criminal charges. Anyone familiar with the process knows that reports like this are first completed, then circulated among the principals involved for comment and corrections, before being officially presented. Someone got the draft report and leaked the explosive recommendations to the FP.

The day after the Sinclair story broke, the most ardent NDP defender, FP columnist Dan Lett, had to concede in print that the NDP has been misleading the public on the provincial deficit. Greg Selinger has claimed the deficit for the 2010 fiscal year is $247 million less than forecast. Lett now admits that critics were right when they said the NDP is hiding hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses off the books of government spending.

Then, with the week winding to a close, Will Tishinski, a former vice-president of Manitoba Hydro, revealed in the Winnipeg Sun that the provision in the Hydro Act that prevents any sale of Manitoba Hydro without the public's approval in a referendum was inserted "in 2001 when Greg Selinger was the minister responsible for Hydro."

"It effectively blocks any attempt to privatize. Selinger knows this, and yet he persists in deceiving Manitobans by accusing Hugh McFadyen of planning to privatize Hydro." said Tishinski.

And why not? Selinger has nothing else to sell the public. And it's just so easy to deceive the news media.

When Selinger announced this week the NDP would hire 2000 more nurses, he repeated the Big Lie that the Tories fired a thousand nurses in the Nineties. He trotted out one of those alleged nurses to attack Hugh McFadyen. Global News obligingly reported her angry words over a font identifying her---Suzanne Hrynyk.

But the Global News reporter failed to Google the name Suzanne Hrynyk.

If she had, she would have learned that Hrynyk is not only an NDP-affiliated trustee in Winnipeg School Division, Ward 3, she is the division chairman.

So the NDP provided an NDP politician to verify the claim of an NDP politician and the reporter swallowed it whole.

Telling the truth is hard. Lying is so easy.

Ask Greg Selinger, the dirtiest politician in Manitoba.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Manitoba election Day 10: McFadyen draws first blood

Ten days into the Manitoba election campaign, neither party can claim to have momentum.

But Conservative Party leader Hugh McFadyen has drawn first blood.

Or, more accurately, Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck drew first blood and McFadyen is riding piggyback on Brodbeck's work.

Still, when even NDP apologist Dan Lett has to admit, grudgingly and reluctantly, in the Winnipeg Free Press that he was wrong, and Brodbeck and McFadyen were right, it's time to call in the cut man.
It's too early to say if this is the game changer, but the NDP's phony deficit figures could turn into just the integrity issue that tips the election.

Unelected Premier Greg Selinger thought he was being clever when he delayed officially calling the provincial election until after his government released the final accounting of the 2010-11 budget on Friday, Sept. 2.

The public accounts allegedly showed that Manitoba ended the 2010 fiscal year with a deficit of $298 million, which was a whopping $247 million less than the government forecasted. Selinger preened at being such a fantastic money manager, especially on the eve of an election.

He never expected anyone to actually read the report any further than the summary, especially over the September long weekend.

And he was almost right. Nobody did---except for the Sun's Brodbeck, who either plodded through pages of numbing numbers or was handed a treasure map by somebody and followed it straight to the money pit.

"NDP cooking the books to conceal real deficit" read the Sun's Saturday headline.

The province prepares two sets of books to explain its budgets. There is the operating budget, which details the revenues the government receives and all the money the government spends.

Then there is the summary budget which is a record of all provincial finances, including Crown Corporations that allegedly operate at arms-length from government.

Since 2008 the NDP, with the knowledge and connivance of Manitoba auditor Carol Bellringer, has been hiding loans and advances to Crown organizations by simply calling them "assets" in the books, and not spending.

As well as disguising these expenditures, the NDP has been able to use surpluses from Manitoba Hydro and MPI to cover deficits in the operating budget. Together, this has allowed the government to claim lower deficits than they actually incurred, lower by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The NDP winced, then shrugged off the Sun story. They bet it had no traction. Budget stories are a storm of numbers that nobody can understand and few voters will spend the time to read.

When, four days later, Tory leader McFadyen, in a scrum, belatedly raised the matter of the NDP's "fudging" the budget numbers, the usual NDP apologists rushed to put out the fire.

"Provincial budget not doctored: auditor/ Deficit figures above board despite allegations", read the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press over a story by Mia Rabson and Bruce Owen.

"Auditor general Carol Bellringer dismisses Tory suggestions the Selinger government doctored its financial books in order to hide a larger deficit," they wrote.

"Anyone who aspires to be premier should have enough sense to respect the auditor general when she weighs in on such an important matter. Disputing Bellringer's statement is a triumph of partisanship over dignity." sniffed FP columnist and NDP defender Dan Lett.

But the story stayed alive on the blogosphere. Brodbeck, on his blog Raise a Little Hell, reported how Bellringer walked him through the books and showed him the way the government hides its deficits. Bruce Owen, on his little-read newspaper-sanctioned blog, revisited the issue with former Conservative finance minister Eric Stefanson:

"The smoking gun for the Tories is on page 4, Details and Reconciliation to Core Government Results. The blood on the floor is money moved from Manitoba Hydro ($150 million) and the Workers Compensation Board ($64.1 million) into the summary budget...They really are not part of the core government,” Stefanson said of the Crowns. “They really are funded by ratepayers.”

"Without that $191.8 million, the deficit is actually almost $490 million, Stefanson said."

"Stefanson’s second point was on another page, Loans and Advances. In particular, loans and advances to Crown organizations and enterprises like Manitoba’s post secondary institutions. '
"The money, roughly $400 million, will only be repaid to government through future appropriations, according a note at the bottom of page 114 of the Summary Financial Statements."

On Thursday, the pressure of truth finally cracked the defence wide open.

"Tory charge of NDP fudging needs closer examination" declared the headline over a rapidly backpeddling column by Dan Lett.

"In an election, it's not necessary to be right when launching an attack on your competitor. In most instances, being not entirely wrong is good enough."

"Such is the case with the lingering allegations from the Progressive Conservatives that the NDP government deliberately hid hundreds of millions in expenses and liabilities to make its current deficit position look better. Although balance sheets and accounting are pretty dry stuff, this particular issue is a key theme of the Tory campaign."

...
"It is, however, an instance where
those making the allegation are, at most, not entirely wrong."
...
"It is true that only using the summary budget allows a government to use revenues from Crown corporations like Manitoba Hydro
to hide a spending problem on the core side."
...

"The other reason auditors don't like core budgets is they usually exclude certain liabilities and costs to make the bottom line look better. This is what the Tories have seized upon."

"McFadyen and some allies, including former Tory finance minister Eric Stefanson and U of M economist John McCallum, argue Selinger deliberately misled Manitobans by not properly recording cash in from Crown corporations and outgoing loans and other advances in the core budget. A note in the public accounts confirmed these exceptions. If they are added in, the operating deficit would be $190 million higher."
"McFadyen's numbers are essentially correct..."

Desperate to give the NDP a fig leaf to hide behind, Lett clutches at another interview with, guess who, Carol Bellringer who says that all governments use accounting tricks to hide deficits.

Aha, blares Lett, remember that Gary Filmon, Greg Selinger's bete noir, used his "rainy day fund" to "muddy the waters." The rat.

But, forced to concede that "McFadyen may have a point", Lett concludes that the NDP don't have to explain to anyone why they're misleading the public on the deficits they're running.

The onus, he declared, is on McFadyen.

That is the Winnipeg Free Press way of reporting the, ahem, truth.

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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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Thursday, September 08, 2011

'the world's worst campaign' vs 'the world's worst campaigner.'


The election has been called. The battle lines are drawn.

It's 'the world's worst campaign' vs 'the world's worst campaigner.'

Heaven help us.

The Manitoba NDP under unelected Premier Greg Selinger is running a Seinfeld campaign--- it's about nothing.

Selinger revealed the five priorities of the NDP campaign on Tuesday:

improving health care,
expanding jobs, education and training opportunities,
keeping living costs affordable,
making communities safer, and
maintaining Manitoba Hydro as a publicly owned entity.

This in direct contrast with the campaign being run by the Progressive Conservative Party under leader Hugh McFadyen, which promises
improved health care;
more jobs, education and training;
keeping the cost of living low;
making communities safer; and
keeping Manitoba Hydro a public utility.

Of course the NDP can't run on their record. They're running from their record.

What would they campaign on? Eliminating hallway medicine? Reducing the number of doctors in each emergency ward (those emergency wards that aren't closed half the year) to one, resulting in waits of five, six, or seven hours for "emergency" patients? The number of people who died waiting for care in emergency wards? Brian Sinclair and how the NDP delayed the inquest into his preventable death until after the election? The perpetual nursing shortage?

Or maybe the ten people who were killed by car thieves because the NDP refused to act to stop the epidemic of auto theft because of the racial background of the thieves. Or their great success with a "holistic" approach to gangs, which, after 10 years, has Manitoba under siege by more gangs and more violent gangs than ever before?

Or their record on reducing poverty. Aren't we the child poverty capital of Canada, again? Aren't more people using food banks than ever before? Don't forget their five-year pilot project to attack the root causes of poverty in Centennial neighbourhood, which involved getting people out of poverty by getting them deeper into debt for energy efficient furnaces. (We're not making this up.)

No, the record is out. So the NDP have honed in on the P.C.'s weakest link---Hugh McFadyen. Their campaign consists of hate ads attacking McFadyen relentlessly, in- between attacking former Premier Gary Filmon who hasn't been a factor in Manitoba politics for 12 years.

The Tories, meanwhile, have had four years to anticipate the NDP attacks and strategize on how to counter them. It seems that four years wasn't enough for the P.C. election team, because they have -- nothing.

Zip.

Who's the P.C. brain trust? Goofy and Pluto?

Probably the same people who picked Hugh McFadyen as leader, the man who runs from every fight he's ever faced.

McFadyen is possibly the only person in the country who could make the NDP the fiscally conservative party in the election, who could promise to OUTSPEND the NDP, who could run a campaign pledging to put the province DEEPER INTO DEBT than the NDP.

Pure genius.

McFadyen could have defused the NDP lies about his non-existent plan to sell Manitoba Hydro months ago by pointing out that the NDP has ALREADY begun to privatize Hydro assets by selling off part-ownership of every new dam it builds.

But, no. Not a word from Hughie, except for the daily denial. He won't even let other people defend him.

The NDP has spent the summer accusing McFadyen of being complicit in the firing of 1000 nurses during the Filmon administration. Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck destroyed this argument 10 months ago in a blog post headlined NDP misfires on attack ads.

Brodbeck did the heavy lifting and all McFadyen had to do was distribute that blog post to voters. He didn't, he hasn't, and we'll put money that he won't.

Hey Hugh, ask the Blue Bombers -- YOU DON'T WIN PLAYING DEFENCE.

And it gets worse for the bumbling Tories, if that's possible.

During his latest hate-Hugh session, Wednesday, Selinger accused the Tory leader of "wanting to raise the rates Manitobans pay for electricity to market rates" (if the Winnipeg Free Press paraphrased him correctly.)

Did not. Did not, whined McFadyen.

Except that a Google search popped up another answer in 0.08 seconds.

Manitoba Hydro rates: McFadyen gets it | PolicyFrog
policyfrog.wordpress.com/2008/.../manitoba-hydro-rates-mcfadyen-gets-it/
You +1'd this publicly. UndoJan 29, 2008 – Credit to Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen, who said on CJOB this morning his party is open to the idea of moving to market rates for hydro power in Manitoba, ... 2 Comments on “Manitoba Hydro rates: McFadyen gets it” ...

Manitoba Hydro rates: McFadyen gets it
Credit to Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen, who said on CJOB this morning his party is open to the idea of moving to market rates for hydro power in Manitoba, provided the increases were matched by reductions to personal and corporate taxes.

McFadyen drew the comparison to Alberta, where oil and gas is sold at market rates and the provincial government uses royalties to keep taxes low.

Hear! Hear!

Unfortunately, CJOB's audio vault only goes back 3 weeks so we can't give you the exact quote.

In the meantime, between denial and defence, McFadyen's pathetic election campaign staggers on. Instead of the bold vision (If we can dream it, we can do it) he campaigned on in 2007, he's rolling out a barrage of penny promises each day.

On crime? Why a promise to breed police dog puppies. Who doesn't like puppies?

The murder rate at new highs? Promise ankle bracelets for sex offenders. Sex offenders. Boo.

Gangs out of control? Promise to fund 30 police officers (who are already working and getting paid.) And hire 15 more for a "special firearms enforcement unit". Nothing like watching a politician, who used to be lawyer (ptui), micro-manage the police department to give you confidence.

Money tight? McFadyen will pay you $100 a child per month until they reach 12. And he'll pay off a portion of your home repairs with a home-reno tax credit.

Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente had a name for that kind of campaigning in her piece today about the Liberals in Ontario -- micropandering.

Micropandering from a candidate whose first instinct is always to run from a fight, who is unable to defend himself from the attacks of his opponents, who gives his opponents the ammo to fire at him and his colleagues, and who makes his opponents look good by comparison.

This may be the shortest campaign period permissible, but it's going to be a long, long election.

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Friday, September 02, 2011

Voter cynicism in Manitoba? Oh Pshaw

Politicians are always crying crocodile tears over voter cynicism, but the next time one does slap him upside the head and direct him (or her) to the spectacle we saw Thursday here in Manitoba.

In the only have-not province in Western Canada, in a province that's going in the hole to the tune of almost half a billion dollars a year in deficit spending, in the highest taxed province west of Quebec, two politicians running for election were trying to outdo each other with new multi-million dollar spending promises.

Its hard to say who the winner was. The loser was easy to identify---you and us.

Hugh McFadyen, leader of the NDP (Added) Party (formerly known as the Progressive Conservative Party before McFadyen abandoned all conservative principles), rolled out the most expensive proposal du jour.

He promised to extend the $100 a month child allowance per kid past the federal cut-off age of 12. At 90,000 eligible children in Manitoba, that would cost $9 million a month, $108 million a year.

At a time when every other political jurisdiction in the world is looking at ways to cut costs and reduce entitlements, McFadyen is adding entitlements that he can pay for only by borrowing another hundred million dollars a year.

But at least you can tell what he's spending the money on----bribing voters.

You can't say the same with the promise by NDP leader Greg Selinger to spend $24 million over four years on....what?

It appears he's spending the money on --wait for it -- a headline.

"Selinger promises $24 million for healthcare/for training/ for health care training/ for advance training/ for advanced training of health care professionals." Pick one. We've seen or heard each of them.

But none of the news stories actually say how the money will be spent. In fact, the Global News story showed Selinger sitting down with a room full of health care professionals and the description: Selinger met with doctors; nurses; and paramedics Thursday to find out how to best spend the $6-million a year.

Say what? Selinger announced $24 million in spending over four years and doesn't know how to spend the money? He's only now asking what the money can go towards? Is this how the NDP runs its health care system?

We had to read and re-read the NDP press release to finally hone in on what the NDP's plans for the money are. As best we can determine, it is to increase the training of paramedics and nurse practioners to take on more of a role in treating patients.
So the choice facing voters is this:
One party, they're deceptively calling themselves Conservatives but you can call them NDP (Added), wants to increase the deficit, go deeper into debt, add an unnecessary entitlement program, expand the bureaucracy and intrude further into the private lives of Manitobans.

The other party, call them the Original NDP, wants to borrow millions of dollars although they're not sure how they will spend the money, to fund a vague idea that they can use non-doctors to do the job of doctors, to convince the public that the shortage of doctors is not a real problem in the NDP health care system.

Now why would voters be cynical?

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Thursday, September 01, 2011

NDP proves it's the party of prudes

CBC Manitoba, in collaboration with the NDP, tried a drive-by smear of the Conservatives Wednesday but wound up only proving that the New Democrats are the party of prudes.

CBC "reporter" Sean Kavanaugh engaged in the worst form of "gotcha" journalism on a day when the Conservatives made real news at the release of their economic platform. They announced they've abandoned two decades of balanced budget prudence to adopt the NDP program of running deficits for years in a province that already has the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country. The NDP plans four years of huge deficits; the Conservatives have doubled that, promising eight years.

The CBC "scoop"? The Conservatives played a catchy dance-inducing No. 1 hit song at a pre-election rally earlier in the week.

Yep. That's it. That's what counts as "journalism" at the taxpayer-funded CBC.

They hyped the story by declaring the Conservatives were "being rapped" for the song "that contains suggestive lyrics."

The song is Party Rock Anthem by the group LMFAO. It was No. 1 on the Billboard charts for six weeks this summer, getting knocked out of top spot by Katy Perry's hit Last Friday Night.

Sample lyrics:

Party rock is in the house tonight Everybody just have a good time And we gonna make you lose your mind Everybody just have a good time
In the club party rock, lookin' for your girl? She on my jock Nonstop when we in the spot, booty movin' weight like she on the block Where the drank? I gots to know, tight jeans, tattoo 'cause I'm rock 'n' roll Half black, half white, domino, game the money, op-a-doe

The NDP were left gasping for air and fanning their inflamed faces.

And what about all that rapping of the Conservatives. Well, it seems, the only rapping came from NDP sourpuss Nancy Allan. Yes, that Nancy Allan whose husband works in the newsroom of CBC Manitoba.

Hmmm. Guess where the story "tip" came from.

In a scene straight out of Footloose, the joyless Nancy Allan said the Conservatives should be ashamed of themselves for dancing to the devil's beat.

Kavanaugh then had to flesh the story out with man-in-the-street interviews that consisted of him telling people about the song, playing them the LMFAO video, explaining the origin of the name of the band, showing them the lyrics on his laptop and pointing out the lyrics he wanted them to condemn. Whew. So much for spontaneity.

And for the credibility of the CBC.

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