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.

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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

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Erin Selby coverup. See what free Jets tickets can buy you.

Erin Selby used to pride herself for being an honest journalist. That was before drinking the NDP kool-aid.

These days, as a cabinet minister in Greg Selinger's government, she finds herself sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand of unethical influence peddling, secret backroom lobbying and slippery moral judgement greased by cheap excuses.

Her most recent performance was in front of the Legislature's Estimates committee. She tried to do a dance of seven veils when questioned about the enticement of a free ticket to a Winnipeg Jets game from Red River College. She came up several veils short.

She admitted she found the offer of a Jets ticket from Red River President Stephanie Forsyth irresistible.

"Yes, I was asked by the president of Red River College if I would go to a Jets game with her, to which I accepted," she said.

But it was business, she insisted. A chore that comes with being the Minister of Advanced Education.

"One of the things that I think is important is for me as minister to meet regularly with students, which I do... and I meet regularly and have regular conversations with the presidents of all our institutions."

She then spun a story of magnificent ignorance.

She didn't know who else attended that day on Red River College season tickets. She met a woman, but she drew a blank at who it was. She didn't even hazard a guess at who sat in the fourth seat that the College owns.

"There was myself, Stephanie Forsyth, and another woman whose name I don't remember now, who Stephanie introduced me to. But I'm afraid the member would have ask the president of Red River College who she's attended Jets games with, because it's not something that the ministers office keeps tracks of."

So we don't know if that other woman was Debbie Scarborough, Forsyth's lesbian live-in. And we can be certain from Selby's answers that the fourth ticket did not go to her CBC cameraman hubby, who was likely home with the triplets watching the game on TV.

Unless she was misleading the Legislature, of course.

And Selby isn't curious why cash-strapped Red River College spent $20,000 on four season tickets to the Jets which they've been sprinkling around to government officials. Beside herself, of course, RRC tickets have been enjoyed by Finance Minister Stan Struthers, Justice Minister Andrew Swan, and Paul Vogt, the Cabinet secretary in the Manitoba government who is head of the civil service and responsible for the Premier's department.

For a glimpse of the view the Red River tickets get you, see here:

And for a glimpse of what Red River College is buying for their Jets tickets, you can read the transcript of the Estimates committee meeting.

Start with where Opposition member Ron Schuler asks Selby,"When she went to the Jets game with the president of Red River community college, did she discuss any of the ethics complaints that had come forward?"

Selby did everything she could think of to avoid answering the question short of tipping the table and bolting for the Exit door.

She ranted about Tory education policy twenty years ago; she praised herself for raising the number of aboriginal students in university and college -- from 9 percent to 9.8 percent -- she insisted she talks about graduation rates with everyone she's with "whether we're at a Jets game or monster trucking".

The only thing she didn't address was ethics complaints.

Because she knew exactly what Schuler was talking about.

You see, a year-and-a-half ago, Stephanie Forsyth gave the order to kill a talk show on radio station Kick-FM because it offended Margo Goodhand, editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, by constantly pointing out the newspaper's biases and general bad reporting. The radio station is allegedly an arms-length non-profit operation, but in reality is completely controlled by Red River College through interlocking management reporting to Forsyth.

Avid listeners to the talk show contacted the station and Red River College for an explanation for the cancellation. They were given a number of reasons, until emails surfaced through Freedom-of-Information requests. They documented Forsyth's and Goodhand's behind-the-scenes roles and revealed the truth. The listeners at that point knew that Red River College officials had lied to them, and were continuing to lie to protect Forsyth.

A little research showed that Red River College has a code of ethical conduct to which officials must adhere. So several listeners filed official complaints about breaches of this ethical code, not least of which was lying to members of the public.

Red River College simply ignored the complaints. The listeners then raised the matter with Erin Selby, a former journalist (ha ha) , and the Minister of Advanced Education.

She replied to some of them that their concerns, in her view, were "serious." But she advised them to take it up with Red River College, not her.

Last week, months and many Jets games later, Red River has done nothing with the ethics complaints. And Erin Selby has done no follow-up whatsoever to what she said were "serious" complaints.

See what a few free nearly unobtainable tickets to the most prized event in Winnipeg can buy you?

Silence. Complicity. A blind eye.

What do you expect a minister with her own ethical blind spot to do about ethics complaints against the person slipping her a free ticket (or was that two)?

Are they going to take their complaints about breaches of the provincial Corporations Act to the Justice Minister? Ha ha.

Or their concerns about financial mismanagement by Red River to the Finance Minister? Ha ha ha.

Or to the Premier, who sets the moral tone of the government and pours the Kool-aid ?

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