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:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Premier Greg Selinger isn't talking about his free Jets ticket

When Premier Greg Selinger released a list of 13 NDP MLA's who got free tickets to
Winnipeg Jets games he forgot one name -- his own.

On Oct. 9, 2011, the Winnipeg Jets played their home opener and Greg Selinger was among the invited guests, along with former NDP Premier Gary Doer and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Blogger Allison Pattison, a Creative Communications student at Red River College, wrote about Selinger's attendance at the game.

"The MTS Centre was packed to the roof. Literally. I would say about 80% of the fans in there were in white, which was a good thing because that means when the Jets request a white-out, fans will know what to do."
"The game started off with a ceremonial puck drop; Rick Rypien's mom had the honour."
"Along with Rypien's mom in attendance were a few other known names. Our Prime Minister Stephen Harper was there. He sat behind the Jets bench at ice-level. Pretty good seats if you ask me."
"Gary Bettman, NHL's Commissioner was also there, as well as Premier Greg Selinger and Canada's Ambassador to the United States Gary Doer."
"Selinger had a personalized Jets jersey with his last name on the back for a custom namebar and sported it with pride throughout the game."

The P.M. had four seats to the game. And his office has made it crystal clear that whenever he goes to a sports event he pays for his seats personally. Not the PMO, not the Conservative Party.

"The prime minister always pays for his own tickets out of his pocket," Carl Vallee, press secretary for the Prime Minister's Office, said in an email statement to the Winnipeg Free Press last month. "He does the same for family and guests that go with him."
From the same story:

"Provincial cabinet spokesman Matt Williamson said in an email no Manitoba premier has claimed a sport ticket as a business expense in the last 30 years. He said Premier Greg Selinger has never expensed a ticket to a sporting event, and a provincial policy says any claims must be for expenses incurred on government business."

Well, attending a hockey game is certainly not government business. So filing for the cost of a ticket was never in the cards. However some newspaper accounts have said that Selinger, like Stephen Harper, pays for all the sports tickets he gets.
But Selinger hasn't filed any disclosure that he received a ticket to the first Jets game. Nor has he revealed publicly that he paid his own way, although he now says that his new policy on taking bribes includes refusing all offers of free tickets.

And assuming Selinger did pay out of pocket for his Oct. 9 Jets ticket and thereby it wasn't "free"; given the confusion surrounding who got what tickets from whom, when, and why nobody declared it and when they supposedly repaid their benefactors, we think he needs to show the cancelled cheque -- if one exists.
And did he pay Jets co-owner Mark Chipman before going to the game? If not, he got a free ticket and paid it back later.

And his name goes on the naughty list.

There are still many unanswered questions about the Jets Ticket Scandal (click here for part 1 of our analysis). Topping the list is the four tickets from the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission that passed through Jim Rondeau's office into the hands of Gord Mackintosh.

They were sent by the MLCC to "the minister's (Rondeau) office" according to a freedom-of-information response sent by the liquor commission to the Manitoba Taxpayers Federation. But they were used by Mackintosh at the Jets game the same day.

Did Mackintosh go trolling for tickets for that game? Did Rondeau contact the MLCC and ask for tickets? Or did the MLCC coincidentally have four tickets lying around and someone decided to ask the minister in charge of the Liquor Commission if he knew of anyone who was interested in taking in a Jets game?

Because if the minister in charge of the MLCC picked up the phone and called somebody at the Liquor Commission and, ahem, asked politely if there happened to be four tickets floating around, then we're in a whole new ballgame of political pressure for personal favours.

The same question applies to Justice Minister Andrew Swan who managed to get his hands on eight free tickets to the Jets. 
Is he so charming that Red River College, Manitoba Public Insurance, the home builders association and Canada Inns were lining up outside his office to give him free hockey tickets?

Or was he calling them to see if, ahem, there were any free tickets floating around?

Swan has said he belongs to a consortium that purchased some season tickets. So sometimes he went to games where he paid for his ticket just like the average Joe. A reader of The Black Rod saw him at a game where the reader's friend approached Swan, who he knew, and discovered he was sitting with Health Minister Theresa Oswald. We're giving him the benefit of the doubt and saying it was on a day when Swan had his consortium tickets and he decided to treat a colleague to a game.

But on the question of how he snagged eight tickets, we think he owes the public answers he hasn't given.

Selinger said Friday he expects the 13 NDP MLAs to apologize to the public for taking free tickets. At least one of them, Hydro Minister Dave Chomiak, said (to Global News) that he's not sorry and he has nothing to apologize for.

Maybe at least he can tell us who the blonde was that he went to the game with.

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