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:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Erin Selby's part in Red River College cover-up

Corporate documents from Manitoba demanded by a federal government agency have turned up missing.

Without them, there's no way to prove that a shadowy committee which oversees the spending of tens of thousands of dollars from Red River College was created legally.

If those documents can't be found or it turns out they were destroyed, hidden or never existed, high-level executives and former executives of Red River College could face charges which carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a fine of $5000.

This includes the college lawyer, a former vice-president and the Dean of Business.

A whistleblower tried to warn Colleges Minister Erin Selby last year that the shady committee was not legitimate and that $275,000 of college money was at risk, only to receive a form letter telling him to take his complaint somewhere else.

Once it was clear the minister intended to do nothing about the bogus committee, the whistleblower was dismissed and the federal agency was informed that the documents it was seeking had been, ahem, "lost."

When you go out for the evening and return to your car only to reach into your pocket and come up emptyhanded, your keys are lost. If you get home and go into the living room and find your big-screen television isn't there, the TV isn't lost. It's missing.

Selby, knowingly or unknowingly, became part of a cover-up the minute she refused to look into the whistleblower's complaint. She compounded her oversight by failing to follow up and see how the complaint was eventually handled by Red River College--- because IT WASN'T.

The College-dominated committee, freed from the threat of an investigation, acted promptly to cancel the whistleblower's radio show, while college officials imposed a blackout on replies to citizens who were asking questions about the shadowy committee.

A year ago this month, the whistleblower, a volunteer at the college-affiliated radio station KICK-FM, wrote to Erin Selby. (The non-profit radio station, financed primarily by Red River College, acts as training ground for the college's journalism students.)

His letter started this way:

"Dear Minister Selby,
I am writing to ask you to commence an investigation into unethical and possibly illegal activity involving Red River College and its president Stephanie Forsyth, and the financial and other dealings with a campus radio station nominally operated by a non profit 'Cre Comm Radio Inc' (aka Kick-FM).
A substantial amount of taxpayers' education dollars have been put at risk. This complaint to you must go on the record as the media may be asking questions about the College very soon as you will see.
I have evidence that College representatives on the Board of Directors of the non-profit acted in concert with commercial radio executives as a self-created "Executive Committee". They deliberately prevented the station from meeting its CRTC mandate to be self sufficient, using the taxpayers to fund over $275,000 of accrued debt thus far.


Almost at the same time, the CRTC was writing the board of KICK-FM with questions of its own about the "executive committee". While the board could stonewall the public, it couldn't blow off a quasi-judicial agency. The answers it provided the CRTC (which we've discovered in CRTC files) were surprising.

The CRTC was told there were no records of the formation of the executive committee of the KICK board.

The committee had been in existence for about five years, the board claimed, but all records regarding it had "been lost." This was a troubling admission.

The Manitoba Corporations Act requires meticulous record keeping including:

20(2) A corporation shall also prepare, and maintain at its registered office or at another place in Manitoba designated by the directors, adequate accounting records and records containing minutes of meetings and resolutions of the directors and of any committee of directors.


22(2) A corporation and its agents shall take reasonable precautions to
(a) prevent loss or destruction of;
(b) prevent falsification of entries in; and
(c) facilitate detection and correction of inaccuracies in;
the registers and other records required by this Act to be prepared and maintained.

22(3) A person who without reasonable cause contravenes this section is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000. or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.

The radio station's own bylaws control the formation of committees:

4.14 Committees
The Board may constitute such committees as it sees fit, composed of such
persons as it shall see fit, whether Members of the Board or not. The duties of
such committee shall be those from time to time designated by the Board.

You can see the problem, even if Erin Selby couldn't.

- They admit there is no record that an "executive committee" was ever created by the board of KICK-FM.

- There's no record of who is a member of that committee, who it reports to, or what its duties are.

- In fact, there is not a single word about the executive committee in board minutes for the five years of its alleged existence.

- And, according to the bylaws, such a committee would have to be reconstituted annually by each new board -- which it obviously wasn't.

The Board replied to members of the public that the executive committee was perfectly authorized to make decisions, that the committee had four permanent members plus anyone else they chose to be a member, that it could meet whenever it wanted, that no quorum was necessary, and that all decisions would be rubber-stamped at the next board meeting when the executive committee gave its report.

Yes, you guessed it---there is no record of any reports of the executive committee prior to 2011.

Which is why you can understand why members of the public believe they were lied to by the executive member of Red River College who was given the duty of responding to their emails about the College dominated executive committee. And why they turned to the Minister for Advanced Education when Red River College went silent about its illegal committee that was running KICK-FM at a loss.

So, three months after the whistleblower's warning was dismissed, and 6 weeks after his concerns were validated at the CRTC, Red River College President Stephanie Forsyth treated Selby to the most prized reward anyone can get in Manitoba.

A free ticket to a Winnipeg Jets game.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A clue to a new NDP vote subsidy fraud scheme in the making?

While covering the annual NDP convention last weekend, the Winnipeg Free Press tripped over a story about NDP in-fighting that's pitting the party's labour faction against the Premier.

It's a good story. But we're betting its only the tip of the iceberg and some digging would turn up an even bigger story.

In a nutshell, the NDP's executive has refused to apply for a public subsidy to political parties despite a binding motion at last year's party convention and again at this year's. Labour is demanding that the party take the money---an estimated $250,000.

But Selinger knows the subsidy, dubbed a vote tax by the Opposition, is the third rail of politics in Manitoba: Touch it and risk political death.

He's willing to face down the strong labour contingent in the party and suffer a little public embarassment rather than commit political suicide. The subsidy is paid, by law, to any party that asks for it on the basis of $1.25 for every vote received in the last election. The Progressive Conservative Party has refused to apply for it and managed to shame the NDP into passing as well.

The FP - relying on a single anonymous source - has concluded the quarrel reveals a split in the party with labour groups on one side and an unlikeable party leader on the other.

We, on the other hand, asked the questions journalists should ask. 
Who. What. Where. When. And Why.

The answer: Big Labour decided to force the hand of a reluctant leader last spring at a party convention. And when Selinger refused to buckle under, they did it again this year.

But Why?

The party obviously doesn't need the money. It handily outspent the hapless Tories in the last provincial election. And Selinger said he has a solution to the public subsidy matter if the malcontents would only show patience.

But they refused.

So, again, Why?

Labour is treating this as an urgent problem. Is that a clue?

Well, if the NDP in Manitoba don't need the money, who does?

Have you guessed?

The federal NDP, of course.

With the Conservatives winning a majority government in October, 2010, federal vote subsidies were history.

In 2010, the NDP collected $5 million from the federal subsidy program. That was more than the $4.3 million they raised from donations.

When the Conservatives axed the vote subsidy, they cut the money the NDP could count on by more than half.

That's a pretty urgent problem.

And here's a pot of free money just sitting in Manitoba.

Remember, the NDP won the 1999 election by an elaborate election expenses fraud scheme in which they claimed labour volunteers were paid campaign workers and got an unwarranted refund from provincial coffers.

After they got caught, it turned out they had been running this scheme during previous elections as well.
The refunds could then be banked and used as unaccounted and untraceable election spending during the next election. They managed to cover up this scheme for years with the help of the head of Elections Manitoba, and current premier Greg Selinger.

The federal NDP
needs the money. The provincial NDP can get the money. The unions, which work for both federal and provincial campaigns want the money.

Selinger wants them to shut up.

He introduced a bill in May to let the issue of public subsidies to political parties be decided by,
ahem, an independent commissioner. The Free Press said the bill is expected to pass this month.

Remember, this is the government that could only run up a billion-dollar deficit after they amended the balanced budget legislation. And the government that passed a Whistleblower Protection Act, then after a whistleblower stepped forward, watched Manitoba Hydro spend $4 million to try and discredit her.

So you can guess what the, ahem, independent commissioner will recommend: in the interest of promoting democracy, vote subsidies will be distributed to all political parties whether they ask for them or not, and anyone opposed is an enemy of democracy, so there.

Just for the record, here's how the federal vote subsidy was paid out:

Conservatives $10,430,835,

Liberals $7,275,227,
NDP $5,036,707,
Bloc Quebecois $2,763,345 and
Green party $1,877,513

As for private donations raised by the political parties:

Conservatives $17,420,370.53
Liberals $6,601,244.90
NDP $4,358,729.43
Bloc Quebecois $642,550.22
Green Party $1,292,138.72

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