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:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hidden Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium cost overruns. How Much?

Do you smell another city audit coming?

This bombshell has been ticking away on the Internet for more than a week.

Jul 4, 2013, 3:56 AM
wait until the final cost overruns become public....yowza....upwards of 20%....still dealing with screw ups like having to go back and insulate a two season mechanical system.

We're not going to identify the source other than to say its A Person In A Position To Know.

The official price of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers stadium is $190 million. Add a 20 percent cost overrun ($38 million) and you have a stadium that's costing almost DOUBLE what was originally proposed to city taxpayers.

But, but, but...wasn't the stadium built at a fixed price, with all overruns the responsibility of the contractor? 
Phil Sheegl, chairman of BBB Stadium Inc. (Blue Bombers-Bisons), the entity that built the stadium, says so.

But The Person In A Position To Know says not. 

...not a guaranteed price contract....they have already been paid the overruns.

Uh, oh. Who are you going to believe? Sheegl, who is already up to his eyebrows in the city audit of four firehalls built by the Mayor's business partner under a secret, eyes-only contract that was hidden from city council but which Sheegl says was a-okay with him?  Or A Person In A Position To Know who has no dog in the fight?

Gee, it kind of takes you back to 2010 when The Black Rod broke the story that the $115 million stadium was actually going to cost as much as $190 million.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

It's not a hate crime if an Indian does it.

Imagine this...

A passenger on a Winnipeg Transit bus captures a hate crime on video with his cell phone.

Local television stations get wind of what he's got and turn the video into a news story.


Their story is all about how tough it is being Ralph Kramden in Winnipeg.  All the racism in the video is deliberately excised.

Well, you don't need to imagine. That's exactly what happened, with CBC and Global News this Friday.  These "professional" journalists decided to whitewash the story for general consumption.  And they would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for citizen journalist Marty Gold, of The Great Canadian Talk Show, who decided to watch the video (posted on Youtube) for himself and was floored by what he saw. He started to spread the word.

The video depicts the disruption caused on a Corydon bus in downtown Winnipeg in the middle of a June afternoon by two foul-mouthed men who had been harassing a girl to the point she fled to escape their attention.

The videographer is sitting at the very back of the bus on the right hand side. Directly in front of him is a drunk man with a missing front tooth, a 3-foot ponytail and a backwards Winnipeg Jets cap on his head. Across from Ponytail was his companion who has what looks like an ID card on a chain around his neck.

The posted video starts with ID leaning over to Ponytail and suggesting : "You should say I fucking run this show."  Read on, but there is a strong language warning.

Ponytail gleefully throws his hands in the air and shouts: "Aboriginals!  Aboriginals---they run this fucking world and this fucking town (of mine?).  I don't care about these white people."

That sets the tone of the whole 8-and-a-half minute video. It's downhill from there.

The bus driver immediately comes to the back and tells the man, "Okay, off the bus now,  off the bus."
Ponytail: "Why?"
Bus Driver: "Because I said."

Ponytail: "Why?"

BD: "You want the cops here?"

Ponytail: "No."

BD: "Then get off. They're on their way. Let's go."

Ponytail: "You're going to kick us off?"

BD: "Yes."

Ponytail: "No. Why?"

BD: "You have to get off."

Ponytail: "Why?"

BD: "I'm calling the cops."

A bus passenger, who appears to be native himself, walks back to Ponytail. He speaks softly.
Passenger: "You're wasting my time. I gotta get somewhere."

Other passenger in background: "We all gotta get somewhere."

Ponytail: "Fuck man, we're aboriginals, man."

A tall man with a white goatee has had enough. He starts yelling "Off the bus. Off the bus. Off the bus."

Passenger:  "The guy told you to go. Let's go."  He tries to guide Ponytail but Ponytail shrugs him off.

The situation escalates as Goatee gets into a face-to-face shouting match with ID and Ponytail.
Ponytail:  "Shut up."
Goatee: "GET OFF THE BUS!"

Ponytail: "Shut up."
Goatee: " GET OFF THE BUS!"

Ponytail: "Hey you know what?"


Ponytail:  "No I think..."


ID: "Fuck you, bastard."

Goatee:  "Fuck, you act like a fucking asshole."

ID says something threatening to the man with the goatee.

Goatee: "You gonna hit me?"

ID:  "Well, you want to?"

Goatee: " I'll defend myself and I'm going to put you in hospital for a month."

ID: "Yeah right.(unintellibible)"
Goatee: " Fuck off. fuck off."

Ponytail:  "You want us to hit you, you white man. fuck you I don't give a fuck man."

The bus driver, trying to defuse the situation, whistles at the man with the goatee. "Hey, sir."

Goatee:  "Okay okay." And he returns to his seat at the front of the bus.

Ponytail:  "Get off the bus. fucking asshole. you know we did nothing wrong."

Goatee: "You woke up this morning."

Ponytail:  "Yeah well what the fuck's wrong with you, you fucking white man? fuck, you prick."

ID: " (unintelligible) just wait until...(unintelligible) you fucking piece of fucking (unintelligible) you old bastard."

ID:" Let's get off right now then, c'mon. wanna go?"

ID: (to Ponytail):  "Fuck that,  I don't even know you. I'll fucking take this motherfucker."

The Indian we're calling ID then walks to the front of the bus to confront the man with the goatee.  He stands over him and they argue.  ID lunges at the other man twice as if to punch him.  The man stands up and ID swings at him with his left hand, striking him lightly on his right arm.  But striking him. That's assault in anyone's books.

Just watching the video leaves you with a bitter taste. Imagine having actually been there. Stuck on a bus for 8 minutes or more with these drunks, swearing and threatening everyone.

But what you see is unmistakeable.  Crime, caught on tape.  Causing a distrubance, uttering threats, assault. Supported by racial slurs.  There's no doubt what we're seeing.  A hate crime.

The question is will the police do anything about it?  Will they track down the men in the video and charge them with a hate crime? 

Or will they turn a blind eye, just as CBC and Global did, and pretend that nothing unusual happened.

Actually, nothing unusual did happen.  That's because this is a common occurrence on Winnipeg transit buses and in downtown Winnipeg.  There's nothing unusual about it.

It makes you wonder why the police never arrived to stop the disturbance.  

Where are all those downtown beat cops we've been told about?  Or the cadets you see riding up and down Graham in their shiny new CADET cars?  Or the bicycle cops? Or the red-shirt patrols? Or the yellow-shirt patrols? 

Why didn't anybody in authority show up within the 8 minutes the passengers on the Corydon bus were subjected to this flurry of obscenity by beligerent and racist drunks?  

Is it because confrontations like this are such low priority that nobody can be bothered to attend?

Welcome to Winnipeg.

Oh, and Air Canada is still owed an apology.

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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Selling Winnipeg. "The average citizen, they're not high on the city"

The CBC stumbled across a great story the other day, but didn't recognize what they found and didn't know what to do with it.

A perky reporter burbled on about how some group called Economic Development Winnipeg had created a series of videos  promoting the city's advantages to entice companies to start doing business in the city.

There was one problem, though, said the reporter.

"The average citizen, they're not high on the city — and I have no idea why" she was told by a rep for a CEO recruitment company.

Some group wants to lure businessmen to move to Winnipeg while the people who live in Winnipeg think the place is a dump.  Why, you ask?

Well, why don't you start with the joy of living in the murder capital of the country, the gang capital, the province with the lowest after-tax income in the country and the highest taxes west of Quebec, a city with the most incompetent city council in the country, a downtown overrun with panhandlers, drunks, drug dealers, and vagrants of all stripes.  Need we go on?

Nothing underlined the city's image better than this past weekend when we registered three murders.

Oh, it wasn't the number or the locations of the crimes.  We've become inured to those.

It was the stories behind the murders.

Take the stabbing death of 25-year-old John James Allen Lund on Pritchard Avenue early Saturday morning. The circumstances were pretty standard in Winnipeg.  A house party, a fight, a knife, two men taken to hospital, one dies.

By mid-week, Lund's relatives were being quoted in the press.                                                     
Lund was remembered as a good man who loved his family, according to the CBC.


Did they forget how a drunk-out-of-his-mind Lund started harassing three off-duty corrections officers at a West Kildonan restaurant, then attacked them along with 10 of his associates in the Bloodz street gang? How they beat and kicked the men, and stole their wallets, only to escalate the attack when they realized their victims were corrections officers?

Lund eventually pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm, breach of probation and possession of a stolen vehicle.  Or, what's known in Winnipeg as "the usual."

But he was a good man, says his distraught family.

""His criminal past, his criminal history did not define who he was," said his aunt,Mary Burton.

Uh, ma'am. Yes it does.  He was a scumbag who wasn't so tough when he wasn't with his gang bro's.

Oh, wait. "Lund's family said before he died, he was trying to get out of a gang and turn his life around." reported the CBC.

Where have we heard that one before?  Uhh, in every court in the city just before the judge sentences a gang member to prison.

Let's look at the murder of 68-year-old Brian O'Donnell about sunrise Sunday morning.  The story is he had cashed his pension cheque on Friday, had gone to the local McDonald's to get a coffee Sunday, was followed home or was accosted as he approached his home on Langside Street.  He was stabbed in the back but managed to get into his apartment before he died.

Naomi Shianne Ross, 18, has been charged with second-degree murder. She's no stranger to police. Her name and picture have been flashed in police releases for years, as she's a chronic runaway and has been listed as "missing" at least four times starting when she was 15.

Ross has (had?) a boyfriend. His name is Byron Charlie Bushie, now about 20. Bushie and Ross have something in common.  He's also charged with second-degree murder.  His and Hers murder charges. Romantic, ain't it.

Bushie was one of two people charged with the 2011 axe murder of  Gerry Crawford, a Pizza Hotline delivery man working the night shift.

Before getting arrested, Bushie had a profile posted on an Internet social networking site:

Male,  97 from Murda Cap 2o4 , north$iide
Partyiinqq , Blaziinqq , drinkiinqq , qettinq hiqh, chillinq with my sister shaylynn, beinq with em sexii ladiies , killem em haters, fuckinq em hoes , chillinq with thabros, qettiinq that Cash, iiqht Ya Diiqq

Bushie hasn't gone to trial yet, so he's considered innocent under the law.  But his co-accused isn't.

Known only as D.V.J.S. in court documents (he was 15 when he killed Gerry Crawford), he pleaded guilty and last month received a life sentence. The judge took a dim view of some of the details of the crime:

"Later in the day D.V.J.S. and ...  were sitting around with some friends enjoying some marihuana. Using the stolen cell phones, they made videos of each other, holding up their loot and talking about the robbery. Still later D.V.J.S. visited a female friend and told her all about the robbery, acting it out and laughing as he described what happened. She testified that she asked him what it felt like to kill someone and he answered that “it felt cool”."

Think that's the worst? Read on...

"At some point before he was arrested, his sister, mother, grandmother and a friend helped D.V.J.S. hide the axe. It was recovered by police when the friend decided to notify them."
Yep, we're not talking about a hardened killer at 15 here. We're talking about an entire family of criminals.  No word if Manitoba Justice has charged anyone for being an accessory after the fact to the murder of Gerry Crawford.
Nor has the court determined yet how long D.V.J.S. has to wait to become eligible for parole. The Crown is asking for seven years, the defence want's five.  Or, in other words, given that he's been in custody since the murder and how the courts deduct that from any sentence, he'll be eligible to walk free almost immediately.  
That's how we roll in Winnipeg.

Do you think his story is an aberration?

In mid-June a 16-year old boy pleaded guilty to murder in the cold-blooded shooting of a young man he believed as a member of a rival gang.

David Vincett, 20, was shot in the back of the head with a .357 magnum handgun as he tried to run away from the shooter, who was only 14 at the time and a member of the Indian Posse street gang.

The boy, whose identity is protected by law, will be sentenced Sept. 9. He might get as much as seven years before being eligible for parole.  That's comforting, knowing that this isn't the first time he's used a gun to shoot at somebody.  When he was only 13 he tried to rob a mailman, and when he was refused, he fired a sawed-off shotgun at the man in an attempt to kill him.

Think that's the worst?  Again, no.

From the court documents:

"The boy ran to his home on Aberdeen Avenue, where he told his mother, two sisters and brother what he had done. One of his sisters took the handgun and bullets and hid them at her house and his mother told her other son to take his brother’s clothes and put them in the trash."

Touching, isn't it. A family that covers up a murder together is such an inspiration.

Welcome to Winnipeg.  A city overrun with murderous street gangs, where criminals can count on their families to hide their murder weapons and give them alibis, where the values of an entire underclass are the opposite of the values of the hardworking citizens simply trying to raise their families in good homes and in safety.

When Economic Development Winnipeg hands out videos of what a great place Winnipeg is to do business, maybe they should throw in some Crimestoppers videos to make potential takers know what they're getting into.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Human Rights Museum hire accused of being B.C. liar

With an angry mob of outraged citizens howling for her head, city manager Gail Stephens is fleeing the City of Victoria for refuge in Winnipeg.

Stephens, who, funnily enough, was once Winnipeg's first chief administrative officer, will start a job with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in August.

She'll be a perfect fit.

Back in Victoria, she's accused of misleading Victoria city council in 2011 by deliberately lowballing the cost of a contentious bridge project --- just ahead of a civic election in which the bridge replacement was a big issue for many voters.

It wasn't until March of this year that a memo produced in answer to a freedom of information request revealed that, two months before Stephens declared the project was "on budget", city officials knew the real cost of the replacement bridge would be millions of dollars higher than the $77 million budget.

A citizens watchdog group has called for an independent inquiry into what Stephens knew and when she knew it.

Ross Crockford is a director of that watchdog group

“Normally, a city manager would have to answer to mayor and council,” Crockford said. “In this case, though, they could be in a perceived conflict of interest: the members of council running for re-election in 2011 may have benefitted from voters getting a false impression that the project was ‘within the budget of $77 million.’ So I think the mayor and council need to appoint an independent inquiry. I believe one is needed here if we’re ever going to find out what’s really going on at City Hall,” he said to Victoria's Focus magazine in April.

So, let's see ... a mayor promotes a civic megaproject, the priciest municipal project in the city's history (as The National Post described it), "iconic", intended to be a "signature" structure which should incorporate "artistry and architecture" instead of just functionality (National Post, again), (stop us if you've heard this story before...) whose cost started at $63 million, jumped to $77 million, then $82 million, then, well... none of the companies who wanted the construction contract would guarantee $93 million or less, triggered a referendum over refurbishing the old bridge vs building a new one, saw the public vote for a new one because that was the cheaper option, except that it wasn't cheaper at all, and the higher price was kept from the public by our Gail just before an election where the mayor, who was pushing the bridge all along, and his supporters were running for re-election.

And she's joining an "iconic" megaproject that's nearly $100 milion over budget, at least two years behind schedule, flat broke, looks nothing like the pretty pictures the architect painted, whose proponents have consistently misled the public and politicians for at least five years about the cost, the contents, and the character.

She's perfect for the job.

Stephens was earning $240,345 in Victoria last year, plus $12,000 in expenses.  That's almost $21,000 more than she was making in 2010. At that rate of pay raises, she might have been making a quarter of a million dollars this year in straight salary.

Her contract in Victoria was recently extended for three years to 2017.That means she's forfeiting more than a million dollars by leaving to join the CMHR. It makes you wonder how much they're paying her.

Her jobs makes her responsible for:  "visitor services (all revenue-generating functions such as ticketing, restaurant and retail operations), communications and marketing (special events, advertising & promotions, and sales), partnerships and government relations, and administration (human resources, purchasing, facilities and security services management)."

Stephens is a certified general accountant, which might make her wonder about the funny accounting by the CMHR.

“Accounting has been very important to my success. I was also a teacher and the skills I learned from the two have helped me over the years to explain my work to council, the administration and the public.” she's quoted as saying by the  Certified General Accountants Association of British Columbia.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights claims it strives for transparency by posting quarterly financial reports.


In 2011-20121 it posted reports for the first quarter (April, May, June), the second quarter (July, August, September) and the third quarter (October, November, and December).  See something missing? 

Yup, no fourth quarter report.

How about last year?  There's a first quarter report for 2012-2013, a second quarter report, and a third quarter report.  

No fourth quarter. For the second year in a row.

Funny? Or fishy?

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Monday, July 01, 2013

NDP supporters look in the mirror and don't like what they see

The NDP lemmings have followed their leader off the cliff.
They pinched their noses tight, swallowed their anti-emetic pills and voted for the dirtiest politician in Manitoba, and now they're paying the price.
He's taken them past the point of no return and even the most stalwart supporters of the Party are wondering "why"?

Greg Selinger hasn't only watched his personal popularity plummet, he's taken the NDP with him to the bottom.  A Probe Research poll shows the NDP support has collapsed to a root cellar low of 28 percent  compared to the Opposition's 46 percent; and  that's not even half the story.

Outside Winnipeg,  the NDP are dead meat, garnering barely 18 percent of decided voters. Given the 3 percent margin of error in the poll, the NDP are tied with, if not below, the Liberal Party (16 percent), which hasn't been a viable political force in Manitoba since the Swinging Sixties.

NDP support is far behind the Conservative Party in every age group, with men, with women, in all education categories (high school or less,  some post-secondary, post-secondary grads), and all income groups except under $30,000 a year. 
*  In their stronghold of the City of Winnipeg, the NDP have seen their support drop 18 percentage points from the 2011 provincial election.
They're more than 20 points behind the Conservatives in Southwest and Southeast Winnipeg, and 15 points behind in Northeast Winnipeg.  
*  The NDP are viable in barely seven ridings among the 32 in Winnipeg.

They maintain a 5 point lead in support in Northwest Winnipeg (Maples, Tyndall Park, Burrows).  Their only impregnable area of support remains the Core (Point Douglas, Logan, Minto, and possibly St. John's), where they stand at 49 percent to the Tories at 21 percent.  But given that the Conservatives couldn't care less about representing the Core ridings, NDP dominance there is irrelevant to the big picture.

And that's not the worst news for the NDP.  Greg Selinger has managed to sink NDP support with women below that for the Tories.  

The biggest gap is with younger female voters, those aged 18 to 34, who are, as Probe research puts it, "significantly more likely to support the PCs than the NDP(45% versus 23% respectively.)"

It's not hard to see why women are turning away from the so-called caring party.  While men are traditionally seen as being more concerned with chequebook matters, it's women who have to deal with the effects of the NDP's policies.

As Baby Boomers reach retirement age, they're also looking after their parents and planning their own futures, and the outlook only grows worse with every year under the NDP.  Last year the NDP imposed the largest tax increase in Manitoba history, including extending the provincial sales tax to home insurance and haircuts.  Hydro rates are going up and up and the NDP states they will climb as much as 50 percent higher in 10 years. This year Selinger wants to raise the provincial sales tax to take even more money from the poor.

"Why are they doing this to us?" elderly parents are asking. And NDP supporters can no longer give an honest answer, because they're worried about their own lives on fixed incomes.

Add to that the authoritarian and arrogant attitude of the NDP MLAs, which this year has manifested in outright law-breaking.

Longtime NDP supporters are whispering that maybe the Party needs to be out of office for a term.

That should all be good news for the Progressive Conservatives who had no hope of returning to government in the near future.

The current standings in the Legislature are NDP 37, PC 18, Liberals 1, and Vacant (formerly PC) 1. The Tories would need to win 10 seats to become the government (and that's after winning the byelection). No Opposition party has ever won 10 seats to seize power in Manitoba history.

The PCs failed to take a single seat from the NDP in the 2011 election and they lost a former Liberal-held seat that was up for grabs, putting them one seat further from victory than before the writ was dropped.

What was worse was that the NDP was convinced it was going to lose the 2011 election. All their internal polls said they were toast.

But they won, and even added one seat to their total.  Despite the brutal poll numbers, they haven't lost hope of hanging on. Here's why:

* The Conservative brain trust today is the same gaggle of geniuses who ran the last election. They have a track record of seizing defeat from the jaws of victory.

* PC leader Brian Pallister is as inept as the man he replaced, Hugh McFadyen, whose 2011 campaign consisted of turning the NDP into the fiscal conservatives of the election. Pallister won the job by being the only one who put his name forward, but he's so egotistical that he's convinced himself he's personally revitalized the party and deserves the credit for the new poll numbers.

* The NDP will stop at nothing to win. The last election was one unrelenting smear campaign, which succeeded because Hugh McFadyen refused to raise a finger to refute. The NDP transformed the "advance poll" from a day for people who couldn't be home to cast a ballot on election day into something unheard of--- literally a week of pre-election voting to allow election organizers the time to bring loads of pre-selected voters to stack the vote. Elections Manitoba refused to investigate complaints of vote rigging in Point Douglas where people with no identification were allowed to vote (and possibly roam from poll to poll to vote again and again).

* the last time the NDP were this low in the polls was in 1988 when they lost the election to the Tories.  Only they didn't.

In 1988 there were still 3 political parties that were considered options for voters.  This time round there are only two.  The Liberals have all but disappeared except in name.
In 1988, the NDP vote was parked with the Liberals, allowing the PCs to win the election by default.  The Liberals won 18 seats in that election, and lost them all the next time around.

An interesting note is that if, all other things being equal,  NDP supporters chose to park their vote with the Liberals this time, and by some fluke the Liberals won 18 seats in addition to holding the retiring Jon Gerrard's seat, the election could be a dead heat with all three parties having 19 seats.


Today's history lesson

In the 1999 election (which brought the NDP to power):
The Liberal Party lost 53,500 votes
The NDP picked up 54,000 votes
The PCs lost 15,000 votes
The popular vote had the NDP ahead by 18,000
In the 2003 election:
The NDP held 24,000 of the votes they added in 1999 but watched 30,000 melt away
The PCs under Stuart Murray lost 58,000 votes, hitting bottom
The Liberals bled off another 14,000 votes
The NDP led the popular vote by 53,000
Tournout dropped 14 percent.  102,000 voters disappeared.
In the 2007 election:
The PCs regained 16,000 votes, but were still 57,000 votes in the hole
The NDP gained 5000 votes
The Liberals lost another 4000 even as turnout rose 2 percent
The NDP was ahead in the popular vote by 42,000
In the 2011 election:
The PCs gained 30,000 votes (leaving them still 18,000 down from 1999)
The NDP vote was virtually unchanged (about 1700 down)
The Liberals died another death, losing 19,000 more votes
Turnout was a smidgin higher.
The NDP was still ahead in popular vote by 11,000.
The lesson:
PC fortunes have never recovered from the limpwristed leadership of Stu Murray.  If they had only held their votes from 1999, they would have won the 2003, 2007, and 2011 elections.

Voter turnout helps the Tories, not the NDP.

The Liberal Party died in 1999, then died again in 2011.  They've lost 90,900 voters in the past four elections. They're not coming back

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