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Callin' The Newsmaker of the Year 2014

Despite ISP problems that have hobbled us for weeks, we can't let the year go by without our annual naming of the Newsmaker of the Year.
 
While reviewing the news stories of 2014, we were surprised how many carried the fingerprints of this man. Although credited with each story in the press, it's only when you look at the body of his work over the year that you recognize what a powerful eminence grise he actually was, his influence spanning from city hall, to the Legislature, to the halls of academe to Parliament Hill.
 
We proudly honour as The Black Rod Newsmaker of 2014 -- Colin Craig, Prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
 
Just look at the headlines:
 
* RCMP launch criminal investigation of fishy contracts handed out during Sam Katz's term of office.

* Poof! Red River College's head honcho disappears like a thief in the night. Administrators discover the spiffy marble counter tops in her home came from a multi-million dollar reno that taxpayers paid for.

* The Premier of Manitoba, and leader of the New Democratic Party in the province, confessed he lied to the public and misled the Legislature when he denied accepting free perks! Nobody is surprised.

* Residents of Indian reserves finally get to see what their Chiefs pay themselves.  Everybody is surprised!
 
That's just a sampling of the news stories that came to the public with Colin Craig's name attached.
 
Quietly beetling away under the radar, filing freedom of information requests to squeeze out information that politicians and administrators thought buried forever, Craig has been a one-man political Opposition, a taxpayers' watchdog, and a human searchlight, exposing waste and corruption. The scary part is that there's so much of it that he made it look easy.
 
He was so effective at chasing the multitude of scandals at City Hall that he had former councilor Justin Swandel railing against "enemies of the city" who refused to accept the assurances of city administrators that everything was just fine.

Swandel's enemies list has grown since with the addition of unsatisfied auditors and snoopy RCMP investigators, damn their eyes.
 
Craig wasn't alone calling for an RCMP investigation of the millions of dollars in untendered contracts, the bid-rigging, the favoritism revealed in audits that were fiercely opposed by then Mayor Sam Katz and his city hall cabal. But Craig was among the most persistent, turning over one rock after another, connecting one link in the chain to the last suspicious link.
 
Even as RCMP get press coverage over their investigation of the renovation of the former post office building into a new city police headquarters, other suspicious decisions under Katz's watch languish.

Why, for example, did city officials award Shindico Realty a contract for $157,000 a year to manage the post office tower? After the Taxpayers Federation started asking questions about the tendering process that looked improper, the city took over the job itself---at less than a third of the cost ($45,000). And why did the administration take 230 days to cancel the Shindico contract when city council ordered it scrubbed within 90 days?
 
Of course, given the tens of millions of dollars in scandals covered by the press under the polite rubric of "mismanagement", that's a just a drop in the proverbial bucket. But that's how Colin Craig worked his magic. Unraveling a single thread and watching the sweater peel away over months.
 
Take the case of Stephanie Forsyth, President and CEO of Red River College, undoubtedly one of the most powerful female administrators in the province. She had everything going for her and more in the politically correct milieu of Greg Selinger's Manitoba NDP. A woman, a lesbian, "intent on exploring her aboriginal roots and in making indigineous education and the environment priorities of RRC's growth" (to quote the Winnipeg Free Press), she was untouchable.  Right up to the golf shoes.
 
In 2011 Colin Craig revealed Forsyth had charged the college for new golf shoes, along with a new travel bag and her driver's licence.  I'm entitled to my entitlements, sniffed Forsyth, who, nonetheless, coughed up for the new shoes. But it set the tone for her rocky tenure at the top.
 
By the time she got caught with the marble, three years later, (The Black Rod broke the story), it was too late. Colin Craig had the internal emails.
 
"The simple fact is that marble is in SF's house and a certain quantity came from PGI (the Paterson Global-Foods Institute---the culinary arts school in the Union Bank Tower next to city hall...ed.)  Even  if it was marked for disposal, it shows poor judgement at best, dishonesty at worst.  In order to protect the college and the board, it seems to me, responsibility for this has to be placed with SF," wrote acting president David Rew in a Sept. 5 email.
 
The biggest feather in Colin Craig's cap had to be the success of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's campaign for a law forcing Indian bands to open their books to reveal the salaries and benefits paid to Chiefs and councilors.  The year 2014 was when the First Nations Transparency Act took effect. Even then, some Indian bands refused to obey the law.
 
Having announced he is leaving his post to take up new employment in Alberta, Colin Craig leaves behind mighty big shoes for his successor to fill.

***********

Last year we introduced a new year-end award----Bozo of the Year.
 
For 2014 we announce: it's a tie. The joint recipients are the pollsters and the political pundits, each of whom were so egregiously wrong about the mayoral election that it was impossible to pick one over the other.
 
Look at the sampling of stories these geniuses generation over the election campaign:
 
* Judy Wasylycia-Leis has opened up an 18-point  lead over her closest rival in the race for mayor, according to a new poll.
 
*Mayoral candidates Brian Bowman and Judy Wasylycia-Leis are in a statistical tie at the top of the new Insightrix Research poll done for 68l0 CJOB and Global News...The poll...shows Bowman with the support of 38 % of decided voters while Wasylycia-Leis has slipped slightly to 36 %.
 
*The margin of error on the poll, conducted between Oct. 7 and Oct. 17, is 3.5 %----meaning the race is too close to call.
 
*Judy Wasylycia-Leis will have the support of the NDP-union organizing campaign in the coming mayoral election, a fact that gives her a huge edge over her competition.

*
In less than two weeks, mayoral candidates will reach the finish line, and they're getting their whips for the home stretch... "Clearly, Judy has been the frontrunner from the get-go and she has run a very careful campaign, avoiding any big blunders," local political scientist Paul Thomas said. "I can't see her stepping forward with any bold new announcements. I think she'll coast to the finish line."
 
After the votes were counted, the results were Bowman, 47.5 percent; Judy Wasylycia-Leis, 25 percent.
 
Not even close. Not even close to being close. Voters rejected NDP candidate Judy W. by twice the margin they rejected her the last time.
 
But the fact that none of the pollster or pundits had the slightest clue hasn't hurt their standing in the MSM.  Curtis Brown of Probe Research and the resurrected Paul Thomas, professor emeritus in Political Studies at the University of Manitoba, have become go-to "experts" to be quoted despite their embarrassing track records in analyzing political events.
Go figure.
 
Until next year ... when we will have an anniversary announcement, coming soon.

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